# Where's the Red Herring in arguing that “I see it as a glass half full rather than as a glass half empty”?

Capaldi PhD Columbia, Smit PhD Catholic Univ. of Leuven. The Art of Deception (2007). p. 259.

### 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. 259

1. Some have accused my administration of failure. But I see it as a glass half full rather than as a glass half empty.

p. 261: Answers to Exercise 1.

1. Figurative analogy, red herring.
1. How's this Figurative Analogy a Logical Fallacy?

2. Where's the Red Herring? Arguing that failure is gradient (i.e. "glass half full"), and not discrete, isn't a logical fallacy.

• If this is homework or a study-assignment, you would do well to tag your post as such. – MichaelK Aug 8 '18 at 7:07
• @MichaelK It isn't. I'm reading this book for fun. – Edge Aug 14 '18 at 6:01
• Stating that the glass is half full is exactly equal to stating that it is half empty (objectively speaking). So to subjectively suggest that there is a difference in value between the two statements, is the red herring fallacy. It's a distraction, not a real argument. – Bread Nov 15 '18 at 2:37

For a fallacy in the strict sense you need an argument. There is an implicit argument here :

1 Some have accused my administration of failure.

2 My administration has failed in some respects.

3 But my administration has succeeded in some respects.

4 Critics stress the failures.

5 I stress the successes.

6 So matters are equal. The failures don't exceed the successes, and the successes don't exceed the failures. (Hence the half full/ half empty metaphor.)

Use of this metaphor is a 'red herring' in the sense that an administration can be all things considered a failure, an overall failure, despite notching up some successes. Just being able to point out some successes doesn't prove that the administration is not all things to be considered a failure, an overall failure. It does nothing to show that the successes are in some sense equal to the failures and that the failures do not predominate - that the glass is half full. To continue the metaphor, the successes might be just a tiny quantity at the bottom of the glass. 'So matters are equal' is an invalid inference.

1. Making analogies is in and of itself not a fallacy of course. There are plenty of good arguments based on making analogies. In fact, it is an important reasoning technique. It is only when the arguer assumes that there is a good analogy, when in fact there isn't, that a fallacy is committed. Many textbooks will talk about 'False analogy' or 'inappropriate analogy'

Now, is the analogy in your case inappropriate? Hard to say. As with some of your earlier examples, I think we would need a lot more context. Maybe the 'glass' is 90% 'empty' and 10% 'full' ... or maybe it really is 50 and 50 .. we just don't know. So, I don't think we can label this as a false analogy based on what we have.

But again, it is an analogy for sure. In fact, given some of your earlier examples, I have been wondering: is the book only asking about inappropriate emotional and rhetorical techniques (which can be considered fallacies of some kind), or are they merely asking about the emotional and rhetorical techniques, appropriate or not?

1. As far as the red herring goes, again, hard to say. If 'half' of what has happened in the administration was 'empty', one could reasonably say the administration was a failure, especially if previous administrations were able to get a, say, 90% 'full' glass. And if we do so, then pointing out the good things that the administration has done does distract from the important bad things that were being done that made it a failure. So, it certainly could be a red herring, I would say (half is not exactly stellar...)

The exercise has these directions:

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

The following statement is claimed to be an example of "Figurative analogy, red herring":

Some have accused my administration of failure. But I see it as a glass half full rather than as a glass half empty.

Here are the questions:

1. How's this Figurative Analogy a Logical Fallacy?

Although the directions are somewhat ambiguous with the "and", they seem to only ask for fallacies, rhetorical techniques or potential difficulties. The answers do not have to be something that is all three of these to qualify as a correct answer. That is, for a "figurative analogy" to be a correct answer, it does not have to also be a logical fallacy.

1. Where's the Red Herring? Arguing that failure is gradient (i.e. "glass half full"), and not discrete, isn't a logical fallacy.

The red herring is the figurative analogy of the glass being half full. That suggests that the administration had some successes, but it appears that the administration was accused of complete failure. The red herring is to distract the audience by suggesting there were successes rather than focus on the failings.

Capaldi and Smit described two kinds of analogies: literal and figurative. Here is how they compare them on page 107:

A literal analogy is a claim that if two things are alike in one or more respects, then they are alike in some further respect. A figurative analogy is just a dramatic device for emphasizing or explaining one point. A good deal of advertising relies upon the obscurity over this distinction.

They use an example of an inexpensive sports-type American car being call "the Ferrari of American cars". In the statement under consideration the figurative analogy of the half-full glass suggests that the administration was half-way successful when its successes, if any, may have been minor.

Reference

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