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What is called arguing in a circle is a species of sophism very nearly related to the above. It consists in making two propositions reciprocally prove each other.
(3.) NON CAUSA PRO CAUSA, or the assignation of a false cause. -People are unwilling to be thought ignorant; rather than be thought so, they will impose on the credulity of their fellow-men, and sometimes on themselves, by assigning false causes of events. Nothing is more common than this sophism among illiterate people; pride is not diminished by deficiency of learning, and such people, therefore, must gratify it by assigning such causes of events as they find nearest at hand. Hence, when the appearance of a comet is followed by a famine or a war, they are disposed to consider it as the cause of those calamities. If a person have committed some flagrant crime, and shortly after suffer some heavy distress, it is no uncommon thing to hear the former assigned as the direct and the sole cause of the latter.—This was the fallacy which historians have ascribed to the Indians of Paraguay, who supposed the baptismal ceremony to be the cause of death, because the Jesuit missionaries, whenever opportunity afforded, administered it to dying infants, and to adults in the last stage of disease.
(4.) Another species of sophistry is called FALLACIA ACCIDENTIS.—We fall into this kind of false reasoning whenever we give an opinion concerning the general nature of a thing from some accidental circumstance. Thus, the Christian religion has been made the pretext for persecutions, and has, in consequence, been the source of much suffering; but it is a sophism to conclude that it is, on the whole, not a great good to the human race, because it has been attended with this perversion. Again, if a medicine have operated in a particular case unfavourably, or in another case have operated very favourably, the universal rejection or reception of it, in consequence of the favourable or unfavcurable result in a particular instance, would be a hasty and fallacious induction of essentially the same sort. That is, the general nature of the thing is estimated from a circumstance which may be wholly accidental.
6302 Fallacia equivocationis, or the use of equivocal terms and phrases.
(V.) It is a further direction of much practical importance, that the reasoner should be careful, in the use of language, to express everything with plainness and precision ; and especially never attempt to prejudice the cause of truth, and snatch a surreptitious victory by the use of an equivocal phraseology. No man of an enlarged and cultivated mind can be ignorant that multitudes of words in every language admit of diversities of signification. There are found also in all languages many words, which sometimes agree with each other, and sometimes differ in signification, according to the connexion in which they appear, and their particular application. There is, therefore, undoubtedly an opportunity, if any should be disposed to embrace it, of employing equivocal terms, equivocal phrases, and perplexed and mysterious combinations of speech, and thus hiding themselves from the penetrating light of truth, under cover of a mist of their own raising.
No man, whose sole object is truth and justice, will resort to such a discreditable subterfuge. If in reasoning he finds himself inadvertently employing words of an equivocal signification, it will be a first care with him to guard against the misapprehensions likely to result from that source. He will explain so precisely the sense in which he uses the doubtful terms as to leave no probability of cavilling and mistake.
And besides the invaluable reputation of a man of honour and justice, he will in this way realize results in respect to his own intellectual character of the most beneficial nature. The practice of verbal criticism, as it has been called (that is, of discriminating readily and accurately the meaning of words), will result in a HABIT, giving to the dialectician a vast power over his opponent, who has not been trained to the making of such nice discriminations. There will be a keenness of intellectual perception which, while it helps to untie the perplexities of langauge, at the same time resolves the perplexities of thought ; separating meaning from meaning, and dividing truth from falsehood in those cases where at first sight it appeared to be impossible. But it is a power
which cannot be possessed without a laborious acquaintance with the purest writers and the ablest reasoners in a language, together with a systematic and philosophic study of its origin, idioms, and general forms. while it may be employed to the most beneficial purposes, it is far too formidable to be intrusted in the management of any one who is not under the influence of that moral rectitude and that love of the truth which have been so repeatedly insisted on.
