Fallacy fallacy fallacy

The fallacy fallacy consists in thinking a conclusion false because it is the product of a fallacious argument.  I often get accused of that.  Such accusations reveal a manifest ignorance of how proving stuff works.  The fallacy fallacy fallacy consists in thinking it fallacious (usually an ad hominem) to accuse people of having committed fallacies.  So if I point out, for instance, that someone has reasoned poorly, and that person responds that I am attacking them personally, then that person has committed the fallacy fallacy fallacy.  I think in fact that this occurs quite often.  Here, for instance, is an imperfect example from that intellectual giant, Sarah Palin:

Palin told WMAL-AM that her criticism of Obama's associations, like those with 1960s radical Bill Ayers and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, should not be considered negative attacks. Rather, for reporters or columnists to suggest that it is going negative may constitute an attack that threatens a candidate's free speech rights under the Constitution, Palin said.

"If [the media] convince enough voters that that is negative campaigning, for me to call Barack Obama out on his associations," Palin told host Chris Plante, "then I don't know what the future of our country would be in terms of First Amendment rights and our ability to ask questions without fear of attacks by the mainstream media."

Got that?  You can't criticize Palin's guilt-by-association tactics, because that's "attacking the person."  Dumb.

For the fallacy fallacy, all the credit goes to Humbugonline.  For the above Palin quotation, the Washington Monthly.

8 thoughts on “Fallacy fallacy fallacy”

  1. My brain hurts.

    Why does this always seem to happen when I try to parse something Palin says?

  2. Asserting her right to be wrong? Is this what is left of the Right?

    (Ba-dum, ching.)

  3. A thought.

    You can attack someone personally and not be making a fallacy, anyway.

    For example, “Palin is wrong to argue that the media shouldn’t criticise her for poisoning the well with Obama, because at the same time she states she has the right to criticise Obama. This is inconsistent. They are questioning whether the nature of her criticisms are warranted. A perfectly valid use of the freedom of speech. As such, she’s a complete moron.”

    This would only be a fallacy if I said, “Palin is a complete moron, so why would anyone take her criticism of the media seriously.”

    In the first version, the “moron” comment is an addendum to the argument, or even the conclusion. In the second (fallacious) version, the “moron” comment is the basis of my argument.

    This is not a good argument, even if it happens to be true…

  4. This is why formal logic is so useless for most situations. You are being logically consistent with a fraudulent premise. Kind of appropriate, now that I think about it.

    The “fallacy fallacy” is saying that logical inconsistency and truth value are not mutually exclusive, or even correlated in many situations.

    Demonstrating that someone has argued poorly is not a logical fallacy, UNLESS you use such a thing as the sole grounds for dismissing their statement.

    That’s the fallacy in its most basic form, not unlike Ad Hominem. Insulting someone is not an ad hominem, unless the insult is to dismiss them without addressing their actual argument. You know this already, so why you’re playing dumb is beyond me.

    You are misrepresenting what this “fallacy” actually means, based on your alleged (I actually assume “fabricated”) experiences with people who used it in asinine and incorrect ways.

  5. Whatsittooya,

    Thanks for the comment, but I think you’ve missed the entire point of the post (which is to say basically what you’re saying).

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