Bogus Arguments Debunked: How to React Wisely and Quick-witted

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In the first life coaching session – on the topic of bogus arguments – Joanna tells me how she was taken by surprise by her boss. She reproached her: “So you just want to throw all existing processes overboard and proceed without a plan? It’s far too risky!”

Joanna soon realizes that this is a bogus argument. What had preceded it? Joanna had presented a proposal for process optimisation in her real estate company, which included certain changes. Her boss distorted her suggestion and formulated the aforementioned fallacy. In her private life, Joanna often has to deal with situations that overwhelm her. There, too, she encounters bogus arguments or creates them for herself.




2) Analysis in Life Coaching: Debunking Bogus Arguments
3) What are bogus arguments?
4) Recognizing bogus arguments – 5 tips
5) Bogus Arguments in Ancient Philosophy
6) Test: 10 bogus arguments professionally and privately
7) Resolution Test: 10 Bogus Arguments Professional and Private


2) Analysis in Life Coaching: Debunking Bogus Arguments

As a life coach, I talked to Joanna about her boss’s reasoning and analyzed her reaction. Together, we identified the so-called straw man bogus argument (more on that later), which was used by her boss to devalue her ideas. Joanna is hurt, frustrated, and angry about this disparagement. I explained to her that such bogus arguments are often used out of insecurity or as a demonstration of power, to make her more motivated , or to defend her own ideas.

The Straw Man Argument

The so-called straw man argument is the distorted presentation of someone else’s point of view in order to be able to attack them more easily. Joanna’s boss falsified her proposal in order to put him in a bad light and thus make it easier to refuse.

Repartee Strike

Together, we thought about how Joanna could communicate her thoughts clearly and quick-wittedly without getting involved in the provocative elements of the bogus argument. We have discussed possible formulations aimed at a rational and objective discussion. Joanna is also supposed to use her body language and charisma to focus on her actual ideas.


Her boss’s insulting remark unsettled Joanna. We have been working to strengthen Joanna’s self-esteem in order to prevent bullying. I encouraged them to acknowledge their strengths and successes and not to be swayed by negative comments. This more resilient mindset has already done a lot for her.

Career prospects

Regarding a possible career change , we talked together about Joanna’s professional goals, values and interests. She has expressed the need to work in an environment where her ideas are valued and encouraged, where she can live her vocation. We also explored ways she can shape her professional future to find more fulfillment and recognition .


3) What are bogus arguments?

Bogus arguments are argumentative strategies that seem convincing on the surface, but are subject to logical or rational errors upon closer examination.

There are three types of bogus arguments or fallacies:


1. Logical Fallacies – Confirmation of Consequence

These arise from incorrect logical inferences from given premises. A condition is believed to be true just because the desired result has occurred (“Affirming the Consequent”). A condition is believed to be true simply because the desired result has occurred.

For example: “When I eat chocolate, I feel happy. I feel happy now, so it must be because of the chocolate.”

The person notes that they feel happy after eating chocolate. From this, she concludes that the chocolate must be the cause of her happiness.


2. Cognitive Fallacies – Confirmation Biases

These are based on cognitive biases and errors in reasoning, such as, according to Daniel Kahneman, the tendency to prefer information supports our existing beliefs (“confirmation bias”).

For example: “The climate crisis is nonsense.”

If you are of this opinion and want to substantiate it, you will find enough material to support your theses if you are specifically looking for information. At the same time, he will pay little attention to scientific studies that confirm climate change.


3. Argumentative Fallacies – Guilt by Association

This type of fallacy involves various rhetorical tricks and manipulation techniques. This involves working with a seemingly valid logic and using arguments with a deceptive power of persuasion.
Based on prejudice, without considering rational or relevant reasons (“Guilt by Association”), ideas or people can be rejected.

For example, someone who is interested in mindfulness training hears from a friend: “Mindfulness? That’s just esoteric nonsense. You’d better focus on more important things.”


4) Recognizing bogus arguments – 5 tips

Bogus arguments can lead to wrong decisions, inefficient communication and conflicts .
In different forms of conversation, especially in arguments, the following is therefore important:

1. Ask critical questions: Always question the arguments of others and ask for more evidence or sources to verify the statements.

2. Fact-checking: Do your own research to verify the statements of others.

3. Identify manipulation tactics: Learn the most common bogus arguments and rhetorical tricks to better recognize them when they are used.

4. Focus on logical consistency: Pay attention to whether the reasoning has a clear logic and whether the premises lead to the conclusions. If in doubt, ask for discrepancies.

5. Nonviolent Communication: fosters an environment in which I-messages are used to facilitate honest and open discussions. This helps to minimize bogus arguments and encourage constructive conversations.