03. On the sophism of estimating actions and character from the
circumstance of success merely. (VI.) The foregoing are some of the fallacies in reasoning which have found a place in writers on Logic. To these might be added the fallacy or sophism to which men are obviously so prone, of judging favourably of the characters and the deeds of others froin the mere circumstance of success. Those actions which have a decidedly successful termination, are almost always applauded, and are looked upon as the result of great intellectual forecast; while, not less frequently, actions that have an unsuccessful issue are not only stigmatized as evil in themselves, but as indicating in their projector a flighty and ill-balanced mind.—The fallacy, however, does not consist in taking the issues or results into consideration, which are undoubtedly entitled to their due place in estimating the actions and characters of men, but in too much limiting our view of things, and forming a favourable or unfavourable judgment from the mere circumstance of good or ill success alone.
While there is no SOPHISM more calculated to lead astray and perplex, there is none more common than this; so much so, that it has almost passed into a proverb, that a hero must not only be brave, but fortunate. Hence it is that Alexander is called Great, because he gained victories and overran kingdoms; while Charles XII. of Sweden, who the most nearly resembles him in the characteristics of bravery, perseverance, and chimerical ambition, but had his projects cut short at the fatal battle of Pultowa, is called a madman.
“ Machiavel has justly animadverted,” says Dr. John.
son, “on the different notice taken by all succeeding times of the two great projectors, Catiline and Cæsar. Both formed the same project, and intended to raise themselves to power by subverting the commonwealth. They pursued their design, perhaps, with equal abilities and equal virtue; but Catiline perished in the field, and Cæsar returned from Pharsalia with unlimited authority; and from that time, every monarch of the earth has thought himself honoured by a comparison with Cæsar; and Catiline has never been mentioned, but that his name might be applied to traitors and incendiaries."
In the same Essay* he happily illustrates this subject by a reference to the discovery of America, in the following terms.—“When Columbus had engaged King Ferdinand in the discovery of the other hemisphere, the sailors with whom he embarked in the expedition had so little confidence in their commander, that, after having been long at sea looking for coasts which they never expected to find, they raised a general mutiny and demanded to return. He found means to sooth them into a permission to continue in the same course three days longer, and on the evening of the third day descried land. Had the impatience of his crew denied him a few hours of the time requested, what had been his fate but to have come back with the infamy of a vain projector, who had betrayed the king's credulity to useless expenses, and risked his life in seeking countries that had no existence ? How would those that had rejected his proposals have triumphed in their acuteness ? and when would his name have been mentioned but with the makers of potable gold and malleable glass ?"
$ 304. Of adherence to our opinions. Whenever the rules laid down have been followed, and conclusions have been formed with a careful and canlid regard to the evidence presented, those opinions are to be asserted and maintained with a due degree of confidence. It would evince an unjustifiable weakness to be driven from our honest convictions by the effrontery, or even by the upright, though misguided zeal of an
* See the Adventurer, No. 99.
opponent. Not that a person is to set himself up for infallible, and to suppose that new accessions of evidence are impossible, or that it is an impossibility for hini to have new views of the evidence already examined. But a suitable degree of stability is necessary in order to be respected and useful; and, in the case supposed, such stability can be exhibited without incurring the charge which is sometimes thrown out, of doggedness and intolcrance.
It is further to be observed, that we are not always to relinquish judgments which have been formed in the way pointed out, when objections are afterward raised which we cannot immediately answer. The person thus attacked can, with good reason, argue in this have once exainined the subject carefully and candidly; the evidence, both in its particulars and in its multitude of bearings, has had its weight; many minute and evanescent circumstances were taken into view by the mind, which have now vanished from my recollection ; I therefore do not feel at liberty to alter an opinion thus formed, in consequence of an objection now brought up, which Í am unable to answer, but choose to adhere to my present judgment until the whole subject, including this objection, can be re-examined. This reasoning would in most cases be correct, and would be entirely consistent with that love of truth and openness to conviction which ought ever to be maintained. Ø 305. Effects on the mind of debating for victory instead of truth.
By way of supporting the remarks under the first rule, we here introduce the subject of contending for victory merely. He who contends with this object takes every advantage of his opponent which can subserve his own purpose. For instance, he will demand a species of proof or a degree of proof which the subject in dispute does not admit; he gives, if possible, a false sense to the words and statements employed by the other side; he questions facts, which he himself fully believes and everybody else, in the expectation that the opposite party is not furnished with direct and positive evidence of them. In a word, wherever an opening presents, he takes the