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Author Topic: Fallacy Laboratory: inverses of statements
Silas Sparkhammer
I Saw V-Chips Come Sailing In


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This one is more common than one might think: mistaking the inverse of a statement for the statement itself.

e.g. "People in government should never be above the law."
response: "So, it's okay, then, if they're in private enterprise?"

e.g. "It's morally wrong to kill Jews by suicide bombings."
response: "I guess you have no problem with killing Arabs that way."

In both cases, the inverse of an implication has been substituted for the original implication, and then attacked. (The specific phrasing also exemplifies the "straw man" fallacy.)

In logic, a statement about a subset (people in government and Jews, which are both subsets of all people) is not equivalent to a statement of any sort (affirmative or negating) regarding the counterpart of the subset.

In classic syllogism format: All men are mortal. This does not mean that mice are immortal.

(It does, however, mean that if there *are* immortals, they aren't men. Who knows? They might be mice. Or giants.)

Silas

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TurquoiseGirl
The "Was on Sale" Song


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quote:
Originally posted by Silas Sparkhammer:
This one is more common than one might think: mistaking the inverse of a statement for the statement itself.

e.g. "People in government should never be above the law."
response: "So, it's okay, then, if they're in private enterprise?"

e.g. "It's morally wrong to kill Jews by suicide bombings."
response: "I guess you have no problem with killing Arabs that way."

I should also point out that this is logic typical of what my five to six year old nieces and nephew are practicing (and stuff I remember pulling myself).

Me: You cannot have candy because you didn't finish your dinner.
Them: Okay! But I can have a cookie right?

One learns to avoid this pitfall by being very precise.

Then again, this led recently to an encounter like this

Me: You cannot have dessert because you didn't finish dinner.

Them: Okay! Can I have a snack? I would like candy.

My point, and I do have one, is that it is not only a logical fallacy, but immature...

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There are people who drive really nice cars who feel that [those] cars won't be as special if other people drive them too. Where I come from, we call those people "selfish self-satisfied gits." -Chloe

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daisyslegs
It Came Upon a Midnight Clearance


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sounds like a cop-out for when someone has no foot to stand on in a debate.

daisys"or sit on"legs

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~tough as nails yet nice as pie~
For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction - and sometimes a scar.
"and don't threaten anyone with your pants today!" - Frog_Feathers
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Logoboros
We Three Blings


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What's the term for taking the positive version of a negative statment (or vice versa)? As in the common reformulation of the Golden Rule from the original "Do not do unto others as you would not have them do unto you" to "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

--Logoboros

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"If Men were Wise, the Most arbitrary Princes could not hurt them. If they are not wise, the Freest Government is compelld to be a Tyranny."

--William Blake

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PrincessLeia
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quote:
Originally posted by Logoboros:
What's the term for taking the positive version of a negative statment (or vice versa)? As in the common reformulation of the Golden Rule from the original "Do not do unto others as you would not have them do unto you" to "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

--Logoboros

Hmm. I would have thought that the positive version of the rule would be the right one, but that people act out the negative version. I.e. We say that we should do good or be nice to others, but rather we refrain from doing bad to one another.
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Signora Del Drago
Angels Wii Have Heard on High


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Do unto others before they have a chance to do unto you.

[fish] Okay, I got it.

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"This air we're breathing. Oxygen, isn't it?"~I’mNotDedalus, impersonating Vincent D’Onofrio.|"Sometimes trying to communicate can be like walking through a minefield."~wanderwoman
"Give people a break. It's not easy doing a life."~Joshua Halberstam

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Joe Bentley
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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quote:
Originally posted by Silas Sparkhammer:
This one is more common than one might think: mistaking the inverse of a statement for the statement itself.

e.g. "People in government should never be above the law."
response: "So, it's okay, then, if they're in private enterprise?"

e.g. "It's morally wrong to kill Jews by suicide bombings."
response: "I guess you have no problem with killing Arabs that way."

This seems rather similar to another annoying tactics I've noticed.

