I would like to suggest a new informal fallacy: ad informalum fallacis.
This is the informal fallacy of charging an argument of committing an informal fallacy – the fallacy of appealing to informal fallacies.
Since doing this is an informal fallacy, I think that no one should commit an argument ad informalum fallacis.
Well, that can’t be quite right, but why stop using informal fallacies?
I think the following are true of most informal fallacies and that some are true of all informal fallacies:
1) The fallacy does not have a clearly defined meaning.
2) Committing the fallacy shows that the argument is bad is some way, but perhaps not bad in the philosophically relevant way – making its conclusion reasonable to believe.
3) The fallacy encourages an individual to simply charge an argument of committing the fallacy instead of taking the time to pinpoint the underlying problem in sufficient detail.
4) Accusing someone of an informal fallacy all too often acts as a conversation stopper of the ‘I just used Latin on you, so there!’ variety (whether intentional or not).
5)There is a better, more clear and specific way to make the intended criticism.
So, how should an argument be evaluated?
I suggest that all argument evaluations begin with one of the following:
A) There is not sufficient reason to believe that the premises are true.
B) The premises (even if known) do not make the conclusion reasonable to believe.
C) The argument is not sufficiently clear so as to properly evaluate it.
Now informal fallacies are often used to aid in making a case for (A) or (B), but I just don’t see that they add anything (and they detract for the reasons above). Who needs the label? If there is a problem with an argument regarding (A) or (B), spell it out, and your case will be better without invoking Latin or an informal fallacy.
Put another way, there are many levels of generality with which one can criticize an argument. I suggest that one use (A) – (C) at the most general level, and then back up that claim with something more specific than an informal fallacy label. The informal fallacy charge is in evaluative no-man’s-land — it’s not general enough of a charge, and it’s not specific enough of a charge.