My goal as an ethical skeptic is not to cite a fallacy and subsequently snigger at my opponent “bwahahahaha!” That is the mental process of a child. There is a difference between arguing to win, and arguing for truth. It is paramount that the ethical skeptic keep a wary eye out for those who routinely confuse ‘fallacy’ and ‘error’.
Sometimes an assertion maker has not crafted a faulty logical contention, they have not overly focused on the opponents of their assertion – sometimes they are just simply, factually or existentially wrong. This difference between the state of being wrong, and the condition of making missteps inside logic and delivery of argument – is summed up inside a philosophical principle called the Appeal to Fallacy (or Argument from Fallacy). The appeal to fallacy exists in two forms. First, is the instance wherein an assertion maker has crafted a failed logical construct, and an opponent (or skeptic) in the discussion surrounding that construct identifies the formal or informal fallacy which compromises the basis for the argument. To declare the assertion maker existentially or factually wrong under such a circumstance, would constitute an additional (plural) step in argument itself and would be crafted in the form of a mistake in argument, an informal fallacy of soundness called the Fallacy Fallacy. Conversely, if the same assertion maker broaches a contention which is existentially wrong, to further then call that a logical fallacy, is itself an error in the use of the term and concept of a fallacy (note, this latter a state of being wrong – is not ‘fallacious’ per se – ergo it is error – while the former is expressed in the form of an actual modus ponens argument, which is flawed in soundness). [see note 1 regarding the colloquial use of the term ‘fallacy’]
Let’s suffer through the process of an example together, shall we?
Assertion in Argument: All trees are green
Structure of Argument (modus ponens): If P (latet) ‘A great preponderance of trees I have ever observed seem to be green’ therefore Q ‘All trees are green’
Argument Fallacy: Fallacy of Composition (Informal)2
Assertion Validity: Undetermined ‘True’ ‘False’ or ‘Inconclusive’ [see note 3 concerning Boolean Logic]
Notice that we have the assertion, and then its argument. Complimentarily, we face the issues of validity of the assertion as distinct from the soundness or logical calculus of its expression in argument. I threw a twist into the above example in order to introduce a common habit of fake skeptics. That being, an argument maker can hide the premise portion of his argument in order to make the assertion appear more acceptable (deflect from issues of soundness). A trick of the trade. Therefore many times it is up to the ethical skeptic to unmask such logical formations before they undertake the process of evaluating validity itself. Such contentions can easily slip by (wearing the costume of truth by hiding their modus ponens) and become common wisdom, Lindy Mechanisms of defacto truth in time.
Are all trees green? In fact, I do not know. My mission here in evaluating this statement was simply to elicit the exercise of identifying a fallacy (argument). This does not mean that the person who made such an assertion is existentially wrong on the point being made (assertion). If a skeptic is seriously examining the issue of green trees – he or she may choose to drop focus on the fallacy after pointing it out – and counter “While that argument bears a fallacy of composition, nonetheless it is an interesting assertion. Let’s take a look at it.”
My goal as an ethical skeptic is not to cite a fallacy and subsequently snigger “bwahahahaha!” That is the mental process of a child. There is a difference between arguing to win, and arguing for truth.
We know that the color green is the most common color associated with photosynthesis. The chlorophyll needed for photosynthesis tends to emit this color, which after some translucent lensing through the plant matter, then serves to form the typical pigmentation of most plant species.4 But while this is a very common condition of expressed color, it may not be universal (fallacy evaluation). Now in order to evaluate this contention for validity, I could play a game of induction and fact-mongering regarding the pigmentation of chlorophyll itself, pathways of light expression from reflection off and absorption-use by chlorophyll; all which show conclusively that the only color that can emit from the structure of a plant would be green. I would impress all those around me with my ability to sling around terms like ‘lattice/energy absorption wavelengths’, ‘propagation wave particle duality’, ‘scattering and angle of incidence’, ‘molecular spectral critical angle differential’. But if I did this I would be committing the second sin of the social skeptic – ingens vanitatum (see The Tower of Wrong: The Art of Professional Lying) – knowing or relating a great deal of irrelevance. Again, not seeking the answer, rather seeking to discredit an opponent – and establish myself as the smartest person in the room. This is a process called pseudo-refutation.
/philosophy : pseudoscience : argument/ : a common 1-2-3 step charade of social skeptics in false refutation structure and logical calculus; employed as a ruse of conducting science. To
1) cite any fallacy an opponent has possibly made,
2) employ that fallacy as the basis to declare the opponent ‘wrong’, and moreover then
3) issue an inductive counter of their contention, bearing ample information and hidden conjecture, which tenders appearance that the social skeptic is smarter than the opponent (ingens vanitatum) and has successfully refuted their contention.
