Phil 101: Decoding Trump
Rhetoric, or persuasive speech, is formulaic. It requires the use of arguments to prove a point. The cornerstone for building a sound and solid argument actually begins by understanding the weak ones, specifically logical fallacies. These are the tricky arguments that sound right, but in fact, are not sound.
“If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit” is classic Reductio ad absurdum or sometimes called the Slippery Slope Logical Fallacy. The validity of logical fallacies have nothing to do with the subject matter. It’s about the way this argument is structured. This argument is structured so that one small step (“if the glove fits”) must inevitably and mandatorily be followed by another larger consequence or action (“you must acquit”).
In this example it’s easy to see how the Slippery Slope Logical Fallacy is not a sound argument because:
1. If the glove fits…you can still find OJ guilty (because everyone knows he totally did it).
2. A glove fitting or not fitting really only means that those gloves don’t fit for any number of reasons (for example: the leather shrunk as leather does when drenched in the blood of your dead ex wife).
When Deepak Chopra tells you that a disease is because the body is at “dis” “ease” (i.e. “not at ease”) he’s employing the Etymological Fallacy. This argument can’t possibly be true because it only takes into account the word “disease” in English. In Hindi, the word for disease is “rog.” By the same argument, every man named Roger is diseased.
Logical fallacies are especially tricky when spoken with confidence and authority. Lawyers use them to their advantage all the time. We hear them in our daily lives which makes it even more confusing because they sound familiar and because they sound right.
The Republican Candidate relies on logical fallacies heavily. If his campaign-trail talk is starting to sound repetitive, it’s because it is. He keeps the same 10 or 15 logical fallacies in heavy rotation.
He counts on naiveté, on our collective inability to precisely identify what’s false about his campaign promises. He’s using fancy, false arguments to befuddle middle America. And by betting on the unsophistication of the discontent masses, he makes the inexperienced, undereducated, average American his Trump card. And it’s working. Which is why this calculating, power-grubbing, B-cluster personality disordered, racist will win the Oval Office and it will take decades for this country to recover from the destruction he promises to put into effect on his first day.
Don’t believe me? Hitler’s been dead for 71 years and Germany still hasn’t recovered completely.
Since the Republican candidate is making a mockery out of Americans, I’ve decided to make a game out of his rhetoric. Print, cut and play the Logical Fallacy Bingo Card above during the next speech or debate. I guarantee at least one BINGO in less than 10 minutes and a full-board blackout by the end of the program.
If you need a refresher on logical fallacies, you’ll find a cheat sheet below (liberally lifted from Wikipedia). Corrections or better examples are gladly accepted in the comments below.
Straw Man: Giving the impression of refuting an opponent’s argument, while actually refuting an argument that was not advanced by that opponent. Also known as redirection. Ex: “When Obama entered the Paris Climate Accords unilaterally and without the approval of Congress. Now foreign bureaucrats are going to tell us what we can and can’t do with our energy in our country.”
Affirming a Disjunct: One component of a multi-component premise is affirmed as a premise, while the other component is denied as a conclusion. Ex: “Cheaters never win.” “Donald Trump is winning.” Therefore Donald Trump is not a cheater.”
Burden of Proof: The burden of proof lies with someone who is making a claim, and is not upon anyone else to disprove. Ex: “Believe me, I am very, very rich.” Because he refuses to release his tax documents, and travels in private jets, we have little choice but to take him at his word.
Bald Man Fallacy: This fallacy argues that two states or conditions cannot be considered distinct, because between them there exists a continuum of states. Ex: “I’m gonna build a wall so high, they’ll never be able to get over it.”
Argument From Silence: a conclusion that is based on the absence of statements, rather than on presence. Ex: “All of the women on The Apprentice flirted with me — consciously or unconsciously.”
Appeal to the Stone: dismissing a statement as absurd without giving proof of its absurdity. Ex: “And, [Republican rival Marco Rubio] referred to my hands: ‘If they’re small, something else must be small.’ I guarantee you there’s no problem. I guarantee.”
Circular Logic: The reasoner begins with what they are trying to end with. Ex: “I’m going make American great again. American was once a great country. And I’m going to make it great again.”
Anecdotal Fallacy: Employing a personal experience or an isolated example instead of a compelling evidence. Ex: “I saw hundreds of Muslims dancing in the streets. Lots of other people have called my office to tell me they’ve seen them too.”
False Authority: This fallacy is committed when a person asserts that a claim is true because an expert or authority makes the claim and the person does not actually identify the expert. Ex: “An ‘extremely credible source’ has called my office and told me that Barack Obama’s birth certificate is a fraud”
Kettle Logic: Wherein one uses multiple arguments to defend a point, but the arguments are inconsistent with each other. Ex: “We’re going build a wall and it’s going to cost $8B.” “We’re going to build and I know how to build a wall, very cheaply, very effectively and it’s going to costs no more than $12B.”
Red Herring: Attempting to redirect the argument to another issue that to which the person doing the redirection can better respond. Ex: “I’m telling the truth about my financials. Ted Cruz is the liar, everyone knows he’s Lyin’ Ted. And look at Hillary’s email scandal. Two big fat liars.”
Appeal to Fear: When fear, not based on evidence or reason, is being used as the primary motivator to get others to accept an idea, proposition, or conclusion. Ex: “If we don’t shut the borders now, the Mexicans will continue to bring in drugs and take our jobs.”
Appeal to the Stick: An argument where force or the threat of force, is given as a justification. Ex: “I would knock the hell out of ISIS and …take out their families.”
False Analogy: Faulty instance of the argument from analogy. Ex: “I’m self-financed so no one owns me. Hillary takes money from Goldman Sachs, so they own her. She’s the property of Goldman Sach’s now because they bought her.”
Denying the antecedent: Faulty logic structured like this: If P, then Q. Not P. Therefore, not Q. Ex: “Mexico doesn’t send us their best, they send rapists & drug dealers. If we build a wall, we’ll keep Mexicans out. Then we’ll have no more rapist & drug dealers in our country.
Illicit Major: Faulty logic that follows this form: All A are B. No C are A. Therefore, no C are B. Ex: “All rich people are smart. No losers are rich. Therefore no losers are smart.”
Masked Man Fallacy: Requires if one object has a certain property, while another object does not have the same property, the two objects cannot be identical. Ex:“I know all about the KKK. But I’ve don’t know who this David Duke is. So I don’t know anything about being supported by the KKK.”
Ad Hominem: When an argument is rebutted by attacking the character, motive, or other attribute of the person making the argument, or persons associated with the argument, rather than attacking the substance of the argument itself. Ex: “Sick & overrated Megyn Kelly always misrepresents my words on her terrible tv show.”
Appeal to Wealth: any argument that assumes that someone or something is better simply because they are wealthier. Ex: “I’ve gotten very rich from building a lot of great companies. I know how to make deals better than anyone in the world. I’m the best dealmaker and that’s what this country needs.”
Conjunction Fallacy: It is assumed that specific conditions are more probable than a single general one. Ex: “We need to ban all Muslim’s from entering the country. Until the country can figure out what’s going on. We will not let terrorist cross our borders to come in here and kill us.”
Argument to Moderation: Asserts that the truth can be found as a compromise between two opposite positions. Ex: “I’m upset at our terrible deficit. The country needs an influx of money to reduce the deficit. I’ll just print more money.”
Argumentum Ad Nauseum: An argument made repeatedly until nobody cares to discuss it any more. This may sometimes, but not always, be a form of proof by assertion. Ex: “Mexico is going to pay for the wall.”