# Counter Argument by Analogy

A very important and powerful form of counter argument is the counter argument by analogy. This kind of counter argument says that the other argument is bad because it is like some third argument that is obviously bad. (The fact that this technique juggles three different arguments makes this a tricky category at first.) In this technique, you show that a bad argument is bad by showing that it has the same logical form as an argument that everyone can see is fallacious. That's why it's called counter-argument by analogy. You show a logical flaw in someone else's argument by presenting a different argument with exactly the same logical form and which is clearly a bad argument. (I'm going to call this the "hypothetical bad argument" because no-one's seriously offering it as an argument, and because it's supposed to be a bad argument.)

The ability to constrauct and evaluate counter arguments by analogy crucially depends on the ability to tell whether or not two arguments have the same logical form. So the first thing we will talk about here is .....

Logical Form

"Logical form" is easier to demonstrate than to explain. The explanation is that the logical form of an argument is just the particular set of logical relationships that exists between the premises of that particular argument. That relationship can exist between other sets of premises, so two arguments can have the same logical form even if they have absolutely nothing else in common.
Here is a group of arguments all of which have the same logical form. Let's call them group one.

All dogs are canines        All shoats are porkers     Elvis is robot                         All Mocklins are aliens      Alice is a Tove
Spot is a dog.
Babe is a shoat                All robots are machines      Joe is a Mocklin                 All Toves are slithy
Spot is a canine.              Babe is a porker              Elvis is a machine                Joe is an alien                    Alice is slithy

If you can see what all these arguments have in common, then you are seeing their logical form. As you can see, logical form has nothing to do with the content of the premises. It has nothing to do with the topic of the argument. And it has nothing to do with the order in which the premises are presented. It is just about the relationship between the premises and conclusion of that particular argument. And, since all four have the same logical form, that means that if one is valid, they are all valid, and vice versa. If two arguments have the same logical form, you can never have a case where one is valid and the other isn't. (Remember, "valid" is not the same as "good." Not all logically compelling arguments are valid, and not all valid arguments are good.)

For contrast, here's a group of arguments, called group two, each of which has a different logical form from all the others.

All dogs are canines        All dogs are canines         All dogs are canines       All dogs are canines
Spot is a dog.                   Spot is not a dog.              Spot is a canine.             Spot is not a canine.
Spot is a canine.              Spot is not a canine.         Spot is a dog.                  Spot is not a dog.

At first glance, these four arguments seem much more closely related than the first group. But their logical forms are all different from each other, so that, logically speaking, the validity of one says nothing about the validity of any of the others. (Before you go on, see if you can tell which argument in group two have the same form as all the arguments in group one. And remember, "valid" is not the same as "good." Not all logically compelling arguments are valid, and not all valid arguments are good.)

Similar, But Not The Same

It often happens that two arguments have logical forms that are similar, but still not exactly the same. When this happens, they don't have the same logical form. The thing to think about is whether or not both arguments use the exact same logical strategy (what I call "candidate principle") to support their conclusions. The easiest way to explain these logical strategies is to compare and contrast pairs of arguments. Lots of pairs of arguments. Consider the following.

1. Dogpatch community college should not require a freshman writing course. For god's sake, Harvard doesn't require a freshman writing course!
2. The war on drugs is like any war. We will not begin to win until we begin to shoot drug dealers on sight.

These two arguments are similar in that they both rely on comparisons. In fact, they are both analogy arguments, and have the general form of "A is like B, B has F, so A has F." But this is pretty much all they have in common. The first one compares two institutions with similar goals and similar methodology, while the second compares two things that have similar names. In my view, these two arguments are not logically similar enough to make their similarities meaningful. Compare the above pair to the following two pairs of arguments.

1. Dogpatch community college should not require a freshman writing course. For god's sake, Harvard doesn't require a freshman writing course!
2. Oxford University does not require attendance at lectures, so Podunk College should not penalize students for failing to attend lectures.

1. The war on drugs is like any war. We will not begin to win until we begin to shoot drug dealers on sight.
2. Our sales marathon is only four months away, so you'd better start training now. I suggest a couple of 5K runs a week for the first month.

Notice that the arguments in each pair are logically much more similar to each other than they are to the arguments in the other pair. In the first pair, both arguments compare famous international universities to unknown local colleges. In the second pair, an activity that is given a name in a metaphorical sense is compared to the actual activity it is named for. The point I want you to notice right now is that the similarity between the members of each pair might be so great that, if one of them is logically flawed, the other one will have exactly the same logical flaw. If this is true, then studying the logic of one argument will tell us a lot about the logic of the other argument. If, however, there is a logically significant difference between the two arguments, then comparing their logical forms will be much less useful.

Here's another pair of arguments to compare and contrast. How are they similar? How are they different?

1. Almost half of Americans are carriers for the Neiman-Marcus gene. I tested every attendee at the O'Shaughnessy family reunion, and 45% of them had the Neiman-Marcus gene. This is a good survey because it included over 100,000 people taken from locations widely distributed over all 50 states.
2. A clear majority of Americans support Lord Voldemort for president. They admire his aggressive, first-strike, foreign policy and his draconian domestic policy of preemptively arresting everyone who might possibly commit a crime at any time in the future. They particularly like his policy of executing everyone who doesn't vote for him. Yes, Voldemort is America's choice!

