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Critical Thinking and Identifying Logical Fallacies

The following arguments contained various kinds of fallacies. We had to formulate each fallacy into an argument.

1. We can recognize that athletes that can participate in sports must be given special consideration within our grading system, or we can let the university descend into athletic oblivion.

2. I do not know what colleges are teaching these days! I have just received a letter of application from a young man who graduated from the state university last June. It was a wretched letter-badly written, with elementary errors, punctuation, and grammar. The state university does not deserve the tax support that it is getting.

3. All right-thinking people will support the Board of Education's decision to destroy novels in the school libraries that are offensive to the moral standards of the community. If there were an epidemic of typhoid, the health authorities would be expected to do everything in their power to wipe it out. Pornography is worse than typhoid, since it corrupts the minds and morals of the young, not just their bodies. The school board is to be applauded for their prompt action in wiping out this moral disease.

4. Despite endless efforts, no on has been able to prove that God exists; we may just well stop trying and accept the truth: there is no God.

5. Alicia started gaining more weight than ever when she started taking Slim Down; the stuff must be fattening!

6. No sensible person would support the Equal Rights Amendment. If it were to pass, we would have women in combat and unisex bathrooms. Eventually, we would not even be able to tell women from the men!

7. How can Clinton be leading this country! He is a draft dodging, pot smoking, womanizer!

8. Michael Jordan wore that brand, so those must be the best basketball shoes.

9. The difference in the outcome was Jefferson's missed field goal. If he had put it thrhough, we would be going to the Super Bowl.

10. Don't ignore the woman who gave you birth, raised you, loved you then, and loves you still. Remember your mom on Mother's day.

11. So what if I didn't claim all the money I earned on my taxes? Lots of people under report their income.

12. That's gotta be a great line of clothes. Have you seen the prices and the people endorsing it?

List of arguments

1. false analogy
2. appeal to authority
3. post hoc ergo propter hoc
4. attacking the person
5. two wrongs
6. non sequitur
7. equivocation
8. false dilemna
9. black and white (slippery slope)
10. hasty generalization
11. contrary to fact hypothesis
12. ad ignorantium
13. appeal to emotion

Solution Preview

The terminology used in Critical Thinking is not entirely uniform. For instance, the term 'non sequitur' is often used to describe an argument that provides inadequate support for its conclusion so that a number of the fallacies below could be regarded as non sequiturs in this general sense. Also, it seems to me that some of the arguments below contain more than one fallacy.

Argument 1.

False dilemma.

There are other ways of keeping a high level of athletic achievement without 'consideration in the grading system'...[how about extra lessons for athletes who tend to miss a lot of classes?]

The second premise and conclusions are left unstated, though it's clear that the speaker is supporting 'special consideration'.

1. A or B {First premise is a false dilemma}
2. Not B
3. Therefore, A

Argument 2.

1. I received a {ungrammatical} letter of application from a young man who graduated from the State University last June.

Therefore,

2. The State University is not maintaining an adequate level of education.

Therefore,

3. The State University does not deserve the tax support that it is getting.

Transition from 1 to 2 is Hasty Generalization. One bad student hardly merits a general conclusion about educational levels.

Transition from 2 to 3 is a non sequitur. An inadequate level of education does not entail that the university does not deserve its tax support. Perhaps it deserves more support to employee (1) more teachers and (2) better teachers...!

Argument 3.

1. If there were an epidemic of typhoid, the health authorities would be expected to do everything in their power ...

Solution Summary

This solution is comprised of an explanation of some logical fallacies. It includes a breakdown of arguments presented and explains the fallacies evident in each case. This is all completed in 1060 words.

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