Analogies, and Analogy Arguments (Problems printing? Click here.)
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Analogies are a vitally important and very powerful
communication tool, but from a purely logical view, they can be an
enormous pain in the fundament. Because analogies are so powerful they can often
convince us of things we have absolutely no rational reason to believe.
So, before we start, I want to make two things perfectly clear:
Analogies are an enormously useful communications tool. If you can work an
appropriate analogy into whatever you're writing, that will really help you get
your point across. Yea! Go for it!
2. Although there
are some good analogy arguments out there, most analogies you see will
be horribly misleading. Horribly, horribly misleading. This is because they have
an insidious power to make us believe things that have absolutely no basis in
fact. (Curse them!)
So, don't be fooled!
Imagine you are a scientist living in the middle of the twentieth century.
Imagine that you have just heard that it has been proved that cigarette smoking
causes cancer. You understand that cigarette smoking involves burning tobacco
so that the smoke may be drawn into the smoker's mouth and lungs. You are aware
that cigar and pipe smoking also involves the inhalation of tobacco smoke. From
this, you might conclude that there is a strong possibility that cigar and pipe
smoking also cause cancer, and that this possibility is strong enough that cigar
and pipe smokers should be warned about it, and responsible parties should
conduct specific studies to investigate this possibility. If you argue that
cigar and pipe smoking probably causes cancer of the basis of the similarity to
cigarette smoking, you will be making what is called an "analogy" argument because your whole argument will be based on the similarity between
cigarette smoking and cigar and pipe smoking.
Many, perhaps most, speakers and writers use analogies merely as a
communication tool. An analogy allows a speaker to clarify a new idea by
invoking some similarity it has to some idea with which we are already
familiar. Sometimes, however, people offer analogies in attempts to change
minds. In such a case, the analogy is offered not just to explain, but also to
persuade. It is thus then an argument by analogy.
Empirical arguments by analogy work the way that stereotyping
works. We see something that, in all the ways we can see, is very much like
something we've seen before, so we assume that it's like the thing we've seen
before in other ways as well. Stereotyping exists because it's worked
very well as a survival tool. A neanderthal who'd never seen a sabretooth
before might just stand there and be eaten. But if he notices that the
sabretooth looks a lot like a weasel (only much bigger) he might assume
that it will behave like a weasel, which is to say it will attack anything
smaller than it is that looks tasty.
The main reason to use an empirical argument by analogy is that we can't look at the conclusion thingy (the thing the conclusion is about)
directly. If we could examine the conclusion thingy all by itself to see if it
had the property or not, or if we had any other kind of evidence, we wouldn't
bother with an argument by analogy. Thus even the best argument by analogy is
fairly weak, and we usually wouldn't use one unless we have no other kind of
Empirical arguments by analogy generally have conclusions of the form
"object O has feature F " or, less formally, "ferrets are
cunning," "pineapples are citrus fruits," "dolphins have
gills" or "bats can't fly."
These arguments are inductive because their main premises are
basically reports, or summaries of reports, of experiences various people have
had. They compare one thing that is known to exist with another thing that is
known to exist in an attempt to show that the one has some property that the
other is known to have. They deal with physical similarities between objects
and situations. They don't deal with imaginary situations. They don't deal with
the issue of whether or not some state of a world is logically possible, and
they are never deductively valid. Thus, at their very best, they can only give
their conclusions a probability of being true, which is what makes them
Analogy arguments only work when both sides of the analogy are things that are
actually known to exist. Imaginary objects, and objects whose existance is in
dispute won't work here. You can't ever make a successful empirical analogy
argument comparing anything to an object that isn't known to exist.
For instance, none of the following arguments could ever work:
A horse is like a hippogriff.
Hippogriffs can fly, so horses can fly.
A unicorn is like a horse. Horses have no magical powers, so unicorns have no
If you take the time to examine any goblin, you will find that it is very, very similar to you average kobold. And, you have to admit, all kobolds are avid delvers. Kobolds like nothing better than to delve deep into the living rock under the great hall of the mountain king, so clearly goblins must delve like the very devil too!
Vampires are like werewolves. Werewolves
don't sparkle, so vampires . . don't . . bloody . . sparkle! Dammit!
The reason is simple. when you're comparing two real things you're
comparing things that are both subject to the laws of nature, like physics,
chemistry, biology and so on. When a physical analogy argument works, (if any of them ever do),
it works because the natural forces forming one object also formed the other
one, and if they formed in similar circumstances, then they're likely to be
similar in a lot of ways. (For instance, sharks are descended from fish,
dolphins are descended from land-living quadrupeds, but the fact that both live
by swimming fast means that both need to have the same streamlined,
hydrodynamic shape.) When we're talking about things, (like basilisks,
mermaids, angels, dragons and so on), whose existance hasn't been documented by
science, and which are only really known as hypothetical entities, anlogies to
existing physical objects aren't much use.
Unlike real entities, whose properties are known by primarily through
observation, the properties of hypothetical entities are specified in their
definitions. These definitions may specify an entity that is physically
possible, like a unicorn. They may specify an entity that is physically
unlikely, like a mermaid, or even an entity that is physically impossible, like
the basilisk, which can
kill you with a single glance. Again, analogies are not much use in such cases.
Standardizing Analogy Arguments
The basic motor of any analogy argument is a comparison, a claim that
one thing is like another thing. (For convenience, and to serve my own
bizarre sense of humor, I will refer to these two things as the "premise
thingy" and the "conclusion thingy." The "conclusion
thingy" is my name for the thing that is mentioned in the conclusion of the argument. The "premise thingy" is the thing that is not mentioned in the conclusion. I call it the "premise thingy" because
it is only mentioned in the premises.) The way an analogy argument is
supposed to work is that the two things are supposed to be so much alike that
if one of them has a certain property (call it "the property,") then
the other must have that same property.
Analogy arguments tend to have the following basic logical form:
1. The Premise Thingy is like The Conclusion Thingy
2. The Premise Thingy has The Property
C. The Conclusion Thingy has The Property
Example 1. The war on drugs is like any war. We will not
begin to win until we begin to shoot drug dealers on sight.
Since this argument is obviously intended to change our minds about the drug
war, the drug war must be the conclusion thingy. The thing it's
compared to is a real live shootin' war, so that's the premise thingy. The
property is the thing that is known to belong to the premise thingy,
and which the arguer wants to convince us also belongs to the
Premise Thingy:........Real live war
Conclusion Thingy....The "war" on
Property ..................Can't be won without
shooting at somebody
Why is the drug war the conclusion thingy? Because it's the thingy ...
er, thing ... that the conclusion is about. another way to look at is, if
there's two things being compared, and one of them most definitely has the
property in question, then that one is the premise thingy. Real wars
can only be one by blood, toil, tears ... I mean shooting. Lots of shooting.
With really big guns! Here's how the argument looks when it's all put together.
1. The government campaign against illegal drug
use is like a literal war with shooting and bombing and napalm and cool uniforms and so on.
(2. You can't win a real war without shooting at the enemy.)
C. The government won't win the drug war without a "shoot on sight" order against drug dealers.
Notice the comparison is clarified in the first premise.
Here are some exercises. Click on the correct premise thingy,
conclusion thingy and property (Or, go to the end of the
chapter for the answers.)
1. Dogpatch Community College should not
require a freshman writing course. For god's sake, Harvard doesn't require
Premise Thingy: Dogpatch college....Needs freshman writing....Doesn't need
Conclusion Thingy: Dogpatch college....Needs freshman writing....Doesn't need
Property Dogpatch college....Needs freshman
writing....Doesn't need freshman writing....Harvard
2. I cannot believe they teach socialism in the
University. It's like teaching arson in a fireworks factory.
Premise Thingy: Teaching socialism in university....Teaching
arson around fireworks....Good idea....Bad idea
Conclusion Thingy: Teaching socialism in
university....Teaching arson around fireworks....Good idea....Bad idea
Teaching socialism in university....Teaching arson around fireworks....Good
3. Drug use is a matter of behavior control.
It's like overeating or gambling. It would be ridiculous to declare war on
overeating, so it's ridiculous to declare war on drugs.
