December 7, 2009

Homework #39 Answer

The form of the Petrarchan sonnet provides the reader with a more exquisite literary experience than does the form of the detective novel. We know this is true because the best critics, the ones with delicate sensibilities, always prefer the Petrarchan sonnet to the detective novel. And we know that these critics are the best critics, because they prefer the Petrarchan sonnet.

The flaw in the logic expressed in the argument above is that the author

A. fails to provide the names of specific critics who prefer the Petrarchan sonnet over the detective novel.

(A) is incorrect because the logic would still be flawed even if the author provided the names of the critics. The author is claiming that one literary form is better than another because the "best critics" prefer the former, but then uses that very preference as proof that those critics are actually the "best." The argument doubles back on itself; replacing "the best critics" with a series of names would not change the operation of the statements.

B. assumes that the point he wishes to establish is necessarily true.

(B) is correct. The author is basically using his conclusion as evidence to prove that the evidence supporting the conclusion is valid. In other words, the author is saying that X is better than Y, and we know that because the "best critics" prefer X. But he goes on to state that their preference for X is what makes them the "best critics." This makes no sense.

Here's an example of the same argument, in a different context: Republicans are better for America than Democrats. I know that because the best news outlet in America, Fox News, supports Republicans. And we know that Fox news is the best news outlet in America, because it supports Republicans.

The fallacy lies in the assumption that the point the author is trying to establish is necessarily true; what is claimed as support is actually an assumption, but the author does not seem to understand that. One cannot claim that X is true because Y is true, then turn around and defend Y by citing X. A proves B, and B proves A; this is circular logic and flawed reasoning.

C. generalizes from one small, specific example to a broad, general rule.

(C) is incorrect because the author does no such thing. He provides no "small, specific example" of anything; everything cited is a broad category.

D. does not provide a valid counter-argument that would dispute his own conclusion.

(D) is incorrect because while it is true that the author does not provide a valid counter-argument, that is not his job, and more importantly, that is not the flaw in his logic.

E. fails to provide examples of any exceptions to the rule he proposes.

(E) is incorrect for the same reason as (D); the author is not obligated to provide examples of exceptions to the rule he proposes. Again, it is true that he does not do so, but his "failure" to do so does not constitute a flaw in his logic. The flaw in his logic is that he assumes his premise is true using circular logic; A proves B, and B proves A.