False Premise: When Arguments Are Built on Bad Foundations - Effectiviology - Deepstash
A false premise

... is a faulty assumption that becomes the basis of an argument and makes it logically unsound. For example, all birds can fly. Penguins can't fly. Therefore, penguins aren't birds. The premise that all birds can fly is false since some birds can't fly.

A false premise underpins many logical fallacies, making it essential to understand them.

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A logical fallacy is reasoning that contains a flaw.

Many logical fallacies rely on false premises:

  • Appeal to nature - claiming something is good because it is "natural". Some natural things, like cyanide, is very bad for you.
  • False dilemma - a limited number of options are presented as mutually exclusive or as the only options.
  • The appeal to novelty - when something is assumed good because it is new.
  • The argument from incredulity - someone concludes that because they can't believe something is true, then it must be false.

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  • An explicit premise is when a premise is mentioned directly as part of an argument.
  • An implicit premise means that the premise is hinted at and used as part of the argument.

Someone might choose to rely on a particular implicit premise because it is evident to all participants. Or, someone might decide to rely on an implicit false premise while giving a speech because it will be harder for listeners to notice problems with it.

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When you respond to the use of false premises, you should generally call them out as false, explain why they're false, and how them being false invalidates the argument.

  • False premises can be implicit rather than explicit.
  • It can also be helpful to ask the person who relied on the false premise to support it.
  • However, remember that a false premise that makes an argument logically unsound doesn't mean its conclusion is wrong.

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  • Ensure that you're aware of all the premises your argument is based on and that you know that your premises are true.
  • You can engage in self-distancing by treating your arguments as if they're presented by someone else. This can help you rationally consider your views.
  • If you make an argument, the proof is on you to support your premises.
  • Learn about common fallacies associated with false premises. Then you are more sure to avoid them.

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