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October 30th, 2003 (Permalink)

When is a Bushism Not a Bushism?

When it's a contextomy. A lot of these Bushisms are contextomies, as Slate seems to realize when it fails to link to the source of the quote, thus making it difficult for the reader to check. Even worse, Slate has previously failed to issue corrections for contextomies, in particular the much more serious Cheney "reconstituted nuclear weapons" quote. We'll see whether Slate is shamed into correcting this egregious example.

Source: Eugene Volokh, "You Can Make Anyone Sound Stupid", The Volokh Conspiracy, 10/29/2003

October 28th, 2003 (Permalink)

A Fallacy Puzzle

Here's a tricky puzzle based on a logical boobytrap:

Why are 2003 quarters worth more than 1999 quarters?

To receive the boobyprize, be the first to answer the puzzle and name the fallacy it's based on. All those who answer correctly will receive an honorable mention in this weblog.

Update (11/3): Congratulations to Michael Koplow, who takes the boobyprize! Here's the answer to the puzzle, as he explains it:

"Because there are four more of them. It's based on the ambiguity of the numbers. Because 2003 is now and 1999 is recent, and because the years are engraved on the coin, it's natural to think that those particular numbers refer to the years. If you removed the ambiguity by not having them look like years—by e.g., using commas in the numbers, or spelling them out in terms of thousands instead of hundreds—the answer would be obvious."

Fallacy: Ambiguity

October 27th, 2003 (Permalink)

New Site Down

Unfortunately, the new Fallacy Files site at Ion hosting is currently unavailable, and I don't know why. I have restored the old Texas.net site until the new site is back up. Thanks to Tim van Gelder for informing me of the outage.

Update: The new site is now back up.

October 21st, 2003 (Permalink)

What's New?

As you may have already noticed, the Fallacy Files has moved to a new web host, and now has it's own domain name:


Please update your bookmark or links.

The new site is still under construction, so if you notice any broken links or missing graphics, please let me know. Also, I am in the process of transferring this weblog and its archives to the new address. Keep watching this spot.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003 ( 1:09 AM ) (Permalink)

Check it Out

Spinsanity's Bryan Keefer has the lowdown on a contextomy of some remarks by presidential candidate Howard Dean.

Source: Bryan Keefer, "Safire Tries to Revive Dean Media Myth", Spinsanity, 10/14/2003

Tuesday, October 14, 2003 ( 1:01 PM ) (Permalink)

What's New?

I've substantially revised the entry for the Cum Hoc Fallacy.

Sunday, October 05, 2003 ( 2:43 PM ) (Permalink)

Booby Prize Puzzle

Some puzzles are based on logical fallacies, and here's one to try:

I have exactly two current U.S.A. coins in my pocket. The two coins total 15¢. One of the coins is not a nickel. What are the two coins in my pocket?

Of course, the real puzzle is to figure out what logical fallacy this puzzle is based on. What makes it a tricky question? There is a logical boobytrap in the wording of the puzzle, but where is it?

I'll update this with the answer to the puzzle and, more importantly, with the best answer(s) I receive from readers as to the boobytrap, as soon as I receive a good answer. Send your answers via email to the address in the frame on your right [Now on your left. The contest is over, though. (Added: 1/5/2011)]. The submitter of the best answer will receive an official Fallacy Files Booby Prize! Runners-up will receive an honorable mention, that is, a mention with honor in this weblog.

Source: Marcel Danesi, Increase Your Puzzle IQ, Wiley, 1997, p. 56. This book contains the puzzle and its solution, as do many other puzzle books, but it does not explain the boobytrap. Nevertheless, it's a good book if you like puzzles and enjoy logic, as it explains how to solve puzzles based on logic.

Update, 8/10 (Warning: Answer to the Puzzle Ahead!): Congratulations to David Smith, who was the first to solve the puzzle, and runners-up Michael Koplow and Charles Olbert! Nobody managed to name the boobytrap, but each entrant's explanation was in the ball park. Here's my explanation of the puzzle:

The third sentence is ambiguous, specifically, the scope of "not" is ambiguous:

  1. Wide scope: "Not one of the coins is a nickel," that is, "none of the coins is a nickel". If you interpret the third sentence this way, then there is no solution to the puzzle.
  2. Narrow scope: "One of the coins is a non-nickel." This is the interpretation which gives the solution to the puzzle: One of the coins is a non-nickel—namely, a dime—and the other is a nickel. This is the only combination of two American coins that adds up to 15¢.

It's the ambiguity of the scope of "not" in the third sentence that turns a very simple problem into a tricky puzzle.

Source: Scope Fallacy

Saturday, October 04, 2003 ( 7:59 PM ) (Permalink)

Check it Out

Julian Baggini has a new "Bad Moves" column on the way in which politicians try to take credit for everything good that happens while they are in power, even when they probably had little or nothing to do with it. Conversely, their opponents are likely to blame them for whatever bad happens, even though they may have had little or no responsibility for it. These are typical political fallacies to guard against.


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