Informal Fallacies My Daughter Committed When Asking for Pizza (or: Teaching My Daughter Logic and Reasoning)
By Derek Nason
Begging the Question: “But I want it.” No shit, honey. I could tell that you wanted it when I said “no” and you started crying. But as I explained the last time, this point amounts to saying the proposition is true because the proposition is true (A=A∵A=A[???]). If you started the argument, as you did yesterday, with “because pizza is fun,” we would have at least started on more solid ground. Instead, you embarrassed yourself in front of your little brother, who I understand is not verbal quite yet, but whose silence I interpreted as awkward.
Ad Hominem: “You’re a mean daddy.” A look of cold shock covered your face when I responded, “yes, and…?” Realize, please, that I wasn’t agreeing with you; I was simply giving you the opportunity to save face and make an actual argument we can work with. For the record, I wasn’t offended by what you said. When you’re a grown up, you have to take criticism with a grain of salt.
False Dilemma: “So we’re just gonna starve to death tonight?” Dude, where are you getting that from? No. We’re going to have a roast because your grandmother is coming over and apparently she’s sad or something. Point is, pumpkin, you cannot argue from an either/or position when you haven’t considered all of the possibilities.
Red Herring: “But we have roast every night!” This actually hits on a couple other fallacies as well, but for the sake of your pride, I’ll just point out the fact that what we have for dinner every night isn’t the argument here. Look, I’ve said before that this house is a zone of free and open debate, and that zone extends to the interior of the minivan. However, debate is only free and open when we respect the nature of dialectics.
Irrelevant Authority: “But Jaden’s mom says pizza is healthy.” Sweetie, I know it’s wrong to use potty words but Jaden’s mom doesn’t know what the fuck she's talking about. You should hear the shit she comes out with at book club. Apparently, not only is pizza healthy, but draining the wine and pillaging my single malts is also super healthy. Jaden’s mom thinks she’s hot shit because a Pilates instructor once asked her to “take over for a minute.” She brings it up every time, without fail. Every time.
Slippery Slope: “If Brandon doesn’t have pizza tonight, he’ll never use his words right.” First of all, buddy, leave Brandon out of this. His nap was cut short. He’s exhausted. Second, when he eats pizza, it’s a disaster. He peels away the toppings and burns his fingers and cries. Third, that makes absolutely no sense. He’ll start speaking in complete sentences soon, just like you do. Maybe he’s just sorting through the rules of logic so that when he does decide to express himself a little more fully, he won’t be wasting everyone’s time. I’ll tell you what, if you can produce a study from a reputable journal, published in the last ten years, that properly correlates the lack of pizza with a child’s verbal development, I’ll rescind the Slippery Slope charge. We still won’t have pizza tonight, but I’ll rescind the charge and personally apologize.
Confusion of Necessary with a Sufficient Condition: “But I’m hungry!” Believe me, daughter, when you tire yourself out from crying twenty minutes from now and begrudgingly eat some of the carrots mom cut up for you, you’ll be less hungry. You’ll be completely un-hungry when we cave in and decide to let you have two bowls of ice cream even though you only had one and a half tiny morsels of the roast. Then you’ll fall asleep and probably not even bother reflecting on these key points to make sure we can one day have a more enlightening exchange.