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Being a Smart-Ass

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There are two general schools of thought on how to point out a fallacy to your opponent.  On the one hand, you can tactfully explain why your opponent's reasoning is erroneous (1 smart-ass point), without mentioning the name of the fallacy.  On the other hand, you can tell your opponent that his reasoning is fallacious (1 smart-ass point), tell him the name of the fallacy he committed (another smart-ass point), tell him why it is a fallacy (another smart-ass point), then extend his underwear over his head, and conclude with, “by the way, in Latin that fallacy is known as [insert Latin name here].” (10 smart-ass points)!  Of course, you could take a path somewhere in between, but what you certainly should be prepared for, is your opponents pointing out your fallacies, and if you know about fallacies, you will be ready to defend yourself.

I caution you against correcting fallacies that your opponent might raise.  As you will see in this book, fallacies go by many different names, and there are varying definitions for the fallacies.  Except for a handful of fallacies that have been around since the time of Aristotle, most fallacies are under a continual redefining process that might change the name of the fallacy or the meaning of the fallacy.  The bottom line is to focus on exactly what error in reasoning you are being accused of, and defend your reasoning—not a definition or name.

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