Logical Fallacies, including “Why not try it?”

The following link is from Managing Decision- Priority- Mental Error. Their website states that they are a website
“dedicated to helping managers, administrators, court judges and other legal professionals, CEOs, business owners and all other professional decision-makers of all types avoid mental error in decision selection and fundamental prioritizing, with quotes by noted psychologists and authors – and links to their books.”

J. saw this clear, concise, useful guide to logical fallacies surfing this website: Beliefs and Fallacies. It’s worth a read to learn to identify and defend against these fallacies, or for the more unscrupulous, to use against the uninitiated.


One fallacy that isn’t listed here is the exhortation to “just try it” when it comes to things that do not physically exist and have little to no perceptible effect/benefit, commonly used in arguments such as for complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) as well as arguments for various religions.

This is usually linked to a couple of logical fallacies such as Coincidental Correlation (esp. in the realm of alternative medicine) and False Analogy.

Analogies are meant to simplify matters, but are often used instead to obfuscate and complicate. A comparison between trying a recommended dish and trying a belief is a perfect example of a false analogy.

A dish is tangible. A person can enjoy the tactile feel of the food, sniff in the aromas, roll the food about the oral cavity with the tongue. Yes, one does not have to believe the person who recommended the dish, one should just try it. This analogy does not extend to beliefs.

Person A cannot force himself to believe in something he does not believe in, hence the futility of getting somebody to convert to a religion by force (e.g. Korean hostages kidnapped by the Taliban). There must be highly plausible induction, logical reasoining or good evidence to bring about a change in belief.

It’s not something that one can change instantly by force of will. Religious beliefs, for instance, cannot just be tried. Given the frequency this logical fallacy is used, one would think that most proponents of this would have gone through a number of different religious beliefs by now, as well as atheism. “Just try disbelieving in Allah, God, Buddha, etc.! What have you got to lose? If it doesn’t work out, convert back loh!” Yes, quite easy.

Contrast that to the food analogy. “Just try it loh!” Yes, one would go to the shop, order the dish and try it. Easy-peasy. See the problem with the false analogy?

Now, another logical fallacy commonly used by amateur debaters is the Slippery Slope. Allow one thing, and next thing you know there’s anarchy. Ban one thing, and next thing you know it’s 1984 (by George Orwell).

Allow abortion, and human life will no longer be sanctified. People will be murdering each other for practical matters! Allow homosexual marriages, and homosexuals will proliferate and spread their decadent values. It will cause the downfall of society!

Another one, frustrating to anyone who fails to keep their eyes on the issue at hand, is the Straw Man, when misrepresenting the opposition’s argument by presenting a weaker argument than what the opposition truly has, thus obfuscating the issue.

Useful site, this.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by cheekysalsera on August 30, 2007 at 3:36 pm

    It is not about forcing a person to believe in something he doesn’t, it’s about suspending the disbelief. One sees it when asking a person to try a food dish that has a component they dislike (say, ginger). If they strongly dislike the component, they cannot believe that they enjoy it, and so they say they won’t try it.

    When they take the effort to try the dish, it is not because they believe it is going to be enjoyable, but because they consider that there is a possibility that they might enjoy it, despite the presence of the disliked component. In other words, they suspend the disbelief that it is not enjoyable simply because of the component they dislike, to test whether or not they find enjoyment in consuming the dish.

    However, since you mention that food is tangible, but beliefs are not, what would you say of books then, as an analogy? Reading a book is hardly a sensory experience, unless the reader pays much attention to the senses – like how its pages feel in his hands, the sound of its pages being turned, and how friendly the text size and font are to the eyes. Surely one does not read a book primarily to enjoy those things..?

    Reply

  2. Yes, one should approach anything with an open mind, that is to say, being prepared to accept that something is true or false according to the evidence or logic.

    My point, however, was that a dish analogy was inappropriate for a faith/belief evaluation.

    Conversely, a similar situation to what you have raised would be that of a person who, because he really enjoys a component they strongly like, insists on eating a terrible meal with that component every day even though there’s no way an unbiased person could enjoy that meal. This person is unable to suspend his belief.

    Neither is desirable. The person should not have any belief in either the dish’s tastiness or noxiousness before verifying the dish’s tastiness or noxiousness.

    By right then, the only person who is well-suited to evaluating a faith would be open to both and would evaluate this, as far as possible, by evidence and logical deduction instead of “trying”, for the following reasons. If he “tries to believe”, he will find the belief true. If he “tries not to believe”, he will not find the belief true. There is no good comparison to a “dish”.

    For every exhortation to “suspend your disbelief” and “just try believing in my God, what’s there to lose?”, the reverse can be said. “Suspend your belief.” “Just honestly to believe in a universe without a God”. Is this really feasible?

    My points were that that the “trying a belief” argument is pointless and an analogy of it to trying a dish is a logical fallacy. Your argument has not, as of the moment, engaged my points.

    Regarding the concept of books. Your rhetorical question casts doubts that an enjoyment of a book is based on the components that can be sensed. I put it to you that the enjoyment of a book is the sum of all that you have mentioned, and more.

    I might be reading too much into it, but I assume that your point (it being written out clearly) via analogy (sans the clarifications) is that not everything that we accept as existing is considered “tangible” such as the enjoyment of a book. If this is incorrect, please clarify your passage.

    The feeling of pages, the sound, how friendly the text size and font, all these contribute to the enjoyment of a book. The sequence of letters, the choice of words, the linking of these words into sentences, all contribute to the enjoyment of a book. The conveying of ideas, pictures and the author’s thoughts via these methods, contribute to the enjoyment of a book. The person’s mental processing of all of the above together give one the enjoyment of a book.

    Just because one does not consciously notice each part does not mean that they are not part of the enjoyment. Furthermore, if one reminds oneself, one can actively take note of each part.

    Also, a book can be read for reasons other than enjoyment, but that’s belabouring the point and probably not relevant to your argument or mine.

    Reply

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