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Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Apr 26, 1996

This Magazine Article published as Logical Fallacies: Index in Chinese Community Forum 9617 Online Apr 26, 1996. China-Net [Link] [Info] [List all Publications]
Below is the Chinese Community Forum issue number 9617 in which an index of my logical fallacies list was published. I preserve it in plain text format.

Date sent:        Fri, 26 Apr 1996 14:23:11 -0700
To:               "Stephen Downes" 
From:    (Newton X. Liu)
Subject:          CCF 9617

Dear Stephen:

As requested, here is the issue of CCF in which we included your fallacy
index.  Thanks a lot for the permission, again.  Feel free to contact us if
you have any thing to say or questions to ask.

With best regards,


===+==+==+==    C h i n e s e  C o m m u n i t y  F o r u m    ==+==+==+===

                          Wednesday, April 24, 1996

                             (Issue No. 9617)

Chinese Community Forum (CCF) is an e-journal published on China-Net. CCF is
dedicated to the discussion on the  issues related to the Chinese community.
The opinions  expressed here  do not necessarily  represent the views of the
Editorial Board of CCF.  Contributions to the discussions and suggestions of
new topics are very much appreciated.

                                                                       # of
Table of Contents                                             Author | Lines
                            -- Chinese Politics --
1. For the First Time in History.............................Dave Sheng   55
2. Who Can Overthrow the Chinese Government? ............... Liu Binyan  113

                          -- Better Your English --
3. Logical Fallacies: Index ............................. Stephen Downes 122

                         ----- From the Editor -------

First of all, due to conflicts of schedules and our own carelessness, we
apologize for missing a regular issue of CCF last week.  We will try our
best not to commit the same error in the future.

This week, we begin with an essay written by Dave Sheng who from his point
of view examines the meaning of the "historical first in China's history"
regarding the election on Taiwan.

Then Liu Binyan, the author of "Tell the World" and other books about the
June 4 movement, discusses the Wei Jingsheng situation, and asks the
rhetorical question: "Who Can Overthrow the Chinese Government?"

Speaking of rhetoric, we bring a CCF special inspired by the Better Your
English series, this time turning toward the use of logical fallacies in
formal argumentation.  Many of us think an argument that is stirring or
"makes sense" is true erudition, when in truth it is based on a foundation
of sand.  Arguments using the solid grounding in logic provided by this
list will be much more meaningful and lead to coherent dialog as opposed
to cheap oratory.

1. For the First Time in History.............................Dave Sheng   55

That was the line used by Lee Teng Hui after the Taiwanese Presidential
Election: for the first time in the 5,000 years Chinese history, we have
had a direct election for President and set up a model for the mainland to
follow.  And he asked, when could mainland have a direct election for

So we should really be thrilled by yet another "first time", shouldn't we?
Wouldn't it be interesting to see how useful the framework of "first time"

Believe it or not, we live in a peorid of history that has been abundant
for the "first time in history".  Bear in mind as you read this article
that CCF as an electronic journal, put together by editors scattered
around the world and coordinated by emails, and sent to your account by
the internet, is part of the "first time" in the thousands years of human

When you look at the last 15 years in China, with its phenominan growth
effecting 1 billion people, it is another first time in history that such
a large population is going through such a profound and fast
transformation in every way of life.

A little further back, it was 30 years ago the Culture Revolution started.
It was another first in the 5,000 years of Chinese history, when China was
infatuated by a fervent and religious sense of reolutionary radicalism and
went on a rampage of destruction.

Yet, 15 years earlier in 1949, everything looked so hopeful.  For the
first time in Chinese history, there was a People's Republic, which
changed China forever, and established a new government which could exert
control from top to the villiage level, completely different from the kind
of scholar-gentry Confucious system that dominated China for thousands of

The 20th century's first in Chinese history list could go on and on, from
the 1911 Revolution to the bridges over Yangtse River to the first
airplane made in China to the introduction of one-child per family policy

Shall we feel thrilled?  Maybe yes.  We indeed live in a time of profound
changes.  Indeed, in Chinese history, we haven't gone through so much
change in our way of life since the Waring Peorid 2,000 years ago.

