Lesson 3: Tu Quoque (Preview Content)
In this session, Dr. Christopher Perrin leads the discussion about the tu quoque fallacy. This fallacy is another common fallacy in which someone charges her opponent with having a flaw that is related to the argument at hand—as when someone objects to a smoker making an argument against smoking as bad for one’s health. “But you smoke yourself!” one might object. Tu quoque in Latin simply means “you also.”
(00:37) Dr. Perrin introduces the Latin phrase tu quoque, which means “you also.”
(01:01) Definition from the Art of Argument (AA) textbook: “Arguments that assume that a rival’s recommendation should be discounted because the rival does not always follow it himself.”
(01:25) Because people are not perfect, Dr. Perrin notes that it is easy to attack others with the tu quoque fallacy.
(02:10) Dr. Perrin brings up the example of an older man (who has smoked for years) telling a younger man (who is currently smoking), that smoking is not a healthy habit. Is this an example of a tu quoque?
(03:35) A student points out that the smoker’s background and experience may be relevant to whether or not we take his opinions seriously, and Dr. Perrin reminds the students to stay focused on the issue at hand in any argument.
(04:00) Dr. Perrin asks, “Can a hypocrite have a good argument?”
(05:32) Dr. Perrin asks how flawed people can teach fallacies, and how imperfect people can teach others about virtue.
(06:58) Dr. Perrin reminds the group that despite people’s imperfections and hypocrisy, we must stay focused on the issue at hand in discussions.
(07:23) Dr. Perrin suggests that the distinguishing mark of a tu quoque fallacy is that a person’s flaw is presented as being directly relevant to the argument. In other words, a person’s flaw discredits their argument.
(08:01) A student mentions the example of a teacher who told the class about the dangers of procrastination, based on the teacher’s own experience as a procrastinator. They discuss whether this is an example of a tu quoque fallacy.
(09:00) Dr. Perrin references the fake advertisement in the AA textbook (p. 43) for an airline—“We crash less.” The group discusses why this is fallacious.
(11:20) Dr. Perrin asks how the “Sugar Dump” fake ad in the AA is fallacious (p. 44).
(12:57) Joelle presents a situation about a dad who currently works as PR manager but studied engineering in college. He tries to dissuade his son from studying poetry in college because it is not a lucrative career. Can the son respond with, “But you don’t work in the field that you majored in!”?
(15:22) Dr. Perrin reminds the class of the importance of saying, “That may be true, but it’s not relevant to this argument.”