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We have a problem with fallacy questions. There are a lot of them, they are often duplicates or near duplicates, and they often aren't very good. This question proposes a sample/guide for fallacy questions, and highlights some common problems with fallacy questions.

While I think the advice given there is pretty good, it doesn't help address the sheer volume of such questions. I think the volume is problematic since they often show up on the "Hot Network Questions" and I worry that their prominence gives people the idea that they're the paradigm of a good Phil.SE question and leads to more of them being asked.

Given their ubiquity, I wonder if we should have a community wiki "big list" question for fallacies that we could point people to when appropriate. How I think it should work:

  1. One fallacy per answer.
  2. Title with name of the fallacy at the top of the answer.
  3. Explanation of the fallacy and an example of it.
  4. Explanation of situations (if any) where the fallacy might not be indicative of faulty reasoning, or where good reasoning might appear to fit the definition of the fallacy.

1-3 seem like the obvious components of a good answer to this sort of fallacy question. I think that 4 is often neglected in answers to existing fallacy questions and would be really valuable. (In fact, my original idea was just to have a CW question along the lines of "Which fallacies might not always be indicative of faulty reasoning?". The fact that we don't, at least to my knowledge, have a big list for fallacies more generally prompted me to expand the scope.)

What do I have in mind with 4? Consider something like "appeal to authority". Oftentimes people will be too quick to dismiss arguments as "fallacious appeals to authority". For example, if someone appeals to expert consensus as evidence in favor of some view they might be told that this is a fallacious appeal to authority. But, clearly, expert opinion has evidentiary value. What tends to go wrong in these cases is that the objector hasn't clearly grasped the distinction between deductive fallacies and across-the-board bad reasoning. Expert opinion doesn't establish a view with certainty, as a logical inference from true premises would, but it usually makes the view more credible.

What do others think? Do we need such a question?

  • So what do you suggest should happen when someone asks a fallacy question? Close it and refer them to the wiki question? – Eliran Sep 19 '18 at 20:24
  • @EliranH When appropriate, yes. I think there will still be some fallacy questions that need specific attention, and I’m not sure what the borders should be, but I think a fair number could be answered by the wiki question. Maybe posting a comment and asking them to check the wiki question to see if it answers their question would be a could be a middle ground. Some would have their question answered and could delete or have it closed, others could edit to clarify how their question is different. – Dennis Sep 19 '18 at 20:29
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Yes, such a question would be valuable.

  • I feel this question can do with a bit more discussion than a yes/no vote. Perhaps add your argumentation here and remove the No answer? – Keelan Sep 20 '18 at 5:34
  • @Keelan Sounds like a good idea. Will do so later tonight when I’m home with some free time. – Dennis Sep 20 '18 at 16:06
  • I feel like this could be very good, but I'm looking at it not only in regards to fallacies, but generally a FAQ kind of posts. I argued about such idea in a different meta post, I'll put a link. – Yechiam Weiss Sep 29 '18 at 12:42
  • philosophy.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/3639/…. Presumably this should be "community wiki", but honestly it isn't used in this SE. – Yechiam Weiss Sep 29 '18 at 13:42
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I don't think this would be helpful to the askers of these questions. There exist fallacy lists elsewhere, but they have trouble to understand which is the most applicable in a particular situation. Yet another big list, which quickly becomes difficult to use, won't help these people.

Of course you can close the questions as duplicates, but that will not be very welcoming. The effort on the list is mostly lost.

We could also install a separate close reason targeting specifically these questions. Over on Linguistics, there is a close reason specifically for questions asking for syntax trees of sample sentences. Whether we want a close reason like that needs to be decided on meta first as well.

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No, such a question is unnecessary.

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