Critical Thinking: Chapter 6 More Rhetorical Devices: Psychological and Related Devices



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Critical Thinking: Chapter 6

Psychological and Related Devices

  • A good argument provides a justification for accepting its conclusion.

Psychological and Related Devices

  • Some rhetorical devices can be made to look like arguments containing premises and conclusions. But they don’t really provide legitimate proof of what they supposedly are proving.
  • This is called pseudoreasoning.

The “argument” from outrage

  • A fallacy is a mistake in reasoning.
  • It is a mistake to think that something is wrong simply because it makes us angry.

The “argument” from outrage

  • The “argument” from outrage consists in inflammatory words (or thoughts) followed by a “conclusion” of some sort.
  • It substitutes anger for reason and judgment in considering an issue.

The “argument” from outrage

  • Scapegoating is a breed of “argument” from outrage in which one person, or a group, gets blamed for everything bad.

The “argument” from outrage

  • Example: Dear Editors: When Al Jones wrote in to criticize city workers, he didn’t mention his occupation. Maybe he’s a millionaire without a care in the world, that he has the time to criticize people working for him--if he’s even a taxpayer.

Scare Tactics

  • When the emotion appealed to is fear, rather than anger, this is the fallacy known as a scare tactic. A rhetorical device that uses a threat instead of good reasons to get someone to accept a claim.

Scare Tactics

  • In a special case of scare tactics, the “argument” by force amounts to saying, “Agree with me or I will hurt you.”

Scare Tactics

  • Legitimate warnings are not scare tactics even though they may be scary.
  • “If you don’t check your parachute before jumping, you may die” is an excellent argument!

Scare Tactics

  • Example: You bet I’ll explain why Fantasy Land [an adult bookstore] should be closed down! You go in there, and we’ll send your license plate number to the newspaper. Are you going to like people knowing what kind of stuff you read?

Argument from Pity

  • “Argument” from pity. You need a job and although you are not qualified you try to get it by making the employer feel bad for you. The name of a rhetorical device that plays on your compassion to get you to accept a claim instead of relying on sound reasons.

Argument from Pity

  • Example: Ladies and gentlemen of the jury: My client stands before you accused of three bank robberies. But the prosecution has not told you about three little children in this story, who will have a hard time getting food on their table if their daddy goes to prison.

Apple Polishing Fallacy

  • The apple polishing fallacy is when we allow praise of ourselves to substitute for judgment about the truth of a claim, or when we do this to others.

Apple Polishing Fallacy

  • Officer: Excuse me, sir. Do you know how fast you were going? Driver: I never get over the sight of you mounted policemen. How do you leap down off the horse’s back so fast? And you must have them well trained, not to run away when you dismount.

Wishful Thinking Fallacy

  • Wishful thinking: Happens when we accept or reject a claim simply because it would be pleasant (or unpleasant) if it were true.

Wishful Thinking Fallacy

  • Example: There must be life on other planets. Imagine how lonely we’ll find the universe if we discover that we’re the only ones here.

Peer Pressure Fallacy

  • Peer pressure “argument”: Plays on our desire for acceptance and our fear of rejection. It is the name of the rhetorical device that argues for a course of action on the grounds that taking this course will win the approval of others and especially of one’s friends.

Peer Pressure Fallacy

  • Example: Are you telling me that you’re twenty-one years old and still a virgin? I’d keep quiet about that if I were you--you’d be the laughing stock of the dorm if that were widely known.

Group Think Fallacy

  • Group think fallacy occurs when someone lets identification with a group take the place of reason and deliberation when arriving at a position on an issue.

Group Think Fallacy

  • Example: “My country right or wrong.”
  • Example: Pynchon is where it’s at. All the Alpha Kappas read him.

Fallacies based on emotions

  • Remember: When “arguments” evoke emotions that make us want to accept the conclusion without support, look for fallacies and rhetoric.

