formal fallacies

When we talked about arguments being a bit like bridges we said that there were two obvious things that could go wrong in bridge building. If either your materials or your design is faulty then the bridge will fail and we said arguments are just like this. Philosophers call arguments with a bad structure (or form) Formal Fallacies, and when there is a good structure (or form) but, if there is something else wrong they call theseĀ Informal Fallacies.

By now you are probably starting to get a bit good at analysing arguments. And I imagine if you were to look at the following example, it wouldn’t take you long to realise that it is useless:

1. Aliens are green.

2. Bad cowboys wear black hats.

3. Buses are ugly.

C. Therefore libraries are SO boring.

In fact we might even feel that to call this an argument is stretching the definition a little. The premises have no connection to each other or to the conclusion (even though they might all be true). In our bridge analogy, this argument would just be a pile of unconnected metal struts. Now because this sort of ‘argument’ is meaningless we won’t ever look at it again.

Another reason for this, is that this sort of argument isn’t dangerous. I mean that in the sense that an argument like this could never be used to take advantage or anyone, or convince them to part with their money for example. The reason we study errors in reasoning, is not to avoid being taken in by arguments like this, but to avoid being convinced by bad arguments thatĀ look like good ones.

A guy at work bought a car out of the paper. Ten years later, Bam! Herpes.

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