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.

2 comments:

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.