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# Politician: My opponent says our zoning laws too strongly

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Politician: My opponent says our zoning laws too strongly [#permalink]

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12 Aug 2012, 18:10
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Question Stats:

64% (02:13) correct 36% (01:24) wrong based on 381 sessions

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Politician: My opponent says our zoning laws too strongly promote suburban single-family dwellings and should be changed to encourage other forms of housing like apartment buildings. Yet he lives in a house in the country. His lifestyle contradicts his own argument, which should therefore not be taken seriously.

The politician’s reasoning is most vulnerable to criticism on the ground that

(A) Its characterization of the opponent’s lifestyle reveals the politician’s own prejudice against constructing apartment buildings.

(B) It neglects the fact that apartment buildings can be built in the suburbs just as easily as in the center of the city.

(C) It fails to mention the politician’s own living situation

(D) Its discussion of the opponent’s lifestyle is irrelevant to the merits of the opponent’s argument.

(E) It ignores the possibility that the opponent may have previously lived in an apartment building.

[Reveal] Spoiler:
Question :
Argument :

Conclusion - Opponents' lifestyle shouldn't be taken seriously.
Premise - His lifestyle contradicts his own argument

Why is E) incorrect? In describing the relationship between the lifestyle and the argument, the politician says that his opponent lives in a house. However, the fact that the opponent has ALSO lived in an apartment building in the past would weaken the argument. I agree that D) is better than E). But, E) could be considered an example in which the author "forgot" to consider additional premise, which, if true, would weaken the argument.

Here's a similar argument:

Premise - Bumblebee bats fly in the night.
Conclusion - All bats are nocturnal.

Weakener - Fruit bats are not active in night.

We could use the above analogous situation to say that the opponent is not "contradicting" his own argument. Essentially, the politician argument *fails* to consider another premise, which, if true, would kill the argument.

Thoughts?
[Reveal] Spoiler: OA
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Re: Politician: My opponent says our zoning laws too strongly [#permalink]

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13 Aug 2012, 09:49
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voodoochild wrote:
Politician: My opponent says our zoning laws too strongly promote suburban single-family dwellings and should be changed to encourage other forms of housing like apartment buildings. Yet he lives in a house in the country. His lifestyle contradicts his own argument, which should therefore not be taken seriously.
The politician’s reasoning is most vulnerable to criticism on the ground that
(A) Its characterization of the opponent’s lifestyle reveals the politician’s own prejudice against constructing apartment buildings.
(B) It neglects the fact that apartment buildings can be built in the suburbs just as easily as in the center of the city.
(C) It fails to mention the politician’s own living situation
(D) Its discussion of the opponent’s lifestyle is irrelevant to the merits of the opponent’s argument.
(E) It ignores the possibility that the opponent may have previously lived in an apartment building.

Conclusion - Opponents' lifestyle shouldn't be taken seriously.
Premise - His lifestyle contradicts his own argument

Why is E) incorrect? In describing the relationship between the lifestyle and the argument, the politician says that his opponent lives in a house. However, the fact that the opponent has ALSO lived in an apartment building in the past would weaken the argument. I agree that D) is better than E). But, E) could be considered an example in which the author "forgot" to consider additional premise, which, if true, would weaken the argument.

I am responding to a p.m. from voodoochild

First of all, I agree with ShalabhAr's sentiment: "The question definitely does not seem to be of the GMAT standard." In posting these questions, it would be quite helpful if you identified the source.

In this argument, the politician argues against his opponent. Apparently the opponent wants to change the zoning laws, which he feels favor suburban single-family dwellings over apartment buildings. It's unclear why the politician opposes this --- does he think the zoning laws are fair as is, or does he oppose the construction of apartment buildings in his district? That's not clear.
Then, the argument takes an ad hominem turn. That is a classic fallacy, and I guarantee: if any ad hominem arguments appear on the real GMAT CR, it will be a "weaken" question and the ad hominem part will be the fallacy. In this question (D) hits the nail on the head -- the problem is an ad hominem argument.