Premise Thingy: Drug
use....Overeating or gambling....Matter
of behavior control....Ridiculous to declare war on it
Conclusion Thingy: Drug use....Overeating or gambling....Matter of
behavior control....Ridiculous to declare war on it
Drug use....Overeating or
gambling....Matter of behavior control....Ridiculous to declare war on it
4. Saddam Hussein was a lot like Stalin. Both were vicious dictators with their hands
on weapons of mass destruction. Both were self-important megalomaniacs. Both were extremely
cruel to anyone who comes in their power. And both
had absolutely butt-ugly mustaches! Deterrence kept Stalin bottled up behind the iron curtain
until he died. We have absolutely no reason to think that deterrence would not
have kept Saddam similarly bottled up. Thus we had no reason to go to war when
Premise Thingy: Hussein....Stalin....Dictator....Had nasty weapons....Megalomaniac....Ugly Mustache....Controllable by deterrence
Conclusion Thingy: Hussein....Stalin....Dictator....Had nasty weapons....Megalomaniac....Ugly Mustache....Controllable by deterrence
Hussein....Stalin....Dictator....Had nasty weapons....Megalomaniac....Ugly Mustache....Controllable by
5. Just as the state has the right to decide
who may or may not drive a car, it has the right to decide who may or may not
have a baby.
Premise Thingy: Right
to drive....Driving a car....Right
to have children....Having children....State has the right to decide
Conclusion Thingy: Right to drive....Driving a car....Right to have
has the right to decide
Right to drive....Driving a
car....Right to have children....Having
children....State has the right to decide
6. Even though God is omniscient, he doesn't
know who will repent and who will not because, for him, it's just like tossing
Premise Thingy: God....God predicting repentance....Repentance....Predicting a coin toss....Can't be
Conclusion Thingy: God....God predicting repentance....Repentance....Predicting a coin toss....Can't be
a coin toss....Can't be done
Vivid vs. Apt
I'd like to make a distinction
here between what I'm calling "vivid" analogies, which have
emotional force because they evoke powerful images and ideas in our minds
without necessarily referenceing any established real similarities, and
"apt " analogies that
refer to already established real physical or logical
similarities between two objects. (A good rule would be to ask whether a
reasonable would think that the analogy made sense even if she did not
already believe in the conclusion.) apt analogies can make logically compelling arguments, whether or not they're vivid. But analogies that are merely
vivid, without being apt can never make logically compelling arguments.
Just so you know, an argument that
uses an analogy that is vivid without being apt commits the fallacy of false analogy.
one of the following statements is true. Which one is
A. Analogies are powerful arguments. The
most vivid analogies are very convincing and give good logical reasons to
believe the conclusion.
B. The most vivid
analogies can also be the most deceptive. An analogy that is vivid without being apt is always a bad analogy.
C. From a logical standpoint, an
analogy's ability to grip the imagination is the most
important factor. When we are analyzing an argument
should be prepared to discount the aptness of an analogy whenever that
analogy fails to evoke any powerful image in the reader's mind.
following arguments, try to determine whether the analogy used is vivid or apt or neither or both. (Answers at end of chapter.)
I would suggest that you start
each exercise by thinking about how the image makes you feel. Then give yourself
a couple of seconds for the immediate reaction to fade, and then set that
feeling aside and think about whether a reasonable person who does not accept the argument's conclusion would accept that
the premise thingy and the conclusion thingy really are physically or logically similar.
8. Dogpatch community college should not require a freshman
writing course. For god's sake, Harvard doesn't require freshman writing!
cannot believe they teach socialism in the University. It's like teaching arson
in a fireworks factory.
10. Drug use is a
matter of behavior control. It's like overeating or gambling. It would be
ridiculous to declare war on overeating, so it's ridiculous to declare war on
11. Saddam Hussein was a lot like Stalin. Both were
vicious dictators with their hands on weapons of mass destruction. Both were
self-important megalomaniacs. Both were extremely cruel to anyone who comes in
their power. Deterrence kept Stalin bottled up behind the iron curtain until he
died. We have absolutely no reason to think that deterrence would not have kept
Saddam similarly bottled up. Thus we had no reason to go to war when we
12. Just as the state has the right to decide who
may or may not drive a car, it has the right to decide who may or may not have a
13. Even though God is omniscient, he doesn't know
who will repent and who will not because, for him, it's just like tossing a
Bad Analogy Arguments
What is special about empirical analogy arguments is that
they only work if the similarity between the two objects being compared is
extremely strong in areas that are relevant to the issue being settled.
Irrelevant similarities don't count. Irrelevant differences don't count either.
Relevant similarities make the argument stronger. Relevant differences make the
argument weaker. So the thing to do when evaluating an analogy argument is to
pay attention to relevant similarities and differences, and ignore irrelevant
are also a powerful instrument of persuasion, even in instances where they
actually carry no weight. Our beliefs about the premise thingy are often so
strong that merely associating it with the conclusion thingy can be enough to
convince us that the analogy is correct even if the two things actually have
nothing to do with each other.
As I've said before, an argument only succeeds if it is
clear to you, as a reasonable person, that it presents a clear and compelling logical reason for you to change your mind and
agree with the conclusion. If it doesn't seem clear to you that the argument has
presented such a reason, then the argument has failed. Since it is usually
possible for two things to be very similar in a lot of ways and yet be different
in precisely the right way to kill an analogy argument, empirical analogies
usually don't present a logically compelling reason to change one's mind, and
thus are often not very logically compelling arguments.
To my mind, analogies nicely encapsulate the basic problem
of cutting through rhetoric. They often have a powerful effect on our
imaginations, but they are also often complete rubbish. Usually, but not always.
Once in a while, an analogy argument is actually convincing. So your problem, as
a critical thinker, is to ignore the vividness of the image presented by the
analogy, and concentrate on whether the facts presented actually comprise a logically compelling argument for the arguers conclusion. Just like critical thinking in
general, evaluating analogy arguments requires you to ignore the powerful effect
that images can have on your emotions and imagination, and to carefully and
impersonally trace out the implications of whatever facts are actually
Before you even get
into the analogy part of the argument there's a question you should ask.
(Remember that the premise thingy is the thing that is known to have the property, and the conclusion thingy
is the thing that the arguer wants you to believe has the property.)
1. Does the premise thingy really
have the property? If it doesn't, then no amount of similarity between the two
things can make the conclusion thingy have the property.
If we're sure that the premise
thingy really has the property, then we should next evaluate the strength of the
analogy between the two things. The basic way to assess the strength of an
analogy is to think about how the conclusion thingy is similar to the premise
thingy. If the two things are only similar in a way that has nothing to do with
the property, then the analogy is no good. If the two things are similar in a
relevant way, but also have some important differences that are relevant to the
property, then the analogy is no good. If the two things are relatively similar,
and have no relevant differences, you still have to think about whether they are
similar enough to make the analogy work. If they aren't, it doesn't. This kind
of reasoning is basically a series of judgment calls, and the only way to get
good at it is to practice.
Criticizing An Analogy Argument
The most obvious response to an
anlogy argument is to try to break the analogy. You
succeed in doing so if you can show that the two things compared in the analogy
are not similar enough to make the argument work. Here are some examples in
which the second arguer offers an anlogy breaker. (Such attempts don't always
work, of course, so I'd like you to think a little bit about whether these
counter arguments succeed in breaking their respective analogies.)
1. You can't say that letting
George W. Bush be commander in chief during a war is like letting a bum off the
street coach a Super Bowl team. The U.S. commander in chief makes general policy
decisions based on the advice of highly trained and experienced professionals. A
Super Bowl coach has to make split-second tactical decisions based entirely on
his own judgment.
2. Mountaineering is not like
driving. You don't have to climb mountains to get
to the grocery store.
Notice that these are both counter arguments because both of them attack
parts of other arguments. Okay, I haven't given
you those other arguments, but these two above only make sense as attacks on other arguments.
The other way to attack an analogy argument is to argue
that the premise thingy doesn't actually have the property, as in this
A. Tobacco smoking is just like marijuana smoking. Both
have heath risks, both can become habitual, and both impose discomfort and risk
on the people around the smoker. We know that marijuana should be illegal, and
because of this similarity, so should tobacco.
B. But we
don't have good reason to think that marijuana should be illegal! The idea that
it should be is at least highly controversial, and many health and law
enforcement professionals strongly advocate the legalization of marijuana.
Later on, we
will worry about which argument is weaker. For now, I just want you to
notice that the first argument relies upon the claim that marijuana should be illegal. If this is uncontroversially true,
then his argument works. You should also note that he does not support this
claim, so if it turns out to be controversial, then his argument will fail. The
second arguer is trying to take advantage of this by trying to
provide reasons to think that it is not yet proved that marijuana should be illegal.
Now, it should not surprise you to learn that any time an
argument has one of these flaws, it is a bad argument, or a "fallacy."
of false analogy occurs when an arguer offers an
analogy in which the model and the analog are only similar in ways that are not relevant to the property, or in which the
model and the analog are clearly different in a way that is very relevant to the
Here are some
examples of False Analogy. (With reasons why they're false analogies.)
