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  1. #1

    Default Appeals to Authority (not the same thing as pointing to sources)

    Appeal to authority - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    I have a friend, who really likes to argue (or seems to), but she frequently uses appeals to authority (<insert big shot name> here says <insert conclusion> so it must be true).

    It annoys a lot of us when she does this. Even if the conclusion is true, it yeilds little insight, when used as a means to convince.

    This is different from the including sources (the reason to include the source is so the source can be scrutinized, not so that it is used as a means to convince because some "authority" claims it).

    Anyone else find it incredibly annoying?

    Anyone do it themselves (again I can't stress enough the difference between including a source for scrutiny, and appealing to it as an "authority")? Why do you do it? What would it take to make it stop?

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  2. #2
    filling some space UnitOfPopulation's Avatar
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    I don't like any use of fallacious arguments. Still I sometimes provide simplistic arguments myself if I feel that the other party needs them, and I find it ethical to do so - so that it is not a way of deception. Someone wants to hear an emotionally appealing argument, or some authority's opinion, etc.. so I can provide them, along with an explanation that goes deeper than that. I try to maintain so that the person doesn't give my invalid arguments undue weight.

    I do find it intensely irritating when people use the wrong kind of arguments lightly, with no care about the truth, and even denying it when asked. Some people hold the truth and validity as their playground, something to be bent at will for a purpose of their choice. It makes me wanna puke. Appealing to people's strongest decision functions can make a loyal follower, but what good does it do to help the people find their own truth?

    Using an ill-formed or deceitful argument is a form of attempted coercion, a statement that the other person's right to make an informed decision doesn't matter.

    There is a place for logically invalid statements. They can work as starters for conversation, soundbites, they can be like the front cover to the whole story. Still, many people love to build their lives on invalid logic, and to state that it is just as good (if not better) than real logic.

  3. #3

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    ^^^^^^^
    I don't believe appeals to authority are inherently fallacious. They do however pose the threat of being overused, or over-rated.

    Expert opinions have their place. But generally, we would want experts to make clear their argument by sound means as well.

    I just really dislike "so-and-so said blank do blank must be true" statements.

    I am perfectly OK with "so-and-so said blank, what do you think about that?"

    Or "so-and-so said blank for the following reasons, ...."

    Now, I do believe when a particular trustworthy source says something, the statement is more likely to be true, but IMO that needs to be tempered with the notion of the base-rate fallacy.

    Perhaps this is just one of my Aspie pet peeves, but it is used a lot (e.g. religious dogma).

    I find it annoying in all cases I come across.

    Accept the past. Live for the present. Look forward to the future.
    Robot Fusion
    "As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance." John Wheeler
    "[A] scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy." Richard Feynman
    "[P]etabytes of [] data is not the same thing as understanding emergent mechanisms and structures." Jim Crutchfield

  4. #4
    RETIRED CzeCze's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    Appeal to authority - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    ...

    Anyone else find it incredibly annoying?
    Right here! *raises hand*

    There is a difference between citing sources or debating content (for instance when debating a religious topic and quoting passages from religious texts), but I understand what you are referring to with 'appeals to authority'.

    This is VERY COMMON in college I found.

    And in general it's FRICKIN ANNOYING to me especially for habitual abusers. [warning, ageist rant ahead] Especially when some 20 year old would quote that she "took an economics class and my professor said" and that's supposed to end a conversation abou globalization or something. Like that made her an expert. Or she would prop up said professor as the one and only authority on the topic. As if her professor and her are the only two people in the world dealing with globalization. I almost had to remind her that there are billions of people in the world with valid opinions and first hand perspectives on the issue, not to mention many other 'experts' with opposing viewpoints that she could have just as easily quoted.

    She also rubbed me the wrong way in other ways so maybe that's where some of the irritation at 'appeals to authority' comes from.

    1x or 2x throwing it into your arguments I understand, but if you abuse it?

    As a habit, this is just very lazy to me and also a cheap attempt to dodge real debate or make some insecure "I'm better than you" stab. In my experiences, once a habitual 'My class/My professor/This book says this' person makes their appeal to authority, they act like the discussion is FINISHED.

    To your friend's credit, she may not mean to do any of these things at all. She may come from a background or been conditioned to not feel she has the right to her opinions or that her thoughts alone are not VALID. So she has to quote an expert source.

    So don't be too hard on her if you confront her on this. Because if she is 'appealing to authority' out of this insecurity that other people have already drilled into her, not only will you really hurt her, but it will just make her MORE insecure. Except now she will have no other tools to use in giving her confidence in debates and she will just withdraw, thinking everything she has to say is going to be attacked, just the way you did. And is this how a friend treats another friend?

    (The answer is 'No' by the way.)

    Then again, maybe she's a typically smart-ass college student whose just fallen into this smarty-pants habit.

    So if you are going to confront her on it, be nice but clear, "We don't care what XYZ thinks, we want to know what YOU think." Maybe you can give her some other debating tactics.

    Helpful?

  5. #5
    not to be trusted miss fortune's Avatar
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    I admit- I tend to distrust/hate any authority figure- but then again, I'm me!

