[lit-ideas] Re: Ideology vs Experience

  • From: "Lawrence Helm" <lawrencehelm@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 29 Sep 2006 20:27:37 -0700

An "anecdotal argument" isn't a real argument.  It's a fallacy.  Its
conclusions are not valid.  What you've presented isn't an anecdotal
argument.  And it isn't what Simon presented.  Do a Google search on
"Anecdotal Argument" + "fallacy".   


The problem with this fallacy is that we don't believe it is one.  If we
have a bunch of accidents, more than most people do, we think we are
accident prone, but what does that mean?  It may mean that we are not as
well coordinated as most people.  It may mean that we have been unlucky.  It
may mean something that we are an awkward adolescent and will grow out of
it.  My son seemed accident prone when he was an adolescent, and when he
graduated from High School he wanted me to buy him a motorcycle so he could
go to work at Knott's Berry Farm.  I said, "no way.  Anyone who is accident
prone shouldn't ride a motorcycle."   He told me that he had long since
grown out of that.  At least it was no longer a pattern for him; so I bought
him a motorcycle.  We use the evidence of our experiences because sometimes
that is all we have, but when engaging in a dispute and arguing that
Terrorism is becoming more widespread, our experiences do not comprise a
valid argument.  





-----Original Message-----
From: lit-ideas-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:lit-ideas-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx]
On Behalf Of Robert Paul
Sent: Friday, September 29, 2006 7:46 PM
To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: [lit-ideas] Re: Ideology vs Experience


Lawrence writes:


> I believe "anecdotal argument" is a common term nowadays. Yeah it means

> taking some anecdotal incidents and saying "therefore" and drawing a

> conclusion.  A google search indicates wide usage.


Yes, it does. But the name seems misconceived. If this is a special kind of

argument, then there ought to be 'expert arguments' (arguments based on

evidence provided by those who know what they're talking about), etc.

what one might find defective in an 'anecdotal argument' is that the

of the argument--which depends on its premises being true--is questionable.


What my brother sees exists.

My brother saw a Sasquatch.

Therefore, Sasquatches exist,


is a perfectly valid argument. But its anecdotal premises make it 


As for inductive arguments, no number of premises--in this case a list of

facts--justifies concluding that some general claim (what follows the

'therefore' after the last premise) is true. Highly likely, perhaps, but



Robert Paul

The Reed Institute




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