How to Win Every Argument : The Use and Abuse of Logic
Sound reasoning is the basis of winning at argument. Logical
fallacies undermine arguments. They are a source of enduring
fascination, and have been studied for at least two-and-a-half
millennia. Knowledge of them is useful, both to avoid those used
inadvertently by others and even to use a few with intent to
deceive. The fascination and the usefulness which they impart,
however, should not be allowed to conceal the pleasure which
identifying them can give.
I take a very broad view of fallacies. Any trick of logic or language
which allows a statement or a claim to be passed off as
something it is not has an admission card to the enclosure
reserved for fallacies. Very often it is the case that what appears
to be a supporting argument for a particular contention does not
support it at all. Sometimes it might be a deduction drawn from
evidence which does not sustain it.
Many of the fallacies are committed by people genuinely
ignorant of logical reasoning, the nature of evidence, or what
counts as relevant material. Others, however, might be committed
by persons bent on deception. If there is insufficient force
behind the argument and the evidence, fallacies can add enough
weight to carry them through.
This book is intended as a practical guide for those who wish
to win arguments. It also teaches how to perpetrate fallacies with
mischief at heart and malice aforethought. I have described eachfallacy, given examples of it, and shown why it is fallacious. After
any points of general interest concerning the history or occurrence
of the fallacy, I have given the reader recommendations on
how and where the fallacy may be used to deceive with maximum
I have listed the fallacies alphabetically, although a full classification
into the five major types of fallacy may be found at the
end of the book. It is well worth the reader's trouble to learn the
Latin tags wherever possible. When an opponent is accused of
perpetrating something with a Latin name it sounds as if he is
suffering from a rare tropical disease. It has the added effect of
making the accuser seem both erudite and authoritative.
In the hands of the wrong person this is more of a weapon
than a book, and it was written with that wrong person in mind.
It will teach such a person how to argue effectively, even dishonestly
at times. In learning how to argue, and in the process of
practising and polishing each fallacy, the user will learn how to
identify it and will build up an immunity to it. A working
knowledge of these fallacies provides a vocabulary for talking
about politicians and media commentators. Replacing the vague
suspicion of double-dealing will be the identification of the
precise crimes against logic which have been committed.
Knowledge of fallacies can thus provide a defensive as well as
an offensive capability. Your ability to spot them coming will
enable you to defend yourself against their use by others, and
your own dexterity with them will enable you to be both successful
and offensive, as you set about the all-important task of
making arguments go your way.