Iraq is a lot
like Afghanistan, so the war there will go the same way. (Iraq and
Afganistan both have muslim populations, but that's about it. Terrain,
population distribution, social structure, form of government and military
organization are all different. Since the course of war depends on things like
these rather than religion, the analogy is terrible.)
debt is like a metastasizing cancer that threatens to destroy our economy from
within. (The big difference that I see here is that an economy can
recover from just about any kind of "injury," while a living body can be killed
by relatively small injuries. The deficit may indeed be dangerous to our
economy, but our economy is not enough like an animal body to make the
Just as rain wears down mountains, human problems always
yield to perseverance. (Mountains are made of rocks and minerals that
have a strictly limited ability to resist water erosion, while human problems
are made of things like death, anger, hatred, injury, disease and lots of things
that don't get better.)
We should have
interventions for coffee drinkers, because they're just like alcoholics. (Yeah, sure, coffee drinkers go on three week binges and wake up in stolen cars
on the edge of the Vegas strip unable to remember their own names and the names
of the oddly dressed farm animals who are currently singing Christmas carols in
the back seat of the car. Yeah, coffee drinkers are juuuuuuuust like
For each of the following false analogies, see if you can
figure out why it's a false analogy.
14. The 40 hour
week works very well in modern corporations, so we should use it in farms as
15. Just as it is
absurd to criminalize the removal of a tumor, it is absurd to criminalize
16. There's no
point in adult literacy programs because there's no point in crying over spilled
17. Coffee and
cigarettes should not be illegal, so marijuana should not be illegal.
Begging the Question
The fallacy of begging the
question occurs when an arguer offers any argument, of any kind, that
relies on a major factual claim that is itself controversial and which is not
presently supported by another argument of its own.
Attempts to make analogy arguments can beg the question
also. This happens when an arguer offers an analogy in which the premise thingy has not been proved to have the property
that is being ascribed to the conclusion thingy. If the arguer just assumes that
the premise thingy has the property without good reason to think that it does,
then he certainly begs the question, and therefore fails to even get his analogy
Just like a
business, government must first, last and always look to the bottom line. (Nobody has proved that businesses have a moral duty to increase profits above
all else. All established moral theories agree that there are some things that
businesses shouldn't do, no matter what the profit, so even if government was exactly like business, that analogy wouldn't be enough
to prove that government should look to the bottom line.)
Exercise 18. The following argument begs the
question. Can you explain exactly how it does
Marijuana should be illegal, so coffee and
cigarettes, which are at least as unhealthy and addictive, should also be
The fallacy of red herring occurs when an arguer offers a reason
that is not relevant to his conclusion. In terms of analogy arguments, trying to
criticize an analogy argument on the basis of an irrelevant difference would be a red herring. In
the following examples, the second, red, argument is always a red herring.:
A. Even though God is
omniscient, he doesn't know who will repent and who will not because, for him,
it's just like tossing a coin.
B. That doesn't
make any sense! Deciding whether or not to repent is a process that takes place
in a human brain, which sits in a container filled with blood, but coin tosses
take place in the open air, with no blood anywhere about!
A. Just as the state has the right
to decide who may or may not drive a car, it has the right to decide who may or
may not have a baby.
B. Dude, cars are
made of steel and plastic, while babies are made of drool and squishy pink
stuff. There's no comparison, so your analogy fails!
A. Giving a tax break to the rich
is like the government seizing a big stash of stolen money, and then giving some
of it back to the bank robbers.
B. But what about the fact that bank robbers wear thos
black-and-white banded jerseys, berets and domino masks? And rich people always
wear top hats, frock coats and Prince Albert beards?
Exercises . Each of the following argument groups
contains one red herring (either A or B). Identify the red herring fallacy
and explain why it is a red herring.
19. Promoting a Baha'i society is like promoting
Communism. It sounds good until it's achieved, but then it turns into hell on
A. You forget that Baha'i is a doctrine that
came out of the middle east, whereas communism originated in France and Germany,
so your analogy totally fails!
B. If the only similarity beetween the two is that they
both sound good in theory, might I point out that both Christianity and indoor
plumbing also sound good in theory.
20. Dogpatch community college should not require a
freshman writing course. For god's sake, Harvard doesn't require a freshman
A. Can you be sure that these two
institutions both draw from the same kind of incoming freshman pool? Isn't it
possible that Harvard's incoming freshmen are much better prepared than
Dogpatch's incomung class?
B. It is abundantly clear
that this comparison is logically unsound. It is easy to prove that what goes
for Harvard has absolutely no relevance to what goes for Dogpatch, beacuse, ans
any educated person knows, the walls of Harvard are covered in the noble and
beautiful ivy, while the walls of Dogpatch Community College are covered in base
and unsightly Kudzu, which is a completely different kind of plant.
Note for Logic
If you think
about it, false analogy is kind of like red herring because it makes an argument
based on irrelevant similarities. However, bad
analogies are so common that it's best to have a seperate fallacy name for that
kind of failure.
If it's a direct analogy
argument based on irrelevant similarities, it's false analogy s
If it's a non-analogy counter
argument based on irrelevant differences, it's one
way of committing red herring.
Fallacy Identification Exercises.
sEach of the red arguments in the following dialogs commits a different fallacy. Identify each bad argument as false analogy, begging the question or red herring.
21. A. Drug use is a
matter of behavior control. It's like overeating or gambling. It would be
ridiculous to declare war on overeating, so it's ridiculous to declare war on
an idiot! Drugs enter the body through the mouth, nose and a needle into a vein.
Except for some very rare circumstances, food only enters the body through
the mouth! Don't you realize what a huge difference that is? It's an
enormous differentce, and it means your analogy cannot possibly work!
22. A. Look dude, your dream of forming a hamster precision
flying aerobatic team is just not going to work. I've told you a thousand times,
hamsters don't fly, and that's it!
Don't be a fool,
old man. Don't you know that hamsters are almost exactly like lemmings, and it
is well known that the lemming can fly with the agility, grace and power of a
F15 Tomcat jet fighter. Since lemmings can fly, it follows that tight formations
of hamsters can fly well enough to give aerobatic displays of stunning
complexity and precision.
23. A. Is that a Sherman tank you're driving? I thought you were trying to save money. That thing must get
terrible gas mileage.
Oh no, it
will get great gas mileage, because I got a blue one. My old Pacer got great gas
mileage, and it was blue too.
Tactics and Analogy Arguments
Okay, let's say you've got
to analyze a set of arguments in which at least one of them is an analogy
argument. How do the opposing arguments stand to that analogy argument. The rule
is simple. If the opposing argument tries to break the analogy, then it's a counter argument. If it doesn't offer any
specific reasons to doubt the analogy, then it's a direct argument.
"Salience" is the property of
"stick-outness" something is salient if it
it really grabs out attention. Explosions, people who look like movie stars and
giant, world-destroying spaceships are really salient. Cars that happen
not to be exploding, people who look like everybody else, and small,
innoffensive pieces of gravel are not salient. Now, there is a great deal of difference between salience and logical
force. This is very like the difference between vividness and
congruence. Salient features can catch our imaginations and move us to
belief without providing even the beginnings of a logical reason to believe. And
salience can, sometimes fatally, distract us from the purely logical features of
an issue. Consider the following dialog:
A. Dolphins and sharks have many similarities. They are
both shaped very much the same, and are optimized for fast swimming. They are
also both built for manuverability in that they both have strong dorsal,
ventral and caudal fins. Finally, they both live the same way, by
chasing down and eating smaller fish. So the fact that sharks have gills
leads inevitably to the conclusion that dolphins must also have gills..
B. Dude, dolphins are mammals, not fish! Mammals have
lungs, not gills!
Before you begin a serious analysis, take a moment
to think through your own reactions to these arguments. Did you laugh? Did
something strike you as especially stupid? Did anything strike you as right on
the money? Take a careful inventory of your initial reactions and ideas about
this dialog, and write down as much as you can of what you thought.
Then look at the second
argument, and ask yourself if it is a counter argument. It's true that the first argument is ludicrous, but that's not the
issue here. The question here is whether or not the second argument refers explicitly to the facts and logic that the first argument uses. The second argument is only a counter argument if it actually gets into the
nuts and bolts of the first.
Finally, look at the second argument, and ask yourself if
it represents good logic. I'm not asking you if it's true, I'm asking if it's good logic. The way to think about this kind
of issue is to ask youself if a person who did not
already believe the conclusion would rationally have her mind changed by the argument. Here, the issue is whether
dolphins have lungs or gills, so I want you to think about whether someone who did not already
think dolphins have lungs would get a rational reason to change his mind,
and believe that dolphins did have lungs, or to at least believe that
the first argument was no good, based on this second argument.
