Argumentum ad populum

 

As per Wikipedia,

In logic, an argumentum ad populum (Latin for “appeal to the people”) is a fallacious argument that concludes a proposition to be true because many or most people believe it. In other words, the basic idea of the argument is: “If many believe so, it is so.”

Some simple examples of this fallacy are:

  • Everyone’s doing it.
  • In a court of law, the jury vote by majority; therefore they will always make the correct decision.

Some other important issues that suffer from argumentum ad populum:

  • A politician charged with provoking riots claims that majority of people have voted him back to power; so this charge against him is false.
  • XYZ religion is followed by millions; therefore all its claims are true.
  • Chemical castration for rapists is the right punishment because the majority wants it as a law.
  • A government is elected democratically and by vote of majority; therefore all its policies represent the people.

Such arguments may sound persuasive but can be fallacious at the same time. One could claim that smoking is a healthy pastime, since millions of people do it. Governemnts, religious clergy, godmen and other groups try to suppress dissenting and unpopular ideas normally resort to such arguments to persuade people against these ideas.

In fact, centuries ago, almost everyone used to believe that “the Earth is flat”. Does that mean the Earth was actually flat and that it has become round now because most people believe that now?

Therefore, a clear logical analysis of important arguments is necessary to understand whether we are believing an argument because it really true or because we see majority agreeing with it?

Do you know any other prevalent ideas that are assumed to be true just because many people believe it to be true?

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Remembrance of things past

Sometimes, I look back into my life to see how much of it was real and how much was made up. It is an important question and applies to everyone who ever lived. Not that I am a liar, but I admit that sometimes our sheer vulnerabilities make us believe in something that isn’t true. Sometimes we know that, and sometimes we don’t.

Make up a lie, and believe in it with all your heart and repeat it for a really long time, and you will see it becomes the truth. Children do this all the time. They imagine a world and then believe in it such that it becomes the truth for them. When you were a kid, don’t you remember taking credit for jokes that someone else said, or a story that someone else told? And over the years, at some point, didn’t that joke or story become truly yours? Or what about believing someone else’s ideas as your own?

Likewise, even as adults we are not so far behind. Every journey into the past is complicated by delusions, false memories, false naming of real events. Words that were never said, fights that never really happened, love that was only in my mind, plans that were never made, feelings that were never felt, letters that were never written and friends that never were. But repeat them often enough, and they become real. Our memories also deceive us.

“When I was younger I could remember anything, whether it happened or not; but my faculties are decaying now, and soon I shall be so I cannot remember any but the latter. It is sad to go to pieces like this, but we all have to do it.” ~ Mark Twain

Yes, every life has it. We all remember that which never happened. It is tough to admit it, but its true. Each life is like a book but with some untrue short stories. And many of these, we don’t even know are lies.

“Remembrance of things past is not necessarily the remembrance of things as they were.” ~ Marcel Proust

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