But before we get carried away by the glory, let's also remember the many
"firsts" in our recent history are accompanied by broken dreams, and by
political disasters like the Culture Revolution and the Civil War in which
millions perished.  Being first may be glorious, but glorious may not be a

As an analytical framework, being first may have little to offer. Using
the Taiwan experience, advocated by Lee Teng Hui, as an example, it has
little to do with Taiwan being the first in 5000 years Chinese history for
democratic election.  In fact, Taiwan experience has little to do with
democracy.  On the contrary, Taiwan was a well-known example of an
economic miracle achieved under political dictatorship, although the many
mainland Chinese who cheered Taiwan's election tend to forget the
historical fact after witnessing yet another first in 5000 years.

While watching Lee Teng Hui making that "first in 5000 years"  statement,
do you feel it sounds familiar?  It was written in our textbook back in
China:"For thousands of years, the working people, under the oppression of
feudal and reactionary exploiting class, hoped for the day of the light.
They rebeled one time after another, repeatedly, but each ended in
failure.  But now for the FIRST TIME, we have found Marxism-Leninism and
we have found the Communist party.  Under its leadership, we finally
overthrow the reactionary oppresion.  For the first time in history, the
poor and working people in China are now the host of our country!"

"For the first time in history", isn't it exciting?  But we know better,
don't we?

2. Who can Overthrow the Chinese Government? ............... Liu Binyan  113

It was sixteen years ago that Wei Jingsheng was first convicted.  At that
time, Deng Xiaoping's reform program had just begun and people in China,
who had just emerged from the nightmare of the Cultural Revolution and
were beginning to enjoy the new prospects from the reform, were full of
hope for the future.  But now in 1995 when Wei was again convicted, the
reforms have bogged down and the future of China is bleak and uncertain...

>From what we have witnessed in 1995 it is clear that the Chinese regime is
no longer capable of solving all the imminent problems it faces, both all
of the problems of reform as well as those stemming from the reform

At the conference on the national economy which was convened at the end of
1995, the Central Committee of the party declared that economic
retrenchment, the so-called "micro management" which began in 1993, should
continue, despite repeated warnings from economists that it had already
caused severe economic setbacks and needed to be discontinued by the end
of 1994 at the latest.  According to optimistic official estimations, the
inflation rate has dropped from 21 percent at the end of 1994 to the
current less than 15 percent.  If this is so, then the leaders should be
reassured and be willing to slacken the money market.  But they still want
to continue the retrenchment.  Why? Because the heads of the Central
Committee realize very clearly that the decrease in the inflation rate has
only been achieved as a result of administrative measures.  Subsidies for
foodstuffs in Beijing have increased 174 percent from 1994 -- how can any
government sustain such high subsidies?  1995 also proved to be a year of
irony for the first and foremost achievement from Deng's reforms: the
solving of the problem of shortages in grain production.  In 1995, the
grain shortages became more and more severe.  China stopped all exports of
grain and imports increased two-folds; yet the price of grain still
doubled.  According to a joint Sino-Japanese survey, there were 12
grain-deficient provinces in 1993 and this figure will increase to 22
provinces by the year 2010.  All of the efforts that the Communist regime
has taken in this area have been in vain: the area of arable land is still
shrinking and the young and able-bodied farmers are still deserting
agriculture and flocking to the cities...

