Recognizing Logical Fallacies: Part Of A Classical Education

Being a well-educated person involves more than gathering an array of degrees. You need the ability to think abstractly and to present your ideas in a clear and logical manner. In order to accomplish these goals, you must recognize and avoid logical fallacies. This education should begin early and be stressed in high school and college. 

Ad Hominem Argument

One of the most pervasive arguments used during political elections, the ad hominem attack focuses on an individual's character instead of the issues being discussed. For instance, if a candidate endorses cutting Social Security, his opponents will not argue against his position but instead call him a "liar" or a "cheat." They turn the attention to perceived character flaws instead of flaws in the argument. This rhetorical habit adversely affects everyone and not just people in the political realm. To be an educated individual means being able to correct the flaws in your own logic. 

Appeal to Tradition (Argumentum Ad Traditio)

Another frequently used fallacy is appealing to tradition or arguing that something should be done because it "always has been."  This fallacy is used to argue against change of any kind. After all, what was good for your parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents should be good enough for current and future generations. This type of flawed logic stops individuals and society from progressing. All change is not good, of course, but some change is necessary. You probably would not like to revert to life the way it was a hundred or even fifty years ago. 

Slippery Slope Argument

Another classic example of faulty thinking is the slippery slope argument. People use this fallacy by arguing that taking one action will lead to another and another, eventually causing you to slide uncontrollably down a deadly hill. You might argue that granting amnesty to illegal immigrants who grew up in this country will lead to granting citizenship to anyone who enters the US. People who oppose legalizing marijuana may argue that such an action would lead to a nation of heroin addicts. 

Aristotle was the first to list logical fallacies so that his students would learn the art of argumentation and persuasion. These principles certainly apply to the contemporary world and a classical education helps people learn to rely on their reasoning skills, rather than rote memorization of facts. Instead of relying on standardized testing and rote learning, today's high school and college students need to practice abstract thinking and logical argumentation. For more information, contact a professional like those at Classical Academic Press