Saturday, January 14, 2017

False advocacy fallacy

The false advocacy fallacy occurs when an argument in support of a conclusion is taken to mean advocacy for that conclusion. I don't know if this fallacy is one that has been previously described, but I could not find a similar one.

At it's simplest it can be described as
P(c) → Q(c)
where P(c) means an argument in favor of c and Q(c) is an advocacy for c. However we can show it is really invalidated by usage of the intentionality fallacy, which is the conclusion that an argument can be invalidated based on the intentions of the speaker. It can be represented as a hasty generalization, which is
S(a) → A(a) 
Let's read this as some people do the action a, therefore all people do a. In this case the action is never allowing oneself to argue against their intended conclusion. If we reduce the some to just one, then it becomes a matter of psychological projection.
I(a) → A(a)
I do a, so everyone does a. "No one would make an argument that weakens the case for the conclusion they prefer, because I wouldn't do that." Putting that together, we get the entire propositional logic of the fallacy.
P(c) ^ ( I(a) → A(a) ) → Q(c)
Read this as "the person made an argument supporting a, and because I would never argue against a conclusion I was advocating for, thus no one does that, it means the person is advocating for c."

One thing you'll notice is that the false advocacy will often be used in conjunction with yet another intentionality fallacy in an attempt to invalidate the speaker. "If you argue in support of c, you advocate for c. If you advocate for c, then your arguments in favor of c can't be trusted, so your argument is invalid." This chain of logic I would dub something like the universal nullification fallacy, because if it was sound, it would mean that any argument for any conclusion would be inherently invalid.

Example 1

Although I am not anti-abortion, for reasons stated in previous posts, I tend to find myself arguing against pro-abortion people online because the arguments used to support abortion are usually error-riddled. Even more erroneous are their arguments used to discredit pro-lifers. Immediately I get labeled as a Bible-thumping zealot, even though I don't take an anti-abortion stance and don't practice as a Christian. 

The pro-choice crowd set up this lovely bubble around themselves. "Anyone who argues against me is a hateful religious nut, so their arguments can be easily dismissed."

Example 2

I was having a debate related to Trump on facebook with liberal friend A, who was challenging some post I had made. I stood firmly by my stance and argued in defense of it. At some point liberal friend B chimed in that while he doesn't like Trump in general, in this particular argument he believed I had the correct stance. B is one I frequency debate with on facebook and we are able to get into the weeds on things without getting upset. After he sided with me, I made a concession on the issue, with the intent of showing that I could understand why a person would take up the opposing issue.

A took that as an opportunity to leverage against me, and I went back to defending my original premise. A then got frustrated, said I was constantly changing my stance, and stopped participating.

This was the advocacy fallacy in action. To A it wasn't that I was providing nuanced argument (which I felt comfortable doing after B joined in). To A, I was actually switching my advocacy away from my original stance when I made the concession, and then when I again defended my original stance, it meant I had switched back again.

A probably never makes arguments against the preferred conclusion. In hindsight I probably should have seen it coming and could have prevented a friend from getting frustrated. A was doing what so many people do. When they make an argument that I successfully counter, they will never admit that the argument was lost, but shift the goalposts. So if they say Trump is a racist and you provide compelling evidence he isn't, they won't say, "maybe you're right." They'll say, "well he's unqualified." Basically changing the subject entirely. I encounter this over and over.

In my conversation, perhaps intuitively I knew not to make concessions with a person who was not making their own. It wasn't until B joined in that the dynamic was changed in a way that frustrated A. Something to keep in mind is that while everyone says the want people they debate with to be capable of nuanced discussion, those who fall pray to the advocacy fallacy (which is quite common) will actually become annoyed with those who can make any sort of concession without changing their conclusion.

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