Rationalizing

  • Rationalizing is when we use a false pretext to satisfy our own desires or interests.
  • Rationalizing involves a confusion in thinking. It involves an element of self-deception about our true motivation.

Rationalizing

  • Example: She’ll be glad I spent the night out drinking. I’m giving her some personal space.

Argument From Popularity

  • “Argument” from popularity is when we accept the conclusion of an argument because a lot of other people have accepted the same conclusion. The name of a rhetorical device that encourages the acceptance of a claim on the grounds that it is already accepted by some substantial number of others.

Argument From Popularity

  • Example: There must be an afterlife. Wherever you find human beings you find their minds naturally returning to this thought.
  • Example: Obviously it was right for the United States to attack Iraq in 1991. Polls at the time showed that over 90 percent of Americans thought the war was justified.

Argument From Popularity

  • Example: My opponent would like to see TV networks label their programming, on the grounds that violent shows make children who watch them violent. But everyone knows a couple of shows can’t change your personality.

Common Practice Fallacy

  • The name of a rhetorical device that tries to justify an action on the grounds that it is normal behavior, accepted by all or most people.
  • Example: Why do you take a bus to work when most people drive?

Relativism

  • Review of Chapter 1: “Truth is relative.” Opinions are relative, but not factual claims. Remember: factual claims can be tested or verified.

Subjectivist Fallacy

  • The name of a rhetorical device that is based on the view called relativism, that what is true for one is not true for another.

Subjectivist Fallacy

  • Example: Professor: I gave you a D on your essay because your grammar was faulty and your organization was difficult to follow. Student: That’s just your opinion!

Subjectivist Fallacy

  • Example: Biker: I refuse to buy a Japanese motorcycle. I don’t believe in doing business with Communist countries. Reporter: But Japan isn’t communist. Biker: Well to me they are.

Two wrongs make a right

  • Two wrongs make a right is a fallacy because wrongful behavior on someone else’s part doesn’t convert wrongful behavior on your part into rightful behavior.

Two wrongs make a right

  • Example: Well! Finally after all these years, the telephone company makes an error on my bill in my favor! And I’m surely not going to point it out to them. They’ve been gouging me since the telephones first came into existence.

Red Herring

  • A red herring fallacy is caused when a person brings a topic into a conversation that distracts from the original point, especially if the new topic is introduced in order to distract.

Red Herring

  • Example: It’s clear enough to me that Senator John McCain would have made a great president. Look, it isn’t often that we get a chance to elect a guy who’s a war hero, a prisoner of war in an enemy prison camp, and we ought to have done it when we had the chance.

Smokescreen

  • Basically the same as a red herring. A smokescreen is when you pile up so many issues the original issue gets lost. The name of a rhetorical device that tries to side-track someone by bringing up a related but irrelevant topic.

Smokescreen

          • “To the people who brought you ‘The Great American Smokeout,’ we make The Great American Challenge. We challenge the American Cancer Society to clean up the air in its ‘smoke free’ offices. We are willing to bet there isn’t much cigarette smoking at American Cancer Society offices. But, according to a recent study from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), cigarette smoke also wasn’t the problem in 98 percent of 203 buildings reported to have indoor air problems. . . . Indoor air inspections resulting from worker complaints typically find viruses, fungal spores, bacteria, gases, closed fresh air ducts, and ventilation systems in need of maintenance.”
      • —Full-page ad in USA Today, sponsored by the Tobacco Institute

Smokescreen

          • A real, literal smokescreen! The Tobacco Institute is playing off reports of dangerous office environments, but the ad is meant to divert attention away from the even greater dangers of cigarette smoking. The ad may also hint that those who feel ill at the office should not blame the smoker; but the “Smokeout” was directed to actual smokers.

Exercises

          • Identify instances of pseudoreasoning in the following passages:
          • “Listen, Higgins. I need your vote in the next department election or I may not get elected chair. Remember, if I do get elected, it will be me who decides what hours your classes meet next year.”