If I've handled this example
correctly, you will have been at least mildly surprised by your own responses to
these two questions. Because the conclusion of the first argument is so absurd,
I expect many people will instinctively tend to feel that the second argument must be
either a counter argument or good logic, or both. In fact neither is the case.
The second argument is not a counter argument,
because it does not refer in any way to the analogy between dolphins and sharks.
Furthermore, it is bad logic, committing the fallacy of begging the
question. The statements "dolphins are mammals" and "dolphins have lungs, not
gills" are pretty much synonymous in this context. If someone believes that
dolphins are mammals, he will automatically believe they have believe that they
have lungs. If someone doesn't believe that dolphins have lungs, he
automatically won't believe that they're mammals, and so the premise "dolphins
are mammals" will not be uncontroversial as far as
he is conceerned.
Here are some
more examples of false analogy, with
opposing direct and counter arguments. The counter arguments give
reasons why these are false analogies. The
opposing direct arguments ignore the analogies.
Iraq is a lot
like Afghanistan, so the war there will be a cakewalk, just like
Direct: The Iraqi resistance is highly motivated and well-funded.
They're not going to allow a cakewalk!
Counter: Iraq and Afganistan both have muslim populations, but
that's about it. Terrain, population distribution, social structure, form of
government and military organization are all different. Since the course of war
depends on things like these rather than religion, the analogy is
We should have
interventions for coffee drinkers, because they're just like alcoholics.
Direct: Are you crazy? Coffee drinkers
need that black elixir, that steaming java, that jittering caffeine
Counter: Yeah, sure, coffee drinkers go on three week binges and
wake up in stolen cars on the edge of the Vegas strip unable to remember their
own names and the names of the oddly dressed farm animals who are currently
singing Christmas carols in the back seat of the car. Yeah, coffee drinkers are
juuuuuuuust like alcoholics.
Just as it is absurd to criminalize the removal of a tumor,
it is absurd to criminalize abortion.
Direct: Abortion allows women to control their own bodies! We can't
Counter: Tumors don't ever turn into people. Well, except for Glenn
There's no point
in adult literacy programs because there's no point in crying over spilled milk.
Direct: Adult illiteracy is a
tragedy for millions of people who would like to read the articles in playboy,
Counter: Milk can't be unspilled, but illiterate adults can learn to read.
The national debt is like a metastasizing cancer that
threatens to destroy our economy from within.
Direct: Rubbish, debt is good for
an economy. Debt is what makes this country great!
Counter: An economy can recover from just
about any kind of "injury," while a living body can be killed by relatively small injuries. The deficit may indeed be
dangerous to our economy, but our economy is not enough like an animal body to
make the comparison meaningful.
If I've done this right, you'll be able to look at the
examples above and see that the counter arguments
all point out differences between the two objects being compared in the analogy
argument, while the direct arguments all ignore the analogies.
Exercises For each of the following groups
of arguments, identify the argument that is a counter argument to the first argument,
24. I'm tired of those crazy drivers on the 405, so I got
myself an old army tank! And I know it will get great gas mileage, because I got
a blue one. My old Pacer got great gas mileage, and it was blue too.
A: Pshaw! As if color has anything
to do with gas mileage!
B: Um, tanks are lots heavier than cars, so your tank will get
25. The 40 hour
week works very well in modern corporations, so we should use it in farms as
A The 40 hour week means weekends off, and crops and animals
don't do well when left alone.
B: Corporations usually deal with non-living things, like
papers and widgets. Farms deal in living things, like plants and
26. Just as rain
wears down mountains, human problems always yield to perseverance.
A: Mountains are made of rocks and
minerals that have a strictly limited ability to resist water erosion, while
human problems are made of things like death, anger, hatred, injury
B: Actually no, lots of human problems totally fail to get
better, no matter how long and hard people try.
27. Coffee and
cigarettes should not be illegal, so marijuana should not be
A Marijuana makes people happy at
low cost. Our corporate overlords cannot profit from that, so it should be
B: Coffee and cigarettes are way
more addictive than marijuana. Neither of them is a serious intoxicant compared
to marijuana, so the analogy doesn't work..
28. Given what we
know about logic, can you figure out a good counter argument to the "dolphins have
gills" argument above?
Given what we know about science, can you figure
out a good direct argument for the conclusion that dolphins don't have gills?
"SCAEFOD" stands for "Standardize, Context, Analyze,
Evaluate, Fist Of Death!" It refers to a process in which an effort is made to
clarify arguments and the logical relationships between arguments before any decisions are made about the strength or
weakness of any argument.
Here's example of how to "scaefod" (analyze) an analogy
William Bennett holds up an egg. "This is your brain," he says. He cracks
the egg, dropping the contents into a hot skillet. The egg cooks. "This is your
brain on drugs." Bennett turns to the Emmett, looking very grim. "Any
questions?" He asks.
Emmett.Yes Bill, can I have my brain on drugs with bacon and toast?
William Bennett 1. An egg that is cracked open and dropped
into a hot skillet will become coagulated and tasty.
It is an extremely bad thing, from the egg's point of view, to become coagulated
(3. The human brain exposed to drugs is like an egg cracked
and dropped in a hot skillet.)
All drugs are extremely bad.
No argument, just a
William Bennett bears the burden of proof here. Although
many people believe drugs are bad, and some recreational drugs have been shown
to have some bad effects under some circumstances, all the evidence so far shows
that drugs are not seriously damaging for the majority of people who take
William Bennett Analogy Argument Emmett. No argument
brain on drugs
egg on skillet
becomes coagulated and tasty, (and is perhaps served with bacon and toast, and
Analogy between brain on drugs and egg on skillet
relevant similarities. None.
Most relevant differences.
There is no known drug experience that is remotely like hitting oneself in the
head with a hard heavy object and then laying one's exposed brain in a hot
Fist of Death: Based on the conversation between
William and Emmett, drugs are not seriously dangerous. Emmett gives no argument,
but since he defends the null hypothesis, he doesn't really have to. William
gives the analogy between taking drugs and banging oneself in the head, cracking
one's head open and dumping one's brains into a skillet. There is no known drug
that has this effect, so William's analogy is completely false. Given that we
have no anti-drug arguments left here, the proposition that drugs are not
seriously damaging carries the day.
(Again, one's pre-existing beliefs about the level of
danger attendant on taking illegal drugs cannot be relevant here.)
One last example before the
Shakira. Marijuana has been proved to cause at least some brain
damage, so I think marijuana should be illegal, at least until we can establish
exactly how dangerous it is.
Jameson. Rubbish, Red Bull and other "energy drinks"
are not illegal, so marijuana should not be illegal.
causes some brain damage.
2. We're not sure exactly how
Marijuana should be illegal, at least for the present. DIRECT
1. Red Bull and other
"energy drinks" are not illegal.
2. Marijuana is similar in its properties to these energy
Marijuana should not be illegal.
Shakira makes a
Jameson doesn't talk about the logic of
Shakira's argument, so his is also a direct argument.
Shakira is the one arguing that
something could be illegal, so she bears the
burden of proof.
on harm caused by marijuana.
should be legal
Analogy between marijuana and energy drinks.
relevant similarities: Both marijuana and "energy drinks" contain naturally
occurring psychoactive chemicals.
differences: None that I can think of.
Fist of Death: By the
reasoning given above, marijuana should be illegal. I don't think that Shakira's
argument is particularly strong, but it doesn't commit any obvious fallacies.
The analogy between marijuana and Red Bull-type drinks seems very strong, so if it is the case that these drinks should be legal, it follows that marijuana also should
be legal. However, the fact that something is legal doesn't mean it should be
legal, so even if marijuana was exactly like these currently legal "energy
drinks," that analogy wouldn't be enough to prove that marijuana should be
legal. Jameson commits the fallacy of begging the question, because his model,
energy drinks, doesn't have the property he thinks it does. So Shakira's
argument is the strongest out of these two, and if these arguments were all we
had to go on, we would be led to conclude that marijuana should be illegal.
Exercises 30-31. Analyze the
Carli. Drug use is a matter of addiction and behavior control.
It's like overeating or gambling. It would be ridiculous to declare war on
overeating, so it's ridiculous to declare war on drugs.
Syed. The war on drugs is like
any war. We will not begin to win until we begin to shoot drug dealers on sight.
Based on the discussion
between Carli and Syed, it is ridiculous to declare war on drugs.
