• paralogism •
Pronunciation: pê-ræ-lê-ji-zêm, pê-rah-lê-ji-zêm • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: A fallacious argument, false reasoning, a conclusion that does not follow from the premise, especially one that appears logical superficially.
Notes: Today's Good Word comes with the full panoply of lexical relatives. The verb is paralogize "to reason falsely" and someone who paralogizes is a paralogist. The adjective is paralogic or paralogical and the adverb is paralogically. Paralogy is a rarely used synonym of paralogism.
In Play: Politics is a good place to look for paralogisms: "The contention that raising the minimum wage costs jobs springs from a paralogism that overlooks the jobs created by workers spending more money." However, these fallacies occur everywhere: "If states with more Protestants have higher suicide rates, then Protestants must be more likely to commit suicide."
Word History: Paralogism is a tidying-up of Late Latin paralogismus, which Latin took from Greek paralogismos. This word is a noun derived from the adjective paralogos "unreasonable", made up of para- "beyond" + logos "reason, idea, word". PIE leg-/log- produced Greek logos and Latin lex, legis "law". Etymologists have decided that it probably meant "collect" in PIE on the assumption that language and law are collections of rules. I think it was associated with language under the assumption that the word of God and the king were considered law by our ancient forefathers. Both theories border on paralogism. Anyway, we find hundreds of English words borrowed from Greek and Latin. Greek logos appears in many English words on -ology, and Latin lex appears in many English words pertaining to law: legislate, legal, legitimate. (Our gratitude today is due Eric Berntson, a Lexiterian who has been visiting the Agora since 2005, for finding and suggesting this extremely topical Good Word.)