These two arguments are similar in that they both make general statements. But can you see the crucial difference between them? Notice that the first argument backs up its conclusion with a purportedly representative sample. Does the second argument give a sample? No it doesn't! This is an absolutely crucial difference because generalizations can only be supported by sample data. This means that the first argument might possibly be good, but the second argument can never be logically compelling. To see the difference, examine the following two pairs of arguments.

1. Almost half of Americans are carriers for the Neiman-Marcus gene. I tested every attendee at the O'Shaughnessy family reunion, and 45% of them had the Neiman-Marcus gene. This is a good survey because it included over 100,000 people taken from locations widely distributed over all 50 states.
2. A surprise poll of American wizards revealed over 50% supported Lord Voldemort for president. This means that a clear majority of Americans support Lord Voldemort for president.

1. A clear majority of Americans support Lord Voldemort for president. They admire his aggressive, first-strike, foreign policy and his draconian domestic policy of preemptively arresting everyone who might possibly commit a crime at any time in the future. They particularly like his policy of executing everyone who doesn't vote for him. Yes, Voldemort is America's choice!
2. Almost half of Americans are carriers for the Neiman-Marcus gene. Almost half of our compatriots have this terrible genetic condition which strongly predisposes them to the addictive condition of Shopaholism, which can cause depleted bank accounts, houses full of tacky furniture, and the wearing of hideous clothes.

Notice that each of the first pair of arguments bases a general statement on the properties of a sample, while each of the second pair of arguments merely makes a general claim and then elaborates on it without giving any evidence in support. The second thing I want you to notice at this point is that, while it is easy to see that both arguments in the second pair are bad, it is not so easy to evaluate the arguments in the first pair. The arguments in the second pair both have clearly bad logical form, but the arguments in the first pair seem different enough from each other that it is still possible that one of them has good form and the other doesn't. In general, clearly bad form means clearly bad argument, while arguments in which the logical form is not clearly bad are still not necessarily logically compelling arguments.

Here’s two more arguments. How are they similar and different?

1. The vast majority of Mormons support the devaluation of women. After all, Mormonism is a lot like Christianity, and Christianity has traditionally supported the devaluation of women.
2. It's clear that Mormonism supports the devaluation of women. A survey of Mormons serving in the Armed Forces found that the majority of them did not value women as highly as men.

From a logical point of view, these arguments are not similar at all. They do have exactly the same conclusion, but their logical forms are completely different. One of them is an analogy argument, and the other is a generalization argument. This means that analysis of the logical properties of one of these arguments has absolutely no bearing on the logical properties of the other.

Now compare these two.

1. Since Reverend Jim started his Pray-For-Peace campaign, four more wars have started. We must shut down this Pray-For-Peace campaign before even more countries are dragged into war!
2. Of course welfare causes dependency! It stands to reason that anyone who's been on public assistance will come to prefer sitting around the house to working.

Both of these arguments make causal claims, but the first one backs it up with evidence while the second one offers no evidence whatsoever. This means that the first argument must be placed into the category of arguments that use established correlations to back up causal claims, and the second must be placed in the category of arguments that assert causal claims without backing them up. Here is each argument matched with another argument of much more similar logical form.

1. Since Reverend Jim started his Pray-For-Peace campaign, four more wars have started. We must shut down this Pray-For-Peace campaign before even more countries are dragged into war!
2. Once Flush Limburger went on welfare, he turned into a lazy slob, so it's clear that welfare causes dependency.

1. Of course welfare causes dependency! It stands to reason that anyone who's been on public assistance will come to prefer sitting around the house to working.
2. Of course prayer causes warfare! It stands to reason that any prayer campaign will result in a lot more wars starting.

As before, if two arguments have the same logical form, and one of them is clearly bad because of that form, it follows that the other will also be bad. However, if two arguments have very similar, but not identical logical form, then proving one argument's form bad says nothing about the form of the other.

Now here is a somewhat more complicated comparison. See if you can tell how the following two arguments are logically different.

1. Vuntagians are not tolerant people. Stanford University identified over a hundred people who had converted to Vuntagism within a month after taking a general University survey on tolerance. They readministered the survey to the same population, and found that those people who had converted to Vuntagism were invariably much less tolerant of lefthandedness than they had been before they converted.
2. Vuntagism causes intolerance. Stanford University carried out a survey of 10,000 randomly selected Americans, and found that those Americans who followed Vuntag strongly tended to be very intolerant of lefthandedness.

If you're having trouble figuring out the precise logical difference between these two arguments, I should mention that I played a dirty trick on you. Look at the relationship between the conclusion and premises of each argument. Do you see anything funny? Try ignoring the conclusion of each argument, and just comparing the premises used. Like so.

1. Stanford University identified over a hundred people who had converted to Vuntagism within a month after taking a general University survey on tolerance. They readministered the survey to the same population, and found that those people who had converted to Vuntagism were invariably much less tolerant of lefthandedness than they had been before they converted.
2. Stanford University carried out a survey of 10,000 randomly selected Americans, and found that those Americans who followed Vuntag strongly tended to be much less tolerant than other Americans.

Notice that the first argument relies on a before and after comparison of two surveys, while the second argument only uses one survey. Now notice that the premises of the first argument detail a correlation between converting to Vuntagism and converting to a much less tolerant attitude, while the premises of the second argument contains no before and after data. In fact the premises of the second argument just say that in a sample of Americans, Vuntagians are much less tolerant. This means that the first argument has a logical form that is subtly different from the form of the second argument. (Now can you figure out my dirty trick?)

