Saturday, October 25, 2014

Reblog: Informal Logic 101: How to Think and Argue Better, Part 9

Part 9: Apples, Oranges, and Character Assassination
“When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser.”  — Socrates
Only two fallacies on the docket today, but they are biggies!

Category mistake/error

I’m sure you have heard the term, “It’s apples and oranges.” Maybe you have used it, yourself. When Person A says this to Person B, it might be the case that Person B has made an explicit comparison between two things, in which case Person A believes that the things in question are not sufficiently alike to warrant Person B’s comparison in support of his case. A timely example of this might go as follows:

“Person A: How can you be against same-sex marriage? It’s like being against mixed-race marriages, which everyone knows was bigoted and unconstitutional. Miscegenation laws were repealed and so should bans on same-sex marriage. 
Person B: That reasoning doesn’t fly. It’s apples and oranges. 
Person A: Why do you say that? 
Person B: First, there are no federal bans against same-sex marriage in the U.S.; there just isn’t any legal provision for it. But, more to the point, same-sex marriage and interracial marriage have extremely little in common. There is no difference between a black and a white human being (or any other color), because skin color is biologically and morally trivial. There is an enormous difference, however, between a man and a woman. Race or ethnicity has no bearing on marriage. Sex, on the other hand, is fundamental to marriage, in regards to both reproduction and child-rearing, which constitute the primary, societal purpose for marriage.”

Another way one can commit a “category mistake” fallacy is by implicitly assuming — as evidenced in one or more statements — that a thing belongs to a particular group with certain characteristics, when in fact the thing in question does not belong to said group — at least, not in the proper context (e.g., within the relevant worldview or under the specific set of circumstances being discussed). Therefore, it should not be expected to have those characteristics, and the argument fails.


Again, sorry for the lack of content.  I wasn't able to take classes this semester so I might be able to take some time to write more.