  6. #6
    Protocol Droid Athenian200's Avatar
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    If I choose to cite an authority, it's probably because they seem to be saying something I think backs up my opinion/belief. Although I freely admit that when I'm asked to "cite sources" for an essay (which is tedious), I have a trick... I just write the essay first, and then look for sources that agree with me, which I then "cite."

    I usually just cite sources to back up the conclusions I've already made on the subject, and it's especially useful if I don't feel like defending my reasoning on my own at the moment, but disagree with someone.

    But to say that something is correct because someone else in a high position said it makes no sense to me. Ptolemy claimed that the Earth was the center of the of the solar system, and all the planets/sun revolved around it. If I quoted this as proof that it was, would that make it correct? I wouldn't think so... I can see why that might be annoying if done consistently, and without really understanding what's being discussed.

  7. #7
    Glowy Goopy Goodness The_Liquid_Laser's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    Appeal to authority - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    I have a friend, who really likes to argue (or seems to), but she frequently uses appeals to authority (<insert big shot name> here says <insert conclusion> so it must be true).

    It annoys a lot of us when she does this. Even if the conclusion is true, it yeilds little insight, when used as a means to convince.

    This is different from the including sources (the reason to include the source is so the source can be scrutinized, not so that it is used as a means to convince because some "authority" claims it).

    Anyone else find it incredibly annoying?

    Anyone do it themselves (again I can't stress enough the difference between including a source for scrutiny, and appealing to it as an "authority")? Why do you do it? What would it take to make it stop?
    I think this sort of conflict comes from Ti vs. Te. Te tends to focus more on the end result while Ti tends to focus more on the process. In the extreme cases Te only accepts the opinion of an authority as the final word while Ti gives no additional weight to the opinion of an expert. A balanced rational view considers both decision making processes.
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  8. #8
    Dhampyr Economica's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The_Liquid_Laser View Post
    I think this sort of conflict comes from Ti vs. Te. Te tends to focus more on the end result while Ti tends to focus more on the process. In the extreme cases Te only accepts the opinion of an authority as the final word while Ti gives no additional weight to the opinion of an expert. A balanced rational view considers both decision making processes.
    I take issue with the notion that faith in authority is a Te thing.

    I only refer to authorities in discussions when I believe the participants (myself usually included) lack the prerequisites for a serious analysis of the question at hand, and then I do it as a reality check rather than as an actual argument (i.e. "there's really no point in us (or sometimes you ) discussing this" rather than "this is the correct answer because so-and-so says so").

  9. #9
    @.~*virinaĉo*~.@ Totenkindly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Economica View Post
    I take issue with the notion that faith in authority is a Te thing. I only refer to authorities in discussions when I believe the participants (myself usually included) lack the prerequisites for a serious analysis of the question at hand, and then I do it as a reality check rather than as an actual argument (i.e. "there's really no point in us (or sometimes you ) discussing this" rather than "this is the correct answer because so-and-so says so").
    I see Laser's point as well as yours, Eco.

    "Appeals to authority" are, as others have said, when someone claims, "So-and-so said it, so it must be true."

    The proper weight is, "So-and-so said it, here are so-and-so's credentials and/or the reasons why their conclusions might be more well-informed than others, so let us take that into account as we puzzle through all of this."

    IOW, all information has to be "weighted" -- even one's own observations. All biases must be taken into account. If you look at it like computer code, in terms of thinking, each piece of data has a flag attached to it (at least one, if not more) that qualifies the data... i.e., how representative it is, how likely it is to be true, how conclusive it is, what the weaknesses are.

    If a forensic scientist runs an analysis on someone's DNA, I'd be inclined to trust their opinion if they have shown good work in the past, over my own -- because I have no experience in DNA anaysis. But depending on the stakes of the conclusions drawn, I might ask for a second opinion. If the two agree, there is a much better chance overall the conclusion was correct... even if I cannot properly evaluate it. (Still, the conclusion has that nice little flag attached -- "these two people say this is true, they have the experience but there is still a #.##&#37; change they could be wrong...")

    I also agree that Ti people have their own authorities and weaknesses. Te people will rely on experts in the appropriate field of tangible knowledge. Ti people rely on people whose thought processes they trust (philosophers and so on). None of this proves the expert in question was right, and we know that many experts and philosophers and thinkers have been wrong over the years. (Even Einstein did not want to accept the ramifications of some of his conclusions and tried to refute his own ideas at times... because he just did not like what he was seeing. He was human too.)

    I think it is important to cite people with appropriate backgrounds to support one's supposition in areas where one does not have direct experience. It doesn't prove anything, it just shows reasonable support for one's ideas.
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  10. #10
    Dhampyr Economica's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jennifer View Post
    I see Laser's point as well as yours, Eco.

    "Appeals to authority" are, as others have said, when someone claims, "So-and-so said it, so it must be true."
    Uh, Jen, I know what it is. My point was that I don't recognize it as a fallacy particular to Te, as TLL postulated.

    Te people will rely on experts in the appropriate field of tangible knowledge. Ti people rely on people whose thought processes they trust (philosophers and so on).
    When I must trust the judgment of others, I rely on both.

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