Fallacy fallacies

by Admin
Updated: July 10, 2018

Fallacy fallacies happen when small mistakes are used to imply the bigger picture is wrong

If the reasoning is correct, the argument must be correct. A fallacy is a failure in reasoning which makes an argument invalid. The “fallacy fallacy” is the fallacy of taking an error in the reasoning as proof that the conclusion is false even though it could still be true.

It is also known as argument to logic (argumentum ad logicam), fallacist’s fallacy, and bad reasons fallacy.

A trivial example is using a statement like “2+2=4 because it’s Tuesday” to prove 2+2 is not equal to 4. The reasoning is wrong - the day of the week has nothing to do with it - but the conclusion, 4, is still correct.

What I call the 3 stages of learning has a correct answer at the outset which is then rejected because it can’t be properly explained until it is eventually reconciled as a result of improved understanding.

Here it is as a simplified version of “Eat this root” - the famous satirical history of medicine:

  1. Eat this root, it will cure you. *
  2. The reasoning behind why the root might cure you is not sound, therefore the root will not cure you.
  3. It turns out that the root contains a natural and effective medicine. Eat the root, it will cure you.

* An explicit reason is optional and, if omitted, the original fallacy is typically an appeal to authority (argumentum ad verecundiam) where something like “because the shaman said so” is implied.

The ad logicam fallacy at Stage #2 is often used to justify an alternative which may be fallacious in its own right, e.g. a new medicine based on bad science.

Business

If research can show that a particular adverting campaign was not effective, it doesn’t mean that all advertising is pointless.

Markets

The fallacy is applicable to technical analysis when fundamentals are driving the price action. Although the argument that price changes are caused by the developing patterns can be challenged, this does not mean the patterns have no predictive value.

Politics

If an error can be identified, the ad logicam fallacy will often form part of an argumentum ad hominem attack (also fallacious) where the conversation is diverted by attacking the credibility of the proponent instead of refuting the argument.

More info

“Here, eat this root” at ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.

Argumentum ad logicam (argument to logic) at csun.edu and fallacyfiles.org.

Internal links

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