The Comparative Set Fallacy

Argumentation 18 (2):213-222 (2004)

Authors
M. V. Dougherty
Ohio Dominican University
Abstract
This paper argues for the validity of inferences that take the form of: A is more X than B; therefore A and B are both X. After considering representative counterexamples, it is claimed that these inferences are valid if and only if the comparative terms in the inference are taken from no more than one comparative set, where a comparative set is understood to be comprised of a positive, comparative, and superlative, represented as {X, more X than, most X}. In all instances where arguments appearing to be of this form are invalid, it is the case that the argument has fallaciously taken terms from more than one comparative set. The fallacy of appealing to more than one comparative set in an inference involving comparative terms is shown to be analogous to the fallacy of equivocation in argumentation. The paper concludes by suggesting a conflation of logical issues with grammatical issues is the core difficulty leading some to consider inferences in the form of A is more X than B; therefore A and B are X to be invalid
Keywords comparative  comparative sets  equivocation  inferences  informal fallacies  positive  reasoning and argument  superlative
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DOI 10.1023/B:ARGU.0000024022.45061.c7
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