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    Six 'critical thinking' style questions are presented along with solutions and explanations of the solutions. The questions concern the evaluation of arguments and identification of logical fallacies.

    © BrainMass Inc. brainmass.com December 24, 2021, 10:59 pm ad1c9bdddf

    SOLUTION This solution is FREE courtesy of BrainMass!



    (i) Does the argument commit any of the fallacies below? (Answer Yes or No) If your answer is "Yes", name the fallacy concerned.

    (The relevant fallacies are: Ad hominem; Irrelevant Appeal to Authority; Irrelevant Appeal to Popular Opinion; Irrelevant Appeal to Emotion; Argument from Ignorance; Fallacy of Ambiguity; False Dilemma; Straw Man; Begging the Question)

    (ii) To what extent do the premises of the argument support its conclusion? Select your answer from the following:

    • Valid. (= The argument is deductively valid)
    • Strong. (= The argument is non-deductively strong)
    • Weak. (= The argument is non-deductively weak, or the
    premises do not support the conclusion at all)


    (a) If the evil and duplicitous ex-Haitian leader, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, becomes a South African citizen, then our relations with Haiti will sour. If he does not become a citizen then our relations with the US will sour. We therefore know that due to the Haitian affair, our relations are going to sour with some country in the international community, regardless.

    (b) Socialism is not an effective economic system as any economic system in which the means of production are collectively owned cannot work.

    (c) Those people who oppose the current democratic dispensation are clearly committed to a form of anarchism in which there are no political parties. As the theory of anarchism has been systematically refuted by a number of different political philosophers, we are entitled to reject the views of these people.

    (d) To say that punishment does not always cause psychic damage is to evade the issue. We do not know what reaction punishment will cause in the individual in later years. Punishment may very likely cause psychic damage.

    (e) Tobacco company representatives are wrong when they say that smoking doesn't seriously affect your health, because they're just defending their own multi-million dollar financial interests.

    (f) Bill Clinton should have been impeached only if he had sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky. He did not have sexual relations with Lewinsky. Therefore, he should not have been impeached.


    (i) No fallacy (3)
    (ii) Valid (2)

    COMMENT: The argument clearly depends on establishing a dilemma, 'Either J.A will become a citizen of S.A, or he will not'. However, since this exhausts the possibilities, this is not a false dilemma. The argument does not commit a fallacy and is deductively valid.

    (i) Yes: Begging the Question (3)
    (ii) Valid (2)

    COMMENT: Remember that if an argument begs the question, then it is very likely also a valid argument.

    (i) Yes: Straw Man (3)
    (ii) Valid (2)

    COMMENT: This argument exemplifies the structure of a candidate for a 'Straw Man' fallacy. X says that p or is committed to p; p is wrong, or has been refuted, or is nonsense; therefore, what X says is wrong or ought to be rejected, etc. The problem is, of course, that X is not really committed to p; X's view has been misrepresented.

    (i) Yes: Argument from Ignorance (3)
    (ii) Weak (2)

    COMMENT: This argument is of the right structure to be an argument from ignorance: 'We do not know that punishment does not cause psychic damage; therefore, it very likely does..."

    (i) Circumstantial ad hominem (3)
    (ii) Weak (3)

    COMMENT: Argument is roughly of the form: 'A has a selfish reason for saying that p; therefore, p is false'. Plainly the premise does not, in this context, provide substantial reason for thinking that p is false.

    (i) Ambiguity [The phrase "sexual relations" has a broad and narrow meaning: (1) A sexual relationship; (2) Sexual intercourse. Clinton had "sexual relations" with Lewinsky in sense (1); he was denying it in the narrow sense (2)].

    (ii) Weak (3)

    (1) Bill Clinton should have been impeached only if he had a sexual relationship with M.L.
    (2) B.C. did not have sexual intercourse with M.L.
    Therefore, B.C. should not have been impeached.

    Interpreted in this fashion, the second premise is quite clearly irrelevant to and fails to support the conclusion.

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