Andrew Aberdein, of the Florida Institute of Technology, argued that if good arguments are virtuous, then bad arguments are vicious. Â The problem is that arguments are tokens, not dispositions. Â Side note: we here at the NS stress this fact in our general disclaimer on bias. Â We diagnose individual argument tokens, not ideologies.
Back to Aberdein. Â After dispensing with the idea that the ad hominem is always fallacious that the concept of virtue in argument was a self refuting ad hominem, Aberdein built what I thought was a good case for taking fallacies as argumentative vices–these include dogmatism, reliabilist problems, and failures of diligence in investigating evidence. Â All good so far, I think.
Dan Cohen (see Scott’s post on his awesome keynote) raised a key question. Â Argumentative vices seem to provide good reason for discounting arguers, but do argument virtues do the same for individual arguments?
Read this column by Dana Milbank in the paper today:
This matters, because it means the entire premise of the Arizona immigration law is a fallacy. Arizona officials say they've had to step in because federal officials aren't doing enough to stem increasing border violence. The scary claims of violence, in turn, explain why the American public supports the Arizona crackdown.
I know what he means, but I'm a stickler for such things, and it's wrong to call this a "fallacy." A fallacy is an error in reasoning and Milbank is simply alleging that the factual basis of the law (more on that in a second) is false. Were it to be true, then there would be no fallacy. So they're just mistaken about facts.
As for the allegedly false factual basis, the most Milbank can say is that some of the claims made by various supporters of the Arizona immigration law are false. I don't think that amounts to the claim that the "entire premise of the law" is false. I imagine there are other premises–such as illegal immigration is illegal, and so forth–that supporters of the law can point to.
None of this means, of course, that the law in question is a good idea–it's just not a fallacy.
A link on the "liberal media"–very much worth a read.
This also sounds like a rewarding (and strangely familiar) activity (via Leiter Reports):
Carlos Mariscal, a graduate student at Duke, wrote last Friday:
While I was watching the convention this week (and last week as well, actually), it astounded me at how often the speakers would resort to obvious logical fallacies. I counted five false dichotomies and four straw men within the Sarah Palin speech alone. As a result, I've decided to throw a 'Spot the Logical Fallacy' party during the first debate September 26. It occurs to me that this would be a good way of showing the use of philosophical training and a fun way to reach out to the community. So, I'd like to throw the idea out to the Internet in the hopes that a few philosophy departments, clubs, or meet up groups will also decide to throw parties of their own.
It should be a busy and festive event, given the relative role of rhetoric vs. logic in political debates!