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Welcome! This is the place to ask the community of experts and other fallacyophites (I made up that word) if someone has a committed a fallacy or not. This is a great way to settle a dispute! This is also the home of the "Mastering Logical Fallacies" student support.


Dr. Bo's Criteria for Logical Fallacies:

  1. It must be an error in reasoning not a factual error.
  2. It must be commonly applied to an argument either in the form of the argument or in the interpretation of the argument.
  3. It must be deceptive in that it often fools the average adult.

Therefore, we will define a logical fallacy as a concept within argumentation that commonly leads to an error in reasoning due to the deceptive nature of its presentation. Logical fallacies can comprise fallacious arguments that contain one or more non-factual errors in their form or deceptive arguments that often lead to fallacious reasoning in their evaluation.

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Dean Anderson

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Dean Anderson


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Mon, Dec 24, 2018 - 11:32 AM

Which fallacy is assuming to know today a belief of someone from the past?

A common form of this is the statement:

If Thomas Jefferson were alive today, he would be an atheist.

Or, If Jesus were alive today he would be the presidential candidate for the Green Party and Bernie Sanders would be his running mate.

I haven't been able to pin down the name of this type of fallacy which claims to know the opinions of people when they cannot be known.

Any suggestions?

Thanks,

Dean



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Dean Anderson

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Print Mon, Dec 31, 2018 - 04:47 AM
Thanks for the further comments. It looks like the Jefferson statement potentially contains several fallacies.

It also brought to light several other issues I had not thought of, like cognitive bias vs. logical fallacies.

Dean


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Bo Bennett, PhD
Author of Logically Fallacious

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Bo Bennett, PhD

Author of Logically Fallacious

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About Bo Bennett, PhD

Bo's personal motto is "Expose an irrational belief, keep a person rational for a day. Expose irrational thinking, keep a person rational for a lifetime."  Much of his charitable work is in the area of education—not teaching people what to think, but how to think.  His projects include his book, The Concept: A Critical and Honest Look at God and Religion, and Logically Fallacious, the most comprehensive collection of logical fallacies.  Bo's personal blog is called Relationship With Reason, where he writes about several topics related to critical thinking.  His secular (humanistic) philosophy is detailed at PositiveHumanism.com.
Bo is currently the producer and host of The Humanist Hour, the official broadcast of the American Humanist Association, where he can be heard weekly discussing a variety of humanistic issued, mostly related to science, psychology, philosophy, and critical thinking.

Full bio can be found at http://www.bobennett.com
Print Mon, Dec 24, 2018 - 12:40 PM
I would say that this simply is an assertion rather than an fallacious argument. However, this assertion can be a result of the historian's fallacy (see https://www.logicallyfallacious.com/tools/lp/Bo/LogicalFallacies/103/Historian-s-Fallacy).
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Abdulazeez Alabbasi

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Abdulazeez Alabbasi


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Print Tue, Dec 25, 2018 - 12:45 AM
it's not clear to me that this is an actual fallacy. It's just a statement that you can ask for justifications for, and when such justifications are given, then there will be potential for fallacious reasoning. Only after supporting reasons are given for why Thomas Jefferson would be an atheist if he were alive today can there be an argument susceptible to erroneous thinking.


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Nadia

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Print Tue, Dec 25, 2018 - 01:17 AM
historian's fallacy


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Dean Anderson

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Print Tue, Dec 25, 2018 - 04:48 AM
Thanks to all of you! I'm still learning the interface and I guess my previous replies were anonymous and private.

Thanks for helping me to clarify the difference between an unsupported assertion and a fallacy.

It seemed to me to be a fallacy to claim to know what Jefferson would have believed. So I appreciate the comments and will think more about it. It is helping me refine my understanding of the categories and terms.


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Michael Chase Walker
Screenwriter, producer, mythoclast

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Michael Chase Walker

Screenwriter, producer, mythoclast

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About Michael Chase Walker

Michael Chase Walker is an actor, author, screenwriter, producer, and a former adjunct lecturer for the College of Santa Fe Moving Images Department, and Dreamworks Animation. His first motion picture was the animated classic, The Last Unicorn.
Michael was an in-house television writer for the hit television series: He-Man, She-Ra, Voltron, and V, the Series. In 1985, he was appointed Director of Children's programs for CBS Entertainment where he conceived, shaped and supervised the entire 1985 Saturday Morning line-up: Wildfire, Pee Wee's Playhouse, Galaxy High School, Teen Wolf, and over 10
Print Wed, Dec 26, 2018 - 02:29 PM
Hey Dean, thanks for the question:

The question as phrased: "Which fallacy is assuming to know today a belief of someone from the past?" is not fallacious in the least". In many cases we can easily surmise a historic person's beliefs by their writings or attributions without assuming anything. If we impose our own modern beliefs on them we are then transferring to them a conclusion that is not necessarily their own.

While the Jesus reference is too much of a speculative non sequitur to be taken seriously- I think it's safe to dismiss it as nonsense. The Thomas Jefferson reference however sounds to me like a variation of the Transfer Fallacy where the modern claimants own atheistic ideas are attributed to a famous person to justify their own beliefs. Jefferson's deist beliefs are well-documented and recorded. There is no need to assume anything. Likewise, to impose an atheistic conclusion to his voluminous records and writings is much more of a cognitive bias than an error in reasoning.


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Jonathan Thomas
Thursday, December 27, 2018 - 08:43:55 AM
@Bo Bennett, PhD: Couldn't this also be Amazing Familiarity? Or is that only for people who are alive?

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Bo Bennett, PhD
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Thursday, December 27, 2018 - 08:48:25 AM
Yes, but it depends on the claim. Of course, we can make reasonable inferences about people's beliefs who are no longer with us from their writings, deeds, etc. The more "amazing" the claim, the more that fallacy would fit

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