Fallacies In Monty Python

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As Demonstrated in a Witch Trial

Mistakes in reasoning are common in everyday life. From politics to commercials to serious business discussions, logical fallacies arise to derail our thinking and smash our arguments. But we often jump willingly to our conclusions. We don’t recognize our reasoning mistakes, and that’s a pity. So here is something that you can use, while Monty Python entertains.

To help you keep your own reasoning on track, here is a wonderful video clip from Monty Python and the Holy Grail that illustrates at least four rather nasty but common logical fallacies: name-calling, undistributed middle term, false cause, and false authority. My explanations below will elaborate on the video’s fallacies so that you may follow the
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The logical mistake occurs when the two classes are equated on the basis of the incidental, common characteristic. This is equivocal. For example, both rams and bulls have horns, but these animals belong to different classes. The horns are only an incidental similarity. Equating the two classes of animals would be a mistake. Though they both have horns, this fact does not put them in the same class, any more than a car and a horse sharing the same color could be classified as the same things. In fact, the horns of these two animals are not really the same, just similar. The Fallacy of the Undistributed Middle Term makes a shared, similar feature the illicit basis for equating two different classes of things. Like…show more content…
Bulls have horns. Consequently, Rams are Bulls.”

Watch what happens as the Lord of the Manor tells the villagers that there are ways to determine if the accused is a witch. He explains that witches burn (a characteristic). Why do they burn? Well, wood also burns (the same characteristic), so witches are made of wood (that equates two classes of different items on the basis of an incidental but shared characteristic). This is the Fallacy of the Undistributed Middle Term. Following this form of reasoning would allow us to easily lose our way logically. (For example, Mr. Smith has two feet; Mrs. Smith has two feet. Consequently, Mr. Smith is Mrs. Smith).

Now what the duck's weight has to do with it is anyone's guess. Of course, this is an example of the same fallacy. Two different things may have the same weight, but that shared quality does not make them the same. Take a survey. What would people prefer: a pound of duck feathers or a pound of gold? If someone tells you that the two are the same, don't go into business with that person. You'll be
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