Logical Fallacies: Accent

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth! I’d like to start tonight a look at the topic of logic, and mainly of logical fallacies. These are fallacies that can often take place in debate. Normally, when we do debates, we don’t come out listing premises and conclusions, even if we have these in our minds. Thus, formal logic will be looked at later. For now, we’re going to look at some informal fallacies that anyone can catch.

A caveat needs to be made at the start. Because a fallacy is used, it doesn’t mean the conclusion reached is automatically wrong. It just means that there is not a good idea given to hold to that view. For instance, if I said “I believe in God because most of the world believes in God so it must be true”, that would be the ad populum fallacy. Now it could be the case, as it is, that God exists, but that is not a valid reason in itself. (I would accept it as evidence however though not an airtight conclusion) Consider also if someone said “I don’t believe in God because Hollywood Celebrity X doesn’t believe in God.” Now it could be, which it isn’t, that God doesn’t exist, but that is not a good reason for disbelieving in God’s existence. As Christians, we want not only good conclusions, but also reaching good conclusions by good means.

I plan to go through a list alphabetically of these fallacies. For all interested, if you have an IPhone or IPad, you can get an application called “Cheatsheet” for a relatively low price that contains each of these. The first one will be the fallacy of accent.

This one can be harder to detect in the online world unless someone uses something like bold, italics, or capital letters. In speeches however, it’s simple to detect. The fallacy takes place when one word or phrase is given an accent as if to highlight what is meant and even go against what was meant.

Suppose you were being interviewed in a man-on-the street interview during the extensive health-care debate we had here in America and were asked what you thought of the Obama proposal. I will use italics to identify which word I am accenting in each sentence.

“I support good health-care policies for all!”

“I support good health-care policies for all!”

The first statement could make you seem like a strong believer in the Obama policy as you wish to emphasize your support of the bill. The second one by contrast could be seen as a challenge to the bill in which you are saying that you support good health-care policies, but you do not see this policy as good.

A great place to watch for something like this would be in fact, the evening news. When a word is emphasized, just watch and see why it’s emphasized. Now not all emphases are wrong. There is a place for emphasis. The goal is to emphasize where you can to make your meaning as clear as you need it to be. There are times you might want to be ambiguous, but if you want to be as clear as you can, watch what you emphasize.

We shall continue tomorrow.

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