How To Spot a Logical Fallacy Part 5

Nirvana fallacy (perfect-solution fallacy) – solutions to problems are rejected because they are not perfect.

  • Wearing a non medical grade mask will not protect me or others from Covid
    • While wearing a mask does not provide 100% protection, it does provide some protection. Some protection is better than none, especially when the virus is not under control.
  • What’s the point of making drinking illegal under the age of 21?  Kids still manage to get alcohol.
    • Explanation: The goal in setting a minimum age for drinking is to deter underage drinking, not abolish it completely.  Suggesting the law is fruitless based on its failure to abolish underage drinking completely, is fallacious.
  • Exception: Striving for perfection is not the same as the nirvana fallacy.  Having a goal of perfection or near perfection, and working towards that goal, is admirable.  However, giving up on the goal because perfection is not attained, despite major improvements being attained, is fallacious.

Proof by assertion – a proposition is repeatedly restated regardless of contradiction; sometimes confused with argument from repetition (argumentum ad infinitum, argumentum ad nauseam)

  • This fallacy is sometimes used as a form of rhetoric by politicians, In its extreme form, it can also be a form of brainwashing. This practice can be observed in the use of political slogans,
  • Exception: When an opponent is attempting to misdirect the argument, repeating the argument to get back on track is a wise play.

Proving too much – an argument that results in an overly-generalized conclusion

  • Arguing that drinking alcohol is bad because in some instances it has led to spousal or child abuse).

Retrospective determinism – believing that, because an event has occurred under some circumstance, the circumstance must have made the event inevitable

  • Because someone won the lottery while wearing their lucky socks, wearing those socks made winning the lottery inevitable).
  • Judas was an idiot to turn Jesus over to the authorities.  After all, he ended up committing suicide out of guilt.
    • Explanation: It is easy for us to blame Judas as people who know the whole story and how it played out.  We have information Judas did not have at the time.  Besides, if Judas never turned in Jesus, and Jesus was never killed, but died while walking on water as an old man after tripping over a wave, would Christianity exist?
  • Exception: Sometimes, it’s funny to commit this fallacy on purpose at the expense of your friends’ dignity.
    • Hey, nice going on that decision to buy stock in the company that was shut down a week later by the FBI for the prostitution ring.  Do you have any stock tips for me?

Improper premise

Begging the question (assuming the conclusion, petitio principii) – occurs when an argument’s premises assume the truth of the conclusion, instead of supporting it – a form of circular reasoning.

  • For example, the statement “Green is the best color because it is the greenest of all colors” claims that the color green is the best because it is the greenest
  • Paranormal activity is real because I have experienced what can only be described as paranormal activity.
    • Explanation: The claim, “paranormal activity is real” is supported by the premise, “I have experienced what can only be described as paranormal activity.”  The premise presupposes, or assumes, that the claim, “paranormal activity is real” is already true
  • Exception: Some assumptions that are universally accepted could pass as not being fallacious.
    • People like to eat because we are biologically influenced to eat.

Circular reasoning (circulus in demonstrando) – the reasoner begins with what he or she is trying to end up with

  • “A is true because B is true; B is true because A is true.” Circularity can be difficult to detect if it involves a longer chain of propositions.
    • All bachelors are unmarried males
    • The Bible is the Word of God because God tells us it is… in the Bible.
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