Arthur Schopenhauer and His Deceptive Ways of Arguing

Schopenhauer's deceptive ways of arguing are a compendium of frequently used fallacies. They have great power to deceive. In fact, if we don't scrutinize these strategies in depth, we may well find ourselves as victims of them.
Arthur Schopenhauer and His Deceptive Ways of Arguing

Last update: 26 December, 2021

Deceptive ways of arguing have been perceived and analyzed since ancient times. What makes them special is that they’re capable of misleading our judgment in a superficial validity analysis. Therefore, we might use them or consider them valid without being aware that they’re hiding a trap. However, when you really scrutinize them you discover that they’re false.

Arthur Schopenhauer was one of the philosophers who took on the task of exploring these deceptive ways of arguing. In fact, they formed the basis of his work, The Art of Being Right: 38 Ways to Win an Argument.

The fallacies he cites in this work are all interesting and some are extremely funny. He wanted to put forward formulas for not being defeated in an argument. We talk about some of them in this article. Therefore you’ll be able to recognize them and not be deceived yourself.

The highest, most varied and lasting pleasures are those of the mind.”

-Arthur Schopenhauer-

Arthur Schopenhauer.

Amplification

This mechanism isn’t about extending or expanding an idea, but about enhancing it. It doesn’t matter if the idea in question deserves it or not. The point here is to set in motion one of the misleading ways of arguing.

To do this, the person who argues can use different resources. For example, they can change their intonation or reformulate the argument.

Homonymy

Homonymy is another of the deceptive ways of arguing. It consists of using a word that changes its meaning according to the context. In fact, the person applies the meaning that accords with their lie.

For example: Every light can be extinguished. The intellect is a light. Therefore it can be extinguished.

Generality and relativity

In this case, it’s a matter of taking a statement stated in a relative way and applying it to a whole set or to all circumstances.

For example, there’s a difference between “There are more and more corrupt people in the administration of the legislative power” and “All members of the legislature are corrupt.”

Prosyllogism

This is a chain of syllogisms where one may seem to be the logical consequence of the other, although this isn’t necessarily true.

For example: The brave are lucky. The cops are brave. Therefore, the cops are lucky. Juan is a policeman. Therefore, Juan is lucky.

False premises

This occurs when the statement from which something is concluded isn’t true. For example: All dictators are demagogues. Peter is a demagogue. Therefore Peter is a dictator. This is one of the most common mistakes in political speech.

Petitio principii

This is a form of reasoning in which a statement already contains the implicit conclusion that must be drawn from it.

For example: I always do the right thing. Therefore, I never do something wrong. Therefore, no one can accuse me of wrongdoing.

Circular question

This consists of inducing the other to agree via fallacious questions. For example: “You say you don’t believe in God, but didn’t you say ‘My God!’ a moment ago when you were nervous? ” It implies that, by mentioning God, it automatically means that the person believes in God, when, in reality, the context was different.

Irritate the adversary

As stated, this means adopting attitudes or expressing ideas with the sole purpose of annoying the adversary. In this way, they’ll lose control. Therefore, the arguer emphasizes their own virtue as they haven’t lost control themselves.

This is quite commonly seen in electoral debates. Indeed, politicians seem to take delight in trying to provoke each other to anger.

Loosely concatenated questions

This signifies confusing the other by asking questions in an unreasonable order. The goal is to create confusion.

This is exhibited in the film, Legally blonde. An in-depth question is asked about an aesthetic procedure in order to conclude that the person questioned had, indeed, committed a crime.

Arguments Ad Hominem

This takes place when an argument is called into question through the ruse of discrediting the proponent.

Thus, if A makes a claim (x) but B claims there’s something questionable about A, then B concludes that argument x is wrong. In effect, a logical assessment of the argument isn’t made, but the person issuing it is disqualified.

Mutatio controversiae

This occurs when, in an argument, one of the interlocutors realizes that the other has made enough arguments to win. Their adversary then decides to suddenly change the subject to avoid having to agree with the other.

Boy blaming girl

Fallacia non causae ut causae

Also known as the “false cause fallacy”, it occurs when something that’s happened is mistakenly taken as the cause of something. It has two modalities:

  • Non-Causa Pro Causa (the questionable cause) An explanation that mislocates the cause of one phenomenon in another that’s only slightly related. For example: It’s been a long time since I visited my mother. My mother fell ill and died. My mother died of sadness because I didn’t visit her.
  • Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc (post hoc fallacy) This also involves a questionable cause and mistakes temporal sequence for a causal connection. Since event Y followed event X, event Y must’ve been caused by event X. For example: The rooster crows directly before sunrise. Therefore, the rooster causes the sun to rise.

Exemplum in contrarium

This means opposing a particular case to invalidate a general conclusion when the first doesn’t have the validity to refute the second. For example, someone says that there’s a disease that’s been infecting many people. Another answers that they don’t know anyone who’s been infected, therefore the disease doesn’t exist.

As you can see, all these deceptive ways of arguing are traps that anyone can easily fall into. They’re easily laid tricks. As a matter of fact, in the form of an intellectual game, they have some validity. However, they’re certainly not worth employing merely to satisfy a childish desire to be right.

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  • Schopenhauer, A. (1996). El arte de tener razón: Expuesto en 38 estratagemas (Vol. 208). Edaf.