1

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. We are not establishing quotas; we are against quotas. We are merely setting goals that we think can be achieved by a good-faith effort within the allotted timetables. Naturally, the best way to show your good faith is to achieve the goal.

p. 261: Answers to Exercise 1.

  1. Equivocation, creative thinking.
  1. How is the proposition an "equivocation"? "Goals [...] [that] can be achieved" aren't the same thing as quotas?

  2. How is "creative thinking" a logical fallacy?

  • Creative thinking may be a rhetorical technique or potential difficulty. It need not be a fallacy. The exercise is not only looking for you to identify fallacies, but also to identify rhetorical techniques and other difficulties. It would be good to quote his definition or description of both equivocation and creative thinking. – Frank Hubeny Aug 8 '18 at 13:38
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Nicholas Capaldi and Miles Smit describe "equivocation" and "creative thinking" on pages 86-9 under the discussion of "definition". There are three potential difficulties surrounding definitions.

First, there is "truth by definition". (page 86)

If your terms are defined carefully enough, and if your other factual data are correct, then your case is foolproof.

Second, there is "equivocation". (page 87)

A specific term is said to be equivocal when it has more than one meaning. For example, the term "discrimination" has a positive connotation in cases where it means being selective on the basis of certain standards. A man may be said to have discriminating taste in his choice of clothes. "Discrimination" has a negative connotation in cases where it means to deny something to someone on purely arbitrary grounds.

And third, there is "creative thinking" which they refer to as a "euphemism": (page 88)

They are phrases that incorporate (a) a traditional term having a highly positive connotation and (b) a qualification to cover new cases.

Examples of creative thinking are phrases like "genuine facsimile", "permanent guest artist" and "negative profits".

With these descriptions in mind, let's consider the questions about the proposition. Here is the proposition: (page 258)

We are not establishing quotas; we are against quotas. We are merely setting goals that we think can be achieved by a good-faith effort within the allotted timetables. Naturally, the best way to show your good faith is to achieve the goal.

Here are the questions:

  1. How is the proposition an "equivocation"? "Goals [...] [that] can be achieved" aren't the same thing as quotas?

Much like the word "discrimination" in the description of equivocation, the word "quota" can have both a positive and a negative connotation. There is some equivocation in the use of the word.

  1. How is "creative thinking" a logical fallacy?

As in the examples of creative thinking, joining the idea of "quota" and "goal" may be a way to combine two terms one with a positive connotation and one with a negative connotation.

Creative thinking need not be a logical fallacy in the exercise. The directions ask the reader to do the following:

Identify the fallacy, rhetorical technique, and potential difficulties in play with each of the following statements.

Based on the description of creative thinking in the section on definitions it may be more of a "potential difficulty" involved with defining the terms one is using.


Reference

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

1

For this one, I would say that we would know a good bit more of the context within which this statement occurs in order to really analyze and evaluate it.

  1. Now, I don't know how the book defines 'equivocation', but I typically define the fallacy of equivocation as when one uses the same work in different ways, but acts as if they actually mean the same thing in both cases. But that is clearly not what is going on:in fact, the speaker is trying to make a difference. So, what may be going on here instead (but again, I would argue that we need a good bit more context to really), is that a phantom distinction is being made. That is, the speaker is saying: "No, we don't do quotas (of course not, quotas have a bad rap) ... instead we have [X]" ... but if the [X] is really just the same as quotas, the speaker is trying to make a difference where there isn't one. So that's almost the opposite of the equivocation fallacy ... though rhetorically quite related. Here, by the way, is my favorite phantom distinction, made by former U.S. vice-president Dan Quayle:

"It isn't pollution that's harming the environment. It's the impurities in our air and water that are doing it."

Ha ha! Anyway, note how your passage has a very similar rhetorical style to it?

  1. How does the book define 'creative thinking'? .... never ran into that term before ... can you add that to your post? (and maybe also how the book defines equivocation)

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