My Experience Of The False Dilemma Fallacy
False dilemma is the one type of fallacy that I vividly remember falling victim of. This was with the intensions of convincing my judgement. False dilemma is a type of false fallacy, which involves the reduction of an argument into one or two options while more exist. To command a particular level of persuasion, the options provided in cases of false dilemma are not to the extreme sides of the issue. This makes it sound believable, hence, proving to be accurate in the act of persuading someone. It is also important to note that the options are extracted from a spectrum of possibilities. The false choice presentation is a deliberate action to eliminate additional actions that are likely to neutralize the issue and bring it back to a middle ground. Such an experience, therefore, is likely to hurt the victim on later realizations. However, it is possible to detect, overcome, and weaken a fallacy. This can be achieved through exploring and considering other possibilities. Such an act leaves minimal chances for a dilemma, as knowledge is considered to be the most powerful solution.
In one instance, the false dilemma fallacy was applied to me regarding drugs. The specific topic of discussion was the use of marijuana and why it was illegal in most of the nations. I remember my neighbor convincing me that marijuana is involved in the severe effect of mental illness and should not be condoned by all means. This created a negative perception towards the drug and its users. Every time I made a friend and later realized that they abused the drug, I considered them irresponsible and called off the relationship with immediate effect. Little did I know that as much as it is a logical fact that the abuse of marijuana is harmful, it was all a fallacy that the drug consists of no advantages. After attending relevant classes, I realized that the drug has medicinal purposes and states that recognize it as less harmful have actually legalized its use. My neighbor and friend made me follow his attitude towards the drug simply by omitting some facts regarding this subject and feeding me with the planned ideas that I needed to hear to acquire a resembling perspective. The decision of neither misusing nor abusing marijuana could have been reached without having to deceive me. Although it did not change much, I was surprised to realize that this information was kept from me.
The fallacy worked primarily because my neighbor succeeded in evoking an attitude that I wouldn’t hold if all details were provided. The fact that I still remember this childhood act means that it was a successful misleading act, whose results had a substantial impact. The worst that happened is my hatred and negative judgment towards anyone or any nation that debated on the legalization of marijuana. Further, I developed hard feelings towards my friends whenever they dared to exhibit any kind of support towards the drug. The history of marijuana’s treating power humbled me and rectified my attitude, even though my moral principles stand. This fallacy would be tackled if I had deeper knowledge regarding the drug.
Overview of the Fallacy of Race and Its Consequences
We must first consider what the fallacy of race is to learn how the fallacy of race evolved. Fallacies are faulty claims based on inaccurate assumptions. They derive from logically incorrect analysis, thereby undermining the authenticity of an argument. Therefore, the fallacy of race means false assumptions about race in simple terms.
Now moving onto how this fallacy evolved, there is always an othering involved. Othering simply means to separate yourself in a group from another group based on different characteristics. There is a human tendency to identify with an ‘us’ rather than a very broad ‘them’. There is this idea of nuances, that is, subtle differences or distinctiveness being lost when there is othering happening. Usually the other group is portrayed to be monstrous or barbaric. An excellent example of this when the Europeans colonized a country they would term them to be ‘savage’, ‘barbaric’, ‘less human’ in a way to justify their acts since the Europeans believed that they must civilize all these monstrous beings since they were the more superior beings. Another reason as to why this fallacy evolved was because it fit political and social agendas of the powerful. Since most of the powerful people at the time were white men, they obviously had political agendas that favored them, just like the ‘us’ group, and unfavored every other race that is the ‘them’ in this case.
This fallacy gave rise to a lot of stereotypes, i.e. faulty generalizations. E.g. Black people are violent, aggressive, drug addicts etc., Chinese people are good at math. These stereotypes are also perpetuated through media, films and TV which in turn makes them seem like it’s okay to categorize black people and like this. In fact, stereotypes are so important in racial terms that there have been several studies based on them. One was done by Brooker in 2001 where several students were made to watch a Star Wars movie and then asked if the movie was stereotyping. Most of the students said that even though the movie was poorly written, but it didn’t really have stereotypes, which led to the result that one can’t know if they are stereotypes if they haven’t been exposed to them.