The leaders of the party have repeatedly called for a reduction of the
excessive burdens on the peasantry.  But the irony is that the more they
make statements and the more they issue documents, the heavier the
farmers' burdens.  When Vice Premier Zhu Rongji inspected Guangxi province
at the beginning of 1993, he said: "The extortion in some localities is
very severe, leaving peasants with no choice but to hang themselves.  This
time we discovered nine suicide cases. How many cases actually occurred,
no one knows."  But according to an official survey released at the
beginning of 1995, the suicide rate in urban areas is 8.7 cases for every
100,000 residents and in rural areas the figure is 21.4 for every 100,000.
The urban figure is similar to the average worldwide figure as released by
WHO, but the suicide rate in Chinese rural areas is among the highest in
the world.  Of course this does not mean that the rural people are more
pessimistic than their counterparts in the cities.  After repeated calls
from the central government to reduce the peasants' burdens, the burden
inflicted on peasants in Jilin province in the first three quarters of
1995 increased 87 percent as compared to 1994, in Heilongjiang province
the figure was 120 percent, in Jiangsu, 87 percent.  Under the call for a
"Great Leap Forward" issued by Deng Xiaoping in 1992, local officials went
into a frenzy to set up necessary or unnecessary projects just to show off
their accomplishments. Needless to say, the burden for the funding of
these projects, for the expenses for the extravagant government
operations, and for the luxuries enjoyed by the leaders all shifted to the
peasants.  The ratio of incomes between urban residents and peasants has
increased from 1:156 in 1949 to 1:2.6 in 1994; it is even higher than the
1978 ratio (1:2.37), one year before the reforms. This figure does not
include such factors as the higher commodity prices in the rural areas and
the subsidies and welfare benefits for the urban people since 1949 which
the peasants have never had the fortune to enjoy.  As to the 80 million
young peasants who have flocked into the cities to seek jobs, they have
been treated much worse than illegal immigrant workers in western
countries.  In Shenzhen, the so-called "window of reform," peasant workers
usually have to toil over ten hours a day with no overtime compensation
and they do not enjoy even minimum labor protection or compensation for
industrial injuries; and they are paid much less than urban workers. Many
lead lives of slaves or prisoners and some are even locked up. In the
fires that broke out in the Shenzhen factories since 1994, several hundred
female workers were burnt to death and many of those who lived were
permanently handicapped.  The authorities made special efforts for a news
blockade in 1995 so that much of the true situation is unknown to the rest
of the world.  An uprising of over a hundred thousand peasants in Fuzhou
district of Jiangxi province when the homes of corrupt officials were
looted and peasant riots in a small town near Hangzhou, the capital of
Zhejiang province, have all been hidden from the outside world, even from
Chinese in other provinces. Before Wei Jingsheng was convicted, the
clashes between Hunan peasants and the Shenzhen police where peasants were
ruthlessly massacred by machine guns only came to light because they
occurred in Shenzhen, a place too close to Hong Kong that there could be
no cover-up.  The frequent strikes and demonstrations by the 20 million
unemployed workers or those who receive no pay from their factories is the
most worrisome problem for the Communist authorities.  The long talked
about reform of state-owned enterprises was stopped precisely because the
leaders feared possible disturbances among the workers.  The incompetence
of the regime to control the corruption of officials, to reduce the gap
between the rich and poor, and to solve the social problems has made the
people increasingly angry.  The stagflation which began in 1995 and the
decline in living standards have exacerbated their anger.  All of these
crises have deepened the discord within the ranks of the Communist party:
the dissatisfaction and dissent among cadres at different levels has
placed great pressures even on the top echelon.  It is the opposition from
within the "fortress" itself which alarms the Communist party the most.

Therefore, one important motivation for re-convicting Wei Jingsheng was to
intimidate the opposition forces both within and without the Communist
party.  The prosecutors are perfectly clear that Wei Jingsheng's power to
overthrow the government can never be compared with the forces created by
the corruption and incompetence of the government which has ruled the
country for nearly half a century.

3.  Logical Fallacies: Index .......................... Stephen Downes   122

(Editor's note: since CCF is a forum dedicated to open discussion and
debate, we think that it serves all of us right to take a look at some
common but yet often unnoticed logical fallacies we all have committed
at one time or another.  Also we wish to mention here that this index is
hosted by the rhetoric server at

For those who are interested in the full text of Stephen Downes' Guide to
Logical Fallacies or the subject of rhetoric and composition, the rhetoric
server can be a wonderful resource.)

