As martial arts bloggers sometimes we want to make a case for or against something. Or from time to time we run into comments from others that set our teeth on edge. I’m starting this series to help us both in our writing and in our dealings with others.
We in the martial arts world have names for our movements. In Karate, we have oi tsuki, mae geri, etc. These movements are known and labeled so we can recognize them when we see them and communicate about them efficiently. We also know how to counter them when they’re thrown at us. Bad arguments have labels too. The fact that logical fallacies have labels means lots of other people recognize that these tactics do not build a case for one’s side of an argument. We can learn to recognize these tactics, defuse them, and hopefully not use them ourselves.
Untrained people invariably throw haymakers because they haven’t been trained in more effective ways of striking. It’s the same way with arguing. Most of the time if people use logical fallacies it’s because they simply don’t know how to construct an argument. Sometimes, though, people will try these tactics in order to get your goat. Don’t let that happen. Choose your fights wisely.
So let’s get started with a simple, very common tactic called:
When a scent dog gets to a certain level of training, he will be asked to find and follow a trail designed to test his focus. A person will walk off into the woods leaving a scent trail behind and the dog will sniff an old T-shirt and be asked to find that person. At some point while sniffing through the woods, the dog will encounter a distraction – the scent of a yummy rotten fish leading away from the scent of the person he’s supposed to find. If you know dogs, you know how exciting that is! The dog must continue to follow the scent of the person he’s supposed to find no matter how wonderful the stinky fish smells. See if you can spot the equivalent in the argument below.
Daniel: Your Sensei doesn’t teach good ethics. He encourages his students to be bullies and he threatened Mr. Miyagi.
Johnny: You don’t train in a proper dojo, so who are you to talk?
The issue here is not Daniel’s current level of training or where he trains. The real issue is the ethics taught at the Cobra Kai School of Karate D’oh! I’d say this Red Herring has a dash of ad hominem sauce (personal attack). Johnny is dodging the issue.
If you’d like to learn more, you can follow along in the book The Fallacy Detective by Nathaniel Bluedorn and Hans Bluedorn.