Exercises

          • “Listen, Higgins. I need your vote in the next department election or I may not get elected chair. Remember, if I do get elected, it will be me who decides what hours your classes meet next year.”
          • Scare tactics

Exercises

          • When several people in Harvey’s department get new computers, he is annoyed because he is not among them. “I’ll tell you what,” Harvey says to his wife, “if they want to rip me off by not getting a new computer for me, I’ll just rip them off for extra office supplies. They’ve got a lot of stuff at work we could use around here, and they’ll have no way of knowing that it’s gone. Turnabout’s fair play.”

Exercises

          • When several people in Harvey’s department get new computers, he is annoyed because he is not among them. “I’ll tell you what,” Harvey says to his wife, “if they want to rip me off by not getting a new computer for me, I’ll just rip them off for extra office supplies. They’ve got a lot of stuff at work we could use around here, and they’ll have no way of knowing that it’s gone. Turnabout’s fair play.”
          • Two wrongs

Exercises

      • You saw what the former governor of Illinois did: He declared a moratorium on executions in the state. It was a good thing, too, because it turns out that a large number of the inmates on death row had to be turned loose because DNA evidence proved them innocent beyond a shadow of a doubt. It’s about time we got serious about the fact that we’ve been convicting innocent people and sentencing them to death.

Exercises

      • You saw what the former governor of Illinois did: He declared a moratorium on executions in the state. It was a good thing, too, because it turns out that a large number of the inmates on death row had to be turned loose because DNA evidence proved them innocent beyond a shadow of a doubt. It’s about time we got serious about the fact that we’ve been convicting innocent people and sentencing them to death.
      • No fallacy. I think it’s about time too.

Exercises

      • No, I do NOT believe that a murderer has a right to live, and here’s why. The criminal justice system in this country has gotten completely out of control, what with rapists, murderers, you name it—all getting off scot-free. It’s got to change!

Exercises

      • No, I do NOT believe that a murderer has a right to live, and here’s why. The criminal justice system in this country has gotten completely out of control, what with rapists, murderers, you name it—all getting off scot-free. It’s got to change!
      • Red herring

Exercises

      • Those four officers who killed the innocent man in New York by mistake should be found not guilty of any crime. None of them had ever been in any kind of trouble before, and, tragically, this kind of thing is just going to happen when we have aggressive police work.

Exercises

      • Those four officers who killed the innocent man in New York by mistake should be found not guilty of any crime. None of them had ever been in any kind of trouble before, and, tragically, this kind of thing is just going to happen when we have aggressive police work.
      • Red herring; in fact, two red herrings

Exercises

      • Gays in the military? No way. Clinton promoted the idea just to get the homosexual vote.

Exercises

      • Gays in the military? No way. Clinton promoted the idea just to get the homosexual vote.
      • Red herring

Exercises

          • Gays in the military? Yes. There are no valid grounds for opposing the measure, as can be seen in the fact that policies of nondiscrimination to gays are common practice throughout Western democracies.

Exercises

          • Gays in the military? Yes. There are no valid grounds for opposing the measure, as can be seen in the fact that policies of nondiscrimination to gays are common practice throughout Western democracies.
          • Common practice

Exercises

          • From a prosecutor’s closing statement at a trial: “In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, there can be absolutely no doubt that this defendant committed these terrible murders. Look at the mother of the victim, sitting over there, and the father—their lives are forever destroyed by this evil deed. Never again will they know the peace and happiness that was their due. Put yourselves in their shoes, and you will know whether or not this man is guilty.”

Exercises

          • From a prosecutor’s closing statement at a trial: “In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, there can be absolutely no doubt that this defendant committed these terrible murders. Look at the mother of the victim, sitting over there, and the father—their lives are forever destroyed by this evil deed. Never again will they know the peace and happiness that was their due. Put yourselves in their shoes, and you will know whether or not this man is guilty.”
  • Red herring

Exercises

      • Is the president guilty of sexual harassment, as the Republicans are yelping? Hey, give me a break! What’s important is jobs, health care, welfare reform.