As Carli says, drug use
is like overeating or gambling. (At least, problem drug use is like problem
overeating or problem gambling.) These three things are especially similar in
terms of addiction, which we can define as the fact that they all involve
cravings and involuntary impulses to indulge in the problem behavior. Thus it
makes sense that they should be handled in terms of helping individuals gain
greater control over their behavior. It would be ridiculous, or at least very
counterproductive to try to combat overeating by declaring war on food, and so
it is ridiculous to try to combat problem drug use by declaring war on drugs.
Exercise 30. Pick out the best description of
Syed's stupid argument.
"Syed draws an analogy between the war on drugs and regular wars such as the War
of 1812 and World War II. Such wars can only be won by undertaking offensive
actions against the enemy, which includes shooting at the enemy on sight. Syed
implicitly argues that, since fighting a regular war requires shooting the enemy
on sight, fighting the war on drugs requires shooting drug dealers on sight." (Answer)
B. "Syed draws an analogy
between the metaphorical "war" on drugs, and the literal meaning of the word
"war." He claims that the "war" on drugs is exactly the same as wars such as the
War of 1812 and World War II. Syed implicitly assumes that "wars" in the literal
sense can only be won by undertaking offensive actions against the enemy, which
obviously includes shooting at them whenever such shooting is to our advantage.
He also implicitly identifies drug dealers as the "enemy" in the "war" on drugs.
Since he says "shoot drug dealers on sight," he is literally advocating that
police or anyone else should open fire as soon as they catch sight of anyone
they believe to be a drug dealer." (Answer)
C. "Syed draws an analogy between the metaphorical "war" on
drugs, and the literal meaning of the word "war." He claims that the "war" on
drugs is exactly the same as wars such as the War of 1812 and World War II, at
least in terms of how they can be won. Syed implicitly assumes that "wars" in
the literal sense can only be won by undertaking offensive actions against the
enemy, which obviously includes shooting at them whenever such shooting is to
our advantage. He also implicitly identifies drug dealers as the "enemy" in the
"war" on drugs. He is saying that the police should undertake offensive
operations against drug dealers in the same way as a well-run army undertakes
operations against an opposing army. This would presumably include intelligence
efforts to correctly identify and locate genuine drug dealers, and careful
consideration of when and how to open fire in order to minimize the probability
that innocent people would be caught in the crossfire." (Answer)
D. "Syed draws an analogy between
the metaphorical "war" on drugs, and the literal meaning of the word "war." He
claims that the "war" on drugs is exactly the same as wars such as the War of
1812 and World War II, at least in terms of how they can be won. Syed implicitly
assumes that "wars" in the literal sense can only be won by undertaking
offensive actions against the enemy, which obviously includes shooting at them
whenever such shooting is to our advantage. He also implicitly identifies drug
dealers as the "enemy" in the "war" on drugs. Although he says "shoot drug
dealers on sight," we don't need to read him as literally advocating that police
or anyone else should open fire as soon as they catch sight of anyone they
believe to be a drug dealer. Rather we can interpret him as saying that the
police should undertake offensive operations against drug dealers in the same
way as a well-run army undertakes operations against an opposing army. This
would presumably include intelligence efforts to correctly identify and locate
genuine drug dealers, and careful consideration of when and how to open fire in
order to minimize the probability that innocent people would be caught in the
Exercise 31. Pick out
the best critique of Syed's stupid argument.
A. "Syed's argument does not address the analogy offered by
Carli. Since Syed fails to offer a counter argument to Carli's argument, Syed
cannot defeat that argument, and it stands. Since Carli's argument stands
uncontested, it carries the day, and Syed loses the argument." (Answer)
B. "Syed's argument commits two
fallacies. First, he commits the fallacy of assuming that, if the war on drugs
really is like a real war, it automatically follows that shooting the "enemy"
would be justified. This is an illegitimate assumption because it is simply not
the case that all wars are justified. Second, he commits the fallacy of false
analogy in that the war on drugs and real warfare are not sufficiently similar
to carry his argument. Enemy soldiers are dedicated to shooting us and blowing
up our stuff. Drug dealers are dedicated to selling their stuff to people who
want to buy it. They only shoot or blow up people who threaten them. Otherwise,
they leave us alone. The only justification for shooting at enemy soldiers is
that it can prevent them from shooting at us. When shooting them isn't needed to
stop them shooting at us, like when they surrender, we stop shooting at them,
eventually. Since this difference sits right on the point that Syed needs in
order to make his argument work, it kills his argument stone dead." (Answer)
C. "The problem with Syed's
argument is that it requires literal warfare against drug dealers. This means
attacking them with the most effective weapons in our arsenals. Can you imagine
the carnage if your local corner drug dealer suddenly found himself attacked by
an armored division operating with air support. Sure, a single hit from the main
gun of a modern main battle tank would vaporize the guy, but it would also bring
down every nearby building. Cluster bombs and napalm would only make things
worse. Undertaking modern warfare in an urban environment would cause untold
destruction, so is ridiculous to apply modern warfare to drugs." (Answer)
D. "Syed's argument is a false
analogy. There is no way that the war on drugs is anything like a regular war,
so things that apply to a regular war do not necessarily apply to the war on
An argument cannot be a bad argument merely because it fails to address some other
argument. An arguer can fail because he fails to address some other argument,
but that by itself doesn't make his own arguments bad. Taking an uncharitable
interpretation of somebody's argument, and then refuting, or ridiculing, that
uncharitable interpretation, always fails to refute an argument. In order to
really defeat an argument you have to criticize it in its strongest form, and
show that even its strongest form cannot stand. Finally, even if your judgment
of an argument is exactly right, your clincher will still fail if you do not
include the details necessary to allow your readers to understand exactly why
the opposition argument fails.
Try to analyze all of the
arguments found in each of the following dialogs. Especially figure out
which arguments are direct arguments and which are counter arguments. Say which
side has the stronger argument(s) and which is weaker. If you can, identify the key fact that unlocks the issue.
32. Kory. I'm taking a political science class at the
university. We just started studying socialism, and the professor says that
socialism has actually worked in every country where it's been given a fair
Noelia. I cannot
believe they teach socialism in the University. It's like teaching arson in a
fireworks factory. (Answer)
33. Carli. Drug use is a matter
of addiction and behavior control. It's like overeating or gambling. It would be
ridiculous to declare war on overeating, so it's ridiculous to declare war on
Syed. The war on
drugs is like any war. We will not begin to win until we begin to shoot drug
dealers on sight. (Answer)
34. Catalina. I think it must
be pretty boring to be God. After all, he's omniscient, so he already knows how
things are going to come out. He can't even make bets on which sinners are going
to repent and which are going to burn, because he already knows who is and isn't
going to repent.
Jaiden. Even though God is omniscient, he doesn't know who will repent and who will not
because, for him, it's just like tossing a coin. (Answer)
35. Clifton. I wish we could stop irresponsible people from
having children. It would prevent an enormous amount of suffering, but control
over one's own body is a basic human right, and that includes reproduction, so
the state will never have the right to control who has children.
Annette. You've got all wrong.
Just as the state has the right to decide who may or may not drive a car, it has
the right to decide who may or may not have a baby. (Answer)
36. Donavan. I think we should give an enormous tax break
to the rich. Both Forbes Magazine and the Wall Street Journal say it will
stimulate the economy, increase employment, raise wages, eliminate the deficit,
reduce the federal debt and bring peace in the Middle East.
Clifford. That's ridiculous!
Giving a tax break to the rich is like the government seizing a big stash of
stolen money, and then giving some of it back to the bank robbers. (Answer)
37. Grady. I just spent the
last six months researching the Baha'i faith. The Baha'i faith preaches
kindness, tolerance and nonviolent social action. I traveled all over the
country visiting Baha'i congregations and seeing them in action. I found them
all to be composed of gentle and kind people, all doing good work in their
communities, and all getting along fabulously with anyone who was willing to get
along with them. I think it would be great if we had a Baha'i society!
Kristine Promoting a Baha'i
society is like promoting Communism. It sounds good until it's achieved, but
then it turns into hell on earth. (Answer)
38. Dimitri. Here at Dogpatch community
college we get a lot of incoming freshmen who don't know how to write
college-level papers, so we need to have a freshman writing course, and we have
to require incoming freshmen to take that course.
Maura. Dogpatch community college should not require a
freshman writing course. For god's sake, Harvard doesn't require a freshman
writing course! (Answer)
39. Augustus. I
really think that the government should put more money into discouraging
cellphone use. Cellphones produce microwave radiation, so using a cellphone is
literally holding a radiation source right next to your brain. Radiation causes
cancer, so it is insane to routinely expose the most important organ in your
body to a known carcinogen several times a day. Millions and millions of people
use cellphones on a daily basis, so if cellphones cause cancer these people are
at a serious risk. We cannot wait for research because waiting could potentially
allow thousands of people to contract deadly brain cancers.
