Logical Problems

Logic is a challenge for all of us. To get through life we make a lot of leaps that are probably not justified. That said it is helpful to sit back and think through the leaps we are making. Bo Bennett has put together a compilation of logical fallacies. These range from some classic ones that can be shown to be always incorrect to some that are harder to show formally but illustrate challenges in thinking. Bennett even names some of his own — often found on the internet.

Bennett suggests a common fallacy is the Appeal to the Common Folk. This, he suggests, is prevalent in politics. Rather than offer evidence for a viewpoint one just argues that common folk think that and so it should be accepted. Appeal to the Common Folk is: “In place of evidence, attempting to establish a connection to the audience based on being a “regular person” just like each of them. Then suggesting that your proposition is something that all common folk believe or should accept” (Bennett, 2017, location 944).

I liked the “Just in case fallacy” as this is something I see a lot. It is possible for almost anything to go wrong but I’d argue that we must focus on the issues more likely to happen and to cause a significant problem if they do happen. If you agree with me the important thing to note is that one can be too careful. We all recognize this everyday: few people wear a helmet while on the couch watching TV. The risk of head injury they are accepting just isn’t significant (although I guess you could fall off the couch and hurt your head if you were ridiculously unlucky).

He notes the Nirvana Fallacy — nothing to do with the band — comparing a realistic solution with an idealized one. I see this regularly when people argue against good plans because they don’t go far enough. If the plans go as far as they can go this is still progress — holding out for the unobtainable doesn’t seem like a great idea.

He describes what many do using big data — post-designation — as a fallacy. This is deciding what you are looking for after you look. “When you fish for data, you are bound to catch something” (Bennett, 2017, location 4821). In big data you will find something, a lot of it will be random nonsense, the solution is to pre-designate, i.e. have a good reason to look for what you are looking for before you look. If you find a result after pre-designation (looking for it) then it is less likely to be nonsense.

The final fallacy I will note is a common argument in politics when you don’t want to give in. To offer a bunch of contradictory statements. ‘He didn’t do it, even if he did it then it wasn’t the bad, and even if it was bad everyone does it’. Bennett classes this as Kettle logic. It would be nice to see this go away.

Read: Bo Bennett, (2017) Logically Fallacious: The Ultimate Collection of Over 300 Logical Fallacies, Archieboy Holdings