Exploring and understanding fallacious arguments

Throughout our lives, we find ourselves engaged in arguments with other individuals pertaining toward a variety of topics.  Some arguments that we come across may not seem very well constructed or may even be factually incorrect. Having explored how individuals may be manipulated by external stimuli, we know that without awareness we raise the risk to being influenced by manipulative external stimuli, but how are these stimuli able to manipulate us?

One of the largest external stimuli that we interact with daily is other individuals. When interacting with other individuals, there may be various attempts by them to manipulate others in a variety of ways. Whether or not the individual is aware of what they are doing is another question, but through knowledge and understanding we can determine the tactics individuals may use to manipulate us. Being social creatures, the best way for humans to communicate ideas is via discourse, namely an argument. One of the biggest mistakes an individual can make in an argument is a fallacy, which can be defined as “an often plausible argument using false or invalid inference”. Identifying fallacies can be a difficult task, but through understanding of what they are, we can start to determine whether or not an argument is fallacious.

Fallacies come in various forms, but are generally put into two categories: Formal fallacies and informal fallacies. Formal fallacies are arguments which contain errors in logical structure. The following is an example of a formal fallacy:

“Some boys like cars.”

“Jim is a boy.”

“Therefore, Jim likes cars.” 

While it is true that many boys do like cars, it doesn’t necessarily mean that Jim likes cars. We can assume that Jim may like cars because he’s a boy, but we cannot assume that he likes cars because he’s a boy.

On the inverse, informal fallacies are arguments that do not have structural faults, but have faults within the arguments content. Often these fallacies occur when appealing to something (fear, popular opinion, ignorance). An example of an informal fallacy follows:

I believe in God. Nobody has proven that God doesn’t exist.

This type of informal fallacy is called an appeal to ignorance, which asserts that the proposition of the claim (God existing) has not yet been proven; therefore their belief (in God existing) must be true.

Generally, fallacies are used innocently, stemming from an individual’s ignorance toward a subject, but some individuals, such as, but not limited to politicians or those with radical ideologies, may be aware of and use fallacious arguments for their own selfish purpose.

When we interact with other individuals, it is crucial to determine whether or not they are speaking fallaciously, not only for our own growth as individuals, but to help others grow. An argument that is fallacious in nature may seem alluring and agreeable, but, when we start to explore what people are actually saying, we see that individuals use fallacies daily in their social interactions. We live in a world riddled with fallacious arguments. Understanding how an argument may be logically and factually misleading allows us to objectively understand the argument.

If you found yourself interested in fallacies, please take a look here for further reading into the myriad of fallacies out there.

Exploring context by metaphor

In today’s post, we’re going to explore what a metaphor is, and how they are used to pass on an abstract idea or concept to an individual by reference.

In order to first understand what a metaphor is, we have to define it. According to Dictionary.com, a metaphor is a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action that it does not literally denote in order to imply a resemblance, for example: he is a lion in battle.” Let’s break that down. Metaphors allow an individual to pass on an idea or concept through language via contextual reference. You’re contextually representing an idea or concept and relaying it to the individual listening/reading, allowing them to reference it in their own unique way based upon their understanding. Therefore, if we have the metaphor “he is a lion in battle”, it could mean a myriad of things, depending on how the individual perceives in. It is a contextual reference to a concept. The individual is not literally a lion in battle. The metaphor is comparing the individual’s combat style to that of a lion in battle. That could mean that the person is very aggressive in combat, or it could mean that they fight until there is nothing left in them to fight. Metaphors are very unique in this way. They live through language, allowing them to be temporal, giving individuals a contextual reference to a concept or idea. Understanding what a metaphor is representing allows a metaphor to refer to but not teach a concept or idea. It allows the individual to think about what is being represented in a way that is relative to them.

There are different ways that metaphors can function. Metaphors can work with music, giving a listener contextual empathy – a sad sounding song will infer that the mood or theme is solemn, or sorrowful, but the slightest change in a succeeding note can completely change that empathetic response. Music is very powerful in this regard – not only can we add lyrics to accompany the inferred empathy associated with a certain musical arrangement; we can amplify that empathy by adding metaphor through lyrics. Adding metaphors via lyrics gives a song a human contextual reference, allowing the song to resonate personally within an individual.

One of the most prominent ways we are taught metaphors growing up is through poetry. Poetry is rich with literary device manipulation: alliteration, similes, hyperboles, etc. The one that seems to be lost upon most individuals while growing up is metaphors. In order to fully appreciate what a metaphor is referencing, one must have experienced something akin to what is being referenced. Let’s take apart a simple metaphor: “He drowned in a sea of grief”. At a first glance, without relating anything, it would appear that this man had drowned in a “sea of grief”. Well, that is impossible. Nobody can drown in a sea of something that is “invisible”. Let’s put a human element to it. What is grief? Grief is, according to Dictionary.com, “keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss; sharp sorrow; painful regret”. So this wonderful metaphor, “sea of grief”, is stating that this man was wrought with sorrow, a much more elegant way of relating to an individual that “this man was really sad”. Using metaphor in this way allows individuals to relate on a personal level. When they understand what a metaphor is inferring, they can successful understand what an individual is relating, making the metaphor more meaningful to the reader. It allows the reader to experience the contextual reference in their own, unique way.

Akin to yesterday, I will be ending here with another video. This video is from the TED-Education channel, and is a great explanation of metaphors: