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Is it fair/ethical to employ logical fallacies in your debate?
in Philosophy

By WordsMatterWordsMatter 445 Pts
First off this is two separate questions. 1. Is it fair to employ logical fallacies? 2. Is it ethical to employ logical fallacies?
In a course that I previously took centered entirely around debating, one of the works we read said that if you feel a logical fallacy will help you win in your current debate, and you are ok with the risk of it being called out, then you should use it. So to make this a little simpler, lets say that you have an opponent in a debate who you know doesn't understand what a false equivalency is or that it is a logical fallacy and would without a doubt consider it as logical, is it fair/ethical to use that fallacy to win your debate? I can assume some might say no to this because it could make you appear weaker in future arguments, but lets say this was contained within this single argument that can't be brought up at a later time.



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  • MayCaesarMayCaesar 1451 Pts
    The matters of fairness and ethicality really depend on the system of values used to assess these entities. Without going deep into this, I will explore a related question that can shed some light on these questions as well.

    The practical question is: "Should one employ a logical fallacy if it helps them win the current argument?" The additional assumption is that employing the logical fallacy in this particular argument will not affect the outcome or even the process of any consequent argument.

    I think the answer really depends on what one tries to accomplish by participating in the argument. There could be a few possibilities with different answers.
    • If the purpose is to "win" the argument in the eyes of the public, then the answer is definitive yes. A well put logical fallacy that is not detected as such by the public can completely destroy the opponent's credence, even if the opponent's argument is much more reasonable and logical. (This also includes the common case of arguments between lawyers in court. A very experienced lawyer can often win the case for their client despite all the evidence pointing at their guilt, by winning over the crowd and the judges through raw emotions their fallacious arguments incite.)
    • If the purpose is to "win" the argument in the eyes of the opponent, then it is more complicated. The logical fallacy can help one win the argument at the moment, having their opponent believe they were right - but the opponent may analyze the argument later and find that it was fallacious, reverting back to their position. I would not do it, as the potential to even further antagonize the person long-term is hardly worth the short moment of victory.
    • If the purpose is to "win" the argument in one's own eyes, then employing a logical fallacy obviously cannot achieve that purpose - the caveat here is that people in such cases have a hard time detecting the fallacy in the argument, since they desperately want to make themselves feel better by believing that they are right and the opponent is wrong, and emotions start winning over raw logic, as the person tries to think of every trick that can provide them with emotional satisfaction.
    • If the purpose is to exchange views and ideas and hopefully reach a consensus, then the answer is solid no. In this case, the logical consistency of the argument is the only assurance leading to a productive discussion and to the meaningful consensus. A logical fallacy would be counter-productive.
    I tend to participate in arguments with the purposes stated as in the last case. When I catch myself trying to "win" the argument, I either retract from the argument, or correct myself openly. I see no purpose in winning an occasional argument, unless winning it would result in some form of economical or social benefits (and in that case I tend to try the first approach). If the argument does not lead to me thinking of something new and trying to put it against what I already know, then this argument has little value - and same goes for my opponent, hopefully.
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