First Exercise Set. Here are some arguments you can compare. For each argument, find the other argument that is closest to it in terms of logical form. I suggest you download and print the five page file formcompare.rtf, which spaces out the following arguments so you can cut up the pages and have each argument on it's own separate quarter sheet. This will allow you to do two things. First, you can analyze each argument on it's individual sheet. Is it a comparison? A sampling argument? A criticism of another argument? Of an authority? Or is it a known, named fallacy? Secondly, you can lay the arguments out on a table and group them by logical similarity. (If you group them by topic you won't get anywhere.) Start with big crude groups, and then make finer and finer distinctions until eventually you get down to ten pairs of most similar arguments.

Exercises:

1. Divide the arguments into those that seek to establish that something is true (direct arguments) and those that seek to establish that some other argument has failed (counter arguments.)

2. Divide the direct arguments according to how they attempt to support their claims.

3. Divide the counter arguments up according to what kind of direct argument they are attacking.

4. Divide each kind of counter argument up according to how it is trying to attack its target argument.

5. Finally, match up every argument with the one other argument that has the exact same logical strategy.

(Answers are given below.)

Here are the arguments:

A. Drinking bottled water causes mopery. A recent study has shown that people who drink bottled water are four times as likely to mope around as people who don't drink bottled water.

B. The bottled water study did not include an explanation of how bottled water can cause mopery, so the study doesn't prove that drinking bottled water causes mopery.

C. It is common knowledge that herbal tea makes people taller. Ask your friends and neighbors, and every one of them will tell you that drinking herbal tea is an effective way of increasing your height.

D. You should not listen to Professor Mo Zart when he tells you that classical music does not cause white-collar crime. Obviously, the well-documented fact that he has numerous convictions for drunk driving means that we cannot rely on what he is saying.

E. Recognized expert on height extension, Dr. Herb L. S. Ence says that herbal tea makes people taller. But but every prediction that he's ever made about height extension has turned out to be false, so we don't have to believe him this time.

F. Herbal tea doesn't make people taller. Plenty of people in the herbal tea study drank herbal tea for years without getting any taller, so it doesn't prove anything.

G. Famed Sociomusicologist Professor Mo Zart asserts that listening to classical music cannot possibly cause people to become white-collar criminals, so classical music listening does not cause white-collar crime.

H. Professor Mo Zart cannot be trusted on the issue of classical music and white-collar crime because he is just worried that people will stop listening to classical music.

I. Dr. Herb L. S. Ence has had widely publicized series of affairs with mid-level government bureaucrats, so he cannot be trusted on the issue of herbal tea and height extension

J. Dr. Herb L. S. Ence is only an expert on extending the height of skyscrapers and other tall buildings, not people, so he cannot be trusted when he says that herbal tea makes people taller

K. Classical music doesn't make people into white-collar criminals. Plenty of people in the classical music study did not listen to any classical music but still became white-collar criminals.

L. The classical music study totally fails to prove that classical music causes white-collar crime because nowhere in that study do they even begin to explain how listening to classical music goes about causing white-collar crime.

M. Of course bottled water does not cause mopery! Everyone knows that the drinking of bottled water has nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not people mope around.

N. You should not listen to Dr. Herb L. S. Ence when he tells you that herbal tea makes people taller. Obviously, he must have money in the herbal tea industry, and that's why he's saying it.

O. The classical music study also showed that there's plenty of people who listen to classical music without becoming criminals, so the study doesn't prove that classical music causes white-collar crime.

P. The bottled water study also showed that there's plenty of people who mope around without ever touching bottled water, so the study doesn't prove that drinking bottled water causes mopery.

Q. You should not listen to Professor Mo Zart when he tells you that classical music does not cause white-collar crime. Obviously, the well-documented fact that absolutely all of his expertise concerns the relationship between punk rock music and safety pins sales means that we cannot rely on what he is saying here.

R. You can still believe that classical music causes crime. Professor Mo Zart, who says it doesn't, has a long history of being wrong about this kind of thing.

S. A major recent study just compared two demographically identical groups, one of which listened to classical music a lot, and the other didn't listen to classical music at all. The classical music listeners turned out to have a much higher percentage of white-collar criminals than the non listeners, so listening to classical music causes white-collar crime.

T. You must believe that herbal tea makes people taller. Dr. Herb L. S. Ence says it does, and he's a recognized expert on height extension.

Again, you are expected to:.
1. Divide the arguments into direct arguments and counter arguments.
2. Divide the direct arguments according to how they attempt to support their claims.
3. Divide the counter arguments up according to what kind of direct argument they are attacking.
4. Divide the counter arguments up according to how it is trying to attack its target argument.
5. Match up every argument with the one other argument that has the exact same logical strategy.

Counter Argument by Analogy

The basic motivation behind using a counter-argument by analogy is that sometimes it's easier to show than to explain. Sometimes it may be hard to see that a bad argument is bad. And you may not get the explanation, or be able to see that it's an instance of a fallacy. However, if you can see that this argument has the same logical form as another argument, and can see that this other argument is no good, then you're more likely to be able to see that the original argument is no good. Analogical counter-arguments are very powerful, because if you can prove that two different arguments have the same logical form and that one of them has bad logical form, then by the nature of logic, the other argument is bad in exactly the same way.

A good counter-argument by analogy has the following properties.

1. The two arguments being compared really do have exactly the same logical form
2. The "bad" argument really is logically bad.

