Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER X.: DIFFERENT PARTS WHICH MAY BE BORNE IN RELATION TO FALLACIES. - The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 2
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CHAPTER X.: DIFFERENT PARTS WHICH MAY BE BORNE IN RELATION TO FALLACIES. - Jeremy Bentham, The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 2 
The Works of Jeremy Bentham, published under the Superintendence of his Executor, John Bowring (Edinburgh: William Tait, 1838-1843). 11 vols. Vol. 2.
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DIFFERENT PARTS WHICH MAY BE BORNE IN RELATION TO FALLACIES.
As in the case of bad money, so in the case of bad arguments: in the sort and degree of currency which they experience, different persons acting so many different parts are distinguishable.
Fabricator, utterer, acceptor, these are the different parts acted in the currency given to a bad shilling: these are the parts acted on the occasion of the currency given to a bad argument.
In the case of a bad argument, he who is fabricator must be utterer likewise, or in general it would not make its appearance. But for one fabricator who is an utterer, there may be utterers in any number, no one of whom was fabricator.
In the case of the bad argument, as in the case of the bad shilling, in the instance of each actor, the mind is, with reference to the nature and tendency of the transaction, capable of bearing different aspects, which, for purposes of practical importance, it becomes material to distinguish:—
1. Evil consciousness (in the language of Roman lawyers, dolus; in the language of Roman, and thence of English lawyers, mala fides:) 2. Blameable ignorance or inattention, say, in one word, Temerity, (in the same language sometimes culpa, sometimes temeritas:) 3. Blameless agency, actus; which, notwithstanding any mischief that may have been the casual result of it, was free of blame:—by these several denominations are characterized so many habitudes, of which, with relation to any pernicious result, the mind is susceptible.
In the case of the argument, as in the case of the shilling, where the mind is in that state in which the charge of evil-consciousness may with propriety be made, that which the man is conscious of is, the badness of the article which he has in hand.
In general, it is in the case of the fabricator that the mind is least apt to be free from the imputation of evil-consciousness. Be it the bad shilling—be it the bad argument—the making of it will have cost more or less trouble; which trouble, generally speaking, the fabricator will not have taken but in the design of utterance, and in the expectation of making, by means of such utterance, some advantage. In the instance of the bad shilling, it is certain—in the instance of the bad argument, it is more or less probable (more probable in the case of the fabricator than in the case of the mere utterer)—that the badness of it was known and understood. It is certainly possible that the badness of the argument may never have been perceived by the fabricator, or that the bad argument may have been framed without any intention of applying it to bad purposes. But in general, the more a man is exposed to the action of sinister interest, the more reason there is for charging him with evil-consciousness, supposing him to be aware of the action of the sinister interest.
However the action of the sinister interest may have been either perceived or unperceived—for without a certain degree of attention, a man no more perceives what is passing in his own, than what is passing in other minds—the book that lies open before him, though it be the object nearest to him, and though he be ever so much in the habit of reading, may, even while two eyes are fixed upon it, be read or not read, according as it happens that circumstances have, or have not, called his attention to the contents.
The action of a sinister interest may have been immediate or un-immediate.
Immediate; it may have been perceived or not perceived: un-immediate; it has, almost to a certainty, been unperceived.
Sinister interest has two media through which it usually operates. These are prejudice and authority; and hence, we have for the immediate progeny of sinister interest, interest-begotten prejudice and authority-begotten prejudice.
In what case soever a bad argument has owed its fabrication or its utterance to sinister interest, and that interest is not, at the time of fabrication or utterance, perceived, it has for its immediate parent either in-bred prejudice or authority.
Of the three operations thus intimately connected—viz. fabrication, utterance, and acceptance—that the two first are capable of having evil-consciousness for their accompaniment, is obvious. As to acceptance, a distinction must be made before an answer can be given to the question, whether it is accompanied with evil-consciousness.
It may be distinguished into interior and exterior. Where the opinion, how false soever, is really believed to be true by the person to whom it has been presented, the acceptance given to it may be termed internal: where, whether by discourse, by department, or other tokens, a belief of its having experienced an internal acceptance at his hands is, with or without design on his part, entertained by other persons; in so far may it be said to have experienced at his hands an external acceptance.
In the natural state of things, both these modes of acceptance have place together: upon the internal, the external mode follows as a natural consequence. Either of them is, however, capable of having place without the other: feeling the force of an argument, I may appear as if I had not felt it; not having received any impression from it, I may appear as if I had received an impression of greater or less strength, whichever best suits my purpose.
It is sufficiently manifest, that evil-consciousness cannot be the accompaniment of internal acceptance; but it may be an accompaniment, and actually is the accompaniment of external acceptance, as often as the external has not for its accompaniment the internal acceptance.
Supposing the argument such that the appellation of fallacy is justly applicable to it, whatsoever part is borne in relation to it—viz. fabrication, utterance, or acceptance—may with propriety be ascribed to want of probity or want of intelligence.
Hitherto the distinction appears plain and broad enough; but upon a closer inspection, a sort of a mixed, or a middle state between that of evil-consciousness and that of pure temerity—between that of improbity and that of imbecility—may be observed.
This is where the persuasive force of the argument admits of different degrees—as when an argument, which operates with a certain degree of force on the utterer’s mind, is, in the utterance given to it, represented as acting with a degree of force to any amount more considerable.
Thus, a man who considers his opinion as invested only with a certain degree of probability, may speak of it as of a matter of absolute certainty. The persuasion he thus expresses is not absolutely false, but it is exaggerated; and this exaggeration is a species of falsehood.
The more frequent the trumpeter of any fallacy is in its performance, the greater the progress which his mind is apt to make from the state of evil-consciousness to the state of temerity—from the state of improbity to the state of imbecility; that is, imbecility with respect to the subject-matter. It is said of gamblers, that they begin their career as dupes, and end as thieves: in the present case, the parties begin with craft, and end with delusion.
A phenomenon, the existence of which seems to be out of dispute, is that of a liar, by whom a lie of his own invention has so often been told as true, that at length it has come to be accepted as such even by himself.
But if such is the case with regard to a statement composed of words, every one of which finds itself in manifest contradiction to some determinate truth, it may be imagined how much more easily, and consequently how much more frequently, it may come to be the case, in regard to a statement of such nicety and delicacy, as that of the strength of the impression made by this or that instrument of persuasion, of which the persuasive force is susceptible of innumerable degrees, no one of which has ever yet been distinguished from any other, by any externally sensible signs or tokens, in the form of discourse or otherwise.
If substitution of irrelevant arguments to relevant ones is evidence of a bad cause, and of consciousness of the badness of that bad cause, much more is the substitution of application made to the will, to applications made to the understanding:—of the matter of punishment or reward, to the matter of argument.
Arguments addressed to the understanding may, if fallacious, be answered; and any mischief they had a tendency to produce, be prevented by counter-arguments addressed to the understanding.
Against arguments addressed to the will, those addressed to the understanding are altogether without effect, and the mischief produced by them is without remedy.