Common Practice

Everyones doing it”

http://trueslant.com/matttaibbi/2009/07/07/on-the-everyone-was-doing-it-excuse/

The fallacy of common practice is described as a kin to tu quoque in that one attempts to over shadow the hypocrisy of an argument by pointing out hypocrisy in a counter argument. The common practice fallacy is can also be referred to as the two wrongs fallacy.  It has been used most commonly as a desperate and poor defense for cheating in sports, and academia; or cheating in general.  In this case the common practice cop-out is being used by an article in “Rolling Stone”. The article is trying to take some heat off of Goldman Sachs for questionable business practices, as the author of the response article I’ve linked this blog to points out.

When the Common practice fallacy is used as a counter argument it’s fallacious reasoning is usually so blatant that it is almost never effective when identified, but the more complex or foreign the issue the more difficult to identify it becomes. Here Rolling Stone attempts to play on the perceived out of control bureaucracy in Washington in order to down play Goldman Sachs responsibility. It’s a poor argument , its poor because of a common perception that doing people harm only because you are capable of doing so is wrong, it seems to be a perceived objective moral principle, though it has proven to be more subjective in this case.

As easy as it is to identify the fallacious nature of a argument based on common practice many rely on it. For whatever reason, common practice seems to be the go to justification for doing things that haven’t been critically thought through. Accepting common practice as a valid argument can lead to things like mob mentality and the traditional wisdom fallacy. Both mob mentality and the traditional wisdom fallacy if accepted prevent the individual from making cogent rational arguments and can lead to fallacious reasoning that can then in turn foster things like prejudicial thinking for example.

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