Here are some examples of what I take to be good counter-arguments by analogy. (In each case it is Rocofale who gives the logically compelling argument. Fallachi's argument is there just to be refuted. )

a. Fallachi. You say that we'll have to buy monitors eventually, so that doing it my way will cost more. That's negative thinking, so of course we will save money.
Rocofale. That's like saying that a suspension bridge made of cotton candy will stay up because saying it won't is "negative thinking."

b. Fallachi. You are extremely well qualified, but I can't promote you because there's a perception that you're not qualified.
Rocofale. So if there was a perception that you had been stealing from the company you'd think that you should be fired, right?

b. Fallachi. The black community should not be upset that we created a marketing campaign and special brand names to appeal to young black people. This wasn't intended to get people to start smoking. It was designed to get people to switch brands, so it's a brand identification issue, not a health issue!
Rocofale. So if somone put deadly poison in your coffee with the intention of getting you to switch brands, that would be a brand identification issue, not a homicide!

c. Fallachi. My company had a permit from the state of New York, and a permit from the U.S. government to put all those tons and tons of toxic chemicals in the Hudson river, so it's completely unfair to call my company a "polluter."
Rocofale. So if I killed you, and had a permit to hunt you down, kill you, and have you stuffed, it would be completely unfair to call me a "killer."

d. Fallachi. I agree that you've given a lot of reasons why the "war on drugs" is immoral, futile, and incredibly harmful to a lot of people, and that not even one pro-drugwar argument has stood up to scrutiny, but drugs still cause some real problems, (which I can't prove to be solved by the drug war) and you  haven't come up with any definite solution to those problems, so we should continue the war on drugs.
Rocofale. That's like saying that because I'm not sure how to fight a fire it's okay for you to go on pouring huge quantities of gasolene on the fire and on surrounding buildings.

If I'm right about these being good counter-arguments by analogy, both the following claims are true for each dialog.

1. The argument offered by Rocofale has exactly the same logical form as Fallachi's.
2. The argument offered by Rocofale has a clearly false conclusion.

You may have the urge to say "but Rocofale's arguments are silly, and so they can't possibly be relevant to Fallachi's arguments!" Well, they are silly, but that doesn't mean they're not relevant. A logical form is not something that can be good in one argument but bad in an other. If it's good, it's good everywhere. If one instance of it is bad, all instances are bad.

You can think of it this way. In each of his arguments, Fallachi is implicitly offering a rule that's supposed to justify his conclusion. Here are the rules he implicitly offers.

1. If a thought is negative thinking, then the opposite thought is true.
2. A perception justifies the same actions that the correponding reality would justify.
3. The intention behind an action wholly determines what kind of action it is.
4. If someone has a permit to do something, then it's unfair to call him the kind of person who does that thing.
5. If a policy doesn't work and causes harm we should go on doing it until someone comes up with a definitive solution to the problems our policy isn't solving.

To refute Fallachi by analogy, all Rocofale has to do is make up an example where following the rule would result in an obviously false conclusion. Silly conclusions are the most obviously false ones, so it makes sense to use arguments with silly conclusions. If the rule is the same, then showing it would result in a silly conclusion shows that it's a silly rule. (The way to break a counter-argument by analogy is to show that the silly argument uses a different rule. If Fallachi could show that Rocofale's argument used a different rule, the two arguments wouldn't be analogous, and Fallachi's argument would not be refuted.)

### Special Pleading

When a counter argument by analogy works, it does so by exposing the fact that an arguer has used a candidate principle that is not actually a logical rule. In effect, he has expected us to take this candidate principle as a logical rule is just this case, even though it would not be accepted in other cases. This is called the fallacy of special pleading, as it is the idea that we should bend the rules by accepting his candidate principle as a rule of logic in this case even though noone would accept it in any other case. Here are some real-world examples.

Equal employment for women is wrong. It's perfectly right and fair to reserve high-paying jobs for men because when you think about giving a job to a woman instead of a less qualified man, you have to remember that a man has a family to support.

Abortion is wrong because when you abort a fetus you put down a burden you had previously taken up.

I'm not against equal treatment for gays, I just don't think they should be able to redefine marriage for the rest of us.

Abortion is wrong because it interrupts a natural process. .

We should not allow same-sex marriage because it does not serve the state interest of producing children .

To see that these are examples of special pleading, try deriving the candidate principle from each argument and then applying that principle in other contexts.

Here's an extended example.

Example A.

Marley. I'm tired of hearing you criticize our glorious leader!
Winston. Have any of my factual claims turned out to be false?
Marley. Well no, but...
Winston. And has our leader produced any evidence to back up his important claims?
Marley. Well, not actual evidence, not for the important claims, but...
Winston. So why shouldn't I criticize him?
Marley. Well, gosh darn it, Winston, you should love your country!
Winston. So you're saying I shouldn't criticize our leader because I should love my country?
Marley. Exactly!
Winston. Isn't that like saying a shareholder shouldn't criticize a manager because he should love his company?

Marley.     1. A citizen should love his or her country.
(2. It is impossible to both love a country and criticize its leader.)
C. Winston should not criticize his country's leader. DIRECT

Winston     1. Saying "I shouldn't criticize our leader because I should love my country"
is like saying "a shareholder shouldn't criticize a manager because he should love his company"
2. Saying "a shareholder shouldn't criticize a manager because he should love his company" is a bad argument.
C. It isn't proved that I shouldn't criticize our leader.            COUNTER

Marley is proposing a moral rule ("you shouldn't criticize your country's leader") so he bears the burden of proof.