Exercises

      • Is the president guilty of sexual harassment, as the Republicans are yelping? Hey, give me a break! What’s important is jobs, health care, welfare reform.
  • Red herring

Exercises

      • No, I don’t believe that Uncle Bob is really gone forever. He was like a father to me, and I believe that someday, somehow or other, we’ll see one another again; I don’t think I could go on if I didn’t believe that.

Exercises

      • No, I don’t believe that Uncle Bob is really gone forever. He was like a father to me, and I believe that someday, somehow or other, we’ll see one another again; I don’t think I could go on if I didn’t believe that.
  • Wishful thinking

Exercises

        • Listen, friends, it’s our money the board of supervisors wants to spend putting sewers and other improvements out there in that Antelope Creek development. And you know who’s going to profit from it the most? The developers, who don’t even live around here. I tell you, we have sat back and done nothing long enough! It’s high time we told these out-of-town interlopers or antelopers or whatever they are to go mess with somebody else’s town. I won’t stand for it any more!

Exercises

        • Listen, friends, it’s our money the board of supervisors wants to spend putting sewers and other improvements out there in that Antelope Creek development. And you know who’s going to profit from it the most? The developers, who don’t even live around here. I tell you, we have sat back and done nothing long enough! It’s high time we told these out-of-town interlopers or antelopers or whatever they are to go mess with somebody else’s town. I won’t stand for it any more!
          • “Argument” from outrage (There is a relevant appeal here, but the speaker is clearly trying to evoke outrage from his audience as well.)

Exercises

        • I’ll tell you why a hundred dollars is enough child support. You go into court and ask for more, and I’ll have my lawyer file a countersuit that will set you back a bundle in legal fees!

Exercises

        • I’ll tell you why a hundred dollars is enough child support. You go into court and ask for more, and I’ll have my lawyer file a countersuit that will set you back a bundle in legal fees!
          • Scare tactics

Exercises

        • I know it was not very nice to overcharge them like that for the room, but all’s fair in love, war, and business, my dear. Besides, if the situation were reversed and we were desperate for lodging, they would have bled us for all we’re worth.

Exercises

        • I know it was not very nice to overcharge them like that for the room, but all’s fair in love, war, and business, my dear. Besides, if the situation were reversed and we were desperate for lodging, they would have bled us for all we’re worth.
          • Two wrongs make a right

Exercises

      • George, I speak for the rest of the neighbors on our street. Frankly, your front yard is a mess, and we’d appreciate it if you would do something about it. We put the time and money into making our places look nice, but the effort is largely ruined by one awful looking place right here in the middle of the block. We hope you’ll do something about it.

Exercises

      • George, I speak for the rest of the neighbors on our street. Frankly, your front yard is a mess, and we’d appreciate it if you would do something about it. We put the time and money into making our places look nice, but the effort is largely ruined by one awful looking place right here in the middle of the block. We hope you’ll do something about it.
      • This might look like peer pressure or common practice, but I don’t believe it’s a fallacy at all.

Exercises

        • Letter to the editor: “Your food section frequently features recipes with veal, and you say veal is a wholesome, nutritious dish. I disagree. Do you know how veal comes to be on your plate? At birth a newborn calf is separated from its mother, placed in a dark enclosure, and chained by its neck so that it cannot move freely. This limits muscular development so that the animal is tender. It is kept in the dark pen until the day it is cruelly slaughtered.”
          • —Cascade News

Exercises

        • Letter to the editor: “Your food section frequently features recipes with veal, and you say veal is a wholesome, nutritious dish. I disagree. Do you know how veal comes to be on your plate? At birth a newborn calf is separated from its mother, placed in a dark enclosure, and chained by its neck so that it cannot move freely. This limits muscular development so that the animal is tender. It is kept in the dark pen until the day it is cruelly slaughtered.”
          • —Cascade News
          • Argument from pity

