Case Study 5
Paralogisms are fallacious arguments that appeal to evidence that is misleading, partial, or irrelevant. Below are some of the main strategies deployed in paralogisms. Ask you children to explain how the statements distort the facts or attempt to deceptively influence an audience. Use the examples as a starting point for discussing other examples in public life, advertising, or everyday conversation.
1. Spot the paralogisms in the following statements and explain why the reasoning is flawed.
″If smoking were bad for your health, it would be banned.
Smoking is not banned.
Therefore, smoking is not bad for your health.”
″If I am sick, I go see the doctor.
I am not going to see the doctor.
Therefore, I am not sick.”
″Intensive farming allows us to feed all human beings.
Organic farming is not intensive farming.
Therefore, organic farming will not allow us to feed all human beings.”
2. Three false dilemmas are presented below. Why are these apparent dilemmas not real dilemmas?
A close friend who is going to jump into a freezing lake on New Year’s Eve says, “A real friend wouldn’t let me do this alone.”
The night before election day, a candidate for office says, “It’s me or chaos.”
A slogan in an advertisement for Sneakie sports shoes reads, “Cool people wear Sneakies.”
3. Often biased or flawed reasoning uses false generalizations. How can we contradict the following statements?
Upon hearing that a politician is being investigated for tax fraud: “See? All politicians are corrupt.”
“Hypnosis works for giving up smoking. My brother managed to quit that way.”
“Social media is the best way to find love. Several of my friends met their partners that way.”
4. Beware of an “argument from authority,” especially those circulating online.
″Many scientists dispute the global warming phenomenon.” Who are these “scientists”? On which scientific studies have they based their opinions? Do they have personal, political, or economic connections with people or organizations that could benefit from challenging global warming? It is important to ask oneself all of these questions before accepting an argument.
5. Arguments based on numbers:
″This singer’s video already has 500,000 views online.” What does this say about the quality of their music?
″X93 – the latest phone, already owned by 2,000,000 people worldwide.” Does this mean that this device would suit my needs? Is this an indicator of its quality?
6. Arguments based on fear:
″You say that you’re against the death penalty, but murder will be much more common if we abolish it as a deterrent.”