Marley. Explanation argument. [It's an explanation argument because it isn't any other kind of argument.]
Facts offered. None, unless you count the fact that Marley is tired of having his beliefs challenged.
Explanation offered. "It is impossible to both love a country and criticize its leader."

Winston. Analogy Counter argument.
Target. "It is impossible to both love country and criticize its leader."
Hypothetical Bad argument. "It is impossible to both love a company and criticize its CEO."

[Notice that I expressed the analogy in terms of the basic logical principle that Marley needs in order to make his argument work. I think doing it this way makes the logical structure of these arguments much more clear.]

Critique.

Based on information given here, there is no moral rule that says there's anything wrong with criticizing the leader of one's country. Marley has the burden of proof here, but he fails to produce any facts that support his conclusion. The only support he offers is to say that Winston should love his country. This is only connected to Marley's conclusion if there is a general moral principle that love of an institution is incompatible with criticism of that institutions leader. Winston exposes the absurdity of this "principle" by pointing out that if it were applied in the business world it would mean that shareholders who loved their companies could never criticize the leaders of those companies. Since shareholders obviously have every right to criticize those whose decisions affect their income, Marley's principle is obviously false. Furthermore, since Marley's principle is obviously something he cannot just assume, he commits the fallacy of begging the question by assuming it.

### Bad Counter Arguments By Analogy

Now, there are basically two ways for counter-argument by analogy to go wrong. First, the "bad" argument may turn out to have a different logical form from the argument it's trying to refute. Second, the "bad" argument may turn out not to be bad after all. What does the evidence really logically imply is going wrong with the following bad argument?

Example B.

Every time I argue against condom distribution in schools, some idiot pipes up with the idea that at least some teenagers are going to go out and have sex anyway, so the best way to protect them is to try to make sure they do it safely. That is the stupidest idea I've ever heard! Would you give teachers bulletproof vests because you think students are going to go out and start shooting? No of course you wouldn't! Nobody would. And yet these idiots are still out there handing out condoms to schoolchildren.

At first glance, this might look like a straight analogy argument.

Premise Thingy:........Handing out bulletproof vests to teachers on the theory that students are inevitably going to shoot
Conclusion Thingy....Handing out condoms to schoolchildren on the theory that students are inevitably going to ... um, you know
Property .................Stupid, stupid, stupid

With the following standardization.

1. Condom distribution is based on the idea that some teenagers will have sex no matter what you do.
2. Condom distribution based on that idea is like bulletproof vest distribution based on the idea that students will inevitably start shooting.
(3. Bulletproof vest distribution based on the idea that students will inevitably start shooting is a very stupid idea.)
C. Condom distribution is a very stupid idea.

But notice that it's saying that somebody else's policy of condom distribution is a bad idea, and it attacks the reasoning behind that policy, which makes it a counter argument, by analogizing it to a hypothetical bad policy, which makes it a counter argument by analogy. So we should standardize (and analyze) it like this.

Pro - 1. (Direct)
1. No matter what adult authorites do, at least some teenagers are going to have sex.
(2. These disobedient teenagers deserve protection from STDs and pregnancy.)
(3. Distribution of condoms would help protect the disobedient teenagers from STDs and pregnancy.)
C. We should distribute condoms to those teenagers who want them.

HBA - 1 ("HBA" stands for Hypothetical Bad Argument.)
1. No matter what adult authorites do, at least some teenagers are going to open fire in school.
(2. Their teachers deserve protection from flying bullets.)
(3. Distribution of bullet-proof vests would help protect those teachers from flying bullets.)
C. We should distribute bullet-proof vests to those teachers who want them.

Hmm, they don't look that similar, do they? Well, maybe if I restandardize both of them, the similarities will be more obvious.

Pro - 1. (Direct) (Restandardized)
1. No matter what adult authorities do, at least some teenagers are going to have sex.
(2. The people placed at risk by this unpreventable behavior deserve protection from its consequences.)
(3. Teenagers are at risk here.)
(4. Distribution of condoms would help protect the people at risk.)
C. We should distribute condoms to those teenagers who want them.

HBA - 1  (Restandardized)
1. No matter what adult authorities do, at least some teenagers are going to open fire in school.
(2. The people placed at risk by this unpreventable behavior deserve protection from its consequences.)
(3. Teachers are at risk here.)
(4. Distribution of bullet-proof vests would help protect the people at risk.)
C. We should distribute bullet-proof vests to those teachers who want them.

Okay, that seems better. Now, here's the main argument against condom distribution.

Con - 1 (Counter to Pro-1)
1. Pro-1 is logically identical to HBA-1
2. HBA-1 is a logically bad argument
C. Pro-1 is a bad argument.

This argument is deductively valid, so if it's premises are true, it's comclusion will be true also. However, are these premises true? In the paragraphs above, I went to considerable trouble to make HBA-1 logically identical to Pro-1, so I think premise 1 is true. But what about premise 2? Look carefully at the logic of HBA-1. Ask yourself the following question. If it really were the case that all of those premises were true, would it really be the case that the conclusion definitively does not follow logically from those premise? This hypothetical "bad" argument has the curious property that the closer it's logic approaches that of the argument it's attacking, the better it looks! A counter argument by analogy can only succeed if it's HBA is clearly a logically bad argument. When the HBA is even the slightest bit reasonable, the counter by analogy fails.

