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Being able to detect and avoid fallacies has been viewed as a supplement to criteria of good reasoning.The knowledge of fallacies is needed to arm us against the most enticing missteps we might take with arguments—so thought not only Aristotle but also the early nineteenth century logicians Richard Whately and John Stuart Mill.
It was only when philosophers realized the ill fit between formal logic, on the one hand, and natural language reasoning and argumentation, on the other, that the interest in fallacies has returned.
Since the 1970s the utility of knowing about fallacies has been acknowledged (Johnson and Blair 1993), and the way in which fallacies are incorporated into theories of argumentation has been taken as a sign of a theory’s level of adequacy (Biro and Siegel 2007, van Eemeren 2010).
Although many of the informal fallacies are also invalid arguments, it is generally thought to be more profitable, from the points of view of both recognition and understanding, to bring their weaknesses to light through analyses that do not involve appeal to formal languages.
For this reason it has become the practice to eschew the symbolic language of formal logic in the analysis of these fallacies; hence the term ‘informal fallacy’ has gained wide currency.
Part 2 reviews the history of the development of the conceptions of fallacies as it is found from Aristotle to Copi.
Part 3 surveys some of the most recent innovative research on fallacies, and Part 4 considers some of the current research topics in fallacy theory. By way of introduction, a brief review of the core fallacies, especially as they appear in introductory level textbooks, will be given.These fallacies are perhaps better understood as faults of explanation than faults of arguments. The fallacy of , or irrelevant conclusion, is indicative of misdirection in argumentation rather than a weak inference.The claim that Calgary is the fastest growing city in Canada, for example, is not defeated by a sound argument showing that it is not the biggest city in Canada.On another reading what is meant is that the police were told to stop others (e.g., students) from drinking after midnight. The analysis of this fallacy is that the general premise could not be known to be true unless the conclusion is known to be true; so, in making the argument, the conclusion is assumed true from the beginning, or in an older mode of expression, the arguer has committed the fallacy of begging the question.If that is the sense in which the premise is intended, then the argument can be said to be a fallacy because despite initial appearances, it affords no support for the conclusion. The fallacies of Here it is ‘excellence’ that is the property in question. Whately (1875 III §13) gave this example: “to allow everyman an unbounded freedom of speech must always be, on the whole, advantageous to the State; for it is highly conducive to the interest of the Community, that each individual should enjoy a liberty perfectly unlimited, of expressing his sentiments.” This argument begs the question because the premise and conclusion are the very same proposition, albeit expressed in different words.This fallacy ascribes a causal relationship between two states or events on the basis of temporal succession.For example, Unemployment decreased in the fourth quarter because the government eliminated the gasoline tax in the second quarter.Two competing conceptions of fallacies are that they are false but popular beliefs and that they are deceptively bad arguments.These we may distinguish as the belief and argument conceptions of fallacies.Academic writers who have given the most attention to the subject of fallacies insist on, or at least prefer, the argument conception of fallacies, but the belief conception is prevalent in popular and non-scholarly discourse.As we shall see, there are yet other conceptions of what fallacies are, but the present inquiry focuses on the argument conception of fallacies.