Fred. Wait a
moment. Cellphones have been around for years and years, so if they caused
cancer we would already see a rise in the cancer rates, and this rise would
include a correlation between cancer and cellphone use. This is exactly how we
found out that cellphone use causes car accidents. There is no rise in the
cancer rates, and cancers are not correlated with cellphone use, so cellphone
use is not a significant cause of cancer.
Possible Quiz Questions (These
you will have to check by looking up the answers in the chapter above!.)
i. Explain the fallacy of false analogy in your own words
the fallacy of begging the question in your own words
vii. Explain the fallacy of circular argument in your own words
your own words, explain how to argue against an
ix. What do you call an argument that
tries to point out a logical problem with someone else's argument?
x. Which kind of
argument that doesn't refer to any logical
problems in any other argument?
xi. How good is an
analogy argument in which the premise thingy bears no useful similarities to the
xii. It it's bad, what fallacy does
xiii. How good is an argument in which the
main premise is just the conclusion stated in different words?
xiv. It it's bad, what fallacy does it commit?
xv. How big an idiot is someone who says an argument is bad merely because he thinks the conclusion is false?
xvi. What fallacy is
comitted by this kind of idiot?
xvii. How good is an
analogy argument in which the premise thingy doesn't even have the property that
the arguer is trying to attribute to the conclusion thingy?
xviii. It it's bad, what fallacy does it commit?
xix. Is it good reasoning to try to support one of your premises by citing the conclusion that that premise is supposed to support?
Here are some analogical
arguments I'd like to go over in class.
basic argument given for animal rights is the same as the basic argument given
for the rights of women and black people, and the counter arguments against this
basic argument are all the same as the arguments against the basic argument for
giving rights to women and the basic argument for giving rights to black people.
These basic arguments for human rights were eventually (and rightfully) accepted
by a majority of the population, and eventually the basic argument for animal
rights will be (rightfully) accepted by a majority of the population.
When those two high school
students entered the words "big boobs" into an internet search engine and then
viewed pornography on the computer, they were doing something that was just as
bad as arson and murder. These are very serious crimes, so these students should
recieve very serious punishment.
Making alcohol illegal was a social disaster, and that
disaster was greatly relieved by legalizing alcohol. Making marijuana illegal
has been just about as much of a social disaster, and this disaster can be
alleviated by legalizing marijuana.
Allowing gay marriage is like allowing a marriage between a
immature pachyderm and a piece of heavy machinery. We would not give legal
sanction and protection to a liason between a baby elephant and a steamroller,
and so we should not allow a human being to legal sanction and protection to a
liason between a fully consenting adult human being and another fully consenting
adult human being of the same gender!
More Practice:Identify the weaker argument in each dialog and describe the problem
with that argument, including the fallacy name if any. Make sure you include all
necessary details, including the "crucial fact," and the precise way the
argument goes wrong.
Dexter. I think it's a bad sign when a country is
continually starting wars. It's like having a guy in your neighborhood who you
have to avoid because he's continually getting into fights with his neighbors.
Kelsi. You don't know what
you're talking about. A great nation is like a well-developed human body. The
strength and power of human body depends on regular exercise in the form of hard
physical activity, so the strength and power of a great nation depends on
regular exercise in the form of war.
Pangloss. No, I'm not going to
assign The Ominous Parallels in my political science
class. I've skimmed through the book and randomly read a few dozen pages. Every
page I've looked at, every argument I've looked at, has been just plain silly.
Based on this sample of his writing, I would say that the author of this book
obviously does not understand political philosophy and obviously has little
knowledge of political history. Certainly, I have not seen anything in the book
that indicates it would be even the slightest use to a student of political
Lemming. Well, but
you would happily use the book A Theory of Justice,
of course. A Theory of Justice is an extremely
significant work of political philosophy.
Lemming. Aha, here's where I've got you. Both The Ominous Parallels and A
Theory of Justice are hardbound in high-quality paper with rich leather
covers. Both weigh about a pound, and both use a 12-point Helvetica typeface. A
Theory of Justice is a significant work of political philosophy, so therefore
The Ominous Parallels is also a significant work of political philosophy. So you
have a very good reason to assign it in your political science class.
able to identify Analogy arguments, and be able to tell when an argument is
based on a comparison, and when it is't
Be able to tell when two things are relevantly different, and when they aren't.
Be able to tell when an argument
commits false analogy, even if you can't quite explain why.
Be able to tell when an analogy
argument commits begging the question, even if you can't quite explain why.
Advanced Topics (These probably won't be on the
quiz, though we might talk about them in class.)
Know the difference between false analogy and begging the
Be able to
standardize analogy arguments. (You can practice on the arguments given
Be able to remember,
figure out, or pick out the correct general form for analogy arguments.
Premise Thingy is like The Conclusion Thingy
Premise Thingy has The Property
C. The Conclusion Thingy has The
Be able to tell
whether an argument is attacking an analogy or not. (A counter argument to an analogy argument will attack
the analogy. If an anlogy argument is opposed by an argument that doesn't attack the analogy, then that opposing
argument isn't a counter argument.)
1. Premise Thingy:
Conclusion Thingy: Dogpatch
Doesn't need freshman writing
Thingy: Teaching arson around fireworks Conclusion
Thingy: Teaching socialism in
university Property: Bad idea
3. Premise Thingy: Overeating or
Conclusion Thingy: Drug
Property: Ridiculous to declare war on it
Hussein Property: Controllable
5. Premise Thingy: Right to
Conclusion Thingy: Right to have
Property: State has the right to decide
Premise Thingy: Predicting a coin
Thingy: God predicting
Property: Can't be done
7. "The most vivid analogies can also be the most
deceptive. An analogy that is vivid without being apt is always a bad analogy." is true
8. I don't think this is either vivid or apt. It's
certainly not apt! Harvard University has many substantial dissimilarities with
any community college.
9. Vivid, but not apt. Someone who already thinks socialism is bad might agree with the
conclusion, but there are no significant similarities between the two cases
10. Maybe not vivid, but certainly apt. The science of addiction show that people
stay on drugs for mostly the same reasons they overeat or gamble.
11. Again apt. The
similarities between Saddam and Stalin are well documented, as is the fact that
Saddam admired and modelled himself on
Stalin! Successful dictators tend to have a lot of features in common.
12. This might be vivid, especially when we think
of all the horrible parents out there, but driving is a priviledge while having
children is a basic human right, and control of fertility has much more
potential for abuse than control of driving licenses, so I think it's not apt.
13. Maybe vivid,
but certainly not apt. A
human who flips a coin neither controls it's course not has the ability to
see it's end, whereas God, if he flipped coins, would be able to do both.
14. Memos won't rot in the fields
over a weekend, but crops and animals don't do well when left alone.)
15. Tumors don't ever turn into people. Well, except for
16. Milk can't be unspilled, illiterate
adults can learn to read.)
17. Coffee and cigarettes are way more addictive than
marijuana. Neither of them is a serious intoxicant compared to marijuana.)
18. Has anyone has proved that marijuana should be illegal? This claim is disputed by many reasonable people, and he
completely fails to support it himself. It is certainly true that tobacco,
coffee and marijuana have many features in common (although marijuana is
healthier and less addictive than tobacco), but this similarity, however close
it is, doesn't matter when the feature is not uncontroversially associated with the premise thingy.
19. A " . . . Baha'i is a doctrine
that came out of the middle east . . ." is the red herring.
20. B " . . . the walls of Harvard are covered . . ." is
the red herring.
21. B "
. . . Drugs enter the body through the mouth . . . " is a red herring.
22. B "
. . . lemmings can fly . . . " begs the
23. B " . . . because I got a
blue one . . . " is a false
24. A. "Pshaw! As if color has anything to do
with gas mileage!" is the counter argument.
25. B. "Corporations
usually deal with non-living things, ....." is the counter argument.
26. A. "Mountains are made of rocks and minerals
....." is the counter argument.
27. B: Coffee and
cigarettes are way more addictive ....." is the counter argument.
28. Any counter argument here would have to point out a difference between the shape and behavior of an
animal and its physiology. If you can figure out a way to show or
explain that there's no necessary connection between how and animal looks
and behaves, and how it's organized internally, you can show how the analogy
29. Dolphins have been
extensively studied, so there should be plenty of reference books with
descriptions of dolphin anatomy, which dont include gills. And if you point out
that dolphins are mammals, which don't have gills, that can work too.
