Archer, an animated series on FX, is about a spy agency and its group of clever, often bitingly sarcastic secret agents, who provide some great examples of the same kinds of logical flaws that we see on the LSAT:
- Ad Hominem argument: This type of flawed logic, often called a “source argument” describes an attack directly on the speaker, or the source of the argument, rather than on the merits of the argument itself.
A great example appears in a dialogue between Sterling Archer, the main character of the show, and his co-worker, Brett, whom Archer has just shot (accidentally, but extremely recklessly). When Brett questions Archer’s state of mental health, Archer resorts to an ad hominem argument—rather than responding to Brett’s words in any substantive way, he attacks Brett directly and absurdly by criticizing his physical condition:
Archer: …did I get you?
Brett: What is wrong with you?
Archer: Me? Nothing. You, on the other hand, have a bullet inside you…
- False Dilemma: This type of flawed logical reasoning presents only two choices when other possibilities exist.
Archer presents a false dilemma in another episode as he assigns the agency’s accountant, Cyril, the task of assisting the agency’s doctor with brain surgery:
Archer: Cyril…you’re assisting Krieger with the surgery.
Cyril: Wh..?! Why me?!
Archer: You’re good at math.
Cyril: How is that supposed to help?!
Archer: Can’t hurt!
In the dialogue above, Archer assumes only two possibilities: either Cyril’s math skills will be detrimental to his ability to assist in brain surgery, or they will be helpful. A third option, of course, is that Cyril’s math skills would be completely irrelevant in this context, and this represents another logical flaw as well: a General Lack of Evidence providing any support for one’s conclusion.
- Conditional Reasoning Errors: These common errors are often made when an LSAT author or speaker mistakes a necessary condition for a sufficient condition, or vice versa. This brand of flawed argumentation is used by Archer’s nemesis, Barry, to justify taking a huge sample of Archer’s blood (specifically, a liter, or eight gills). Archer’s mother, Mallory, wants to know why a blood sample would be necessary in this modern age. In response to Mallory’s questioning why a blood sample is necessary, Barry states that a blood sample is sufficient:
Mallory: Blood! What year is this?
Archer: I know, right?!
Mallory: Why can’t you just take a DNA swab?
Barry: A blood sample is enough to determine paternity…
…big difference between sufficient and necessary! Further examples appear throughout the series; a great way to hone your logical reasoning skills is to generally look for arguments or assertions people make, consider their strengths and weaknesses, and look for assumptions and flaws that may exist.
Image: Jenga! Courtesy of Ashley MacKinnon MacKinnon
Archer can be seen on the FX Network, Thursday nights at 10:00 p.m.