When in fact, nothing of the sort was achieved and/or a deductive falsification approach was avoided, which was already readily at hand (see Methodical Deescalation). The focus is not on the validity of the argument or any particular truth, rather in aggrandizing the social skeptic and belittling his opponent.
As an ethical skeptic, I prefer falsification over any sort of exercise in celebrity-building and display of personal inductive brilliance. I take the most efficient critical path to resolution: go and look for a single instance of a white crow, the existence of a non-green tree (we are assuming exclusion of the fall color condition of course). I go and look (really look – not Nickell plating – amazing that THIS is the identifier for ethical versus social skepticism), and I find the American Red Maple.5 The assertion in argument as it turns out, constituted not only a fallacy of composition, but it was existentially false as well. It very easily could have turned out true, or even undetermined. I celebrate our finding with my former opponent and thank him for the chance to learn.
I did not know
I went and looked
Everything else was vanity
Therefore we have the basis of what is called the Appeal to Fallacy. You will find many people habitually (me included at times and I hope I have caught them all) confusing the terms ‘fallacy’ and ‘error’. This is part of the basis as to why The Ethical Skeptic has chosen a different method of assailing arguments (see Formal vs Informal Fallacy and Their Abuse) – an intellectual pursuit which involves more than simply evaluating the trivia surrounding how a person has formed their contention. Aside from a skeptic protecting the integrity of soundness or how a logical calculus is assembled (part of the scientific method) – the remainder of fallaciadom stands as just one slight shade above, simple childish retorts. Beyond this however, those who fall prey to an appeal to fallacy is one sure way of discriminating the pretender from the truth seeker.
Appeal to Fallacy
/philosophy : fallacy : abuse/ : one of two forms of confusing the state of an assertion being in error, with positing a faulty argument, delivery or sound basis.
Fallacy Fallacy (Argument from Fallacy) – arguer detects a fallacy in argument and declares therefore the person to be ‘wrong’ in assertion as well. When an arguer employs either a formal, or even more an informal fallacy, to stand as the basis to declare a whole subject or assertion in argument to be therefore, false. A formal fallacy or redress on the basis of soundness or induction inference, only serves to invalidate an opponent’s argument structure. All three flaws tender nothing regarding verity of the argument’s assertion or conclusion itself, which may or may not be independently also true. As well, any instance wherein a circumstantial, expression, personal or informal critique or other informal fallacy is inappropriately cited as a mechanism to invalidate an opponent’s argument or stand as basis for dismissal of a subject.
Fallacy Error – arguer detects a condition of being wrong and incorrectly deems this condition to constitute a ‘fallacy’. When an arguer finds an argument assertion to be wrong and declares the incorrect conclusion, error, mistake or lie to constitute a ‘fallacy’. When in reality, a fallacy is nothing but a weakness or flaw in an argument, soundness, logical calculus, structure or form – and has nothing actually to do with the validity of its assertion or conclusion.
Notice as well, the example above elicits a distinction between two differing types of (often confused) refutation. The inability to distinguish between these two types of response on the part of an opponent, serves to alert one to a condition of epistemic commitment or other bias on the part of an assertion maker:
No, you are wrong and here is the correct answer.
No you are wrong, the answer is still undetermined.
This will stand as the substance of a future blog.
The Ethical Skeptic, “The Appeal to Fallacy” The Ethical Skeptic, WordPress, 15 Jul 2017, Web; https://wp.me/p17q0e-6wD
- Most dictionaries recognize the colloquial use of the term fallacy to also include ‘a mistaken belief’. Resolving such overlaps in definition is critical to the ethical philosopher in order to reduce the games played through equivocation. This version of definition should correctly read ‘a mistaken belief based upon an unsound or failed argument’
- Note that a fallacy of composition is a flaw in the soundess of an argument, and as a result is many times mistaken for formality error: a flaw which can be detected by examining the structure of the argument itself, without having to assail the veracity of external factors such as its premeses or delivery/context.
- Please note that validity bears potential deterministic outcomes to which the Boolean Law of the Excluded Middle does not apply – applying true and false to probative queries where such an operator cannot be suitably determined constitutes an action in ignorance
- Why are trees and plants green in color?; UCSB Science Line ; http://scienceline.ucsb.edu/getkey.php?key=3877
- The American Red Maple; Fast Growing Trees Retail Website; https://www.fast-growing-trees.com/American-Red-Maple-Tree.htm?utm_source=google&utm_medium=shopping&utm_campaign=shopping&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI18vEgPaL1QIVWUsNCh2gdgymEAQYAiABEgLjQ_D_BwE