Fallacies of Vacuity
- To remember what a circular argument is, think of a P.I.E.
- In circular arguments, a Premise Is Equivalent to the conclusion.
- Definition: Circular Argument
- An argument is circular if and only if there is a premise of the argument that is equivalent to, or simply is the conclusion of that argument.
Examples of Circular Arguments:
- 1. Drugs that make people hallucinate should be banned.
- Therefore, hallucinogenic drugs should be banned.
- 2. Individuals that use the threat of violence in order to make others succumb to their demands should be tortured.
- Therefore, terrorists should be tortured.
- To remember what question begging is, think of a P.A.C.
- In question begging arguments, Premises Assume Conclusions.
- Definition: Question Begging
- An argument is question begging if and only if there is a premise of the argument that assumes the conclusion of that argument without any independent reasons for accepting that premise.
Example of Begging the Question
- Background: a debate over whether alcoholic beverages should be banned.
- Foods and beverages that make people intoxicated should be banned.
- Therefore, alcoholic beverages should be banned.
- To remember what self-sealing is, think of N.E.A.T.
- For self-sealing arguments, there is No Evidence Against Them.
- Definition: Self-Sealing
- An argument (position) is self-sealing if and only if no evidence can possibly be brought against it no matter what.
Three Ways to be Self-Sealing
- 1. By universal discounting.
- 2. By going upstairs.
- 3. By definition.
- dismiss every possible objection, usually in an ad hoc or arbitrary way.
Example of Self-Sealing: Universal Discounting
- Conspiracy Theorists:
- Suppose someone thinks that a select group of universities controls all NCAA football.
- As evidence in support of their position, they point to the select group of universities that get ranked in the top ten year after year despite not having won a national championship within the last decade.
- Of course, that select group has allowed some non-members to be ranked in the top ten. For example, they let Boise State into the top ten. However, that’s just to conceal their total domination over NCAA football.
- dismiss objections as an indication that the objector is not in a position to grasp the argument, or that by objecting, the objector actually provides evidence that the argument is on the right track.
Example of Self-Sealing: Going Upstairs
- Suppose that Joe meets Fred the Freudian.
- Fred tells Joe, “you want to sleep with your mother and kill your father.”
- Joe replies, “That’s absurd!”
- Fred responds, “You just aren’t aware of your Oedipus complex yet.”
- Fred tells Joe, “all of this just shows that you really do want to sleep with your mother and kill your father.”
- Joe replies, “Tell that to my wife!”
- Fred responds, “maybe someday you’ll come to terms with your Oedipus complex, but your responses indicate that today is definitely not that day.”
- Make a substantive claim. Then, cleverly redefine a crucial term in a way that guarantees that the claim will be true. By doing so, this deprives the claim of any substantive content.
Example of Self-Sealing: By Definition
- Suppose that someone claims that all human actions are selfish.
- This is an interesting claim, but let’s try to think of some counterexamples involving self-sacrifice.
- In response to proposed counterexamples based on self-sacrifice, a defender of the claim that all human actions are selfish might respond by saying that by performing an act of self-sacrifice, what one wants to do is to help others. Hence, even acts of self-sacrifice are ultimately selfish.