Nothing surpasses settling into an interesting conversation and getting into the bottom of a heated topic. However, most of our debates are doomed to failure because we usually venture out into arguing without knowing the paramount basics of the art of argumentation. Consequently, we lose our edge and no sooner get discouraged. So, in order not to get off on the wrong foot, let’s delve into the most common logical fallacies that we commit while debating. And, instead of staying immobilized like a statue when your opponent’s confidence grows into the arrogance of victory, gather your courage to spot your opponent's fallacies and assert your viewpoint while on the right track.
Ad Hominem fallacy is probably the most common fallacy people commit in all ages although it is almost known by all people. Ad Hominem is Latin for “to the person,” and it simply means sidestepping the argument and attacking its proponent; that’s to say, Ad Hominem is trying to refute an argument by reflexively attacking the character of the person proposing it. To exemplify, opponent A is arguing that it is unfair to cut social programs because some people are born into poverty and don’t have a fair chance in life. Opponent B responds by saying: “You just say so because you have a soft heart and an equally soft head too!”
A patent example of politicians who always fall into this logical mistake is Donald Trump; for instance, when Sen. Richard Blumenthal discussed the topic of the alleged Russian manipulations of Trump’s elections, Trump shifted the debate towards Blumenthal's record of mistakes during the Vietnamese war! Well, maybe Trump is right regarding Blumenthal’s misdemeanours during the war, but still, Blumenthal’s accusations in terms of Russian intervention might also be true! So, for Plato’s sake, even if your opponent is Lucifer or the Antichrist, try to set this fact aside and address what your opponent says not what he/she is.
Burden of Proof
The Burden of Proof is a common fallacy that occurs when someone makes a claim but puts the burden of proof onto the opponent's side. For instance, a person claims that ghosts exist, and when asked why, he replies because no one else has been able to prove they don’t. So, he is basically asking those who disagree with him to prove that he is wrong, refusing to exert any effort to logically defend his opinion. Socrates reflected once on this type of fallacy when one of his opponents claimed victory unless Socrates could prove otherwise. Socrates clapped back at the opponent’s words, saying that he was not supposed to be doing the man's job for him.
A slippery slope is a logical fallacy that takes place when someone argues that a certain action or a premise is a minor step leading to a chain of unrelated catastrophic events. To exemplify, a man argues that if we allowed feminists to empower women, most women would stop obeying their husbands, numerous marriages would break up, a huge number of families would be destroyed, which would finally lead to the total breakdown of civilization. Such a series of events indicates a slippery slope fallacy because the possibility of empowering women without eliminating family and civilization still exists until the debater provides a link that directly connects the proposition to such a conclusion.
The term “red herring” was coined when a strong-smelling, red-coloured fish was discovered as a distracting means that sends hounds away. Afterwards, the term has been employed to depict the sneaky attempts of debaters to divert people’s attention in order to avoid answering their questions. As a manifestation, in the second debate between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, a woman asked how the two men will “limit the availability of assault weapons.” In response, Obama talked about how he hates violence, asserting that guns should be kept at home and that violence should be eliminated before getting out of control. Clearly enough, the woman’s question is about the process of ending violence (the how), not whether Obama loves violence or not.
Another plain example of red herring fallacy is demonstrated by Donald Trump: When Trump was asked about the degrading comments that he made about women in 2005. His response was: “It’s locker room talk, and it’s one of those things. I will knock the hell out of ISIS. We’re going to defeat ISIS. ISIS happened a number of years ago in a vacuum that was left because of bad judgment. And I will tell you, I will take care of ISIS.” Thus, Trump’s red herring in this example is ISIS as he invoked its name to distract the public away from the main issue of abusing women.
The straw man fallacy occurs when someone gives an erroneous distorted version of his opponents claim and starts arguing against it. Debaters can distort their opponents’ arguments by means of exaggeration or simplification. For instance, a senator argues that the government should give more attention to healthcare and education systems and not to put all money into the defence system. To which another senator replies, “I can’t believe that you hate your country that much and want us to leave it defenceless in front of its lurking enemies.” So, senator B has twisted the words of senator A through exaggeration, for senator A is merely asking the government to allocate some money to other social services — not all money, apparently. Typical straw men are employed to protect farms by scaring birds away; however, straw men appear to be more powerful than they are since they will never harm birds in reality. Therefore, when a debater disfigures his opponents' words so that they sound repulsive, the debater is said to be forming a straw man.
Begging the Question
Begging the question is a common philosophical mistake that happens when debaters assume that the point that they are attempting to prove is true in the first place. For example, opponent A asks opponent B why he should believe that God exists, and opponent B replies because the Bible says that God exists, and the Bible is God's word! So, opponent B is begging the question as he is appealing to the same subject in question in order to prove his proposition, causing opponent A to go round in circles. To correct his mistake, opponent B should attempt to prove God's existence without appealing to religion (because that’s the subject his opponent is asking about). Another illustration, opponent A asks why opponent B thinks The Da Vinci Code is a true story, to which opponent B says that it is true because in the beginning of the book, there is a note by the writer saying so. Once more, opponent B appealed to the subject opponent A is investigating instead of using other historical sources or books.
The false cause is a fallacy committed when a disputant provides a feeble or an imaginary link between a certain cause and an effect. To elucidate, a famous girl on social media undergoes a car accident after some fans made complimentary comments and fawned over her beauty and joyful life. As a result, people assume that these comments have jinxed the girl and therefore, caused her accident. Such an assumption is merely based on the fact that the accident was subsequent to people’s approbation, yet the sequence of the two events doesn’t necessarily signal a cause-effect relationship. The argument of “after this; therefore, because of this” is analogous to saying that roosters are necessary for the sun to rise!