The Last Straw Fallacy: Another Causal Fallacy and Its Harmful Effects
We have noticed a pattern of arguments that exhibit a type of irrationality or a particular informal logical fallacy that is not fully captured by any existing fallacy. This fallacy can be explored through three examples where one misattributes a cause by focusing on a smaller portion of a larger set—specifically, the last or least known—and claiming that that cause holds a unique priority over other contributing factors for the occurrence of an event. We propose to call this fallacy the “last straw fallacy” and will argue why these examples actually warrant a new logical name. Finally, we will show how these cases point to a deeper insight about the contexts in which we typically invoke this type of reasoning and some significant harmful consequences of doing so.
KeywordsInformal fallacy Strategic reasoning Tactical reasoning Causal fallacy Intentional foul Last straw
We owe thanks to Robert Talisse for helping us to name this fallacy and to Scott Aiken for helpful discussions regarding this fallacy generally and sports ethics in particular. Application of this case to students seeking grade changes came from Robert Maldonado. Generous thanks are due also to the comments and fruitful objections of anonymous reviewers of an earlier draft of this essay.
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