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# Fallacies in Philosophy

Instructions: Complete all of the questions.

1. For the following arguments, determine which fallacies of relevance they commit. See the appendix for a complete list. No need to offer a justification – simply state the fallacy. [5 marks]

1. a) The natural numbers form an infinite set, from which it follows that every subset of the natural numbers must also be infinite.

1. b) How can you deny the belief in an afterlife knowing that one day you will be on your deathbed, realizing that you will be punished in the afterlife for not believing?

1. c) All human beings are free, and hence each person is able to choose what they value in life. However, John is not free since he is in jail. Thus, he is not able to choose what he values in life.

1. d) Senator Joe McCathy: “There is nothing in Mr. Jones’ file to indicate that he is not a communist, and so he must be a communist.”
2. e) No individual neuron making up the human brain is capable of sustaining thought. Thus, it follows that the human brain itself is not capable of sustaining thought.

1. For the following arguments, determine which fallacy of unacceptable premises it commits. See the appendix for a complete list. Limit yourself to exactly one fallacy charge per argument – no justification is necessary, simply state what the fallacy is. [5 marks]

1. a) Socialized medicine will lead to a new mentality that expects the government to take care of all our needs, because universal health care will give rise to a feeling of total dependence on political bureaucracies.

1. b) How can you deny the belief in an afterlife knowing that one day you will be on your deathbed, realizing that you will be punished in the afterlife for not believing?

1. c) A human being is similar to a complex machine. In a complex machine, if a part is defective, you can replace it. So, Jan shouldn’t worry about the fact that she has a heart condition.

1. d) Consciousness cannot be explained in terms of brain processes nor in terms of religion, from which it follows that no account of consciousness can be provided.

1. e) The belief in God is universal, because everyone believes in God.

1. For the following arguments, name the fallacy – from amongst the additional informal fallacies as well as any of the formal fallacies – that it commits. No justification required. [5 marks]

1. a) If 5 + 5 = 11, then it won’t rain tomorrow. But 5 + 5 is not 11, it is 10. Thus, it will rain tomorrow.

1. b) The farmer reaps what they sow. Jan planted 10 acres of corn, and so she will reap 10 acres of corn.

1. c) Age is not important – there should be no forced retirement at 65. The new candidate for the senate agrees with this view, and so we should endorse her. She has the strength of her convictions, and the youthful vigor to see them through.

1. d) All humans are mammals. Ted the Lizard is not human. Thus, Ted is not a mammal.

1. e) All philosophers are thinkers. All thinkers are rational. Thus, all rational people are philosophers.

1. For the following definitions, 1) indicate whether they are intensional/extensional, 2) indicate which specific kind of intensional/extensional definition it is, and 3) indicate the likely use(s) of the definition.

[6 marks]

1. a) A mayor of Toronto is any person who likes bad publicity.

1. b) The word “psychology” comes from the Greek work “psyche” meaning mind or soul.

1. For the following definitions by genus and difference, indicate which flaw it commits. Just cite the rule it violates (e.g. – R3). Choose only one rule. [4 marks]
2. a) A dog is an animal in the genus Canis and the species Lupus that regularly attends Phil. 160.

1. b) A calculator is any device used to perform arithmetical and mathematical calculations.

1. c) A gene is any stretch of DNA on a chromosome.

1. d) A mouse is any small animal that invades homes in the winter season.

1. For the following short passage, indicate which of the proposed conclusions are strongly supported by the passage and which aren’t. No explanation needed – just put “strongly inductively supported” or “weakly inductively supported.” [5 marks]

Passage: A survey was conducted to determine the tastes in music of U of W students.   2000 randomly selected students were asked what their favorite types of music are. The margin of error was +/- 2% with a 95% confidence level. All students responded. 30% of the students said they prefer rock exclusively, 20% said they prefer classical exclusively, 10% said they prefer blues exclusively, and the remaining 40% said they had no musical preferences.

Which of the following can be strongly inductively inferred from this study?

1. i) At most 42% of U of W students have no musical preferences.
2. ii) At least 8% of U of W students prefer blues music exclusively.

iii) No U of W students listen to rap music.

1. iv) Most U of W students prefer either rock exclusively or classical exclusively.
2. v) 1 out of 10 U of W students prefer blues exclusively.

1. For the following passage, a) arrange the data into a table, b) determine which of Mill’s methods (agreement, difference or joint method) are employed and c) indicate whether the argument establishes a necessary condition, a sufficient condition, or both. [10 marks]

From The Power of Critical Thinking, Third Canadian Edition (Vaughn & MacDonald), exercise 8.10, # 4, p. 343:

We tested 20 samples of ground beef from six different processing plants across Canada. All samples were subjected to the standard test for E. coli 0157:H7. Test results showed that 17 of them were free of E. coli and hence, in this regard, safe for human consumption. The other three, however, showed significant levels of E. coli. The only relevant factor common to these three samples is that they came from processing plants owned by a single company, JRB Meats, Inc. (and none of the 17 uncontaminated samples came from a plant owned by JBR). We conclude that there are significant deficiencies in JBRs food safety procedures.

Rules for evaluating genus and difference definitions:

R1: A definition should not be circular.

R2: A definition must be neither too broad nor too narrow.

R3: A definition must not be expressed in ambiguous, figurative, or obscure language.

R4: A definition should not be negative where it can be affirmative.

R5: A definition should state the essential attributes of a thing.

Informal Fallacies:

Fallacies of Relevance: straw man, red herring, equivocation, argument from ignorance, genetic fallacy, ad hominem, ad populum, appeal to emotion, division, composition, argument from tradition

Fallacies of Unacceptable Premise: begging the question, faulty analogy, false dilemma, slippery slope, hasty generalization

Additional Informal Fallacies: accident, false cause, complex question, inconsistency, two wrongs, subjectivism, suppressed evidence

Formal Fallacies: Denying the Antecedent, Affirming the consequent, exclusive or fallacy, illicit predicate instantiation, illicit universal syllogism

Mill’s Methods:

Method of Agreement (necessary condition)

Instance 1: Factors a, b and c are followed by E.

……

Instance n: Factors f, c and d are followed by E.

Thus, factor c is likely the cause of E.

Method of Difference (sufficient condition)

Instance 1: Factors a, b and c are followed by E.

Instance 2: Factors a and b are not followed by E.

Thus, factor c is likely the cause of E.

Joint Method of Agreement and Difference (necessary & sufficient condition)

Instance 1: Factors f, b and c are followed by E.

Instance 2: Factors g, b and d are followed by E.

Instance 3: Factors f and c are not followed by E.

Instance 4: Factors g and d are not followed by E.

Thus, factor b is likely the cause of E.

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Category: Sample Questions