Advertisement

Argumentation

, Volume 29, Issue 4, pp 457–474 | Cite as

The Last Straw Fallacy: Another Causal Fallacy and Its Harmful Effects

  • Carolyn Cusick
  • Mark Peter
Article

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Informal fallacy Strategic reasoning Tactical reasoning Causal fallacy Intentional foul Last straw 

Notes

Acknowledgments

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.

References

  1. Calabresi, Massimo, and David Von Drehle. 2012. What will Justice Kennedy do? Time 179(24): 28–39.Google Scholar
  2. Cillizza, Chris. 2012. Why Ohio is the most important state in the country. The Fix. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2012/10/11/why-ohio-is-the-most-important-state-in-the-country/. Accessed 28 March 2013.
  3. Copi, Irving M., and Carl Cohen. 1990. Introduction to logic, 8th ed. New York: MacMillan.Google Scholar
  4. Fraleigh, Warren P. 2003. Intentional rules violations—one more time. The Journal of the Philosophy of Sport. doi: 10.1080/00948705.2003.9714642.Google Scholar
  5. Gelman, Andrew, Nate Silver, and Aaron Edlin. 2012. What is the probability your vote will make a difference? Economic Inquiry. doi: 10.1111/j.1465-7295.2010.00272.x.Google Scholar
  6. Govier, T. 1995. A reply to Massey. In Fallacies: Classical and contemporary readings, ed. Hans V. Hansen, and Robert C. Pinto, 172–180. University Park, PA: Penn State UP.Google Scholar
  7. Grice, H.P. 1975. Logic and conversation. In Syntax and semantics 3: speech acts, ed. Peter Cole, and Jerry L. Morgan, 41–58. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  8. Hamblin, Charles L. 1970. Fallacies. London: Methuen.Google Scholar
  9. Hansen, Hans Vilhelm. 2002. The straw thing of fallacy theory: the standard definition of ‘Fallacy’. Argumentation 16: 133–155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Hurley, Patrick. 2011. A concise introduction to logic, 11th ed. Boston: Wadsworth.Google Scholar
  11. Johnson, Ralph H. 1995. The blaze of her splendors: Suggestions about revitalizing fallacy theory. In Fallacies: classical and contemporary readings, ed. Hans V. Hansen, and Robert C. Pinto, 108–119. University Park, PA: Penn State UP.Google Scholar
  12. Kirwan, Pat. 2011. Pass interference, holding penalties on the rise in the NFL. NFL.com. http://www.nfl.com/news/story/09000d5d8242fc95/article/pass-interference-holding-penalties-on-the-rise-in-the-nfl. Accessed 28 March 2013.
  13. Liptak, Adam and Allison Kopicki. 2012. Approval rating for justices hits just 44% in new poll. New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/08/us/politics/44-percent-of-americans-approve-of-supreme-court-in-new-poll.html?pagewanted=all. Accessed 28 March 2012.
  14. Mangu-Ward, Katherine. Your vote doesn’t count: Why (almost) everyone should stay home on election day. Reason.com. http://reason.com/archives/2012/10/03/your-vote-doesnt-count. Accessed 21 November 2013.
  15. Nickel, Lori. (2013). Packers scout NFL officials. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel online. http://www.jsonline.com/sports/packers/packers-scout-nfl-officials-pv887ob-185620301.html. Accessed 28 March 2013.
  16. Pinto, Robert C. 1995. Post hoc ergo propter hoc. In Fallacies: Classical and contemporary readings, ed. Hans V. Hansen, and Robert C. Pinto, 302–311. University Park, PA: Penn State UP.Google Scholar
  17. Rosenberg, Morris. 1954. Some determinants of political apathy. The Public Opinion Quarterly 18(4): 359–360.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Simon, Robert L. 2005. The ethics of strategic fouling: a reply to fraleigh. The Journal of the Philosophy of Sport. doi: 10.1080/00948705.2005.9714672.Google Scholar
  19. Stengel, Richard. 2012. The Swing voter who matters most. Time 179(24): 6.Google Scholar
  20. Stewart, John. 2012. Jon Stewart’s swing state hell: Are Ohio’s 18 electoral votes the only ones that matter? Video. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/02/jon-stewart-swing-state-hell_n_2063994.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000003&ir=Politics. Accessed 28 March 2013.
  21. Tabin, John. 2012. Obamacare in Anthony Kennedy’s hands. Spectator.org. http://spectator.org/blog/2012/03/27/obamacare-in-anthony-kennedys. Accessed 28 March 2013.
  22. Tyler, Tom R., and Gregory Mitchell. 1994. Legitimacy and the empowerment of discretionary legal authority: The United States Supreme Court and abortion rights. Duke Law Journal 43(4): 703–815.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Van Eemeren, Frans H., and R. Grootendorst. 1995. The pragma-dialectical approach to fallacies. In Fallacies: Classical and contemporary readings, ed. Hans V. Hansen, and Robert C. Pinto, 130–144. Penn State UP: University Park PA.Google Scholar
  24. Walton, Douglas. 1989. Informal logic: A handbook for critical argumentation. London: Cambridge.Google Scholar
  25. Walton, Douglas. 1995. A pragmatic theory of fallacy. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press.Google Scholar
  26. Wyler, Grace. 2012. “Here are the only five states that matter in the presidential election.” Business Insider. http://www.businessinsider.com/five-key-swing-states-obama-romney-presidential-election-2012-6. Accessed 28 March 2013.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyCalifornia State University, FresnoFresnoUSA
  2. 2.Philosophy DepartmentVanderbilt UniversityNashvilleUSA

Personalised recommendations