Racial fallacy that becomes embedded in laws and social norms is called institutionalized racism, often intertwined with these stereotypes. Even though it doesn’t cause physical violence it can contribute to emotional/psychological violence. E.g. White parents don’t want to send their children to school where there are more black children or if there is one black child in many white children he might be bullied. Another example is suburbs where initially white people lived had high property values but if black people move in the neighborhood the property prices fall and hence the white people sell their houses and leave and since it then becomes a majorly black neighborhood, investments and facilities provided there are less. Racial fallacy also leads to lack of representation in different fields where employers only hire white people because the systematic differences make the white employee more suited to the job since he gets better education and has more experience while black people have to resort to low paying jobs. In addition, this can lead to ‘white privilege’ as well. People who consider themselves to be progressive can still have these biases because they are so embedded in the culture and social norms that it is hard to think without them. It also causes ‘white extremism’ where people who see loss of ‘white privilege’ as an attack on their culture and become violent hence we have mosque shootings or attack on ghettos or black neighborhood areas.
In conclusion the fallacy of race can have some very serious consequences which are not always visible but can be very damaging to a person’s emotional wellbeing. Something these consequences can take very violent forms as well. And even though most laws now a days don’t actively discriminate between race; it has become so embedded in the sociocultural sphere that it is hard to separate.
Understanding the Meaning of Fallacy
Fallacies may be present in several ways: verbal, formal, and material. Also, it can either be positive, negative, or emotional. When a disputant uses personal attacks to attack opponents rather than discuss the issues, it counts as fallacies. If a debtor cannot defend his position with evidence, facts, or reasons, he may attack his opponent through “straw man”, equivocation, circular argument, begging the question, or argumentum ad baculum.
“Straw man” is a verbal fallacy. One way to increase the strength of the argument is to anticipate possible reflections and then take a preemptive strike. The ‘straw man’ fallacy is to first turn the other’s point of view into an easily overturned version, and then refute it; however, it is as if a scarecrow tries to scare a bird. Since the impact is limited; therefore, the impact of defeating an opponent’s distorted opinion is equally limited. An example would be according to evolutionary theory, humans are evolved from apes. But what evolution theory really wants to express is that human and apes have the same ancestor.
A circular argument is a verbal fallacy that states a proposition, which needs to be confirmed. An example would be: God exists because it is recorded in the Bible; the Bible exists because it is inspired by God. The problem of this fallacy is that when saying the Bible exists because of God, this unconsciously applied the proposition — God exists. Furthermore, argumentum ad baculum might come after this if the opponent disagrees with the previous idea. These fallacies are based on fear or threat. For example, if one does not believe in God, this person will be burnt in hell. Begging the question is another kind of fallacy. An example would be: we must encourage young people to worship God in order to infuse moral behavior. Does religion and adore in God really generate moral behavior? Not necessary. Additionally, some people say that they know God exists because Bible said so, and Bible will not lie because it was written by God. Is requires the reader to accept the conclusion directly without giving any true evidence; the argument is either based on the same argument as the conclusion, or by omitting some important assumption on which the argument was based on.
In the reading “Help those who help, not hurt, themselves”, the author states that homeless people “are satisfied to beg and survive on other’s generosity… squirrels patiently waiting for a return feeding… the best correlation to the homeless I have witnessed are the gray squirrels on Capitol Hill”. Here, the author is basically saying that a homeless people beg and survive on the other’s generosity same as squirrels. Thus, homeless are squirrels; which, is not true. This is an example of the equivocation fallacy. Where A equals to B, B equals to C; therefore, A equals to C.
In general, fallacy, as a whole, is literally illogical and unrealistic way of thinking. It is about questioning the logical reasoning. People say it unconsciously all the time because we want others to believe in our perspectives by hook or by crook. Even though it is sometimes hard to identify different fallacies instantly; but, it is helpful to better understand fallacies by misunderstanding what is often being seen in others’ minds. That being said, if one cannot get out of his own way and rounded himself in, do not bother to try to understand fallacy.
The Fallacy of Reason
“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.” (Plato).
In a time where the truth has never been harder to find, the lesson that not all facts are created equally is undeniable. In a compilation of Northrop Frye’s lectures; The Educated Imagination, he raises questions about the continuity of thought: “Looking into the mirror is the active mind which struggles for consistency and continuity of outlook”(Frye). Frye asserts that the reflective mind seeks for coherence between its beliefs and would rather become ignorant than become inconsistent. However, this is not a flaw of modern times and has existed in human nature since people’s first capacity for reason, a fact evident in William Shakespeare’s renowned play: Hamlet. Human reasoning is based not in empirical proof and deductive logic, but in the cohesion between an individual’s perception of the world, their ego, and their emotions.