Exercises

        • Letter to the editor: “Your food section frequently features recipes with veal, and you say veal is a wholesome, nutritious dish. It may be wholesome and nutritious, but it is produced in a gruesome, inhumane way. At birth a newborn calf is separated from its mother, placed in a dark enclosure, and chained by its neck so that it cannot move freely. This limits muscular development so that the animal is tender. It is kept in the dark pen until the day it is cruelly slaughtered.”
          • —Cascade News

Exercises

        • Letter to the editor: “Your food section frequently features recipes with veal, and you say veal is a wholesome, nutritious dish. It may be wholesome and nutritious, but it is produced in a gruesome, inhumane way. At birth a newborn calf is separated from its mother, placed in a dark enclosure, and chained by its neck so that it cannot move freely. This limits muscular development so that the animal is tender. It is kept in the dark pen until the day it is cruelly slaughtered.”
          • —Cascade News
        • No fallacy. What is the difference?

Exercises

      • Ad for a store that sells pianos: “Pianos are our only business. You’ll get the best deal at the piano experts.”

Exercises

      • Ad for a store that sells pianos: “Pianos are our only business. You’ll get the best deal at the piano experts.”
      • Red herring (That they sell nothing but pianos is irrelevant to how much they sell them for.)

Exercises

      • Frankly, I don’t think you would be satisfied with anything less than our Model 24, which allows for more expansion than any other personal computer in its class. The way you catch on to things—something I can tell just from the questions you’ve asked here in the store—you’re not going to be happy with a machine whose limits you’ll soon reach.

Exercises

      • Frankly, I don’t think you would be satisfied with anything less than our Model 24, which allows for more expansion than any other personal computer in its class. The way you catch on to things—something I can tell just from the questions you’ve asked here in the store—you’re not going to be happy with a machine whose limits you’ll soon reach.
      • Apple polishing

Exercises

      • Sure, driving after you’ve been drinking can get you into trouble with the law, but if you’re careful I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. After all, everyone does it, right?

Exercises

      • Sure, driving after you’ve been drinking can get you into trouble with the law, but if you’re careful I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. After all, everyone does it, right?
      • Common practice

Exercises

      • Getting on Senator Davis’s case about the propriety of some of his financial dealings strikes me as just plain carping. Davis made a considerable economic sacrifice when he left private industry and entered politics; the people of this district are lucky to have him there.

Exercises

      • Getting on Senator Davis’s case about the propriety of some of his financial dealings strikes me as just plain carping. Davis made a considerable economic sacrifice when he left private industry and entered politics; the people of this district are lucky to have him there.
      • Red herring

Exercises

        • From a letter to the editor: “They’re wrong again, the doctors who say that the sun causes cancer. The four substances for all life are water, food, air, and sun. Everybody knows the sun opens the pores of your skin to release poisons; it cannot cause cancer. Cancer is caused by the toxins man puts in the air, not by sunlight.”
      • —Cascade News

Exercises

        • From a letter to the editor: “They’re wrong again, the doctors who say that the sun causes cancer. The four substances for all life are water, food, air, and sun. Everybody knows the sun opens the pores of your skin to release poisons; it cannot cause cancer. Cancer is caused by the toxins man puts in the air, not by sunlight.”
      • —Cascade News
  • Argument from popularity, although I don’t think this view is popular among many

Exercises

          • Listen. As long as you’re going to live here at home and let your mother and me support you, you can rest assured that you’re going to cooperate. And that goes for your opinions as well as for your behavior.

Exercises

          • Listen. As long as you’re going to live here at home and let your mother and me support you, you can rest assured that you’re going to cooperate. And that goes for your opinions as well as for your behavior.
  • Scare tactics

Exercises

          • It’s clear enough to me that Senator John McCain would have made a great president. Look, it isn’t often that we get a chance to elect a guy who’s a war hero, a prisoner of war in an enemy prison camp, and we ought to have done it when we had the chance.

