Can A Fallacy Ever Be Logical?

One of my former students was wonder on his blog if there is a formal name for a logical fallacy involving tone.  I thought it was a good question, so I did a little googling.  I like the list on the Nizcor Project.   Some of the common fallacies on the list have colorful names: the Red Herring, the Straw Man, Poisoning the Well, Ridicule, and the Gambler’s Fallacy.  Of course, using Latin always makes you sound more logical: I like the Tu Quoque (you too!) fallacy–it’s been used against many times.

If we really banned all of the fallacies from our discourse, there would be very little politics, advertising, or religious controversy.  In fact, maybe fallacies are essential to the national economy.

My wife Sonja took Frau Bridges logic class back in the 1970s, and she was the only student ever to ace the final exam.  Sonja really enjoyed symbolic logic–If P then Q, and so forth.  I gave up trying to win arguments with her a long time ago.

Frau Bridges was my German teacher a few years after Sonja was introduced to philosophy and logic by her.  Frau Bridges was a Holocaust survivor.  I only had one semester of German with her–one of my biggest academic regrets is that I didn’t continue for a least two years.  She was one of the best teachers I have ever had.

Here are two remarks I remember from her class.

In a European University the professor reads a lecture and never looks up from his notes.  In America you have to be an entertainer.

Here is how you pronounce the German -ch.  It is a beautiful spring day and you see a little girl in her pretty new dress.  She has fallen down and skinned her knee and ruined her dress.  Vat can you say but “Ach!”

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