30. D. This last and most elaborate description od
Syed's argument makes it a strong as it reasonably can be made. Notice that this
description bends over backwards to as much as possible avoid portraying Syed as
saying anything stupid.
my money. B is the best critique because it contains the most purely logical analysis, and it explicitly discusses what
drug dealing us really like, what wars are really like, and the morally
importand differences between them.
32. Kory. 1. Kory's political science professor says
that socialism works.
(2. Systems that work are good systems.)
Socialism is good)
Noelia. 1. Teaching socialism in the University is
like teaching arson in a fireworks factory.
(2. Teaching arson in a fireworks factory would have bad
consequences that look cool when viewed from a distance.)
Socialism is bad.)
here was arguing that socialism is okay, or that we don't know whether socialism
is good or bad, that person would not bear burden of proof. However, we have one
person arguing that socialism is good, and another arguing that it is bad, so
both sides bear the burden of proof against the null hypothesis.
Both are making direct arguments.
Kory's argument is based on the historical record
of socialism. He points out that socialism has worked in all the countries where
it's been given a fair chance to succeed or fail on it's own merits, which
implies that it's a good thing, since political systems that work are good
Noelia's argument is based on an analogy between socialism lessons in a university and
arson lessions in a fireworks factory. It relies on the fact that teaching arson
in a fireworks factory would be a very dangerous thing to do, given that
fireworks will be very likely to go off if someone is setting fires very close
to them. Noelia's argument says that teaching teaching socialism in a university
is so similar to teaching arson in a fireworks
factory that teaching socialism in a university is just as dangerous as teaching arson in a fireworks
factory. Noelia probably doesn't mean that socialism lessons are likely to
actually set fire to the univesity. More likely she means that they will result
in some kind of unacceptable social cost.
33. Carli. 1. Drug use is a matter
of addiction and behavior control.
Drug use is like overeating or gambling.
3. It would be ridiculous to declare war on overeating.
It's ridiculous to declare war on drugs.
Syed. 1. The war on drugs is like any war.
(2. Wars are only won by shooting people.)
will only win the war on drugs if we shoot drug dealers on sight.
Since we should only ever use
violence when we have a clear and compelling reason to do so, Syed bears the burden of proof here because he is
the one advocating violence.
Both are making direct arguments.
Carli. Analogy Argument Syed. Analogy Argument
dealing with the drug problem
Thingy: dealing with the drug problem (the "drug war")
Thingy: dealing with overeating
Thingy: an actual war
should not be prosecuted with unlimited violence. Property:
should be prosecuted with unlimited violence.
Carli. Analogy between overeating and taking illegal
Important similarities: as Carli says, both are
matters of addiction and behavior control. Neither intrinsically involves
shooting at other people.
overeating is always unhealthy, but illegal drug use is not always unhealthy in
itself. 35 percent of the American people are obese, but only 6 percent of
Americans even use illegal drugs.
Syed. Analogy between making war on America and taking
Important similarities: none that I can
Important differences: people making war on America
actively try to destroy American lives and property. People who take drugs don't
necessarily destroy anything.
Carli gives a reasonable argument, given the clear
similarities between overeating and drug use. Syed seems to think that use of
the slogan "war on drugs" means that there is an actual war going on. The
problem with this is that it's not clear whether the war on drugs is a real war
or a war in name only. After all, we had a "war on poverty," and that didn't
require us to shoot anybody. So this argument at least begs the question of
whether the drug war is a case of us being attacked by enemies who intend to
conquer or dominate us, and who cannot be handled by the normal operations of
the police forces. In a real war, we generally encounter the enemy in the form
of soldiers who shoot at us or at least try to force us to work for them or give
them our stuff. Generally, we have to shoot these guys in order to get them to
stop. In the drug war, we generally encounter the "enemy" in the form of people
who try to sell us things, or give us things in the hope that we will become
hooked and have to buy them later. So if this analogy is good, I will not be
able to avoid Jehovah's Witnesses until I start shooting them. Certainly, there
are no similarities between the drug war and a real war. Furthermore, the fact
that American soldiers shoot people during a real war doesn't mean that such
shooting is justified! Syed actually commits three fallacies here. He
equivocates on the word "war," he begs the question of whether the shooting in
an actual war is justified, and he draws a false analogy between the war on
drugs and a real war.
34. Catalina. 1. God
already knows how everything is going to come out.
(2. Life is boring if you already know how everything is
going to come out.)
God's life is boring.
Jaiden. 1. God knowing who will repent is like you
knowing how a coin toss will come out.
You cannot predict how a coin toss will come out.)
(3. If there is something god cannot predict, then
god will not necessarily be bored.)
God's life is not necessarily boring.)
Catalina bears the burden of
proof because he is ascribing a property to God. Jaiden is merely
defending the null hypothesis that God's life isn't necessarily boring or non
Both are making direct arguments.
Jaiden. Analogy argument
lack of interesting events.
Thingy: God knowing how repentance will turn out.
Thingy: Someone knowing how a coin toss will come out.
gives a fairly reasonable argument. Lots of things (like movies and sporting
events) would be boring if we knew every little detail before it happened. On
the other hand, I don't know if that covers everything. Would our friends amuse
us if we knew exactly what they were going to do ahead of time? And maybe God
has a high tolerance for predictability. Many TV shows are excruciatingly
predictable, and plenty of people watch them. Jaiden's argument relies on a
supposed similarity between predicting who will repent and predicting how a coin
toss will come out. Actually, I just realized that I misinterpreted Jaiden's
argument. I've been talking about it as though it says that god knowing about
repentance is like you knowing about a coin toss, but that's not what she said.
She said "for him, it's just like tossing a coin," which means that the analogy
is really between God predicting repentance and God calling a coin toss. But, if
God exists and is omniscient, then he always knows how a coin toss is going to
come out! So if that's the analogy, it proves that God will know who will repent
and who will not, and Jaiden's argument fails. So Jaiden's argument will be
stronger if we take it to rest on a comparison between God calling repentance
and you calling a coin toss. Here, the argument is stronger because you, (unless
you're God, or some other supernatural being), cannot reliably predict how a
coin toss will come out. Furthermore, there is a significant similarity between
the two cases in that the outcome of the coin toss is out of your control and,
because of free will, the outcome of repentance is out of God's control.
However, there is a fatal difference. Humans are not omniscient. They don't know
how coin tosses will turn out because they can't see the future. God is supposed
to be omniscient. If he or she is omniscient, then he or she can see into the
future, and will see how a coin toss will turn out. So even if a repentance
decision is like a coin toss, in that God cannot control how it turns out, his
or her ability to know everything means that he or she can know how it's going
to turn out. The problem with this analogy is that while repentance for God
might be analogous to a coin toss for God, God's purported omniscience means
that it cannot be analogous to a coin toss for a human. God calling repentance
is unlike you calling a coin toss precisely because God is omniscient and you're
not. Since omniscience is about predictability, and predictability is precisely
what is in question here, Jaiden's argument is a
false analogy, so it fails. Big-time.
35. Clifton. 1. Control over
one's own body is a basic human right, and that includes reproduction.
2. Control over one's own body includes reproduction.
The state does not have the right to control who has children.
Annette. 1. The state has the
right to decide who may or may not drive a car.
(2. Driving a car is like having children.)
The state does have the right to control who has children.
Clifton is basically saying that
the state should leave people alone when it comes to reproduction, while Annette
is saying that the state has the right to interfere. Since state interference in
people's lives is never allowable without a clear justification, Annette has the burden of proof.
Both are making direct arguments.
Clifton: Argument Annette: Analogy Argument.
on control of one's own body.
Thingy: state control over who has and who doesn't have children.
Thingy: state control over who drives and who doesn't.
state has the right to do it.
Clifton's argument is based on the human right to control
what is done with one's body. Reproduction is done with one's body, so it seems
to follow that there is a human right to control one's own reproduction, which
means that the state doesn't have a right to interfere with one's reproduction.
Annette's argument is based on a purported similarity between being allowed to
drive a car and being allowed to reproduce. The crucial similarity here is that
some people can be identified as very likely to be bad parents just as some
people can be identified as very likely to be bad driv ers. The state has a duty
to keep bad drivers off the road because bad drivers are a serious, and often
deadly threat to other innocent people. If a risk was the only consideration, it
would follow that the state has a duty to keep bad parents from reproducing
because bad parents are a serious, and often deadly threat to other innocent
people, to wit, their children. Indeed, such considerations would imply that the
state has more duty to regulate parenting, because most people threatened by bad
drivers are drivers themselves, and have some ability to avoid the effect of the
bad driving. Children have no ability to avoid the effects of bad parenting.