Counter arguments by analogy work because every argument comes with an explicit or implicit candidate principle which needs to turn out to be a real principle of logic to work. Counter arguments by analogy work by taking these candidate principles and plugging in hypothetical facts to generate hypothetical conclusions. When applying a candidate principle to some hypothetical premises produces a hypothetical conclusion that would clearly be absurd even if those premises were absolutely true, then the candidate principle is shown to itself be logically absurd.

Here are some more exercises.

6. Savion. If an argument is bad, I can refute that bad argument by showing that it has the same logical form as an obviously bad argument
Baird. Rubbish! That's like saying you can sink a battleship by sinking a toy boat that happens to be painted the same color!

7 . Gaven. It is pretty clear that there are no real atheists. I have met many Vuntagians who used to profess atheism, and all of them admitted to me that they had really always known in their hearts that there is a Vuntag.
Mick. Oh, so I guess I'm living proof that there are no real Vuntagians, because I once used to profess Vuntagism, but I really knew in my heart that there is no Vuntag.

8 . Todtkopf. People who smoke both marijuana and crack generally start smoking marijuana some months before they start on crack. So marijuana is a threshold drug that leads people to later take on more dangerous substances!
Revanchi. But your only evidence that marijuana is a threshold drug is that people who smoke both generally start smoking marijuana some time before they start on crack. But everyone who smokes crack previously drank milk, so if marijuana has a threshold effect, then so does milk!

9 . Crown. We know that Fnorbert exists because we know that morality exists. We see people acting badly and we see people acting well. This could only be true if Fnorbert existed, because Fnorbert is defined as the only possible source of morality, so Fnorbert exists.
Laphroig. Sure, and we know that there's a secret conspiracy fixing all basketball games because cheese exists. We see cheese sold in supermarkets and in speciality stores and so on. This could only be true if there was a secret conspiracy fixing all basketball games, because this secret conspiracy is defined as the only possible source of cheese, so there is a secret conspiracy fixing all basketball games.

10. Gem. Ideas about morality must be supported by something more than just the facts of physics, biology and anthropology. You cannot tell what people ought to do just from facts about what they are. We think it is bad to make people suffer because we bring to them the idea that suffering is bad. That idea is not found in any  fact about any person. The fact that people can suffer does not imply, by itself, the fact that suffering is wrong, any more than the fact that paper hats can burn can imply any fact about whether it is right or wrong to burn them.
Teagan. This Is-Ought dichotomy states that ideas about what a person ought to do cannot be logically deduced from ideas about what a person is, and thus it erects an insurmountable barrier between a thing and its proper behavior. This is like the doctrine of vitalism, which held that life could not be generated purely from chemical forces, and thus erected an insurmountable barrier between chemistry and life. Vitalism has conclusively been proven false, so we should conclude that the Is-Ought dichotomy is false also.

11. Snortblaster. Iraq was a lot like Afghanistan was before Jimmy Carter's boy Zbigniew Brzezinski started arming Islamic terrorists there. Like Afghanistan before Brzezinski, it had a secular government over a Muslim people, and was far more socially progressive than any Islamic Republic. Also like Afghanistan was, it was an independent nation that is much more closely tied Moscow that it was with the United States. Just as destabilizing Afghanistan led to a horrific and unpredictable series of human disasters (Russian invasion, guerilla war, and eventually the Taliban) in that region, destabilizing Iraq is likely to lead to an unpredictable series of horrific human disasters in that region.
Jolie. That's like saying that Colombia is exactly the same as Cuba because they both speak spanish, or that Argentina is like Austria because they're both Catholic countries! You have to understand that all Muslim countries are different from each other, and so statements made about one Muslim country cannot apply to all other Muslim countries. Once you understand the differences between various Muslim countries you'll realize that the comparison between Iraq and Afganistan gives us no reason to think that destabilizing Iraq will have the consequences you say it will.

12. Donavan. I think we should give an enormous tax break to the rich. Both Forbes Magazine and the Wall Street Journal say it will stimulate the economy, increase employment, raise wages, eliminate the deficit, reduce the federal debt and bring peace in the Middle East.
Clifford. That's ridiculous! Giving a tax break to the rich is like the government seizing a big stash of stolen money, and then giving some of it back to the bank robbers.

13 . Witta. That needle's getting close to "E", so we should stop and put gas in the tank very soon.
Courtney. I can prove absolutely that the windshield washer fluid container is full, and will stay full for a long, long time. So you're wrong as usual.

And consider the following questions

15. If Mutt's argument has the same logical form as a logically compelling argument, does that mean that Mutt's argument is good?
16. If Mutt's argument has the same premises as a bad argument, does that mean that Mutt's argument is bad?
17. If Mutt's argument has the same logical form as an argument that's bad because it has a false premise, does that mean that Mutt's argument is bad?
18. If Mutt's argument has the same logical form as an argument that's bad because of it's logical form, what does that tell us about Mutt's argument?

Exercise Answers (well, some of them.)

First Exercise Set.
1: A, C, G, M, S, and T are all direct arguments,
B, D, F, H, I, J, K, L, N, O, P, Q and R are all counter arguments.

2: A and S both base their conclusions on studies.
C and M both base their conclusions on what large numbers of people think.
G and T both base their conclusions on the opinions of specific people who are supposed to be experts.

3. B, F, K, L, O and P all criticise studies.
D, E, H, I, J, N, Q and R all criticise experts.

4. B and L both point out that the relevant study did not provide an explanation for the causal relationship.
F, K, O and P all point out imperfections in the relevant studies.
E, J, Q and R all refer to the expert's use of his expertise.
D, H, I and N all refer to the expert's personal behavior outside of his use of his expertise.

