Monday, May 28, 2012

Hypothetical fallacies

My boyfriend pointed out these two fallacies, and now I feel like I see them everywhere!

Argument from future majority:  "In a few decades, everyone will look back and see how wrong you were."

Hidden assumptions: Will people in the future in fact see how wrong you were?  Is the majority opinion relevant?  Are future people's opinions necessarily better than present people's opinions?

Combines: appeal to future evidence and argument from majority

Argument from hypothetical hypocrisy: "If she were a Republican, the right-wing would be dismissing this scandal as a distraction."

Hidden assumptions: Would the right-wing in fact do that?  Does that necessarily mean that the right-wing's current actions are wrong, or could it just mean that their hypothetical actions are wrong?  Do hypothetical wrongs of the right-wing justify similar wrongs of the left-wing?

Combines: begging the question and tu quoque

The nature of these arguments is that even if all parties were to agree on the hypothetical, the conclusions are still fallacious.


Larry, The Barefoot Bum said...

I think your definition (even if the hypothetical is agreed, the conclusion is invalid) is pretty good.

By that definition, however, I don't think either argument is necessarily fallacious.

The first can be a legitimate appeal to emotion. It would be fallacious to say, "Everyone in the future will believe that X is true, therefore X is true." However, if used not as an argument that X is true, but rather an argument that "you should support X", then that's a legitimate argument: gaining the approval of others is a legitimate motivation.

The second can also be a legitimate appeal to emotion. Again, the argument that "if a Republican did X, no Republican would denounce X as scandalous, therefore X is not scandalous" is fallacious. However, the question might be, "How much should we care about X?" Again, that Republicans would be dismissive about one of their own doing X is a legitimate reason that we might not care so much about someone else doing X.

miller said...

I agree that appeal to majority and tu quoque (or whatever that second one is) are not necessarily fallacious.