Without cognizance of the innate fallacy of the thought process, people will act on ephemeral impulse, will continue to be ignorant to lies they tell themselves and be unable to develop in character. When individuals undergo experiences that challenge their worldview with an inconvenient truth, the most basic response of the mind is to refute the evidence and excuse the event as unrelated coincidence. This subconscious does this to protect the continuity of thought of the conscious so that other principles relying on these beliefs can remain true, so as to not cause a psychological crisis.
In Hamlet, Gertrude displays this coping method very clearly: “This the very coinage of your brain. /This bodiless creation ecstasy /is very cunning in” (3.4.139-141). Gertrude refutes the authenticity of the misdeeds Hamlet has committed, most notably murdering Polonius, and his fury against her in act four by attributing them to his insanity. Gertrude, wanting to believe that Hamlet is good hearted son, protects her pristine mental image of him by blaming his homicidal fervor on madness outside of his control, Gertrude would rather sacrifice truth than sacrifice her optimistic worldview.
Seeing unfiltered reality is dangerous as an excerpt from Thomas C Foster’s How to Read Literature Like a Professor shows; “She faces it. She takes the food, the waste of the party, to the widow in mourning, she faces the horrible reality of humanity” (Foster 179). The featured short story, The Garden Party by Katherine Mansfield, ends with Laura being faced with grim reality of her rich family’s indifference and contempt for the suffering of her grieving lower-class neighbors. Laura does not excuse the worrying events and subsequently has a mental breakdown as the ignorant falsehoods she believed are being replaced with sobering truth.
The relationship between mental state and perceived events however is not one-way, the effects of an emotional disruption can affect how the world is seen, before the conscious rationalization of such events in the mind. The mental state could be compared to the lens with which the world is seen through, dirtied, clouded, distorted or as clear as the mind of the beholder. Hamlet with tainted sentiments, holds a dim view, disenchanted with life; “What piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how /infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express /and admirable… and yet to me, what is this /quintessence of dust?” (2.2.299-304). Hamlet is so deeply affected by his feeling of neglect by his mother and distraught by the court in Denmark that his worldview has changed to reflect his feelings to that of a disillusioned cynic, and later changes to full nihilism between Ophelia’s death, the burden of his homicide and his frustrations with himself. Foster reinforces this claim: “The writer invents him, using such elements of memory and observation and invention as she needs, and the reader… reinvents him, using those same elements of his memory.” (Foster 63).
It is asserted that the variable in literature is the emotion invoked in the reader, it is this which determines how the narrative is rationalized into meaning in the mind; this emotion curates the perceived world of literature, just as it determines the perception of the real world. Moreover, rational approaches to problems are often dismissed in favor of taking exciting actions driven by emotion. Logical reasoning frequently begs people to stay inactive for their own wellbeing, with their emotions forcing often catastrophic action. Hamlet again is a prime example of someone who struggles with a mind too concerned with logic; “Now whether be /bestial oblivion, or some craven scruple /of thinking too precisely on th’event– /A thought which, quarter’d, hath but one-part wisdom/ and three parts coward”(4.4.40-43).
Hamlet suffers from chronic indecision throughout the play and even recognizes himself that it is a product of his excessive capacity for true logical reasoning. Having his sense misperceived as cowardice, Hamlet is the only character who properly rationalizes the weight of murder until he is overcome with wrathful emotion in the final acts, where his non-emotional decision making was subsequently diagnosed as madness. How to Read Literature Like a Professor echoes the same axiom; “In fact, in story and song, book and film, there is generally no more persuasive reason for revenge, outrage, or prompting to action than the killing of the best friend” (Foster 62). The persuasiveness of the offense comes from the slighting of their ego and emotions, the principle forces behind impulsive action, as affronts to the ego silence logical thought and instead direct conscious efforts at cathartic retribution.
It should be recognized that the mind, in its effort to maintain its consistency between emotions and thought, will become ignorant, act impulsively and alter its own architecture for the sake of perceptual continuity. Is the mind better off in its ignorance? Does the individual want to live the double reality they built for themselves, or do they wish to accept the world as it truly is?