(E) is problematic for a few reasons.
1) it's purely speculative
2) it also falls into the same ad hominem fallacy of the argument itself!!!

Where the opponent lives now, has lived, could live, etc. does not fundamentally reflect anything about his argument about the relative fairness or unfairness of zoning laws. Anything about the opponent's living situation, his taste in food, his relationship with wife and family, and anything else about his personal predilections is strictly logically irrelevant to the content and validity of his argument. That, in a nutshell, is why an ad hominem attack is a logical fallacy. (E), rather than address this central fallacy, falls into the same fallacy.

voodoochild wrote:
Here's a similar argument:
Premise - Bumblebee bats fly in the night.
Conclusion - All bats are nocturnal.
Weakener - Fruit bats are not active in night.
We could use the above analogous situation to say that the opponent is not "contradicting" his own argument. Essentially, the politician argument *fails* to consider another premise, which, if true, would kill the argument?

Here, I echo thevenus's sentiment: "The undermentioned example has no relation in context to the CR question above." What you are presenting here is a weak syllogism, but it is totally lacking an ad hominem component, which is the crux of the fallacy in the original argument. Furthermore, by making the claim that the new premise "kills" the argument, you yourself are falling into the ad hominem fallacy instead of identifying it.

In philosophy, in science, in law, and on the GMAT CR, the ad hominem approach is recognized as a logical fallacy. What's hard is that, in politics, especially American politics, the ad hominem approach is simply par for the course. Ad hominem attacks are trumpeted by both sides in any campaign, so much so that, if one is not vigilant, one might be tempted to think the ad hominem approach is a legitimate form of argument. It's not, and on the GMAT CR, you need to be clear about that.

Does all this make sense?

Mike
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Re: Politician: My opponent says our zoning laws too strongly [#permalink]

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13 Aug 2012, 12:16
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voodoochild wrote:
I thought that if the politician considers that his opponent has "in fact", as opposed to speculation, lived in an apartment building in the past, then the argument would be weakened. Correct? What are your thoughts?

No. No. No. That falls into the ad hominem fallacy.

The opponents original argument is: "our zoning laws too strongly promote suburban single-family dwellings and should be changed to encourage other forms of housing like apartment buildings." We don't get the details, but if pressed, he would provide some kind of argument about why the zoning laws are unfair, why they promote suburban single-family dwellings too strongly, etc. Those arguments would stand or fall on their own merit.

Regardless of what his argument is, its validity doesn't depend on where he lives now or where he ever lived. It's true, for certain extreme things in life (death of a child, exile from one's homeland, etc.), it would be hard for someone who hadn't been through it to imagine the full ramifications of the experience. Arguably, in those extreme cases, we might say that someone who hasn't experienced it doesn't have the full story. Living in an apartment is not so extreme, so unimaginable, that someone who doesn't live there couldn't understand the basics of that situation or sympathize with its inherent challenges. Almost everyone intelligent has lived in a college dorm, which to some extend approximates the conditions of apartment life. It's just too common, too accessible, an experience to say that a person who lives or doesn't live in an apartment does or doesn't have the right to talk about the equity of zoning laws.

I will grant you --- if it turns out that the opponent has, for a substantial fraction of his life, lived in an apartment, that would make the politician look particularly silly --- in other words, he couldn't even apply his fallacy correctly! But the fact that his application of a fallacy entails a possible flaw --- that is not nearly as important as the fact that he applied a fallacy in the first place. From a strict logical point of view, it makes absolutely no difference whether one applies a fallacy flawlessly or applies it with mistakes ---- that distinction is absolutely irrelevant; the mere fact that the argument rest on a fallacy invalidates it. In logic, you don't gain or lose points for applying a fallacy well or badly --- the mere fact that a fallacy appears at all trumps anything about its application.

This argument contains the ad hominem fallacy. That fallacy invalidates the argument. (E) gets into the issue of --- how well was the ad hominem fallacy applied?--- from a strict logical point of view, that is as irrelevant to the content of the argument as the font one uses to print the argument.

