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I ran across an interesting summary of fallacious reasoning titled The 10 Commandments of Rational Debate [logical fallacies explained] on relativelyinteresting.com. I'm wondering if it might be useful to adopt these as a set of easy-to-reference down/close/delete vote reasons:

  1. Posts should not attack a person’s character, but address substance questions asked. (“Ad hominem”)

  2. Posts should not misrepresent or exaggerate a person’s argument in order to make them easier to attack. (“Straw Man Fallacy”)

  3. Posts should not use small numbers to represent the whole. (“Hasty Generalization”)

  4. Posts should not argue thy position by assuming one of its premises is true. (“Begging the Question”)

  5. Posts should not claim that because something occurred before, but must be the cause. (“Post Hoc/False Cause”).

  6. Posts should not reduce the argument down to only two possibilities when there is a clear middle ground. (“False Dichotomy”)

  7. Posts should not argue that because of our ignorance, the claim must be true or false. (“Ad Ignorantiam”).

  8. Posts should not lay the burn of proof onto him that is questioning the claim. (“Burden of Proof Reversal”).

  9. Posts should not assume that “this” follows “that”, when “it” has no logical connection. (“Non Sequitur”).

  10. Posts should not claim that because a premise is popular, therefore, it must be true. (“Bandwagon Fallacy”).

(I've edited these slightly to remove the "commandments" flavor.)

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Guidelines like these can be useful in helping people developing more rigorous thoughts. Unfortunately, (in my experience) they are more often abused. I also suspect most of these can be implicitly covered by the "Be Nice" policy.

Studying fallacies can be helpful in learning to structure our arguments and helping to evaluate the arguments of others. Certainly, if an answer is based on an unconvincing argument a comment could guide them to an improvement. Being aware of fallacies can be helpful there. Questions, especially those being specifically about evaluating arguments or formally constructing them, can benefit too.

However, I've often seen the accusation of a fallacy used as a weapon. People come here with wildly different social experiences. Accordingly, different things seem reasonable to them. It would be easy for a user to attack a question from a rival perspective by pointing out fallacies in their argument. Even insightful questions and factually-correct answers may include fallacies, so it's not a strong counter-argument just to show that they commit some error of reason. Fallacies need context to be significant.

Finally, I think that the current "Be Nice" policy implicitly covers all of these fallacies. If we treat each others' arguments kindly, then we are in good shape. Many fallacies are used to build posts that are partisan, in bad faith, or mean-spirited. Those have no place here. Fallacies that are posted with good intent can be addressed civilly without the need for this list.

  • The be nice policy isn't anymore. There's now a code of conduct and it's quite a bit more encompassing. – Magisch Dec 12 '18 at 13:50
  • Agreed. The last thing we should want, is to derail into the Rule Lawyering style of Wikipedia. – Sjoerd Jan 1 at 23:41
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    Adding to this, just because an argument contains a fallacy doesn't mean it's actually wrong. This is known as a "Argument from fallacy" or "fallacy fallacy". It's not uncommon to see people trying to shoehorn something in the shape of a fallacy just so they can dismiss the entire argument and/or make the other person look bad. – Martin Tournoij Jan 1 at 23:49
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    @MartinTournoij Dismissing the argument is exactly what they should do with an erroneous argument. It's claiming that the conclusion is false because the argument is flawed that is the fallacy. "My cat is white. Therefore we should have universal healthcare" is a flawed argument and should be dismissed. But we can't conclude anything about the validity of the conclusion (or premises) just from that. – zibadawa timmy Jan 7 at 5:40
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Ideally on this site people won't be making an argument, they'll be citing the arguments of politically influential figures. For Example:

Question: Why do Republicans oppose x?

Answer: Republicans oppose x because they think Democrats want to use x to do horrible thing y. Donald Trump said "Democrats only care about x because they want to use it to do horrible thing y."

If Democrats have openly said that doing y with x is impossible with their bill, then this would be an example of a politician using a straw man fallacy. That being said, if lots of politicians use this straw man argument and lot of people believe it, then this is a good and useful answer. It might be improved by giving the other side of the picture as well, but removing the straw man augment itself because it's a fallacy hurts the answer.

Obviously this isn't an example of how to use these guidelines correctly, but it's very easy for people to jump in and say delete the fallacy based on the guidelines. Politics is full of people using fallacies to mislead people. Saying to remove them from this site could result in good descriptions of fallacious arguments being removed by overzealous community moderation.

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Over at Cracked David Christopher Bell and J. F. Sargent both argue that fallacies are useful in the way that underwear or hygiene products are -- we should use them, but not talk about them, unless hygiene itself is the topic.

The various lists (and tree lists) of informal fallacies are useful specialized tools for testing and comparing arguments, (and by inference their respective advocates), prior to publication, rather than general tools used to settle conflicts. What tends to go wrong is that if advocate of X is naively guilty of some fallacy, an argument can devolve into a well-meaning advocate of not-X becoming their unwanted instructor, which meta-argument can persist for many rounds, and may be interminable, particularly if X doesn't like to be publicly taught or plays dumb the better to exhaust their adversary.

  • OK, interesting enough I'll take a look. Thanks. – Burt_Harris Jan 5 at 2:28

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