The Unseen Danger Fallacy


‘Commonly found in the more fevered corners of political ideology are the various fallacies of danger – those forms of argument that seek to stave off decision by conjuring up all manner of horrors that precipitate change might lead to (or, conversely, the disasters that delay will engender). The 19th-century political thinker and reformer Jeremy Bentham called this “the hobgoblin argument” since it warns of mythical horrors lurking unseen by all but the one kind enough to point them out to us.’

– “Can you spot a rhetorical fallacy?” The Guardian, 13 September 2013

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The Limits of Debate Fallacy


‘An increasingly common variant of such a tactic takes the form of a self-designated umpire who joins in with online disputes by asserting their authority to police the limits of debate. They declare that if they (a typical, reasonable and fair-minded person) find something hard to understand then it must be wrong or mere sophistry; that if they find something too extreme it must be completely insane; that if they feel someone has gone too far then they must have.’

– “Can you spot a rhetorical fallacy?” The Guardian, 13 September 2013

Freedom of Speech Anecdote


When Dr Samuel Johnson had finished his great lexicography, the first real English dictionary, he was visited by various delegations of people to congratulate him including a delegation of London’s respectable womanhood who came to his parlour in Fleet Street and said ‘Doctor, we congratulate you on your decision to exclude all indecent words from your dictionary.’ Whereupon he said ‘Ladies, I congratulate you on your persistence in  looking them up.’

The Authority Fallacy


‘A lot of fallacious forms of argument cluster around the use of “authorities”. It is often necessary in argument to make use of some kind of authority – if only because we want to refer to facts and findings. But authorities can also be used as a way to bully opponents by suggesting that in failing to agree with some venerated source they must themselves be weak-minded, ignorant or wildly and dangerously at odds with common standards.’

– “Can you spot a rhetorical fallacy?” The Guardian, 13 September 2013

Death is #2


‘I saw a thing, actually a study that said: speaking in front of a crowd is considered the number one fear of the average person. I found that amazing. Number two, was death. Death is number two? This means, to the average person, if you have to be at a funeral, you would rather be in the casket than doing the eulogy.’

Seinfeld, J. (1998). I’m Telling You For The Last Time. Broadhurst Theatre, New York: Universal Records.

Historical Rhetoric Twitter Style


What if Twitter had existed for over two centuries? Mankind might not have experienced the beautiful prose, witty quips and moving rhetoric produced by some of the world’s foremost speech writers. Here are some examples of the most famous English speeches of the past two hundred years as they would have been written on Twitter.

“Less is more.” – Robert Browning, Andrea del Sarto

Abraham Lincoln
“The Gettysburg Address”
19th of November 1863; Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, United States

Tweet
This nation is conceived in liberty. All men are created equal. Government of/by/for the people shall not perish from the earth. #Gettysburg

Winston Churchill
“We Shall Fight on the Beaches”
4th of June 1940; House of Commons, London, Great Britain

Tweet
We shall defend our Island whatever the cost may be! We shall fight on the beaches, landing grounds, fields, streets, hills. #neversurrender

John F. Kennedy
“Ich Bin Ein Berliner”
26th of June, 1963; Rathaus Schöneberg, Berlin, Germany

Tweet
Freedom is indivisible. When one man is enslaved, all are not free. Free men, wherever they live, are citizens of Berlin. #IchbineinBerliner

Martin Luther King Jr.
“I Have a Dream”
28th of August 1963; Washington, D.C., United States

Tweet
I have a dream that black&white boys&girls join hands as sisters and brothers. My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty. #freedom_ring

Barack Obama
“Yes We Can”
4th of November 2008; Grant Park, Illinois, United States

Tweet
Hope of a better day. Change has come to America. We’ve never been a collection of red&blue states. We are&always will be the USA. #YesWeCan

Niles: What happened to the concept of “less is more”?
Frasier:  Ah, but if “less is more,” just think of how much more “more” will be.
Frasier (1999) Season 7, Ep. 13; “They’re Playing Our Song” [No. 157]

Correlation Does Not Imply Causation


Why does correlation not imply causation? In other words, why would two things which very much appear to be related, have no connection whatsoever?

The correlation = cause logical fallacy is the claim that two events which occur together must have a cause-and-effect relationship. It is also known as the cum hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy (In Latin, “with this, therefore before this”).

Let us turn to television for a clear illustration of this principle.

In The Simpsons’ episode Much Apu About Nothing, Ned Flanders spots a bear on the street, which prompts the whole town to crusade against bears and to create a so-called Bear Patrol.

Homer: Not a bear in sight. The Bear Patrol must be working like a charm.
Lisa: That’s specious reasoning, Dad.
Homer: Thank you, dear.
Lisa: By your logic I could claim that this rock keeps tigers away.
Homer: Oh, how does it work?
Lisa: It doesn’t work.
Homer: Uh-huh.
Lisa: It’s just a stupid rock.
Homer: Uh-huh.
Lisa: But I don’t see any tigers around, do you?
[Homer thinks for a while, then pulls out some money]
Homer: Lisa, I want to buy your rock.
[Lisa refuses at first, then gives up and takes the exchange]