Appeal to Tradition
The appeal to tradition fallacy argues that something should continue because “it’s the way things have been done before.” Someone may use this type of argument when they feel threatened by a potential change. People who oppose marriage rights for gay and lesbian people often argue that the definition of marriage shouldn’t change because of its traditional meaning of a “union between one man and one woman.” Such appeals often overstate the history and prevalence of the “tradition.” Within the United States, many departures from traditional views of marriage have led to changes that we accept as normal today. Within the past one hundred years we have seen law changes that took away men’s rights to beat their wives and make decisions for them. And it wasn’t until 1993 that every state made marital rape a crime, which changed the millennia-old “tradition” that women were obligated to have sex with their husbands.Stephanie Coontz, “Traditional Marriage Has Changed a Lot,” Seattle Post Intelligencer, February 23, 2006, accessed March 6, 2012, http://www.seattlepi.com/default/article/Traditional-marriage-has-changed-a-lot-1196563.php. Many people are resistant to or anxious about change, which is understandable, but this doesn’t form the basis of a good argument.
Review of Fallacies
- Hasty generalization. Inductive reasoning fallacy that occurs when too few examples are cited to warrant a conclusion.
- False analogy. Inductive reasoning fallacy that occurs when situations or circumstances being compared are not similar enough.
- False cause. Causal reasoning fallacy that occurs when a speaker argues with insufficient evidence that one thing caused/causes another.
- False authority. Fallacy that occurs when a person making an argument doesn’t have the knowledge or qualifications to be credible but is perceived as credible because they are respected or admired.
- Bandwagon. Fallacy that relies on arguing for a course of action or belief because it is commonly done or held.
- False dilemma. Fallacy that occurs when a speaker presents an audience only two options and argues they must choose one or the other.
- Ad hominem. Fallacy that occurs when a speaker attacks another person rather than his or her argument.
- Slippery slope. Fallacy that occurs when a person argues that one action will inevitably lead to a series of other actions.
- Red herring. Fallacy that occurs when a speaker poses an argument that is meant to distract from the argument at hand.
- Appeal to tradition. Fallacy that results when a speaker argues that something should continue because “it’s the way things have been done before.”
- We use reasoning to make sense of the world around us and draw conclusions. Three types of reasoning are inductive, deductive, and causal.
- Inductive reasoning refers to arguments that persuade by citing examples that build to a conclusion. Examples should be sufficient, typical, and representative to warrant a strong argument. Reasoning by analogy argues that what is true in one set of circumstances will be true in another, and is an example of inductive reasoning.
- Deductive reasoning refers to arguments that derive specifics from what is already known and includes syllogisms. Premises that lead to the conclusion must be true and relevant for the argument to be valid.
- Causal reasoning refers to arguments that establish a relationship between a cause and an effect and usually involves a correlation rather than a true causal relationship.
- Fallacies refer to flaws within the logic or reasoning of an argument. Ten fallacies of reasoning discussed in this chapter are hasty generalization, false analogy, false cause, false authority, false dilemma, ad hominem, slippery slope, red herring, and appeal to tradition.
- Identify examples of inductive, deductive, and causal reasoning in the sample persuasive speech on education in prisons included in Section 4.3 "Nonverbal Communication Competence".
- People often use fallacies in arguments, usually without knowing it. Being able to identify fallacies is an important critical thinking skill. Find a letter to the editor in a paper or online and see if you can identify any of the ten fallacies discussed in this chapter.
- Of the ten fallacies discussed in the chapter, which do you think is the most unethical and why?