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that evil is due to “maladjustments,” caused by “a powerful and malignant intelligence” (p. 91), which is, nevertheless, infinitely inferior to the Spirit of Good, and only able to “effect some comparatively trivial disturbance of the faultless and beautiful adjustment of things” (p. 92). It seems to me that the disturbance is not“ comparatively trivial,” or such as could have been brought about by a very greatly inferior power: but I agree with much that is contained in this little work, which is written in an earnest and straightforward fashion, by one who is evidently a deep thinker.
By R. F. GREEN. The meaning of the word fallacy, like that of a great many other words expressing abstract ideas, has been greatly widened since its first appearance in our language. From the Latin root fall—fallere, to deceive, it was originally employed as a term in logic to denote a false syllogism, or a conclusion unwarranted by the premisses. Most text-books of logic:—those of Whately and John Stuart Mill notably-devote a considerable number of their pages to the examination and classification of this kind of error. Three only, however, of the most obvious forms of it need now trouble us. They are:- begging the question-petitio principii, as it is called ; an irrelevant conclusion-ignoratio elenchi ; and the class of arguments —ad hominem—appeals to the passions or predilections of the opponent.
Of these, the first, begging the question, is the easiest mistake to make and it is therefore the most popular. The premiss is either the same as the conclusion or depends upon it, as—as instanced by Whately—if one should attempt to prove the existence of God on the authority of the Bible. The authority of the Bible pre-supposes the existence of God and therefore cannot prove it. The second logical fallacy: proving something else: is by no means uncommon in high places either. Mill says that the works of controversial writers are seldom free from it. “They join issue on the wrong point or do not join issue at all. The attempts, for instance, to disprove the population doctrines of Malthus have been mostly cases of ignoratio elenchi. Malthus has been supposed to be refuted if it could be shown that, in some countries or ages, population has been nearly stationary; as if he had asserted that population always increases in a given ratio, or had not expressly declared that it increases only in so far as it is not restrained by prudence or kept down by poverty and disease. Or perhaps a collection of facts is produced to prove that in some one country the people are better off with a dense population than they are in another country with a thin one, or that the people have become more numerous and better off at the same time. As if the assertion were that a dense population could not possibly be well off, as if it were not part of the very doctrine, and essential to it, that where there is a more abundant capital there may be a greater population without any increase of poverty, or even with a diminution of it.” And in the third place :—the argument ad hominem. There is a tendency to appeal to our opponent's weakness or idiosyncracy, and it is so easy that most of us find it irresistible sometimes. “Our argument is made to refer to our opponent and to him alone, and does not bear directly or absolutely on the real question.” Instances will occur to every one. They are particularly common in politics, when party spirit runs high, and among religious sects the force of this fallacy is so generally recognised that astute impostors affect conversion in order to exploit the confidence and goodwill thus engendered among the faithful. These are examples of purely logical fallacies, cited to show their common denominator and to explain the wider use of the word. A fallacy is essentially an easy mistake to make; a difficult one to expose or refute. The word carries with it, here and always, the idea of deception; something hidden, not at first sight recognisable ; and this clings to it still in the broader meaning it has taken of late years.
A modern fallacy in fact is any truthful-looking error; a careless or natural, not a wilful mistake; a specious lie, deceiving folk generally, unless they take pains to discover its falseness. “In the conduct of life,” says Mill, " in the ordinary business of mankind, wrong inferences, incorrect interpretations of experience, unless after much culture of the thinking faculty, are absolutely inevitable, and with most people after the highest degree of culture they ever attain, such erroneous inferences are as frequent, if not more frequent, than correct inferences, correct interpretations of experience.” And as we shall see, folk generally are not unwillingly deceived, very often they do not like things as they are, they wish them in many ways different, and if an honest-looking lie comes along, such as happens to fit in with their prejudices or predilections, they are only too ready to entertain it hospitably and to set it on its way rejoicing. Even when its character is known, when it has been convicted ever so many times as a rogue and vagabond, it is never without a circle of trusting friends to keep it from starvation; weak minds that can't, and perverse minds that won't, see the obvious discrepancies in its story. In fact, we need only translate this metaphor into sober fact to realise one notorious modern fallacy: that of so-called charity. It is such an easy, comfortable and inexpensive virtue—the sixpence given to the tramp brings at once sensations of virtue, protestations of gratitude, and it may be) a sense of relief at his departure for the nearest tavern, great out of all proportion to the amount expended.
I was in Derbyshire last summer with a friend, whose occupation leads him to remote parts of the county. His duty is to revise the local guide-book each year, so that