5) Bogus Arguments in Ancient Philosophy

Plato and Aristotle had different approaches to dealing with bogus arguments.
While Plato criticized manipulation by rhetoricians and emphasized the search for truth, Aristotle focused on clear and logical reasoning to refute bogus arguments.


Plato and Bogus Arguments

In his magnum opus “The State” he emphasizes the importance of philosophers as true knowers who, in contrast to rhetoricians, are in search of truth and knowledge.

Philosophers avoid bogus arguments because they strive to discover authentic truth and promote understanding. Their methods are based on logical reasoning, rational reasoning, and critical thinking to arrive at objective and well-founded insights. Bogus arguments contradict this authentic approach, as they aim to manipulate and obfuscate the truth rather than reveal it authentically .

Aristotle and Bogus Arguments

Aristotle also recognized the danger of bogus arguments and developed a theory to debunk them. His thesis is that a bogus argument is bound to fail because it is logically inconsistent or insufficiently proven. He demanded that arguments should be well-structured, coherent, and based on valid principles in order to be truthful and persuasive.


6) Test: 10 bogus arguments professionally and privately


Debunking bogus arguments in professional life


Try to guess what bogus arguments are behind the descriptions and try to react appropriately and quick-wittedly .

1. Example
An employee uses persuasive emotional arguments to get their boss to give them longer vacations without feeling shame about it. He does this even though his performance has left much to be desired for some time and others now have to shorten or postpone their planned vacation.

2. Example
A narcissistic colleague attacks someone else’s idea during a meeting by saying, “That’s just your opinion. You’re not experienced and competent enough to have a say.”

3. Example
A manager argues that – since all other companies rely on a certain cool marketing strategy with story telling – so their own company should rely on the same strategy without looking at advantages and disadvantages or problems.

4. Example
A long-established department head insists that a certain approach be maintained just because it has always been done that way, without questioning the usefulness.

5. Example
A highly sensitive employee argues against new work policies by claiming that they would lead to a totalitarian corporate culture.


Debunking bogus arguments in private life


Try to guess what bogus argument is behind the descriptions and try to react adequately and quick-wittedly.

6. Example
“I have an acquaintance who is a perfectionist , but has done the same thing and is now very successful professionally.”

7. Example
Before you express your opinion, someone says, “You’re always so biased and ignorant, I think you need psychotherapy!”

8. Example
Someone asks you to do something by saying, “I’m close to burnout and you’re the only person who can help me.”

9. Example
Someone tries to convince you to make a bold decision by saying, “If you don’t dare again, you’ll end up regretting it, and you’ll never achieve your life goals .”

10. Example
A loved one says, “Either you love me unconditionally, or you don’t like me at all.”


7) Resolution Test: 10 Bogus Arguments Professional and Private


Debunking bogus arguments in professional life: solutions


1. Example
Solution: “Appeal to Emotion” – Emotional Manipulation
Suggestion: The supervisor should pay attention to objective performance criteria and measurable successes in order to make objective decisions that are free from emotional manipulation.

2. Example
Solution: “Ad Hominem” – Personal Attacks
Suggestion: Other team members should focus on the idea and have a discussion based on rational arguments, rather than allowing personal attacks. The best way to react yourself is to react calmly and remain objective.

3. Example
Solution: “Bandwagon” – Follower Effect
Suggestion: Employees should base their decisions on thorough research, data, and analysis, rather than simply fearfully following the mainstream.

4. Example
Solution: “Appeal to Tradition”
Suggestion: Employees should be open to change and willing to rethink best practices to encourage innovation and improvement.

5. Example
Solution: “Slippery Slope” – Slippery Ramp
Suggestion: Leaders should thoroughly analyze the potential impact of change and provide clear communication to address unnecessary fears.


Debunking Bogus Arguments in Private Life: Solutions


6. Example
Solution: Anecdotal Evidence
Suggestion: Don’t rely on individual experiences, but research sound information before making a decision.

7. Example
Solution: “Poisoning the Well” – Advance Discrediting
Suggestion: Ignore the upfront discrediting and focus on your factual arguments to make the discussion productive.

8. Example
Solution: “Appeal to Pity”
Suggestion: Show empathy, but set boundaries and don’t take on responsibilities that don’t fit your possibilities.

9. Example
Solution: “Appeal to Fear”
Suggestion: Don’t let fear guide you. Use your reason to make an informed decision and evaluate your emotions without letting fear guide you too much.

10. Example
Solution: “False Dilemma”
Suggestion: There are also nuances between two extremes. Love is more complex than a simple either/or.


© Timo ten Barge 12.09.23



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