Sunday, May 15, 2022

Phil 300 - Logic - Fallacies Assignment

Fallacies Assignment

Presumption Fallacies

Complex Question

  • After my 15-year-old daughter arrived home from driving with her mother, I asked her, “How many times did you drive off the road today?”
  • My tongue-in-cheek question has presumed the answer of “yes” to the prior question of “Did you drive off the road while driving today?”  I did not explicitly ask this first question and simply assumed she had driven off the road and therefore I wanted her to answer how often it happened.  My argument was she drove off the road many times and the presumed premise was “since you already drove off the road.”
  • “A complex question is a fallacy in which the answer to a given question presupposes a prior answer to a prior question.” (Source URL:

False Dilemma

  • I was raised Mormon and then left my religion a few years ago.  Through the course of talking with my parents about my decision, the following fallacy was committed by them, in an effort to convince me to not leave the religion: “You must either believe in God or you are an atheist!”  In fact, I believe that the concept of God can be quite nuanced – there is a lot of gray between the all-or-nothing alternatives.
  • Their implied premise is “since there can only be two options on the subject of belief in God” and then they argue that I am an atheist since I do not believe in their version of God, when in fact, there could be a 3rd, 4th, 5th, etc. alternative to either believing in a specific god or nothing at all.  For example, a middle ground approach is being agnostic – someone who neither affirms nor denies the existence of god, but simply believes it to be unknowable.
  • The ThoughtCo. Article defines the False Dilemma as, “when an argument offers a false range of choices and requires that you pick one of them. The range is false because there may be other, unstated choices which would only serve to undermine the original argument. If you concede to pick one of those choices, you accept the premise that those choices are indeed the only ones possible.” (Source URL:

Relevance Fallacies

Bandwagon Argument

  • Last year, our town finally had a city ordinance expire which ended a telecommunications company’s decade long monopoly on our city’s internet service provider capabilities.  A new company made plans to lay fiber through the whole city.  To infuse money and capital in their infrastructure, they executed a marketing blitz on the residents to get many people to sign up for the service.  The number one tactic they used was to show the growing number of people who were leaving the old ISP and joining the new.  Their premise was: “many people have signed up for our internet service.”  And then they draw the conclusion: “therefore you too should sign up.” 
  • The Bandwagon Argument is an appeal to popularity as opposed to the topic which is relevant; in this case relevant topics would be internet speed , improved reliability or even cost.  If a consumer took the time to compare speed, reliability, and cost, they might have found the two were comparable.  But the new ISP did not emphasize these aspects, but instead focused on getting people to jump on the ”bandwagon.”  (Source URL:

Ad Hominem

  • My wife often went to lunch with her friend Fiona.  At one of their lunches, the topic of the exit of the United States from Afghanistan came up.  My wife’s opinion was that the Biden administration mishandled it and should take partial blame and responsibility for the military servicemen who lost their lives helping people to leave the country.  Her friend did not agree with my wife’s opinion and subsequently stopped all communication with my wife, even though my wife has tried to reach out and keep the friendship.  Fiona implied the premise: “you blame the Biden administration for the deaths of the servicemen” and then concludes: “therefore, we can no longer be friends.”
  • The political opinion of my wife is irrelevant to the status of their friendship.  The friendship ought to be based on their shared history, help for each other and camaraderie.  To be dismissed as a friend because of this specific political stance is not a relevant reason to abandon a friendship.
  • states, “the ad hominem argument is a fallacy when the comments are directed against some aspect about a person which is irrelevant to the topic at hand.”  In my wife’s case, the comment directed at her was about her political opinion, when in fact the topic at hand was friendship.  (Source URL:

Ambiguity Fallacies


  • As a side note, I’m beginning to see that “Dad Jokes” are often based in fallacies, as per above with the “Complex Question” fallacy.  Equivocation seems to be another fallacy that a “Dad Joke” leverages.  I overhead this joke recently in the office.  Andy: “Hey Aaron, can you talk real quick?”  Aaron: “Not like an auctioneer, but I can talk faster than normal people.”  Perhaps a better example of an equivocation being used in an actual argument comes from  The example it provides is, “When the judge asked the defendant why he hadn't paid his parking fines, he said that he shouldn't have to pay them because the sign said 'Fine for parking here' and so he naturally presumed that it would be fine to park there.”
  • The word “fine” can be interpreted as a monetary penalty or it could be interpreted as meaning “it is OK.”  So, when the guilty party read the sign, he interpreted “fine” as “it is OK” instead of being ticketed a fee if he parked in the spot.  The defendant understood the premise: “it is ok (fine) to park here” and drew the conclusion: “therefore I will park here.”  But the law understood the premise: “cars parked here will incur a fine; a penalty” therefore, when the defendant parked her, he ought to incur the penalty.
  • “Equivocation is a fallacy by which a specific word or phrase in an argument is used with more than one meaning”  (Source URL:


  • Equivocation and amphiboly are very similar in nature, but I think the difference is that ‘equivocation’ hangs on a word or phrase, and amphiboly seems to hang on “grammatical structure” (Source URL:
  • At work, when communicating via email, I encounter ambiguous grammatical structures, especially with pronouns.  When two men are the subject of the email, sometimes the author will say something like, “Bob will meet with Nick and discuss the next action item he is responsible for.”  Is Bob or Nick responsible for the next action item?  When composing my own emails, I try to be clear with the pronouns in these types of situations.
  • I’ve also seen an example, from Groucho Marx, appear a few times in my search for amphiboles: “One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas I’ll never know” (Source URL:  What is ambiguous at first is who is wearing the pajamas.  We assume it is Groucho wearing his own pajamas, but in the 2nd half of the joke, it becomes clear (and absurd) that the elephant was wearing Groucho’s pajamas.

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