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Logical Fallacies Help

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Updated on Sep 28, 2011

Introduction to Logical Fallacies

"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."

—Albert Einstein, German theoretical physicist and Nobel Prize winner (1879–1955)

Lesson Summary

Some forms of logical fallacies are tougher to recognize than others because they seem logical. This lesson will help you spot several common fallacies, including circular reasoning and two wrongs make a right.

"Either you're with us or you're against us. Which is it?" Have you ever been put on the spot like this before, where you were forced to decide between two contradictory options? Chances are you have. But chances are you also had more choices than you thought.

Logical fallacies come in many forms. The last lesson covered the false reasoning that appeals to your emotions rather than to your sense of logic. This lesson will examine four logical fallacies that are sometimes a little harder to detect because they don't appeal to your emotions. As a result, they may seemlogical even though they aren't. These types of fallacies are called impostors. Four types will be covered in this lesson, including no inbetweens, slippery slope, circular reasoning, and two wrongs make a right.

No In-Betweens

No in-betweens (also called false dilemma) is a logical fallacy that aims to convince you that there are only two choices: X and Y, and nothing in between. The "logic" behind this fallacy is that if you think there are only two choices, then you won't stop to consider other possibilities. The arguer hopes that you will therefore be more likely to accept his or her conclusion.

For example, imagine that a husband and wife are planning a vacation to Hawaii. The husband says to his wife, "Either we stay for a whole week or we don't go at all." He gives no good reason for the seven-day minimum he is imposing, and it's obvious that he's using the no in-betweens tactic. By presenting his wife with only these two extremes, he forces her into the decision he wants. How could someone say no to a week in Hawaii when the alternative is no time at all in Hawaii?

It is important to remember that there are very few situations in which there are only two options. There are almost always other choices.

Tip

Have you ever heard someone accuse another person of only seeing "in black and white"? That usually refers to someone who sees things in extremes with no "gray" areas in between. As you're finding out, however, there are a lot of "gray" areas in every issue and it's essential that you keep those in mind.

Slippery Slope

If scientists are allowed to experiment with cloning humans, next thing you know, they'll be mass producing people on assembly lines.

Right?

Well, maybe. But probably not, and definitely not for certain. This type of logical fallacy—often called slippery slope—presents an if/then scenario. It argues that if X happens, then Y will follow. This "next thing you know" argument has one major flaw, however: X doesn't necessarily lead to Y. When you hear someone make a claim in this format, you need to use your critical thinking and reasoning skills. You need to carefully consider whether or not there's a logical relationship between X and Y.

If scientists were to experiment with cloning human beings, for example, does that necessarily mean that humans would be mass produced on production lines? Definitely not. First of all, it may prove impossible to clone humans. Second, if it is possible, it's a long way from the production of a single clone to assembly-line production of clones. And third, if assembly-line cloning is possible, it may even be forbidden. So, though the thought of mass-produced human beings is frightening, it's not logical to restrict experiments because we're afraid of consequences that may not happen. More logical reasons need to be presented to justify limiting that kind of experimentation.

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