Exercises

          • It’s clear enough to me that Senator John McCain would have made a great president. Look, it isn’t often that we get a chance to elect a guy who’s a war hero, a prisoner of war in an enemy prison camp, and we ought to have done it when we had the chance.
          • Reference to the prisoner-of-war experience remains a red herring until it’s at least indicated how it is relevant to performance as president.

Exercises

          • Look, you can argue about it all day long, but I believe that Carmichael is the best person for the job, and I hope he gets it. That’s my opinion, and it’s as good as any other opinion, so we may as well change the subject. .

Exercises

          • Look, you can argue about it all day long, but I believe that Carmichael is the best person for the job, and I hope he gets it. That’s my opinion, and it’s as good as any other opinion, so we may as well change the subject.
          • A version of the subjectivism. One person may be as good as another, and one may have as much right to an opinion as another, but not all opinions are created equal; those with better reasons are better opinions.

Exercises

          • Toads do too cause warts. People have known that for centuries.

Exercises

          • Toads do too cause warts. People have known that for centuries.
          • A version of appeal to popularity

Exercises

          • “It says here that smoke from wood-burning stoves, no matter how airtight they’re supposed to be, gets into your house and is a health hazard.”
          • “No way. We just spent close to a thousand dollars on this new stove; what you’re reading can’t be true.”

Exercises

          • “It says here that smoke from wood-burning stoves, no matter how airtight they’re supposed to be, gets into your house and is a health hazard.”
          • “No way. We just spent close to a thousand dollars on this new stove; what you’re reading can’t be true.”
          • Wishful thinking

Exercises

          • “Greyhound reminds you that when you travel by car, you take chances, especially if you are traveling alone. Anything can happen: dangerous thunderstorms [sound effect: thunder], engine trouble [sound of car failing to start], blowouts [tire blowing out, car screeching to a stop]. Next time [upbeat music] don’t take chances. It’s time to go Greyhound and leave the driving to us.”
      • —Greyhound advertisement

Exercises

          • “Greyhound reminds you that when you travel by car, you take chances, especially if you are traveling alone. Anything can happen: dangerous thunderstorms [sound effect: thunder], engine trouble [sound of car failing to start], blowouts [tire blowing out, car screeching to a stop]. Next time [upbeat music] don’t take chances. It’s time to go Greyhound and leave the driving to us.”
      • —Greyhound advertisement
          • This may look like scare tactics, but the points made are relevant to the claim that alternatives to the automobile may be safer. Of course it doesn’t follow that Greyhound is the best alternative.

Exercises

  • MARTY: If we keep on the way we are going, we will destroy civilization on this planet.
  • TRACY: That’s so depressing. I think we need to think well of things.

Exercises

  • MARTY: If we keep on the way we are going, we will destroy civilization on this planet.
  • TRACY: That’s so depressing. I think we need to think well of things.
  • Wishful thinking

Exercises

          • he: Well, things didn’t work out quite the way I wanted, but that’s the way life often is.
          • she: That’s not my philosophy. Your dreams will come true if you want them to, but you really have to want them to.

Exercises

          • he: Well, things didn’t work out quite the way I wanted, but that’s the way life often is.
          • she: That’s not my philosophy. Your dreams will come true if you want them to, but you really have to want them to.
          • Wishful thinking

Exercises

          • first speaker: Think about it. A seven-day waiting period to buy a gun would give people a chance to cool off; it would also give police a chance to make background checks. Are seven days that much of an inconvenience?
          • second speaker: I wouldn’t talk that way around here, friend. Lots of people ’round here own guns, and they don’t take kindly to people who want to make them register their guns.

Exercises

          • first speaker: Think about it. A seven-day waiting period to buy a gun would give people a chance to cool off; it would also give police a chance to make background checks. Are seven days that much of an inconvenience?
          • second speaker: I wouldn’t talk that way around here, friend. Lots of people ’round here own guns, and they don’t take kindly to people who want to make them register their guns.
          • Scare tactics


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