[Originally published as Logic Lessons: Intermezzo]
I think we should pull back the throttle on the Fallacies Express for a moment. Although I like learning about them as well as writing them up, there are so many logical fallacies, variations, blendings, and so forth that the series will go on far too long.
From there, I think I will do a kind of summary explaining the bigger aspects. That is, logical fallacies get categorized and sub-categorized, even overlapping. I see some greater principles at work that these sub-categories represent.
Also, I have learned that sometimes something will seem to be a fallacy, but is actually quite valid.
For instance, something may resemble an Appeal to Authority when it is entirely fitting and proper to be referring to an authority on a subject.
If I quote William Lane Craig on philosophy, that is fitting. But if I refer to a comment he made on, say, the perihelion of the planet Mercury, I would probably be in error. Relying entirely on an authority for the bulk of your argument is weak. So is finding the one crackpot archaeologist that agrees with your preconceptions and rejecting the scores of better qualified archaeologists that disagree with your position.
Another example of the appearance of fallacy would be that if I say Alex cannot be trusted because he is confused and tells scores of lies so you should not listen to him, or that Norman deliberately misleads through selective citing. Am I Poisoning the Well? On the surface, yes. But when I show you that my claims about Alex and Norman are accurate, you would do well to heed my warning about trusting them without corroboration and substantiation.
My point is to take it slow and do not rush to judgment. Think it through, because something may not be a fallacy after all, capice?
For that matter, it’s considered rude to point out someone’s logical fallacy. I do it anyway, usually to trolls and bullies. But for a rational discussion in a decent setting, it is best to restrain your equines and not engage in show jumping right away.
A statement that someone made about logical fallacies seemed rather startling to me. There are times that they are unavoidable. That is, not every discussion can be perfect, and sometimes the fallacies are not exactly wrong. But those are rare occasions.
Some people cannot learn how to think clearly no matter how much you attempt to reason with them. If their minds are clouded with hate, all they will do is look for an excuse to criticize or attack, and you will always appear wrong to them no matter how right you really are. It is best to move on and save your efforts for someone who actually wants an intelligent discussion.
I recommend that you keep in mind two things:
- First, you need to be as accurate as possible for your own credibility to others listening or reading, because they may gain something useful from you.
- Second, you are ready to avoid traps, snares and simple errors the other person makes and you have a better chance of staying on the subject.
A third point for Christians is that we want to represent Jesus to the best of our abilities and through his leading