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Generalisation Weak Analogy
Arguments often use specific cases to support Arguments by analogy rest on a comparison between
general conclusions. two cases. They examine a known case, and extend
For example, we might do a quick survey of their findings there to an unknown case. Thus we
Premiership footballers, note that each of the might reason that because we find it difficult to
examples we've considered is vain and egocentric, forgive a girlfriend or boyfriend who cheated on us (a
and conclude that they all are. (Or we might offer known case), it must be extremely difficult for
one example of an argument that moves from the someone to forgive a spouse who has had an affair
specific to the general as evidence that others do (an unknown case).
the same.) This kind of argument relies on the cases compared
We need to be careful with such arguments being similar. The argument is only as strong as that
comparison. If the two cases are dissimilar in
In order for a set of evidence to support a general important respects, then the argument commits the
conclusion, the evidence must meet certain weak analogy fallacy.
conditions. For example, it must be drawn from a
sufficient number of cases, and the specific cases
must be representative. The more limited or
unrepresentative the evidence sample, the less
convincing the argument will be.
Arguments that base conclusions on insufficient
evidence commit the generalisation fallacy.
Examples Restricting the Options
"Smoking isn't bad for you my grandad smoked We are sometimes faced with a number of possible
thirty a day for his whole life and lived to be 92." views or courses of action. By a process of
elimination, we may be able to eliminate these
"Estate agents are well dodgy. When we moved options onebyone until only one is left. We are then
house... [insert horror story about an estate agent forced to accept the only remaining option.
inventing fake offers to push up the sale price]." Arguments that do this, but fail to consider all of the
possible options, excluding some at the outset,
commit the restricting the options fallacy.
If, in the course of an argument, an arguer "Murder is the worst crime that there is. Life is
contradicts himself or herself, then we need not precious no human being should take it away. That's
accept their conclusion. This is because if an why it's important that we go to any length necessary
argument rests on contradictory claims, then at least
to deter wouldbe killers, including arming the police
one of those claims must be false, and false claims and retaining the death penalty."
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