Following from some exercises I have done in classes, and after a chat with the RPE101 students I had a week or two ago – I have decided we could look for Britain’s Worst Argument.
This could be a formal fallacy of some sort – such as:
All philosophers are strange
Jeremy is strange
Therefore, Jeremy is a philosopher
As all students will recognise – this is an invalid piece of reasoning. The first statement only tells us that all philosophers are strange – not that all strange people are philosophers. Jeremy might be a strange plumber – a possibility left open by the first line (premise).
We may find more informal errors – such as people claiming that a point of view is correct because it is new, or indeed ‘ancient’ (as in ‘Ancient Wisdom), or popular.
Another popular approach is to suggest that someone is wrong due to their faults. My friend may be an ugly, smelly, and overbearing individual – but my telling him that does not mean that his argument about the matter at hand is wrong.
We might presume (often wrongly) that because one event precedes another – it causes the latter. E.g. I wore odd socks yesterday, then won at tennis: therefore my sock-wearing led to my victory – – this type of causal fallacy is often the basis for superstitions…
I would like to ask students – and other readers of this blog (anyone really) – to find us the worst pieces of reasoning they can find. International examples are welcome – but we will pick the winner from the British examples submitted…
Use the comment facility on this blog ( www.r-p-e.blogspot.com ) to submit them – or email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org (say if you’re happy for me to post the argument on the blog when you email it).
We may even find a prize under some of the piles of books in my office…
We will post a blog story reporting on out findings (and the winner) in the New Year…
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Need some help / examples?