Summary and Application of Fallacies The use of critical thinking requires one to understand how to comprehend an argument. Part of this comprehension includes the ability to recognize a logical fallacy in an argument. The understanding of logical fallacies will help one become a better critical thinker by enabling them to break apart an argument from an opponent and debate the argument by pointing out the flaws. In this paper I will be discussing the Straw Man fallacy, the Red Herring Fallacy, and the Weak Analogy fallacy and how they relate to critical thinking. One must understand what an argument is and how it is constructed to understand when and why a logical fallacy is used. As defined in by Bassham et al (2002), "Arguments are composed of one or more premises and a conclusion.
Premises are statements that are claimed to provide evidence for another statement, the conclusion. The conclusion is the statement that the premises are claimed to prove or support" (p. 25). When an argument has flawed logic it would be considered to have a logical fallacy. The use of a logical fallacy might be to distract someone from understanding the true issue of an argument, or it might be used because the arguer is has an imperfect argument. The first logical fallacy we will look at is the Straw Man fallacy.
This fallacy is when the argument "misrepresents a person or groups position in order to make that position easier to attack." (Bassham et al. , 2002) An example of the straw man fallacy would be if I said that someone's opinion is that the local butcher shop has better hotdogs then Oscar Mayer. Then I stated that Oscar Mayer makes the best bologna, so the opinion of the butcher having better hotdogs is not true. The understanding of how the Straw Man fallacy is used will allow one to recognize when it is used in an argument. This understanding will also permit a critical thinker to evaluate the argument and determine if the argument is solid or not. This would become useful in analyzing a problem correctly by identifying any hidden causes to a problem.
Once one understands the straw man fallacy and can recognize its use in an argument then he or she can make a more informed decision. It is possible for one to have a straw man fallacy while working in a team environment. While weighing all the solutions for a problem it is possible for a team member to use this flawed logic and make a statement that contains a straw man fallacy. This could cause the team to obtain an incorrect solution if the fallacy is not recognized.
I and an instance at work where I had recognized a design flaw in a smoke purge system for a building. I went to the mechanical coordinator of the general contractor and explained what the issue was and what should be done to fix the issue. At the weekly construction meeting my manager asked what was the status of the decision to fix the issue I had brought up. He was told that the engineer who designed the system had a creditable background in engineering and that I was only a technician so I had no idea about what I was speaking of.
The issue was not resolved till testing of the smoke purge system was done and the design flaw I found was proven. The general contractor then issued a change to fix the situation. The rework of the system cost the general contractor more then if the issue was fixed when I mentioned it. This extra cost could have been avoided if my manager recognized that the general contractor's argument was flawed and corrected them at the time of the argument. An organizational example would be a current ad that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) has been running which states "This week President Bush brought his risky plan for Social Security to South Bend - a plan that would end Social Security's guaranteed benefits and tie our retirement savings to the ups and downs of the stock market. How does President Bush plan to pay for this risky scheme you ask.
First, he " ll borrow $4. 5 trillion from foreign countries. Then he " ll cut benefits by up to 40%. Cutting benefits and borrowing trillions from foreign nations won't solve Social Security problems - it will make them worse" (2005).
The straw man fallacy here is that nowhere in the Presidents agenda on Social Security reform has he said that he would do any of what the DNC has put out in the commercial. A similar fallacy to the straw man fallacy is the red herring fallacy. The red herring fallacy occurs when a person "attempts to sidetrack an audience by raising an irrelevant issue and then claiming that the original issue has been effectively settled by the irrelevant diversion." When one can recognize the red herring fallacy in arguments of a problem at work one can make an informed decision about the problem. Particularly in a team environment when the team is generating alternative solutions to a problem this fallacy might pop up in a member's opinion. An understanding of this fallacy will allow one to point out the sidetrack of the argument and get the team members back on track on developing a solution.
I and an instance at work where a new employee I was training was not completing the work assigned for a project. I went to my manager and explained the issue with the new employee. He told me that the employee was working on his master's degree and that they had a background in engineering, so I must not be using the new employee to his potential. This statement from my manager while true did not cover the issue at hand which was the fact that the employee was not completing his work (Curtis, 2005).
The last fallacy I will discuss is the weak analogy fallacy. When one makes a weak analogy fallacy statement one is "comparing things that aren't really comparable." An example would be someone comparing restrictions on gun control to the restrictions on food processing. Both guns and the improper processing of hotdogs could kill someone. Therefore, guns and the processing of hotdogs should have the same restrictions. Obviously this argument is flawed because guns and the processing of hotdogs have nothing in common, and therefore could not have common restrictions. One's ability to identify the problem correctly is a critical part to the critical thinking process.
A weak analogy statement could possibly mask the true problem if one did not recognize the fallacy. The weak analogy fallacy if not identified properly during the problem recognition stage of making a decision could cause a false solution to be used. This would make the decision-making process useless. A good example of this comes from John Kerry when he said in an interview with Matt Bai "We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they " re a nuisance,' Kerry said. 'As a former law-enforcement person, I know we " re never going to end prostitution. We " re never going to end illegal gambling.
But we " re going to reduce it, organized crime, to a level where it isn't on the rise. It isn't threatening people's lives every day, and fundamentally, it's something that you continue to fight, but it's not threatening the fabric of your life" (p. 45). ReferencesBassham, G. , Irwin, W. , Nard one, H.
, & Wallace, J. M. , (2002). Critical Thinking: A Student's Introduction. Boston: McGraw-Hill.
Bai, Matt (2004, October). Kerry's Undeclared War. New York Times Magazine, 38-45, 52, 68, 70. Curtis, G. , (2005). Red Herring.
The Fallacy Files. Retrieved March 19, 2005, from web National Committee. (2005) 'Cuts': DNC Launches New Radio Ad to Air During Bush Social Security Tour. Retrieved March 20, 2005, from web.