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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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Matthew

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Matthew


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Wed, Apr 10, 2019 - 04:13 AM

Is this argument an example of equivocation or other fallacies?

I was recently debating a libertarian and he made an argument that I believe was bad reasoning. I will attempt to break his argument down structurally. He was attempting to expose some hypocrisy or inconsistency in my argument about advocating universal healthcare as a someone who opposes nationalism.
His argument was as follows:

P1: You say oppose nationalism but want to nationalize certain industries.
P2: You cannot have the latter without the former since both rely on idea of the betterment of a nation's populace.
C: Therefore, you support nationalism as well.

Are there more than one fallacy in this? I believe he is equivocating with the word 'national'



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Michael Chase Walker
Screenwriter, producer, mythoclast

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Michael Chase Walker

Screenwriter, producer, mythoclast

Master Contributor

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, Apr 10, 2019 - 12:01 PM
What we've got here is failure to communicate.


If not a Strawman conflation of nationalism v socialism.

P2: You cannot have the latter without the former since both rely on idea of the betterment of a nation's populace.
C: Therefore, you support nationalism as well.

This is clearly a hasty generalization, and or Ambiguity Fallacy

See Dr. Bo's:

Ambiguity Fallacy
(also known as ambiguous assertion, amphiboly, amphibology, semantical ambiguity, vagueness)

Description: When an unclear phrase with multiple definitions is used within the argument; therefore, does not support the conclusion. Some will say single words count for the ambiguity fallacy, which is really a specific form of a fallacy known as equivocation.

Logical Form:

Claim X is made.

Y is concluded based on an ambiguous understanding of X.

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Bo Bennett, PhD
Author of Logically Fallacious

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Bo Bennett, PhD

Author of Logically Fallacious

Moderator

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 Wed, Apr 10, 2019 - 06:54 AM
One of the first rules of debate (or effective communication) is make sure all parties have a common understanding of the terms used. "Nationalism," as commonly defined means: identification with one's own nation and support for its interests, especially to the exclusion or detriment of the interests of other nations. Notice that technically, the definition does not require the latter part (detriment of other nations). So while this may be what you object to most you need to make this clear.

Now let's look at universal healthcare. Does this mean "identification with one's own nation and support for its interests"? I would think so. Few people would have a problem with this part. But what about "to the exclusion or detriment of the interests of other nations"? Here is where knowledge of economics and politics are needed. Would such a program take resources away from other programs that support people from other nations? I don't know, but the answer is important because if so, it technically would seem to be nationalistic.

Here is where equivocation can be argued. "Nationalism" also generally refers to a philosophy rather than a specific policy. This is the equivalent of someone being labeled a "socialist" because they support public education. So you might qualify your remarks about nationalism by saying something such as "I reject nationalism as a general philosophy but that doesn't mean that I reject all nationalistic policies" and make the point that the two are not the same (and feel free to use my socialism example as an analogy).
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William Harpine, Ph.D.

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William Harpine, Ph.D.


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Print Wed, Apr 10, 2019 - 09:01 AM
Dr. Bennett's analysis is correct and I have nothing to add to it.


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Registered User Comments

Matthew
Wednesday, April 10, 2019 - 06:10:23 PM
@Michael Chase Walker: okay, thanks! This seems more like an ambiguity fallacy rather than equivocation. I am trying to think of an example to better detect this fallacy next time. Would an example of this fallacy be:

"Most educated people watch mainstream cable news. Therefore, mainstream cable news is beneficial to educating society as a whole"

Thanks!

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Matthew
Wednesday, April 10, 2019 - 07:30:42 AM
@Bo Bennett, PhD: Okay, this helps. Thank you very much. I did try and argue your last paragraph during the debate as well, though probably not as clearly as you. But I said, "If you nationalize an industry, it doesnt necessarily follow that one holds an irrational allegiance to a nation to hold it in a higher regard than all other nations. This is a non sequitir." I hit on the philisophical point but I will attempt to get a better understanding of the terms we are debating next time. Thanks again!

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