- Refuting an Argument by Refuting its Conclusion.This is a fallacy when someone presents you with an argument and instead of refuting it, you create a second argument to compete with the first argument.For example, I say that if there there is no God who is Existence Itself then nothing in this world could exist. But we do exist, therefore God exists. You then respond by saying, if God, who is Goodness Itself, Power Itself, and Love Itself existed then we His creatures would all be perfectly happy. But we are not, so God does not exist.Notice that the second argument has a contradictory conclusion to the first. But that does not mean that the first argument has been refuted. There are only 3 ways to refute an argument:a. it has an ambiguous termb. one of the premises is untruec. the logic is invalid.Adding a contradicting argument does not do any of the above 3.
- Assuming that Refuting an Argument Refutes the Conclusion:There may be a bad argument for a true conclusion. For example:Grass is made of hair.Hair is GreenTherefore Grass is greenNotice that both of the premises are untrue, which means that the argument is invalid. But the conclusion is still true.
- Ignoring the Argument.This is where you argue about something else irrelevant. Peter Kreeft points out that Karl Marx does this in his Communist Manifesto. Marx says “As for the charges against Communism made from a religious, a philosophical and, generally, from an ideological standpoint, are not deserving of serious examination.”Thus he seeks simply to dismiss the objections rather than answer them.
- Substituting Explanations for Proofs.A proof is when you show your conclusion must be true and its contradictory cannot be true. An explanation is when you show how something could possibly be true. A common criticism of Christian believers is that we only believe because we are afraid of death. I've had a few students who were unnerved by this because they were afraid of death and thus they questioned their motives for believing. But believe something out of fear does not prove one way or another if it is true. Let us say, for the sake of argument, that every Christian believes out of fear. How does that disprove Christ getting up and walking out of the tomb?
- Answering Another Argument than the one GivenI was recently trying to have an online debate with someone, but they continually did this. They kept criticizing the Church as bad but had no definition for the good, other than a tautology “e.g. 'Good' is postitive results and 'positive results' are results that are positive.” . I pointed out
- Shifting the Burden of Proof:In an argument, the burden of proof means that the person who has it must prove their point decisively in order to win. The one who does not have the burden of proof need not prove their point, only show that the the one with the burden did not prove theirs. In court, the burden of proof is on the prosecution. The defendant does not need to prove their innocence or even provide a defense. All they need to do is show that the prosecution did not prove their case. In an argument, ground rules should be set as to who has burden of proof and who does not. A good rule of thumb should be to put the burden of proof on the one who wants the most radical change, thus forcing them to come up with a compelling argument for the change. For example, those who are in favor of “gay marriage” should have the burden of proof to come up with a compelling reason why we should radically alter the foundational unit of the family. Also those who are anti-abortion should have burden of proof to do a radical overhall of the law to outlaw something which is currently legal.
- Winning the Argument by Losing the Arguer (or vice-versa):I hate when people make emotional appeals devoid of logic. We should never abdicate our reason because that makes us beasts. We are not less than logic. But we are more than logic. This fallacy occurs when we ignore our personality context and substitute personality for argument. In class, I always try and appeal to all sides of the person. I can be completely correct in refuting a student's argument, but if I do it in a way that does not open the door a deeper meeting with Christ, then I may have destroyed his argument, but also an avenue to finding God.
Procedural Fallacies are fallacies that violate basic logical justice. They are valid in form, but they are used incorrectly.
a. To criticize something as bad one must know what “bad” is.
b. To know what “bad” is one must know what “good” is.
c.His definition of “good” is a tautology.
d. Tautologies give you no new information. They are empty, contentless
e. Empty, contentless statements are nonsense.
f. Therefore, the critiques from this person are nonsense
The response was to say that he knew what bad was because the Church covered up priests molesting children and that was bad, so he knew what bad was.
But notice my point was not that the Church is not bad. My point was that he had no reference for good or bad so no one could understand his argument.