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Appeal to Tradition 1: Family of Fallacies

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One fallacious way to argue that something is true or good is to make this inference by appealing to tradition. When the debate over same-sex marriage was at its peak, this sort of poor reasoning was commonly deployed in an effort to defend “traditional” marriage. While that debate is largely settled, the appeal to tradition is still employed to defend what some people see as traditions worth defending, such as “traditional” gender roles and “traditional” religious values. The obvious problem with this approach is that it involves a fallacy—a bad argument in which the premise(s) fail to logically support the conclusion. As to why people would use a fallacy, some reasons include not realizing it is a fallacy, not having any good arguments to use, or knowing that a fallacy can be far more persuasive than a logically good argument. Rather than engage in the endless task of addressing the multitude of specific fallacious appeals to tradition, I will focus on the fallacy itself in the hopes that it will provide people with the tools needed to recognize and defend against such appeals. I will go beyond merely describing the fallacy and will do something of a deep dive. To begin, we should consider two relatives of the appeal to tradition, the appeal to belief and the appeal to common practice. The appeal to belief fallacy occurs when a person infers that a claim is true simply because all or most people believe the claim. It has the following pattern:   Premise 1:  All (or most) people believe that claim X is true. Conclusion: Therefore, X is true.   This line of “reasoning” is fallacious because the fact that many people believe a claim does not, in general, serve as evidence that the claim is true. There are, however, some cases when the fact that many people accept a claim as true is an indication that it is true. Avoiding the fallacy in such cases does require including this as a premise. For example, while you are visiting Maine, you are told by several. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

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