[Now, if you said that Annette's
argument was stronger because of the compelling state interest in preventing
harm to children, I would mark that right. If you said that Clifton's argument
was stronger because control of one's body is a fundamental right that overrides
the state's duty to prevent harm to children, I would mark that right. And if
you said that you couldn't tell which argument was stronger because you couldn't
decide whether or not individual rights were more important than state duties, I
would mark that right also. In fact, any answer that was based on the logical structure of both arguments would
be right The important thing here is identifying and clearly stating the logical
elements of the issue. Since neither side commits a clear fallacy, and (in my
view) it is actually difficult to decide who is right, it is actually possible
to do everything you really need to do for this exercise without coming to any
particular conclusion. Remember the class is more about understanding and
clearly explicating the logical structures of issues than it is about coming to
conclusions. When the arguments genuinely add up to logical uncertainty, the
most rational thing you can do is say that you are uncertain, and explain
36. Donavan. 1. Forbes Magazine and the
Wall Street Journal say an enormous tax break for the rich is a good
Giving an enormous tax break to the rich is a good idea.
Clifford. 1. Refunding taxes to
the rich is like returning stolen money to robbers.
(2. Giving recovered stolen money back to the people who
stole it is not a good idea.)
Giving a tax break to the rich is not a good idea.
Donavan bears the burden of
proof because, in the absence of an argument to the contrary, our most
reasonable conclusion is that everyone is paying the right amount of taxes. If
someone thinks that there is something wrong with the current distribution of
taxes, it's up to him to prove it. Donavan is such a person, so he has the
burden of proof.
making direct arguments.
Donavan. Authority Argument.
Forbes Magazine and Wall Street Journal.
Clifford. Analogy Argument
Thingy: giving yet another tax break to the rich.
Premise Thingy: recovering stolen money and giving some of it back to the
Property: not a good idea.
Since Donavan bears the burden of proof, we would assume
that his conclusion is wrong if just it turned out that neither argument here
was any good. The playing field is tilted against someone who bears the burden
of proof since he only wins if his argument is good and the other argument is
bad. If both arguments are equally good, or equally bad, the arguer with the
burden of proof loses. As an authority argument, Donavan's argument relies on
his sources being competent and independent experts. Unfortunately, while they
are successful publications, neither the Wall Street Journal nor Forbes Magazine
are scientific journals, so they don't count as experts in economics.
Furthermore they are owned by rich people, controlled by rich people, and depend
on the patronage of rich people for their existence. That is a powerful
incentive to say whatever they think will please rich people, so they cannot be
assumed to be independent. Clifford's argument relies on the analogy between
rich people and robbers. The strength or weakness of this analogy depends on how
these rich people got their money. If the vast majority of rich people got their
money under conditions of fair competition, then the analogy does not work.
However, if the vast majority of rich people got their money from sweetheart
deals, favors from government, monopolistic practices, price-fixing, deceptive
advertising, corporate welfare and so on, then this analogy works very well.
While there is considerable evidence that a large proportion of our rich people
got rich through dishonest means, this conclusion is extremely controversial, so
the analogy is likewise controversial. Clifford cannot just assume that rich
people are like robbers, so his argument is weak also. Given that Donavan bears
the burden of proof, the fact that both arguments fail means that the most
reasonable conclusion is that the tax break is not a good idea.
37. Grady. 1. Grady spent six months researching the Baha'i
The Baha'i faith preaches kindness, tolerance and nonviolent social action.
Grady observed Baha'i congregations all over the country.
All were composed of good people doing good work and getting along well with
(5. Our society would be a good society if it was composed
of good people doing good work and getting along well with others.)
It would be good if our society was a Baha'i society.
Kristine. 1. Promoting a Baha'i
society is like promoting Communism.
Promoting Communism sounds good until it's achieved, but then it turns into hell
(3. It's not good if a society turns into hell on earth. Unless you're SATAN!)
It would not be good if our society was a Baha'i society.
Generally speaking, it is
well-established that societies where people are nice to each other are good
societies, and that creating a good society is usually best accomplished by
getting people to be nice to each other. The idea that promoting a good set of
values will cause hell on earth is radically counterintuitive and so Kristine bears a heavy burden of proof here.
Both are making direct arguments.
it might be a bit awkward, I'm going to interpret Grady's argument as an
analogy. If this turns out to make the basic logic of the argument clear, then
it's a good idea. If it doesn't help, then it's not a good idea.
Grady. Analogy Argument.
Thingy: a Baha'i America.
Thingy: a Baha'i America.
Thingy: an individual Baha'i congregation.
Thingy: a Communist society.
a good thing.
hell on earth.
It might be
important to remember that we're not talking just about having a Baha'i society. We're also talking about promoting a Baha'i society. Grady says it would be
great to have a Baha'i society, but he can't just wave a magic wand and turn us
into a Baha'i society. Turning America into a Baha'i society would be a long,
difficult process, even if it can be done at all. So Grady's goal is probably
impractical, but that, of course, does not mean it is a bad goal. Since no one
has said anything bad about the Baha'i or their values, it seems clear that a
Baha'i society would be a good place for Baha'i and non-Baha'i alike. Kristine
claims that a Baha'i society would be a bad society based on a supposed analogy
with a Communist society. However, the only relevant similarity between people
who promote Baha'i and people who promote Communism is that they each promote
systems with ostensibly good values. This makes promoting Communism equally
similar to promoting libertarianism, promoting Christianity and promoting
democracy. So if Kristine has proved that a Baha'i society would be hell on
earth, she has proved the same thing about libertarianism, Christianity,
democracy and any other belief system with ostensibly good values. If you reject
the idea that libertarian societies, Christian societies and democracies are all
hells on earth, then you should reject the idea that Kristine's argument proves
that a Baha'i society would be hell on earth. Kristine's argument has another
problem however. The claim that a Communist society is hell on earth is
controversial, to say the least. It is certainly not something that Kristine can
assume, so the fact that she does assume it means that her argument also begs the question. Therefore, if this discussion
was all we had to go on, it would be clear that Grady is probably right, and
Kristine is certainly wrong.
38. Dimitri. 1. Dogpatch community
college has a lot of incoming freshmen who don't know how to write college-level
(2. Inability to write college-level papers can really mess
up a student's education.)
Dogpatch community college should have a required freshman writing course.
Maura. 1. Harvard University
doesn't require a freshman writing course.
Harvard University should not require a freshman writing course.)
(3. Dogpatch community college is very similar to Harvard
Dogpatch community college should not require a freshman writing course.
Dimitri bears the burden of proof because he is arguing for action
whereas Maura is merely arguing for inaction.
Both give direct arguments
Dimitri. Argument Maura. Analogy Argument.
need for course.
Thingy: Dogpatch community college.
Thingy: Harvard University.
lack of need for freshman writing course.
The aptness of Maura's analogy depends on whether Dogpatch
is relevantly similar to Harvard. Size, age, location and prestige are not
necessarily relevant. However, there is enough variation among colleges that we
should be su spicious of any comparison. Furthermore, Harvard can probably be
much more selective than Dogpatch, and thus can probably rely on its students
coming in as accomplished writers whereas Dogpatch has no such assurance, so
Maura commits false analogy. Since Dimitri
gives a concrete reason for requiring the course, and Maura doesn't address that
reason, his argument is stronger, and we should here conclude that Dogpatch
should have the course.
Clincher: Maura's argument fails because she fails
to consider the potential differences between Dogpatch and Harvard. Community
colleges like Dogpatch cannot screen their applicants the way prestigious
universities like Harvard can, so if Harvard lacks a freshman writing course, it
could easily be because they simply do not accept anyone who is not proficient
in college level writing. Dogpatch does not have this option, and so very well
could have a large infux of students who need help to reach college-level
proficiency in writing.
The first thing to notice that Augustus has not
produced evidence of any correlation between cellphone use and cancer. Instead,
his argument is based on what happens in an only vaguely similar situation. This
is not a correlation based argument and so, although it is intended to support a
causal claim, it is not really a causal argument. Augustus's argument is based
on the solidly proven link between one kind of radiation and cancer, but he does not discuss
the type of radiation involved in cellphones. This is important because the damaging kind of radiation is ionizing radiation, and cell phones don't give off ionizing radiation. (Also notice
that Fred's argument is based on a demonstrable lack of evidence, and we will
discuss this kind of argument later on.)
For more practice, you can download and do the practice/makeup exercises. (Make sure the document margins are set to 0.5 inches or narrower.)
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