Sunday, September 5, 2010

Tony's Fallacy

Tony Blair's training as a barrister has served him well. He is a master of linguistic jujitsu, as evidenced by his performance on the Late Late Show. But his performance is also a master class in argumentative fallacies.

Mike Labossiere has produced a very handy guide to 42 Fallacies over at the Talking Philosophy blog. I scored Tony Blair on several of them, in particular the fallacy of an Appeal to Fear. Here's Mike's explanation:
The Appeal to Fear is a fallacy with the following pattern:

1) Y is presented (a claim that is intended to produce fear).
2) Therefore claim X is true (a claim that is generally, but need not be, related to Y in some manner).

This line of “reasoning” is fallacious because creating fear in people does not constitute evidence for a claim.
It struck me listening to Blair's justification for the invasion of Iraq - namely that Saddam might have had weapons of mass destruction, and he might have used them on his opponents outside of Iraq, therefore we had to invade - is very much an Appeal to Fear. Some of the same now applies to Iran. We also have a similar fallacy in play over Anglo-Irish Bank with such disgraceful claims as that by Brian Cowen TD about a €70 billion price tag if we don't do what the Government says.

If we could create a 'Fallacy Filter' and apply it to all politicians' pronouncements then the world might well be a better place. And the news less alarming. The next task for Mike perhaps?

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