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Author Topic: Watching out against the fallacies of relevance – 3  (Read 311 times)
Joe Carillo
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« on: August 24, 2017, 02:57:32 PM »

We’ve already discussed seven of the 13 most common kinds of the fallacies of relevance, which are arguments that attempt to persuade people to accept evidently nonlogical propositions. This time we’ll take up the next three: appeal to money (ad crumenam), emotive language (argumentum ad populum), and the “You also” or “You, too” fallacy (tu quoque).

Appeal to money (ad crumenam). This is the fallacy of thinking that money is a reliable standard of correctness, and that the more moneyed one is, is more likely one will be right. Consider the bias in this all-too-common passing motorist’s remark about a car collision along the way: “That Toyota Fortuner is obviously not the aggressor because it’s brand-new and much more expensive than that old Beetle, and it was being driven for that respectable-looking executive. Look, that Beetle’s careless driver isn’t even shaven and is only in a dirty undershirt!”

In the so-called appeal to poverty (argumentum ad lazarum), this fallacy works in reverse: “That Toyota Fortuner is obviously at fault because it’s much sturdier and bigger than that old Beetle. The Fortuner’s driver must have bullied the poor Beetle’s driver and raced him  to the intersection.” Of course, the appeal to money and the appeal to poverty, which together are counted as one type of fallacy, are both illogical ways of looking at the situation, for we know that neither greater wealth nor poverty indicates greater good or truth.

Emotive language (argumentum ad populum). This is the fallacy of using emotionally loaded words to establish a claim without proof; the appeal is neither to reason nor logic but to the beliefs or feeling of the majority of the people towards a particular issue.

One remarkable example of emotive language in history is the response of Spain’s Queen Isabella when Christopher Columbus broached to her in the year 1493 the idea that based on his trans-Atlantic voyage, the Earth must be a sphere. She was recorded to have said: “The Earth must be flat. Millions of people know that it is. Are you trying to tell them that they are all mistaken fools?” (Based on modern scientific knowledge, of course, they were and so was she!)

As we all know, emotive language is likewise the bread-and-butter stuff of political advertising. By using strong emotional rather than rational appeals, political slogans attempt to short-circuit the logical evaluation of the candidate’s fitness for the position by making the candidate’s name resonate positively in the voter’s mind.

Consider these slogans of the presidential candidates in the 2016 Philippine national elections: Rodrigo Duterte: “Tapang at Malasakit” (“Fearlessness and Compassion”); Manuel “Mar” Araneta Roxas II: “Ituloy ang Daang Matuwid” (“Continue the Straight Path”); Grace Poe Llamanzares: “Gobyernong May Puso” (“Government with a Heart”); Jejomar Binay: “Competence and Experience: Only Binay”) and the late Miriam Defensor Santiago: “Si Miriam and Sagot!” (“Miriam is the Answer!”). Regardless of their truthfulness or validity, only in retrospect would we know if these slogans actually work in getting a candidate elected.  

“You also” or “You, too” fallacy (tu quoque). This is the fallacy of demolishing someone’s position by presenting evidence that his or her past actions or beliefs are inconsistent with the position or view he or she is presenting now. A very common example in Philippine elections is this argument: “Your party cheated heavily to win in the last elections, so why is your party advocating honesty now and condemning my party for preparing to do what you did in the coming elections?” It’s the obnoxious tit-for-tat mentality that bedevils supposedly free and democratic elections.

Next week, we’ll take up the last three of the 13 most common kinds of the fallacies of relevance, namely genetic error, anthropomorphism, and non sequitur.

(Next: Watching out against the fallacies of relevance – 4)   August 31, 2017   

This essay appeared in the column “English Plain and Simple” by Jose A. Carillo in the Education Section of the August 24, 2017 issue (print edition only) of The Manila Times, © 2017 by the Manila Times Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.
« Last Edit: August 24, 2017, 08:41:19 PM by Joe Carillo » Logged

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