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Capaldi PhD Columbia, Smit PhD Catholic Univ. of Leuven. The Art of Deception (2007). p. 257.

Exercise 1

Identify the fallacy, rhetorical technique, and potential difficulties in play with each of the following statements. We provide at least one answer for each after the exercises. Keep in mind that more than one answer may sometimes be possible.

p. 258

  1. Our country should never become involved in any war, because all wars offer too many opportunities for criminal and immoral behavior on the part of our own troops.

p. 261: Answers to Exercise 1.

  1. Red herring, appeal to pity.
  1. How is the proposition a Red Herring?

  2. I agree that the proposition appeals to pity, but how's appealing to pity a fallacy here?

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    If your country is invaded, what relevance does the risk of corruption have? So it is irrelevant to the entire question of war, and only applies to cases where you are the aggressor. In that sense it is a Red Herring, it changes the question in the course of answering it. Appeals to emotions are always fallacies in logic, though not in the whole of philosophy. They do not address the facts at hand and are always therefore red herrings. What response does such an argument allow? Standing there and dying to avoid incidental cruelty? So what question is being answered? Not the one asked. – jobermark Aug 7 '18 at 20:35
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  1. I think the author believes it is a red herring in the sense that the issue of there being opportunities for immoral behavior on the part of the troops seems like a pretty small issue in relation to the issue of going to war. That is, going to war is a big damn deal, so you'd better have a really, really, good reason to do so; typically having to do with big ideas like freedom of the people. In that light, the fact that one's troops might engage in behavior like smuggling really seems to be so insignificant to the point of being irrelevant.

Well, that's the best I can do ... and I'm not sure I agree: the behavior of the soldiers is a practical consideration as to whether to go to war or not ... and it may be not such an insignificant reason either: if soldiers are known to rape and steal, then I don't see how that's a red herring.

  1. You see appeal to pity? Not sure I see it. Pity on those who are being hurt by the troops' actions maybe? But if so, I would indeed not call that a fallacy; such hurt is certainly relevant to the issue. Of course, not appeals to pity are fallacious: if I say: "please bring me to the hospital. I just broke my leg!", then that's an appeal to pity, but also totally relevant. Same in this case: it may be appeal to pity, but not a fallacious appeal to pity ... no emotional 'trickery' here that I can see ... unless again the author sees this as the speaker leading the listener away from the 'important' reasons for going or not going to war by making them focus on how people might get hurt by the troops (but again: people getting hurt .. isn't that totally relevant?!)

You know; I really get frustrated when people simply provide a label as an answer to whether some fallacy is being committed. The answer should always do what I just did: actually talk and analyze the argument! Slapping on some label should be secondary.

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The exercise wants the reader to consider the following statement: (page 258)

Our country should never become involved in any war, because all wars offer too many opportunities for criminal and immoral behavior on the part of our own troops.

The task is to do the following: (page 257)

Identify the fallacy, rhetorical technique, and potential difficulties in play with each of the following statements. We provide at least one answer for each after the exercises. Keep in mind that more than one answer may sometimes be possible.

The answers provided are: (page 261)

Red herring, appeal to pity.

The OP has the following questions:

  1. How is the proposition a Red Herring?

A red herring is a side issue that is used if the deceiver's argument is weak or it is not being accepted by the audience. The authors provide give three pieces of advice to deceivers who want to use red herrings: (page 173-4)

First, although it is a side issue, it must be related at least indirectly to the issue you are discussing, otherwise the audience will not accept it.

Second, the issue you introduce must have sufficient emotional appeal to catch attention immediately. It should be so strong that you can work it as long as you want.

Third, you must make sure that you present this issue in such a way that you and the audience inevitably end up on the same side, while your opponent ends up on the other side.

The primary issue in the statement is whether the country should go to war. Note how the deceiver neglects this issue, but talks instead about the side issue that there might be opportunities for criminal behavior if one goes to war. The audience most likely does not want to see criminal behavior and so this puts the audience on the side of the deceiver while deflecting their focus from the primary issue of whether they should go to war.

Note also the trap the deceiver sets for the opposition. The deceiver referenced the "immoral behavior on the part of our own troops". This provides "sufficient emotional appeal" to further distract the audience and keep them arguing about whether their troops really are immoral or not. This emotional appeal will allow the deceiver to work the red herring as long as the deceiver wants.

  1. I agree that the proposition appeals to pity, but how's appealing to pity a fallacy here?

The task was not to find something that was a fallacy and a rhetorical technique and a potential difficulty. These are just the kind of things that would be acceptable as answers. The book is not about logical fallacies, but about techniques used in deception, some of which might be labelled as logical fallacies.

The authors also warn the reader that deceivers can use the audience's suspicion of fallacies to deceive the audience: (page 143)

Whether or not he [your opponent] is guilty of them, you can accuse him of certain traditional formal fallacies. Moreover, where possible, you should use the Latin names of these fallacies because this will make the audience believe you are skilled in identifying such fallacies and because the error sounds so much worse, just like a rare disease, when described in Latin.

Deceivers are not being fallacious in their reasoning. They are not making logical mistakes that need to be corrected. They know what they are doing. They are being deceptive, on purpose. The task of the audience is be critical especially when someone is accusing someone else of committing a logical fallacy.

The book is titled The Art of Deception: An Introduction to Critical Thinking. It is not titled The Art of Fallacious Reasoning: How to Identify Logical Fallacies.


Reference

Capaldi, N., Smit, M. (2007). The art of deception: an introduction to critical thinking. Prometheus Books.

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