Does all this make sense?

Mike
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Re: Politician: My opponent says our zoning laws too strongly [#permalink]

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19 Aug 2012, 11:51
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voodoochild wrote:

Here's a similar argument:

Premise - Bumblebee bats fly in the night.
Conclusion - All bats are nocturnal.

Weakener - Fruit bats are not active in night.

That really isn't similar to the original argument. A similar argument would be something like:

Doctor: Smoking is bad for you. You shouldn't smoke.

Politician: But you smoke. So we shouldn't take your position seriously.

The politician's response says "you're a hypocrite, so your argument is wrong". That is, it attacks the person, not the argument itself. The politician's reply does nothing to weaken the original argument.

Attacking the person rather than the idea is sometimes called 'ad hominem' (from latin meaning roughly 'at the person') argumentation, and it is usually considered a type of logical fallacy. That said, I can't recall seeing even one real GMAT Critical Reasoning question in which ad hominem argumentation is used (there may well be some that are not coming to mind, but it certainly isn't common), so it is not likely to be very important to understand.
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Re: Politician: My opponent says our zoning laws too strongly [#permalink]

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13 Aug 2012, 01:40
The question definitely does not seem to be of the GMAT standard. Anyways, taking option E. Yes, the author ignores this possibility but how does this affect his argument?

He is still talking about the opponent's current lifestyle and where he currently lives. This would actually make the argument stronger. The opponent himself now prefers to live in a house in a county rather than to live in an apartment house. So why would he propagate the opposite?
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Re: Politician: My opponent says our zoning laws too strongly [#permalink]

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13 Aug 2012, 11:45
mikemcgarry wrote:
In posting these questions, it would be quite helpful if you identified the source.

Source is the LSAT!
mikemcgarry wrote:
(E) is problematic for a few reasons.
1) it's purely speculative
2) it also falls into the same ad hominem fallacy of the argument itself!!!

Thanks Mike. I agree that this is an ad hominem attack. While solving this, I chose D). But I was tempted by E). Hence, I thought of asking you about it.

I thought that if the politician considers that his opponent has "in fact", as opposed to speculation, lived in an apartment building in the past, then the argument would be weakened. Correct? What are your thoughts?
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Re: Politician: My opponent says our zoning laws too strongly [#permalink]

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18 Aug 2012, 23:25
mikemcgarry wrote:
This argument contains the ad hominem fallacy.
Mike

Where can I find more on ad hominem fallacy?
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Re: Politician: My opponent says our zoning laws too strongly [#permalink]

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19 Aug 2012, 09:10
Mike has nicely brought out the nuance of this issue. In complementing what he says, Let me first of all reassure you that ad hominem simply means no more than ‘appealing to personal considerations rather than to logic or reason’
Now one might see why this example is considered anything but basic. In D, the vituperative personal attack is popping out just on even a cursory glance, leave alone critical reasoning. In logic, we have no room for personal grouse. In relation, E has some relevance as the focus shift somewhat to apartment living, which may not fall as personal as the lifestyle
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Re: Politician: My opponent says our zoning laws too strongly [#permalink]

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20 Aug 2012, 10:04
cptsparrow wrote:
Where can I find more on ad hominem fallacy?

Wikipedia has a good article on them, including some examples. Beyond that, I'm not sure. People don't go out their way producing brilliant and interesting examples of something that's essentially flawed, if you see what I mean.

More to the point, I agree with the estimable Mr. IanStewart. There are certainly no ad hominem arguments in the OG CR questions, and I have not seen any in any other official source. I suspect that GMAC considers the ad hominem fallacy a little too low-brow and obvious for proper CR questions. I believe voodoochild pulled the original question from an LSAT source --- I have no idea what the standards are on the LSAT.

Mike
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Re: Politician: My opponent says our zoning laws too strongly [#permalink]

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Re: Politician: My opponent says our zoning laws too strongly   [#permalink] 13 Jul 2016, 01:32
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# Politician: My opponent says our zoning laws too strongly

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