Logical Fallacies Index:

Fallacies of Distraction
    False Dilemma: two choices are given when in fact there are three
    From Ignorance: because something is not known to be true, it is
    assumed to be false
    Slippery Slope: a series of increasingly unacceptable consequences
    is drawn
    Complex Question: two unrelated points are conjoined as a single

Appeals to Motives in Place of Support
    Appeal to Force: the reader is persuaded to agree by force
    Appeal to Pity: the reader is persuaded to agree by sympathy
    Consequences: the reader is warned of unacceptable consequences
    Prejudicial Language: value or moral goodness is attached to
    believing the author
    Popularity: a proposition is argued to be true because it is widely
    held to be true

Changing the Subject
    Attacking the Person:
      (1) the person's character is attacked
      (2) the person's circumstances are noted
      (3) the person does not practise what is preached
    Appeal to Authority:
      (1) the authority is not an expert in the field
      (2) experts in the field disagree
      (3) the authority was joking, drunk, or in some other way not
          being serious
    Anonymous Authority: the authority in question is not named
    Style Over Substance: the manner in which an argument (or arguer) is
    presented is felt to affect the truth of the conclusion

Inductive Fallacies
    Hasty Generalization: the sample is too small to support an inductive
    generalization about a population
    Unrepresentative Sample: the sample is unrepresentative of the sample
    as a whole
    False Analogy: the two objects or events being compared are relevantly
    Slothful Induction: the conclusion of a strong inductive argument is
    denied despite the evidence to the contrary
    Fallacy of Exclusion: evidence which would change the outcome of an
    inductive argument is excluded from consideration

Fallacies Involving Statistical Syllogisms
    Accident: a generalization is applied when circumstances suggest that
    there should be an exception
    Converse Accident: an exception is applied in circumstances where a
    generalization should apply

Causal Fallacies
    Post Hoc: because one thing follows another, it is held to cause
    the other
    Joint effect: one thing is held to cause another when in fact they
    are both the joint effects of an underlying cause
    Insignificant: one thing is held to cause another, and it does, but
    it is insignificant compared to other causes of the effect
    Wrong Direction: the direction between cause and effect is reversed
    Complex Cause: the cause identified is only a part of the entire
    cause of the effect

Missing the Point
    Begging the Question: the truth of the conclusion is assumed by the
    Irrelevant Conclusion: an argument in defense of one conclusion
    instead proves a different conclusion
    Straw Man: the author attacks an argument different from (and weaker
    than) the opposition's best argument

Fallacies of Ambiguity
    Equivocation: the same term is used with two different meanings
    Amphiboly: the structure of a sentence allows two different
    Accent: the emphasis on a word or phrase suggests a meaning contrary
    to what the sentence actually says

Category Errors
    Composition: because the attributes of the parts of a whole have a
    certain property, it is argued that the whole has that property
    Division: because the whole has a certain property, it is argued that
    the parts have that property

Non Sequitur
    Affirming the Consequent: any argument of the form:
              If A then B, B, therefore A
    Denying the Antecedent: any argument of the form:
              If A then B, Not A, thus Not B
    Inconsistency: asserting that contrary or contradictory statements
    are both true

Syllogistic Errors
    Fallacy of Four Terms: a syllogism has four terms
    Undistributed Middle: two separate categories are said to be connected
    because they share a common property
    Illicit Major: the predicate of the conclusion talks about all of
    something, but the premises only mention some cases of the term in
    the predicate
    Illicit Minor: the subject of the conclusion talks about all of
    something, but the premises only mention some cases of the term in
    the subject
    Fallacy of Exclusive Premises: a syllogism has two negative premises
    Fallacy of Drawing an Affirmative Conclusion From a Negative Premise:
    as the name implies
    Existential Fallacy: a particular conclusion is drawn from universal

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Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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