# Zen and Understanding Middle East News and Issues

Zionism & Israel Center    Zionism and Israel Pages   MidEastWeb Middle East News Views & Facts

# Fallacies and Arguments

CONTENTS

Zen & Understanding the Middle East

Fallacy Handbook

# Fallacies and Arguments

Reference: Fallacy Handbook

Deductive logic, or reasoning from first principles, was the generally accepted mode of argument in the Medieval times. Mathematical proofs are examples of deductive arguments. If the original axioms are true, and the reasoning is correct, the result must be correct. The original axioms are usually true by definition.

Inductive arguments are generally credited to Sir Francis Bacon. Unlike deductive ("top down") reasoning, induction first generalizes laws from regularly occurring phenomena. It is the basis of scientific reasoning. Inductive arguments are attempts to generalize laws based on individual cases. They are arguments based on gathering of facts and empirical proofs. There is no "logical" proof for such arguments. "The Sun will rise tomorrow" is not a logically necessary consequence of the fact that the Sun rose on previous days. Inductive logic should only lead to statements of probability. "The Sun will very probably rise tomorrow based on past experience" is a reasonable statement.

LaBossierre gives the following example of a valid inductive argument:

Premise 1: Most American cats are domestic house cats.

Premise 2: Bill is an American cat.

Conclusion: Bill is domestic house cat.

However, the conclusion is only probably true. Bill could be a mountain lion.

LaBossierre gives the following example of a fallacious inductive argument:

Premise 1: Having just arrived in Ohio, I saw a white squirrel.

Conclusion: All Ohio squirrels are white.

(While there are many, many squirrels in Ohio, the white ones are very rare).

Actually, it would be equally false to say all Ohio squirrels are white, even if you had seen 100 white squirrels. All you could say is that most of the squirrels you saw were white, and therefore probably most squirrels in Ohio are white.

We can never be absolutely certain about an inductive generalization. That means that any statement about the real world cannot be taken as "absolute truth." We are even less certain about the explanation for any generalization. We know that heavy bodies fall by watching many heavy bodies fall. Sir Isaac Newton explained this phenomenon as due to attraction of masses, and wrote equations that described it. These fit the behavior of cannon balls and apples falling on Newton's head very well, but were shown eventually to be incorrect for describing some other phenomena. That is why Albert Einstein's much more complex relativistic theory of gravity is now accepted. A statement that any explanation "must" be true has to be wrong.

The probabilistic nature of explanations of real world phenomena have given rise to a great deal of mischief however. It opens the way to legitimizing any theory and any explanation because "you can never know." However, while you can't know what did happen with absolute certainty, you can be fairly certain of what did not happen.

Deduction masked as induction - In political polemics, many arguments and "studies" that appear to be inductive arguments based on facts, are really deductive arguments based on dubious first premises that are either incorrect assertions of fact or simply value judgements, and the arguments tend to be circular.

Zionists are evil and want to steal the land of the Palestinians. Therefore, if they built a "security fence" it must have been done with the intent of stealing the land of the Palestinian Arabs. It is an apartheid Wall. The Zionists built an apartheid wall, and that proves they are evil and want to steal the land of the Palestinian Arabs.

Palestinian Arabs are evil and want to destroy Israel. Therefore, if they propose a peace plan, it must be a trick. The Palestinian Arabs have proposed a peace plan, therefore it must be another trick to destroy Israel.

Previous: Fallacy Recognition in the Middle East  Next: Cause and Effect

Understanding the Middle East I Understanding the Middle East II - Words about Words

# This material is copyright © by Ami Isseroff and MidEastWeb for Coexistence RA, 2006. Please do link to these pages and tell your friends about them by e-mail. You may print out these materials for nonprofit use.  Do not reproduce these pages or the entire book for any other purpose in any media other than e-mail without permission.

This site provides resources about Zionism and Israeli history, including links to source documents. We are not responsible for the information content of these sites. These links are NOT intended to be an exhaustive reference about Zionism, but the list will keep growing...

Sister sites : Zionism Pages Brave Zionism Zionism and Israel information center  and Zionism and Israel On the Web Brave Zionism

Thank you.

MidEastWeb Middle East News, Views, Maps and History

Zionism  Definition and Brief History  A balanced article that covers the definitions and history of Zionism as well as opposition to Zionism and criticisms by Arabs,  Jewish antiZionists.

Labor Zionism   History and Critique  Contribution of Labor Zionism to the creation of the Jewish state, and problems of Labor Zionism in a changing reality.

Israel-Palestina  (Dutch) Middle East Conflict, Israel, Palestine,Zionism... Israël-Palestina Informatie gids Israël, Palestijnen en Midden-Oosten conflict... Israeli-Palestinian conflict from a European perspective  Dutch and English.