Precise and Imprecise Thinking

Precise and Imprecise Thinking
The situation: Your best
friend informs you that he
saw your
getting a massage from
another person before
class today. Should you be
A word, phrase, or sentence
is ambiguous when it has
more than one meaning.
• Semantic Ambiguity: Not
clear what the words
Semantic Ambiguity
• Prostitutes appeal to pope.
• Kids make nutritious snacks.
• Panda mating fails;
veterinarian to take over.
• I can assure you that no
person would be better for the
Syntactic and Pronoun Ambiguity
A claim has more than one Juvenile court to try shooting
meaning because of its
Complaints about NBA referees
growing ugly.
2 sisters reunited after 18 years at
checkout counter.
Man eating piranha mistakenly sold
as pet fish.
Grandmother of eight makes hole
in one.
Fallacy of Division
Assuming that what is true of
the whole is true of its parts.
• CR students, compared to
students at other California
community colleges, are
less likely to earn their
degrees. Therefore, you
are less likely that other
Calif. CC students to earn
your degree.
• Toyotas are the most
reliable automobiles.
Therefore, your Toyota is
Fallacy of Composition
Assuming that the group
has the same properties as
the individual members of
the group.
• A tiger eats more food
than a human being.
Therefore, tigers eat
more of the world’s food
than human beings.
• Every individual existing
thing in the universe had
a cause. Therefore, the
universe of things had a
Exercise 3-8
1. The Raider tackle threw a block at the Giants
2. Please close the door behind you.
3. We heard that he informed you of what he said in
his letter.
4. “How Therapy Can Help Torture Victims.”
5. Charles drew his gun.
6. They were both exposed to someone who was ill a
week ago.
7. Chelsea has Hillary’s nose.
8. I flush the cooling system regularly and just put in
new thermostats.
9. “Tuxedos Cut Ridiculously.”
10. “Police Kill 6 Coyotes After Mauling of Girl.”
11. “We promise nothing.”
12. A former governor of California, Pat Brown, viewing an area
struck by a flood, is said to have remarked, “This is the greatest
disaster since I was elected governor.”
13. “Besides Lyme’s disease, two other tick-borne diseases,
babesiosis and HE, are infecting Americans in 30 states,
according to recent studies. A single tick can infect people with
more than one disease.”
14. “Don’t freeze your can at the game.”
15. Volunteer help requested: Come prepared to lift heavy
equipment with construction helmet and work overalls.
16. “GE: We bring good things to life.”
17. “Tropicana 100% Pure Florida Squeezed Orange Juice.
You can’t pick a better juice.”
18. “It’s biodegradable! So remember, Arm and Hammer
laundry detergent gets your wash as clean as can be [pause]
without polluting our waters.”
19. If you crave the taste of real German beer, nothing is
better than Dunkelbrau.
20. Independent laboratory tests prove that Houndstooth
cleanser gets your bathroom cleaner than any other
21. We’re going to look at lots this afternoon.
22. Jordan could write more profound essays.
23. “Two million times a day Americans love to eat
Rice-a-Roni, the San Francisco treat.
24. “New York’s first commercial human sperm-bank
opened Friday with semen samples from 18 men
frozen in a stainless steel tank.”
25. She was disturbed when she lay down to nap by a
noisy cow.
26. “More than half of expectant mothers suffer heartburn. To
minimize symptoms, suggests Donald O. Castell, M.D., of the
Graduate Hospital in Philadelphia, avoid big, high-fat meals and
don’t lie down for three hours after eating.”
27. “Abraham Lincoln wrote the Gettysburg address while
traveling from Washington to Gettysburg on the back of an
28. “When Queen Elizabeth exposed herself before her troops,
they all shouted ‘hurrah.”
29. “In one of Shakespeare's famous plays, Hamlet relieves
himself in a long soliloquy.”
30. The two suspects fled the area before the officers’ arrival in a
white Ford Mustang, being driven by a third male.
31. “AT&T, for the life of your business.”
32. The teacher of this class might have been a
member of the opposite sex.
33. “Woman gets 9 years for killing 11th husband.”
34. “Average hospital costs are now an
unprecedented $2, 063.04 per day in California.
Many primary plans don’t pay 20% of that amount.”
35. “I am a huge Mustang fan.”
36. “Visitors are expected to complain at the office between the
hours of 9:00am and 11:00am daily.”
37. “Order your summers suit. Because is big rush we will
execute customers in strict rotations.”
38. “Please do not feed the animals. If you have any suitable
food, give it to the guard on duty.”
39. “Our wines leave you with nothing to hope for.”
40. “Our promise—Good for Life.”
41. Thinking clearly involves hard work.
42. “Cadillac—Break Through.”
Can you find examples of
vagueness, ambiguity,
over generalization, or
fallacies of division or
How seriously should we
take horoscopes?

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