Open Thread: Name The Logical Fallacy

Is there a name for the logical fallacy of substituting/switching out word connotations in order to make a specious point? (Because if there's not a name, we need to make one. I keep seeing this thing.)

The best example I can provide at the moment would be to look at all the connotations of the word "love". We have romantic love ("I love my husband"), familial love ("I love my brother"), friendly love ("I love my best friend Nan"), preferential love ("I love pizza, but I don't love sushi"), spiritual love ("I love God"), and so forth. A trivial example of the Connotation Substitution Fallacy would be something like:

Ana: I love my friend Nan.

Troll: That is patently untrue. You do not love Nan because you have no intention of marrying her. You do not love Nan because you have never invited her to be present at the Mardoll Christmas gatherings. And you do not love Nan because you do not worship her as an ascended higher being.

The fallacy here is that the Troll has latched onto a word in the premise ("love") and has decided to ignore the contextual connotation (friendly love) and apply inappropriate-to-the-topic-at-hand connotations (romantic love, familial love, spiritual love). The key to diagnosing this fallacy is that it only works because English uses one word ("love") for multiple ideas -- if we replaced all the words with their connotative meanings, the argument would be nonsense. (Note: Total abuse of the Greek language coming up.)

Ana: I philia my friend Nan.

Troll: That is patently untrue. You do not eros Nan because you have no intention of marrying her. You do not storge Nan because you have never invited her to be present at the Mardoll Christmas gatherings. And you do not agape Nan because you do not worship her as an ascended higher being.

(Content Note: Rape Statistics) A less trivial use of the fallacy would be when a study defines a specific target group, like "stranger", and someone substitutes in a colloquial definition of that term when discussing the study.

32 comments:

Susan Beckhardt said...

Yes, there's a word for precisely this logial fallacy: equivocation.

Ana Mardoll said...

THANK YOU. So clean, so simple. I should have known that, but I will remember it henceforth. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Isator Levi said...

It's equivocation, definitely equivocation.

Isator Levi said...

Or etymological fallacy.

Note to self; don't say something is "definite" when there's a whole range of things you haven't checked yet.

Anthony Rosa said...

Yep, it's equivocation.

The cool thing about equivocation is, it's a very useful thing to use in jokes.

ZMiles said...

Yes; equivocation. It's a form of the 4 term fallacy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fallacy_of_four_terms

Ana Mardoll said...

Interesting! I'd seen that one when I was googling, but I didn't quite see how it fit. Now I do, thank you.

Silver Adept said...

Hooray logicians! Also, equally easy example: the use of "theory" nonscientifically when referring to a scientific theory born of a hypothesis and subjected to repeated experimentation.

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