The editor of a magazine has pointed out several errors of spelling and grammar committed on a recent TV program. But...

Rinku on November 18, 2013

Flawed parallel reasoning

Could you please explain the reasoning behind this answer?

1 Reply

Melody on November 20, 2013

The fallacy in the argument is an ad hominem fallacy. This is where the merit of the argument is attacked by taking issue with the merit of the arguer. The conclusion is that the editor can hardly be trusted to pass judgment on grammatical and spelling errors, since similar errors have been found in her own magazine. Just because similar errors have been found in her own magazine does not make the fact that there are several spelling and grammatical errors in a recent TV program any less true; so one cannot necessarily conclude that she can hardly be trusted to pass judgment on such matters. The argument attacks the tendencies of the editor as opposed to whether or not she has the ability to pass judgment on such matters.

This reasoning is akin to ignoring warnings about the health hazards associated with smoking cigarettes because the person who has warned you about these dangers happens to smoke cigarettes.

The question stem asks us to find an argument that has this same logical fallacy.

(A) is incorrect because though it is attacking the person rather than the point of the argument, unlike the passage above, the person is not being criticized for the same issue he or she is pointing out. In the passage, the argument states that the editor cannot be trusted to pass judgment on spelling and grammatical errors on the TV program be she also commits spelling and grammatical errors in her own magazine. However, in this answer choice, we are stating that "your newspaper" cannot be trusted with the prerogative to criticize the ethics of our company because you misspelled our president's name, not because you yourself have bad ethics.

(B) is CORRECT because it has flawed reasoning most similar to that in the passage. Similar to the passage, the answer choice states that "your news program" cannot be trusted to judge our hiring practices as unfair since you unfairly discriminate in hiring and promotion decisions. As in the passage, just because you may practice unfair hiring methods, does not mean that you are incorrect in judging our hiring practices as unfair. We have a similar ad hominem flaw.

(C) is incorrect because it is not an ad hominem flaw. "You" are not being attacked. To be correct, this argument would need to state something along the lines of: Your regulatory agency cannot condemn our product as unsafe because you yourself use unsafe products.

(D) is incorrect because it is not a similar type of ad hominem flaw. It is true that the coach's ability to judge the swimming practice is being attacked by pointing out something about his own personal decisions, however, unlike the passage, we are not comparing the same type of thing. In the passage, we say that the editor cannot be trusted to pass judgment on spelling and grammatical errors on the TV program because she also commits spelling and grammatical errors in her own magazine. However, in this answer choice, we are stating that your coach cannot be trusted to judge our swimming practice because he accepted a lucrative promotional deal from a soft drink company. These are two unrelated things.

(E) is incorrect because it is not an ad hominem flaw. This argument assumes that running a feature on the problems afflicting modern high schools will somehow alienate the high school audience.

Hope this was helpful! Let us know if you have any other questions.