If you are (a) someone who spends half their waking life on the Internet, (b) a user of YouTube or (c) a philosophy student or (c) all three, the chances are you've encountered or participated in your fair share of arguments. As someone who generally prefers reading debates on the Internet as opposed to actually taking part (although God knows I've had my share), here are five basic fallacies that one should try to avoid. As some of them do affect me on a personal level, expect cursing.
5. 'x' says it, so it must right.' - appeal to expert fallacy.
Ever had someone justify their point on the basis of '*insert name of famous clever-clogs here* has this view, and because he's a clever person, that means my point of view is right?' Now I'm not saying should not use quotes from experts, but one must not treat them as though they are God. By all means, use their wisdom and quote them, but explain why you agree with them. Experts are your allies, not magic wands that automatically make you right.
4. 'It's not for you to say' - a.k.a 'Courtier's reply.'
When I was younger, my primary school classroom was torn with the pro-fox hunters vs the anti-fox hunters. I have encountered a variety of good arguments for hunting over the years, but I can safely say 'shut up townie it's none of your business' is not one of them. As I am not a person who lives in the countryside, I apparently cannot have an opinion on a countryside issue.
The problem with this technique is that it completely disregards an argument without even considering it on its own merit. I could arguably say that it was not Martin Luther King's place to speak up for civil rights, because he was just some Christian pastor in a town somewhere and not a big, important politician whose responsibility is to decide these things. No-one should have an authoratative opinion on something they know nothing about (a la wolfaboos who go on about 'eeevil wolf hunters'), but if someone takes the time to look at the opposition and research and develop their own point of view, it is hardly fair to disregard them due to their social or intellectual position.
3. 'Show's you're just denying it.' or 'Well, you would say that.'
I fucking hate this one. And you know why? Because when I was younger, rumours used to spread around saying that I liked this boy or whatever and if I tried to set things straight, people would say 'Oh you're just denying it; you love him really.' Well what sort of a fucking chance does that give me? Fuck you. If I ever you use this, I fucking swear I will find you, no matter how far you fucking run.
Speaks for itself.
2. Ad hominem
Ah, the dearly beloved technique of many an angry YouTuber. Can't be bothered to back up your arguments? Just insult your opponent, because the more you belittle them, the more right you are.
Does this even need explaining? This is NOT intelligent debate. It is childish bullying, and does not add to your credibility or the legitimacy of your argument. Never, ever resort to this. Unless your opponent does it first; in that case, BRING IT ON BITCH!!!
And finally, the number one bad argumentative fallacy that you've all been waiting for....
1. Godwin's law
'If Hitler did it, it must be wrong.' As a (terrible) Christian, I often get bombarded with pictures of Nazi bishops or descriptions of Hitler explaining that he was a Catholic, and whatever. And my answer is, so? Mussolini was an atheist - should all atheists stop being who they are so they don't turn into Italian despots? Or, if you're an evolutionist (which I am also), you may encounter creationists who warn of how the Nazis used Darwinian ideas to effect the Holocaust, and therefore EVOLUTION AND ALL WHO SUPPORT IT ARE EVIL!!!!!!
To me, it seems that Hitler and the Nazis have become 'folk devils' in our society - the very embodiment of evil that must be repulsed at all costs. I believe we need to disregard this rather supernatural view, and look at the Nazis in a more human light (which, to my mind, makes their atrocities even more disturbing). Murder and genocide are not wrong because Hitler did them; rather, we must condemn Hitler because he committed these acts which are wrong in and of themselves. So if you do want to discredit Christianity or evolution as being evil or whatever, you must give me actual reasons why, and not just try and throw in an association with the Nazis or anything similar. Otherwise, I will accuse you of being a Nazi due to your not smoking, healthy lifestyle and vegetarianism.
After all, Hitler did those.