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Welcome! This is the place to ask the community of experts and other fallacyophites (I made up that word) if someone has a committed a fallacy or not. This is a great way to settle a dispute! This is also the home of the "Mastering Logical Fallacies" student support.


Dr. Bo's Criteria for Logical Fallacies:

  1. It must be an error in reasoning not a factual error.
  2. It must be commonly applied to an argument either in the form of the argument or in the interpretation of the argument.
  3. It must be deceptive in that it often fools the average adult.

Therefore, we will define a logical fallacy as a concept within argumentation that commonly leads to an error in reasoning due to the deceptive nature of its presentation. Logical fallacies can comprise fallacious arguments that contain one or more non-factual errors in their form or deceptive arguments that often lead to fallacious reasoning in their evaluation.

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Dave Beech

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Tue, Oct 08, 2019 - 07:07 AM

fallacy of intended use

On a Youtube channel https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l3SOBsoY9Mg the presenter offers the 'fallacy of intended use', i.e. if A is intended for purpose B, it is immoral to use it for any other purpose. Is there another name for this?



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Michael Chase Walker
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Michael Chase Walker

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About Michael Chase Walker

Michael Chase Walker is an actor, author, screenwriter, producer, and a former adjunct lecturer for the College of Santa Fe Moving Images Department, and Dreamworks Animation. His first motion picture was the animated classic, The Last Unicorn.
Michael was an in-house television writer for the hit television series: He-Man, She-Ra, Voltron, and V, the Series. In 1985, he was appointed Director of Children's programs for CBS Entertainment where he conceived, shaped and supervised the entire 1985 Saturday Morning line-up: Wildfire, Pee Wee's Playhouse, Galaxy High School, Teen Wolf, and over 10
Print Tue, Oct 08, 2019 - 10:18 AM
The inclusion of a possible moral argument would seem to apply to the genitalia and their alleged purposes. The genitals are biologically designed for elimination and procreation. Some moral systems argue that to use them for anything else e.g. pleasure, stimulation, onanism, sexual ritual, etc. would be immoral. This would certainly be a pseudo-logical fallacy akin to Appeal to Morality, Appeal to Belief, or an Appeal to Religion.

There are many examples in both human, and animal species with no specific moral taboos, or non Western beliefs, who either self-pleasure or engage in orgiastic practices for both moral, anti-moral, and amoral purposes. (Bonobo chimps, Swingers, Tantric yogis, Satanists, mystery schools, etc).

There are even some Christian schools that practice group sexual rituals as a highly "moral" expression of their Christianity.
St. Epiphanius (c 315 -402 AD) wrote about the practices of an early Christian sect known as the Phibionites:

"[T]heir women, they share in common and when anyone arrives who might be alien to their doctrine, the men and women have a sign by which they make themselves known to each other. When they extend their hands, apparently in greeting, they tickle the other's palm in a certain way and so discover whether the new arrival belongs to their cult. When they have so assured themselves, they address themselves immediately to the feast serving up lavish bounty of meats and wines, even though they may be poor. And when they have thus banqueted, filling their veins, so to say, to saturation they proceed to the work of mutual incitement. Husbands separate from their wives, and a man will say to his spouse: "Arise and celebrate the love feast (agape) with thy brother." And the wretches mingle with each other, and although I am verily mortified to tell of the infamies they perpetrate, I shall not hesitate to name what they do not hesitate to do, so that I may rouse in those who hear of the obscenities to which they make bold, a shudder of horror. For after they have consorted together in a passionate, debauch, they do not stop there in the blasphemy of heaven. The woman and the man take the man's ejaculation into their hands, stand up, throw back their heads in self-denial toward heaven- and even with that impurity on their palms pretend to pray: "We bring to Thee this oblation. Which is the Body of Christ." Whereupon, without further ado, they consume it, take housel of their own shame and say, "This is the Body of Christ, the Paschal sacrifice through which our bodies suffer and are forced to confess to the sufferings of Christ." And when the woman is in her period, they do likewise with her menstruation. The uncleanflow of blood, which they garner, they take up in the same way and eat together. And that they say, is Christ's blood... "...Yet, in their intercourse with each other they nevertheless prohibit conception. For the goal of their corruption is not the begetting of children but the mere gratification of lust..."




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Bo Bennett, PhD
Author of Logically Fallacious

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Bo Bennett, PhD

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About Bo Bennett, PhD

Bo's personal motto is "Expose an irrational belief, keep a person rational for a day. Expose irrational thinking, keep a person rational for a lifetime."  Much of his charitable work is in the area of education—not teaching people what to think, but how to think.  His projects include his book, The Concept: A Critical and Honest Look at God and Religion, and Logically Fallacious, the most comprehensive collection of logical fallacies.  Bo's personal blog is called Relationship With Reason, where he writes about several topics related to critical thinking.  His secular (humanistic) philosophy is detailed at PositiveHumanism.com.
Bo is currently the producer and host of The Humanist Hour, the official broadcast of the American Humanist Association, where he can be heard weekly discussing a variety of humanistic issued, mostly related to science, psychology, philosophy, and critical thinking.

Full bio can be found at http://www.bobennett.com
Print Tue, Oct 08, 2019 - 07:20 AM
Hmm, that sounds pretty specific. It is strange to associate morality with how something is used rather than the effect it has on well-being. For example, a kitchen knife was intended to cut food, but to use it to murder a person is immoral. This is immoral because the act of murder is immoral, not because of the unintended use. I never heard of anything similar. To me, this wouldn't pass my first test to qualify as a named fallacy... "It must be an error in reasoning not a factual error." I guess I would need to see some common examples.
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William Harpine, Ph.D.

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William Harpine, Ph.D.


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Print Tue, Oct 08, 2019 - 07:20 AM
I don't know about a name for the fallacy, but a fallacy it is, in my opinion.

A screwdriver is intended for driving screws. If I use a screwdriver to open a paint can, I might damage the screwdriver, but I haven't done anything immoral.

The other days, I used a house key to pry open a key ring. Not the key's intended use, but not immoral.

Suppose gas tax money is used to build a light rail commuter system instead of highways. The highway lobby would consider that to be immoral, but I would not. It sounds fine to me.

The science of statistics was first developed to help gamblers win money. Today, statistics are used to designs airplanes and conduct opinion polls. That's not immoral. In fact, it's a better use of statistics than helping gamblers.

Great question.


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Bo Bennett, PhD
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Tuesday, October 08, 2019 - 10:26:25 AM
@Michael Chase Walker: Ha... I didn't watch the video. This is the old "The penis was designed for procreation and urination" argument? Yikes. First, the penis (or any organ) was not designed, at least not by the way we commonly use that word. Second, in no way can we say that pleasure wasn't also part of the design if it were designed.

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Michael Chase Walker
Tuesday, October 08, 2019 - 10:54:05 AM
True.

Certainly waste elimination and reproduction are fundamental processes of both single cell and multi cell organisms. The argument from design does not necessarily mean intelligent design but could certainly include evolutionary adaptation as a type of natural design. (without being semantic or religious).

I was only stating how some moral systems might and do argue that the "intended use" of sexuality beyond elimination, and procreation, or even for pleasure as being immoral. In this case I believe it would qualify as a pseudo-logical fallacy, or an Appeal to Belief, or an Appeal to Morality.

I agree we cannot exclude pleasure from being a part of the same evolutionary biological adaptation.

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