Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Argumentum ad antiquitatem

Thanks to David Huff for my new favorite sound bite term: argumentum ad antiquitatem which translates "appeal to tradition." (See definition and examples below!)

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Appeal to tradition, also known as appeal to common practice or argumentum ad antiquitatem or false induction is a common logical fallacy in which someone proclaims his or her accuracy by noting that "this is how it's always been done." Essentially: "This is right because we've always done it this way."

An assumption behind this argument is that whatever reason led to the old methods of thinking is still valid today. If circumstances have changed, this may be a false assumption. Moreover, the "old" method may never have been proven correct. Also, the argument takes for granted that status quo is desired, which may or may not be correct.

Examples:
"Our society has always ridden horses. It would be foolish to start driving cars." (rebuttal: we want to travel farther and horses are no longer adequate for traveling such great distances)

"Your invention is a bad idea because it has no historical precedent." (rebuttal: the fact that something has not been previously attempted does not guarantee it will ultimately fail)

"These rules were written 100 years ago and we have always followed them. Therefore, there is no need to change them." (rebuttal: the society in which the rules were written has changed, and thus those rules may no longer be applicable)

"Marriage has always been between one man and one woman, therefore same sex marriage is wrong."(rebuttal: society changes with time, therefore things that were not acceptable at one time may be acceptable today.)

Read the rest at Wikipedia and let's all pray that we are coming to the end of the argumentum ad nauseum that has for too long consumed the energy and attention of this church!

6 comments:

David Huff said...

Woo hoo! First post! No, wait... this isn't Slashdot ;)

Glad I was able to inspire you. The fallacious nature of so many of the std. "reasserter" arguments drives me quite batty :P

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

And, the reasserter arguments will continue ad nauseaum . . . until we'll all one day awken to find ourselves bulemic.

Any, grand explanation. I'm sure I'll find some comfort in it when some one of the nasty girls and boys on the conservative blogs has pulled my last nerve.

Indeed, I may even find myself repeating it, and will be most pleased to find an intelligent rejoinder to their particularly nasty brand of insanity.

muerk said...

"Marriage has always been between one man and one woman, therefore same sex marriage is wrong."(rebuttal: society changes with time, therefore things that were not acceptable at one time may be acceptable today.)"

This is a strawman argument though because (as a RC moral conservative) I would agree that the tradition of marriage does not justify the definition of it.

Just because it's easy to rebutt poor argument 'x', doesn't mean that position 'y' is correct.

Ellie M said...

It's foolish to keep on breathing air just because "everyone's always done it." Let's breathe water instead!

Pfalz prophet said...

I've been thinking about how to respond to this argument in a different way: what about the "historic" definition of marriage requires it to be exclusively between a man and a woman? If the definition is extended to gays and lesbians, it seems to me that, when traditionalists act to "defend" marriage, they are arguing that hetero exclusivity in marriage must be a pre-condition to getting married. IOW, it's either one of the reasons I'm getting married (because gays and lesbians can't), or marriage doesn't exist once gays and lesbians engage in it, therefore I can't get married because the institution has somehow evaporated.

When you follow the logic of a fallacy, sooner or later you discover nonsense, and that makes for interesting conversations with those who espouse the fallacy.

Jeff Martinhauk said...

It does seem like this logic is what gives some of the orthodox some trouble (I think they must have failed Logic 101): marriage has traditionally been between a man and a woman. Times have changed and so we should allow same gender couples to marry. The orthodox line goes: What is to prohibit times to change enough to allow a man to marry a goat?

I have never understood how goats get into the picture-- I mean I like goats and all, but I don't want to marry one, and having one around for anything more than making goat cheese for my crackers is really not what I had in mind...

Of course the problem here is that the orthodox don't want times to change-- they are in love with a perfect past that never really existed, and to which they think we should return.

How can we argue with that? They don't want to move forward because they want to go back to never-never-land-- so marrying a goat is a perfect step forward in logic.