It's the "But they are assholes in every group" retort. It goes something like this:

Bill: "Damnit Ted I hate it when people in (insert group) act like idiots when (insert situation in which members of said group tend to act like peckerheads)."
Ted: "Well Bill every group has its troublemakers. I don't know why you're singling out (group whatever)."

Bill didn't say that all members of the group are bad, nor that no member of any other group is bad.

Yes assholes come in all shapes and sizes, but there isn't just one generic type of asshole out there. People turn into dicks in different situations, in response to different stimuli, regarding different subjects, etc, etc.

Why do some people seem to act as if we are just supposed to have one generic "Assholes are bad" rant and if we narrow the focus down to one specific subgroup of unpleasent people that that is somehow wrong?

You can't counter a "People in Group X are assholes sometime" rant with "Well a lot of people are assholes!'

Yeah... so? Is that supposed to make it better?

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"Existence has no pattern save what we imagine after staring at it for too long." - Rorschach, The Watchmen

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Logoboros
We Three Blings


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Before I get jumped on, I must offer a correction.

I appear to have misremembered a lecture from an undergrad course. I had thought the original Greek used the negative construction, and the translations usually positivized it. But it appears the source of the negative version is instead a quote from Mosaic law, which is then positivized in the Sermon on the Mount.

But I guess the point (and my original question as to logical terminology) still stands.

--Logoboros

--------------------
"If Men were Wise, the Most arbitrary Princes could not hurt them. If they are not wise, the Freest Government is compelld to be a Tyranny."

--William Blake

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Cold DecEmbra Brings The Sleet
Angels Wii Have Heard on High


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I was reading this Salon article which also presents the Golden Rule in its negative form being stated by Confucius.
quote:
Confucius said, "Look into your own heart. Discover what it is that gives you pain. And then refuse to inflict that pain on anybody else." His disciples also asked, "Master, which one of your teachings can we put into practice every day?" And Confucius said, "Do not do to others as you would not have them do to you."
I don't know how that fits in with everything else, it just caught my eye. The article itself is interesting but I found the interviewee's position too (deliberately?) elusive.

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I want you to lay down your life, Perkins. We need a futile gesture at this stage. It will raise the whole tone of the war.

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ParaDiddle
Happy Xmas (Warranty Is Over)


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I think it might be a version of the Strawman Argument. It has shades of another fallacy but I'll edit when I find the correct one.

Claim
It is wrong (any binary option) to do (X) under circumstances contained in (Y).

The fallacious rebuttal asserts that once the words of the speaker are altered to change the parameters of (X) or (Y), then the binary option is automatically changed.

It forces the original speaker to argue ponits not included in the original claim. A tactic which is never employed on snopes' MB.

Silas Sparkhammer Said;
quote:
e.g. "It's morally wrong to kill Jews by suicide bombings."
response: "I guess you have no problem with killing Arabs that way."

- "it is morally wrong to kill"
- "it is morally wrong to kill Jews"
- "it is morally wrong to kill Jews by suicide bombings"

The response attacked all the points made in the statement by changing one parameter, then used that change to twist the implied meaning of the original assertions.

The response accused the speaker of being tolerant of both killing and the chosen weapon but injected an accusation (Z) of cultural bias. Z could have been aimed at either of the three points in the original statement.

Z was of course not contained in the original discussion but then became the elephant in the room which needed immediate attention.

- P

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Silas Sparkhammer
I Saw V-Chips Come Sailing In


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One mild problem with my examples is that "natural language" tends to confuse implications with equivalences.

If I say, "Never murder anyone over thirteen years of age," it sounds, in commonsense language, as if I am also saying, "If they are thirteen or under, then you can murder them." Otherwise, why make the distinction? Why not just say, "Don't murder anyone."

And yet, it is good advice, and I offer it to you all: please do *not* murder anyone over thirteen years of age! That would be a bad thing, and you should not do it. In proper and formal logic, I am *not* extending this to imply any approval of killing kids.

This is why the rhetorical technique of re-phrasing someone's statements is so often invalid: if you use a "common sense" parsing of a statement, you can often get a result that differs from a "strict logic" parsing.

Silas

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