The other day I mentioned in a WhatsApp group I’m in that I didn’t like a certain person’s music. I told them that I found it depressing because it left me in a worse mood. It was just not my cup of tea. Now, this is a very popular musician among the group members and I knew very well that I would be attacked for saying that. I was right, someone retaliated by saying that my cup of tea consists of ‘5 lines mumbled a thousand times.’
While I don’t deny that I enjoy trap music, I did not quite get the comeback. I understand that he was offended, but he committed a fallacy which most of us are guilty of: argumentum ad hominem: the error of attacking the character and motives of a person who has stated the idea, rather than the idea itself. Instead of adressing the matter of the artist’s music and give me his dissenting opinion, he chose to attack my character: loving trap music. This is no way to win an argument.
The whole purpose of a debate or a discussion is to help us see both sides of the coin, and therefore reduce bigotry. However, logical fallacies defeat this purpose. I see this a lot with politicians. That’s why I sometimes cannot bring myself to watch the discussions on television regarding the current political climate. A lot of logical fallacies are committed either knowingly or unknowingly. I will bring some of these to your attention in a few.
Maybe I should first say what prompted me to research on this. A certain lady had commented on politics and as always, some people were offended. They called her a whore, a bimbo and many other deregatory names instead of saying why exactly they disagreed with her. I had settled on chauvinism as the main culprit but then I realized the problem was much bigger than that. What is the source of chauvinism? A flaw in reasoning. Our thought processes account for who we are. To deal with a problem, we must first change our mindset. It is important we know of these fallacies so that we avoid commiting them, point out those who commit them so that at the end of the day we engage in a meaningful and fruitful discussion.
That being said, the next fallacy I want to bring into focus is Post Hoc (ergo propter hoc), claiming that because something happens after something else, the first caused the second. In other words, saying that because two things correlate, one caused the other. This takes me back to my primary school days, when a certain teacher happened to be in a mood for caning us whenever she donned clothes of a certain colour. We would conclude that the particular colour was the cause of her bad moods. In retrospect, I believe that her moods dictated her choice of clothes. Not the other way round. Another good example: your company has been doing very well since a new manager was appointed. You attribute the success to the manager yet he hasn’t done anything new. In fact, it’s the one in charge of marketing who should take the credit since he or she has been working overtime.
Another common fallacy is Argumentum ad numerum,(appeal to numbers), where if many people are of the same opinion, then it must be true. Well, those many people could be wrong! Our argument must not be wholly dependent on the numbers, we must take other factors into consideration.
The last one I want to mention is Argumentum ad verecundiam (argument or appeal to authority), assuming that because a public figure has said something, it must be true, even though the said person has no experience whatsoever in the area. For example, concluding that slimming tea helps one lose weight just because a certain celebrity said so. Most of the time, they have been paid to promote the product.
Have a fallacy-free time, won’t you?