Critical Analysis Chapter 5: Are There Any Fallacies in the Reasoning?

For the assigned passage(s), identify the conclusion (thesis) and reasons that make up the argument. Also identify and explain the impact of any logical fallacies used in the reasoning. Please type your answers and use complete sentences, not simply phrases or single words, in all segments of your answers. Also, avoid quoting full sentences. Paraphrase instead.

Passage 1:

Jack: The sooner we get out of the war in Iraq the better. At some point we need to say “enough!” Our continued concentration on Iraq is hampering our overall effort against terrorism.

Vada: Why is it that you pansy liberals want to see us surrender to the terrorists? We need to fight until we have won the war.

Passage 2:

What stereo system should you buy? Don’t buy from SoundTech; I bought one of those systems three years ago and it broke within six months. You’d better not get a Logisound brand either. Those things are just terrible. Here’s a Digital Acoustics system. These have really good sound output because the sonic rendering of those systems is of exceptionally high quality. My uncle has one of those, and he loves it. You should choose one of their stereos.

Passage 3:

The problem of alcohol usage among teenagers is grossly overstated. Kids have been drinking and getting drunk in college for years, and nothing bad happened to them. After all, the people who are now clucking about “bad decisions” are the same people who drank when they were teenagers. Trying to prevent teens from getting alcohol only makes them want it more, and the restrictions don’t keep teens from getting hold of alcohol anyway. Older people need to realize that we want to have fun just like they once did, and stop trying to impose unnecessary and pointless controls on us.

Passage 4:

Bob: We need to take active steps to stop the animal experimentation that’s taking place in research labs in this country. The cruel, tortuous experiments with animals make us lose respect for life. Once we lose such respect, then we’ll become desensitized to other forms of cruelty, like abortion and torture of war prisoners.

Bill: Bob, you worry too much. Experimenting with animals in labs is not going to lead to mass serial killings. In fact, we need to strongly support animal research. Either we experiment with animals or we give up on our effort to develop new drugs for cancer – and cancer is a much more severe torture threat than most experimental animals will ever face.

Bob: Cancer is not as much a threat to our society now as is heart disease. Shouldn’t we be focusing more on finding human ways to treat it?

Passage 5:

I don’t understand why so many people are confused over the issue of abortion. It’s simply a question of whether you want to protect innocent life or not. Those who are “pro-choice” are just heartless, narcissistic baby-killers interested in only their own shallow lives and totally unaware of the effects of their irresponsible actions on the lives of others. Those who oppose abortions understand that a fetus is a form of human life that must be protected at all costs.

There are some people who say that the ethical correctness of an abortion depends on how far along the pregnancy is. That’s just stupid. Everyone knows that a human being is formed at the moment of conception, when a new and unique set of DNA is formed. Most people agree that killing an innocent human being is wrong. Doesn’t it follow then that having an abortion is equally wrong?

The media often portrays anti-abortion advocates in a bad light. They played up, for instance, the isolated violence at a few abortion clinics as representative of the entire movement. Furthermore, entertainment shows often attempt to show principled resistance of abortion as dangerous fanaticism. The media, however, has a biased agenda of its own. 92 percent of journalists identified themselves as “liberal” in a recent poll; it is obvious that such people are using their position as a means to spread their immoral conceptions of the world. The pro-life camp is merely a victim of their policy of intellectual genocide.

Anyone with any sense of ethical consistency at all must be pro-life; the opposing position is unprincipled at best.


Equivocation or Shifting Terms: To state one word in the premise and a similar – but different – word in the conclusion. For example, “Fluorine is the most toxic chemical on earth… Fluoridation is a menace to health.” Or “many medical associations are opposed… the Texas Medical Association declined to recommend it.”

Ad Hominem: An attack, or an insult, on the person, rather than directly addressing the person’s reasons. Example: “Dr. Danger received over $350,000 from [various food and drug] interests.” Related: Tu Quoque. Discredits an argument because the behavior of the person proposing it does not conform to the position he’s supporting.

False Dilemma (Either-Or): Assuming there are only two alternatives when there are more than two. Beware of these phrases: either…or; the only alternative is…; the two choices are…; because A has not worked, only B will…

Appeal to (Questionable) Authority: Supporting a conclusion by citing an authority who lacks special expertise on the issue at hand. A position is not good just because an authority is for it. Look instead at the evidence the authorities are using in making their judgment.

Appeal to Emotions: Instead of facts, emotionally charged language is used to lead listeners to a conclusion. Thus, the validity of the argument is not verifiable.

Hasty Generalization: Occurs when a generalization is stated on the basis of a sample that is too small or biased; one has jumped to the conclusion too quickly.

False Cause or Post Hoc: Post hoc ergo propter hoc, Latin for “after this, therefore because of this,“ states, “Since that event followed this one, that event must have been caused by this one.” It is often shortened to simply post hoc.
DAY 2:

Wishful Thinking: Making the faulty assumption that because we wish X were true or false, then X is indeed true or false. Confusing what is with what should be.

Straw Man: Misrepresenting our opponent’s thesis so that it is easy to attack; thus we attack a thesis that does not truly exist. This extends the opponent’s position to an “easy-to-attack” place. So beware: when someone attacks aspects of a position, always check to see whether he is fairly representing the position.

Red Herring: An irrelevant topic is presented to divert attention from the original issue and help to “win” an argument. The fallacy sequence is as follows: (a) Topic A is being discussed; (b) Topic B is introduced as though it is relevant to Topic A, but it is not; and (c) Topic A is abandoned.

Non sequitur: From the Latin, “it does not follow,“ it refers to a conclusion that does not follow logically from the premise that preceded it. Non sequiturs are often advertised by the spurious use of ‘so’ and ‘therefore.’

Perfect solution fallacy: Occurs when an argument assumes that a perfect solution exists and/or that a solution should be rejected because some part of the problem would still exist after it were implemented.

Slippery slope: Claims that an action should be avoided because it will lead to a series of extremely undesirable consequences.


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