Five Days of Fallacies: Day 4, Circular Argument

Five Days of Fallacies: Day 1 here, Day 2 here, Day 3 here, Day 5 here. I am discussing some common mistakes we humans make in reasoning, in the hope that you can 1) Understand what they are 2) Recognize them when others speak 3) Recognize them when you think this way 4) Attempt to correct your thinking on old, current and future ideas.

The Circular Argument, or Begging the Question. “Fascia is a tissue in the body that holds one’s emotions. I know this because the research I did indicates that releasing fascia results in released emotions. Therefore, fascia holds our emotions.”  In my opinion, these fallacies are very hard to understand and uncover in conversation. In circular arguments the conclusion of the statement is stated up front, and any statement after that simply restates the presumed conclusion.

Let me give a simple example: “Everyone is using METs at the hip because they are so popular right now!” Did you catch it? It affirmed itself with itself. I’ll make it clearer: “Everyone is using METs, because everyone is using METs.” or it could be said “METs are popular, because METs are popular.” The statement is meaningless and circular. It starts where it ends.

The No True Scotsman Fallacy is a form of Circular Argument. It allows you to maintain your current position, without entertaining challenges to your position. It works like this (and you’ve seen it before): A clinician states that “poor posture is the cause of pain.” You point out that your cousin Leopold has poor posture and he is not in pain, and that your brother Helmet has scoliosis and is pain free. The clinician replies that your family’s posture problems are not really the type he is talking about, and he concludes that they are perhaps mild and must not be actual poor postures.

If an example does not fit the belief, then the example is flawed, not the belief. The belief, or argument, can continue as is, unimpeded.

So, what to do with these arguments? Whew, I hope you are seeing a trend here by now! (It is all solved with what Kahneman calls System 2 thinking to check System 1 thinking. So… read Thinking Fast and Slow, today.) As my initial statement above says (taken from Kahneman): now you know what it is, look for the use of these arguments in others… and go from there. Pause. Think. Question.

Ponder these arguments. “It is experience bounced off the wall of thought and thrown into the sea of reflection that ultimately returns the reward of expertise.”  

Stay tuned for more Fallacies!…

Matt D

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5 thoughts on “Five Days of Fallacies: Day 4, Circular Argument

  1. Pingback: Five Days of Fallacies: Day 3, Irrelevant Appeals | PTbraintrust

  2. Pingback: Five Days of Fallacies: Day 2, Complex Question | PTbraintrust

  3. Pingback: Five Days of Fallacies: Day 1, Post Hoc | PTbraintrust

  4. Pingback: Five Days of Fallacies: Day 5, Fallacist’s Fallacy | PTbraintrust

  5. Pingback: A Year In Review: II | PTbraintrust

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