- For Teachers
Even if no analogy is "false", an analogy can be "weak" if it does not fulfil its specific role in a certain context. For instance, this sentence from Douglas Adams's science-fiction novel The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy contains a hyperbolic analogy: "The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don't" (28). This hyperbolic analogy is not a weak analogy in the context of the humorous science fiction novel, but it may be weak in the context of an academic essay. In the novel, the analogy serves the purpose of making people laugh and maybe even think about the nature of humor, but it may confuse meaning in a non-humoristic essay. In contrast, an academic essay about the birds of the New World would be perplexing if it contained the sentence: "The nest of the Montezuma Oropendola hangs from trees much in the same way bricks don't." In this sentence, the analogy is still logical, but it does not add any clarification about the way the nests hang from trees. The essay, unlike the novel, is supposed to inform people about birds and not make them laugh or think about humor. So, as seen from this paragraph and the previous one, while the term "false analogy" is misleading, "weak analogy" is an accurate term for a misplaced analogy. The authors of AOW should consider editing the diction forthis particular fallacy.
In addition to the fallacies of oversimplification, AOW presents four fallacies of distortion. These are fallacious because they rely for effect on emotions or prejudices that are not relevant to the core of an argument. All of these fallacies of distortion are informal fallacies according to the Fallacy Files. The four fallacies of distortion in AOW are red herrings, bandwagon appeals, motherhood appeals, and character attacks. AOW points out that the last three fallacies of distortion are types of red herrings; in the Fallacy Files, those last three are classified as subfallacies of the red herring on the tree diagram. One difference between the two classifications is that the Fallacy Files groups bandwagon appeals and motherhood appealstogether as the bandwagon fallacy. This is because both fallacies appeal to the emotions and prejudices of masses of people, i.e commit ad populum.
Unlike in the previous differences between the two classifications, here AOW's distinction between the bandwagon appeal and motherhood appeals makes the textbook's presentation superior. Those two fallacies appeal to different prejudices and emotional responses in the masses. Motherhood appeals address vaguely-defined positive values harbored by a large group of people in an unfair attempt to woo the group. Examples of those values are "freedom" and "family values." On the other hand, the bandwagon appeal addresses fear more than positive values. The bandwagon appeal urges people towards inclusion by appealing to the fear of exclusion. For instance, imagine a conversation in which a person tries to convince her/his friend not to register for an online higher education course but instead go to a traditional brick university based only on the argument that most people attend brick universities. Here, the person is not trying to convince her/his friend by presenting the positive aspects of brick universities or negative aspects of online education, but is rather, intentionally or unintentionally, appealing to the pressure of conformity and the fear of exclusion. If the friend does not attend a brick university, (s)he will be excluded from the traditional higher education experience of most people. Motherhood appeals may also have an element of fear of exclusion in them, but they are mostly based on the sheer baiting power of positively-viewed values. Gary N. Curtis, the writer of the Fallacy Files, should consider splitting ad populum into two subfallacies: one which appeals to popular positive values and one which appeals to the fear of not belonging to the mass.
In conclusion, both Acting on Words'sand the Fallacy Files's presentation of logical fallacies have weaknesses which can be highlighted by comparing the presentations to each other. The strategy of comparison also provides solutions to emend those weaknesses. Two weaknesses in AOW related to precision in classification and fallacy terminology were discussed and ways to improve them were found in the Fallacy Files. Similarly, one weakness related to classificatory precision in the Fallacy Files was identified and was suggested a solution found in AOW's presentation.