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Digital Subscriptions > Skeptical Inquirer > January February 2018 > Fallacy Analysis Not Useful?

Fallacy Analysis Not Useful?

Thanks for Maarten Boudry’s “Fallacy Fork” (September/October 2017). He’s right: we should think before we casually dismiss an argument as fallacious.

Still, fallacious arguments are like intellectual tar pits that our ancestors kept falling into until someone sifted human experience to map out empirically where the tar was deadliest. Lists of fallacies are something like those WWII charts of airplanes in silhouette: if you spot something like this, watch out!

Boudry seems mostly concerned with good-faith arguments badly executed through sloppiness or ignorance, arguments that require us to expend the effort to bridge leaps of logic but are still salvageable given effort.

Yet Skeptical Inquirer is a museum of bad-faith arguments intended to lure unwary humans into the tar: these are a sizeable, nontrivial problem. So, when should we charitably give the benefit of the doubt, when should we expend the time and energy to perfect a bad writer’s argument, and when should we suspiciously refuse to invest in a bad argument? Learning your fallacies may at least save you from stumbling into the tar by default.

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