5.A and S both base their conclusions on studies.
B and L both point out that the relevant study did not provide and explanation for the causal relationship.    C and M both base their conclusions on what large numbers of people think.
D and I both refer to bad things the expert is documented to have done.
E and R both refer to the expert's track record.
F and O point out that the study included cases in which the cause was present without the effect.
G and T both base their conclusions on the opinions of specific people who are supposed to be experts.
H and N both make unsupported claims that the expert has a self-interested motive.
J and Q both refer to the expert's specific area of expertise.
K and P point out that the study included cases in which the effect was present without the cause.

6. Based just on the arguments presented here, it might be true that an argument can be refuted by showing that it has the same logical form as an obviously bad argument. Okay, it's perfectly true that an argument is refuted if it can be shown that it has the same logical form as an obviously bad argument. The trouble is, this fact is not part of anyone's background knowledge until they've been shown how it works, and it's not obviously true to anyone who just has a general knowledge of logic. So it's more or less something that we have to prove, and since Savion hasn't supported his claim with reasons, he hasn't proved it. Baird, on the other hand, is trying to prove that it's impossible by comparing it to sinking a battleship by sinking a toy boat that happens to be painted the same color. That is, he is trying to prove that you cannot prove that an argument is bad by showing it has the same logic is a bad argument by giving a bad argument and implying that his bad argument has the same logical form as proving that argument is bad by showing that it has the same logic is a bad argument. In other words, he's attempting to use a counter argument by analogy to show that you cannot succeed at a counter argument by analogy. [Think about what it would mean if he succeeded. On second thoughts, don't think about it.] Baird's argument fails because showing that an argument is bad means taking something that has not worked and showing that it has not worked whereas sinking a battleship means taking something that is working and making it not work. This crucial difference means that Baird commits false analogy. (The correct analogy would be showing that a battleship design won't work by showing that an exact scale model of the battleship won't work in conditions that are exactly analogous to the conditions that the full-size battleship will be exposed to.)

7. Based on the information in these arguments, it is absolutely not true that there are no real atheists. Gaven defines an un-real atheist as one who professes atheism while all the time secretly believing that there is a Vuntag (or some other goddess). Presumably, a real atheist would be one who professes atheism while at the same time believing atheism. Ordinarily, a burden of proof argument would be deployed to show that something doesn't exist, but there are plenty of people who profess atheism. This means that Gaven cannot mount a burden of proof argument because the existence of someone who professes a doctrine is universally taken as proving the existence of someone who actually holds that doctrine. The only exception to this occurs when we can show that the person professing the doctrine is insincere. Gaven therefore tries to show that none of the people professing atheism actually believe atheism. He tries to do this by means of a generalization based on a sample of professed atheists, well, former professed atheists. His sample consists of present Vuntagists, not present atheists, and these are presumably people who would prefer to believe that they had always believed what they presently believe, so these people have an interest, albeit an emotional interest, in believing that they had always believed in their hearts in Vuntag. Furthermore, given the billions of people on the planet is likely that there are millions and millions of atheists. This means that his sample size is less than one in a million, far too small for such an unstructured population. Finally, Mick exposes the absurdity of Gaven's argument by pointing out, using himself as an example, that if Gaven's rule is a genuine rule of logic, then the existence of Mick, a former Vuntagist who had never really believed in Vuntag, proves that there are no real Vuntagists. Given that Gaven presumably does believe in Vuntag in his heart, it follows that saying there are no real Vuntagists is absurd, and therefore so is Gaven's argument.

8. If this is the only evidence we have, we should conclude that marijuana is not a threshold drug. Apparently, a "threshold" substance is a substance that somehow, by itself, causes its users to go out and become a user of some more dangerous substance. In this case, it is alleged that marijuana is a threshold substance for crack cocaine. If this is true, then a significant number of present crack cocaine users would not presently be crack users if they had not previously been users of marijuana. On this view, if marijuana had been unavailable, these people would not now be crack users. On the other hand, if marijuana is not a threshold drug, then these crackheads would have found their way to crack whether or not marijuana had been available. It's important to note that the only evidence offered here is that those users who do both generally do marijuana before they do crack. This argument will only work if it is a universal rule that doing one thing before you do another thing proves that doing the first thing caused you to do the second thing. If this is a rule, then the fact that those crackheads who also drink milk started drinking milk sometime before they started doing crack proves that milk is a threshold substance for crack. This is nonsense, and so the rule is false, and therefore Todkopf's argument fails.

9. Crown tries to prove that Fnorbert exists and fails miserably. From this we should conclude that Fnorbert doesn't exist, or at the very least there is no reason to think that he does exist. Fnorbert is presumably some kind of deity, and so Crown has a very heavy burden of proof to overcome, as he would for any other supernatural being since such beings radically contradict the well-established facts of science. Now, when you trying to prove that something exists, you've got to start with a definition of that thing. Crown starts with a definition of Fnorbert that includes the claim that Fnorbert is the only possible source of morality. Laphroig counters with a definition of a secret conspiracy that includes the claim that this secret conspiracy is the only possible source of cheese. Crown claims that the existence of morality proves that Fnorbert exists because Fnorbert, as Crown defines him, is the only possible source of morality. Laphroig points out that if this argument works, it follows that the existence of cheese proves the existence of this secret conspiracy because the conspiracy, as Laphroig defines it, is the only possible source of cheese. This is a ludicrous argument, and because Laphroig's facts are true, (cheese exists, we have a definition of a secret conspiracy as the only source of cheese) the argument can only fail if the logical principle that purports to connect the two is false. Since Crown's argument depends on exactly the same logical principle, Crown's argument is equally ludicrous.

