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Logic and rhetoric
“”Springfield Police Department webpage: If you've committed a crime and you want to confess, click "YES". Otherwise, click "NO".
[Homer clicks "NO"]
A loaded question is a logical fallacy that occurs when statements or questions are designed to confuse listeners into tacitly accepting something (which isn't obviously clear in the question) as true.
- complex question
- ill-posed question
- fallacy of interrogation
- fallacy of presupposition
- fallacy of interrogative presupposition
- fallacy of many questions
- plurium interrogationum
- surfeit of questions
- trick question
Loaded questions come in two forms.
Trick questions force the respondent to either admit to an opinion or fact they do not share, or deny a factual premise. The most famous example of a trick question like this is: "When did you stop beating your wife?" In this form, an answer that does not directly refute the premise of the question (e.g. "I've never married" or "I've never beaten my wife.") admits the truth in it, implicitly at least.[note 1] An example of forced opinion: "So, you are going to vote for that lazy Obama?" If one says yes, they admit to Obama being lazy, if they say no, they are lying about voting. Another option would be to reply in a way that implicitly rejects the loaded language by substituting more neutral language: "I am going to vote for Obama." An example of forced fact: "So you are one of those god-denying evolutionists?" The interrogee may accept evolution, but also could be, say, a Christian.
Leading questions supply the answer in the question, but the following examples all consist of a statement followed by a question, invoking arguments of association such as: "Smart people have been shown to like Obama. Do you like Obama?" "It's been proven that good and righteous Christians such as you like banana cream pie; do you like banana cream pie?" While these examples are obvious, if the topic is in an area one is unfamiliar with, and the "associations" use what appear to be expert opinions, one may well be moved to agree without even realizing what one has done. Amendment 2 in Colorado was a prime example of this.[note 2] Few people understood the language of the bill, including many people in the legal profession. Polls would say to people "Experts analyzing this bill agree that it protects workers like yourself from being the victim of special rights groups. Workers all over the state are saying they feel threatened by this move, since it means someone can be hired who isn't qualified simply due to these special rights. Knowing that, and understanding how hard it is today to find a job, are you with us in our support of Amendment 2?"
- "Have you admitted that evolution is not supported by the evidence?"
- This question contains in it the assumption that evolution is not supported by the evidence, so answering either 'yes' or 'no' to that question could still be taken to imply that evolution is unsupported.
- What proof or evidence do you have that atheism is true and correct?
- Were you there?
- Do you want to be descended from a monkey?
- See the Wikipedia article on Complex question.
- Complex Question, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- Loaded Question, Fallacy Files
- Complex Question, Stephen Downes
- Your logical fallacy is loaded question, YLFI
- This survey is perhaps the most textbook case
- The correct answer is "mu", a Japanese word that more or less can be translated as "null", or in this case, "this question has no appropriate answer".
- In 1992, Colorado voters approved an amendment to the state constitution that prohibited anti-discrimination measures protecting LBGT people. Four years later, the US Supreme Court threw it out in Romer v. Evans.