10. Crown tries to prove that Fnorbert exists and fails miserably. From this we should conclude that Fnorbert doesn't exist, or at the very least there is no reason to think that he does exist. Fnorbert is presumably some kind of deity, and so Crown has a very heavy burden of proof to overcome, as he would for any other supernatural being since such beings radically contradict the well-established facts of science. Now, when you trying to prove that something exists, you've got to start with a definition of that thing. Crown starts with a definition of Fnorbert that includes the claim that Fnorbert is the only possible source of morality. Laphroig counters with a definition of a secret conspiracy that includes the claim that this secret conspiracy is the only possible source of cheese. Crown claims that the existence of morality proves that Fnorbert exists because Fnorbert, as Crown defines him, is the only possible source of morality. Laphroig points out that if this argument works, it follows that the existence of cheese proves the existence of this secret conspiracy because the conspiracy, as Laphroig defines it, is the only possible source of cheese. This is a ludicrous argument, and because Laphroig's facts are true, (cheese exists, we have a definition of a secret conspiracy as the only source of cheese) the argument can only fail if the logical principle that purports to connect the two is false. Since Crown's argument depends on exactly the same logical principle, Crown's argument is equally ludicrous.

11. Based on the information presented above, it's possible that destabilizing Iraq will lead to horrific human disasters, but it's not necessarily likely. Jolie's argument is much worse than Snortblaster's, but that doesn't mean that Snortblaster's argument is good enough. Jolie says that Snortblaster's argument is like saying that two countries will behave very much the same way in the same circumstances just so long as they are similar in some small way. Jolie points out that Muslim countries are all different from each other, but ignores the fact that Snortblaster goes deeper into the similarities between the two countries than just saying that they're Muslim, so Jolie's argument commits the Straw Man fallacy. However, while Snortblaster discusses some deeper similarities between the two countries, he doesn't really talk about anything that would be likely to cause horrible human disasters. Whatever it was that made Afghanistan go all to hell after Carter and Brzezinski started in on it doesn't seem to be mentioned in Snortblaster's argument, so we don't know whether it's present in Iraq or not. This means that Snortblaster's argument doesn't work.

12. Since Donavan bears the burden of proof, we would assume that his conclusion is wrong if just it turned out that neither argument here was any good. The playing field is tilted against someone who bears the burden of proof since he only wins if his argument is good and the other argument is bad. If both arguments are equally good, or equally bad, the arguer with the burden of proof loses. As an authority argument, Donavan's argument relies on his sources being competent and independent experts. Unfortunately, while they are successful publications, neither the Wall Street Journal nor Forbes Magazine are scientific journals, so they don't count as experts in economics. Furthermore they are owned by rich people, controlled by rich people, and depend on the patronage of rich people for their existence. That is a powerful incentive to say whatever they think will please rich people, so they cannot be assumed to be independent. Clifford's argument relies on the analogy between rich people and robbers. The strength or weakness of this analogy depends on how these rich people got their money. If the vast majority of rich people got their money under conditions of fair competition, then the analogy does not work. However, if the vast majority of rich people got their money from sweetheart deals, favors from government, monopolistic practices, price-fixing, deceptive advertising, corporate welfare and so on, then this analogy works very well. While there is considerable evidence that a large proportion of our rich people got rich through dishonest means, this conclusion is extremely controversial, so the analogy is likewise controversial. Clifford cannot just assume that rich people are like robbers, so his argument is weak also. Given that Donavan bears the burden of proof, the fact that both arguments fail means that the most reasonable conclusion is that the tax break is not a good idea.

13. The gas gauge reads nearly empty.
(Nearly empty gas tanks should be filled before driving much further.)
Witta and Xena should stop and put gas in the tank very soon. (deductive - direct argument.) versus:

The windshield washer fluid container is full
The windshield washer fluid container will stay full for a long, long time.
Witta's wrong about the gas tank. (deductive - opposing argument - red herring fallacy.) or:

Witta says the windshield washer fluid container is nearly empty.
The windshield washer fluid container is full
The windshield washer fluid container will stay full for a long, long time.
Witta's wrong about the gas tank.  (deductive - opposing argument - straw man fallacy.)

Okay, this is a really, really easy example. But all straw man arguments follow the same basic strategy: Missrepresent the other side, defeat the mistrpresentation and then pretend that the other side is defeated. Watch out for this one!

15. If Mutt's argument has the same logical form as a logically compelling argument, that does not mean that Mutt's argument is good, because Mutt's argument could have one or more false premises.

16. If Mutt's argument has the same premises as a bad argument, that does not that Mutt's argument is bad, because Mutt's argument could have a conclusion that follows logically from those premises.

17. If Mutt's argument has the same logical form as an argument that's bad because it has a false premise, that does not mean that Mutt's argument is bad, because Mutt's argument could have all true premises.

18. If Mutt's argument has the same logical form as an argument that's bad because of it's logical form, it tells us that Mutt's argument cannot possibly be a good argument, because no argument with a bad form can possibly be a good argument.

Copyright © 2011 by Martin C. Young

This Site is Proudly Hosted By.