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  1. #1
    Owner / Senior Admin

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    Nov 2003
    San Diego, CA
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    Logical Fallacies

    Here is a list of informal logical fallacies. A commission of any one of these renders the argument given invalid. If it is invalid, it is dismissed on the grounds of the fallacy and no further discussion about it is necessary. The argument must be provided again without a fallacy in order for it to be valid.

    These are not subjective rules, these are fundamental rules to all logical arguments. An argument is not logical if it is guilty of one (or more) of these fallacies.

    This list is not exhaustive. It is a work in progress. Feel free to post in this thread additional informal fallacies. Try to keep them in the same format as the rest, as well as providing an example. Please add only informal fallacies at this time in this thread. If someone wants to start a list of formal fallacies, you may do so in another thread, we'll consider it and add it to our site content as our official list.


    Appeal to Force (argumentum ad baculum): In which someone in a position of power threatens to bring down unfortunate consequences upon anyone who dares to disagree with a preffered proposition.

    Example: If you don't agree with my political opinions, you'll receive an F for this course. I believe that Herbert Hoover was the greatest President ever. Therefore, Herbert Hoover was the greatest President ever.

    Appeal to Pity (argumentum ad misericordiam): This method tries to win acceptance by pointing out the unfortunate consequences that will otherwise fall upon the speaker and others, for whom we would feel sorry.

    Example: I'm a single parent, and if you give me this traffic ticket, I won't be able to work to support them. Therefore, you should not give me this traffic ticket. Note that the conclusion can still be false, even if all the premises are true.

    Appeal to Emotion (argumentum ad populum): This method relies upon emotionally charged language to arouse strong feelings that lead an audience to accept its conclusion. Look for buzzwords, popular stereotypes, etc...

    Appeal to Authority (argumentum ad verecundiam): The next two fallacies involve the mistaken supposition that some connection exists between the truth of a proposition and some feature of the person who asserts or denies it. Here, the opinion of someone famous or accomplished in an another area of expertise supposedly guarantees the truth of a conclusion.

    Example: Apok is the Admin, so if he thinks something is illogical, it must be illogical. The fact of Apok being the admin has no bearing on whether something is logical or illogical.

    Ad Hominem: Just the opposite of the above. Here, someone with a bad reputation in one area is exploited for his thoughts in another (which are, this argument says, supposedly false).

    Example: Booger says we shouldn't steal. But we all know Booger is a troll, so it's okay to steal.

    Appeal to ignorance (argumentum ad ignoratiam): This proposes we accept the truth of a proposition unless an opponent can prove otherwise.

    Example: No one can conclusively prove God doesn't exist. Therefore, God exists. Of course, the absence of evidence against a proposition isn't enough to secure its truth.

    Irrelevant Conclusion (ignoratio elenchi): This argument tries to establish the truth of a proposition by offering an argument that actually provides support for an entirely different conclusion.

    Accident: This begins with the statement of some principle that is true as a general rule, but errs by applying this principle to a specific case that is unusual.

    Example:Most Asian kids around don't do drugs. Iamdoughnut does drugs. Therefore, Iamdoughnut is not Asian.

    False Cause: This infers the presence of a causal connection simply because events appear to occur in correlation.

    Example: Dude Shibby was driving the car. Homestar Runner was sitting in the backseat. Therefore, Dude Shibby driving the car caused Homestar Runner to sit in the backseat.

    Begging the Question: Using the conclusion of an argument as one of the premises offered in its own support.

    Example: All dogs are mammals. All mammals have hair. Since animals with hair bear live young, dogs bear live young. But all animals that bear live young are mammals. Therefore, all dogs are mammals.

    Equivocation: This trades upon the use of an ambiguous word or phrase in one of its meanings.

    Example: Really exciting novels are rare, but rare books are expensive. Therefore, really exciting novels are expensive.

    Division: This involves an inference from the attribution of some feature to an entire class to the possession of the same feature by each of its individual members or parts.

    Example: The Irish have a reputation for drinking. Joe is Irish. Therefore, Joe has a reputation for drinking. Although the premise may be true, the fact doesn't reflect upon any of the individual members of the group.

    Argument from Intimidation: Similar to both Appeal to Authority and, in particular, ad hominem, the argument from intimidation was a phrase coined by philosopher Ayn Rand back in the 1960s. The distinct differences between ad hominem and the Argument from Intimidation were defined by Rand as follows:

    "...in the first case (ad hominem), candidate X's immorality, real or invented, is offered as proof of the falsehood of his argument. In the second case, the falsehood of his argument is asserted arbitrarily and offered as proof of his immorality... In today's epistemological jungle, that second method is used more frequently than any other argument. [The] tone is usually one of scornful or belligerent incredulity... all 'smears' are arguments from intimidation; they consist of derogatory assertions without any evidence or proof, aimed at the moral cowardice or unthinking credulity of the hearers..."

    The classic example of the argument from intimidation is the fable of The Emperor's New Clothes.

    Other examples:
    • Only heartless, greedy people can support capitalism."
    • "Only an ignorant man can look at the wonders around him and deny the existence of God."
    • "Satanists...claim Ayn Rand's philosophy as an eloquent expression of their credo."
    • "Those who support America's action against the terrorists in Afghanistan are no better than terrorists themselves."

    Appeal to Reverence: We've all seen this one. The assertion that because an idea is popular, it must be correct. The argument may or may not be correct, but if it is correct it is not because of its popularity or lack thereof.

    Example: "Christianity is the most widely followed religion worldwide. This proves the value of Christianity."

    Smuggled Premise: Quite tricky, this consists of phrasing a question in such a way that a certain premise is 'smuggled' unchallenged into the debate if the fallacy is not correctly identified.

    The classic example: "So, do you still beat your wife?"

    Political example:"What welfare programs are most important for the Government to fund?"(Assumes that the Govt should be funding welfare at all).

    Context-Dropping: If not correctly identified can also be quite tricky. It can be done innocently (i.e. an honest mistake), or deliberately (to mislead, distort or evade).

    Example, in support of welfare: "Isn't it desirable to have all citizens fed, clothed and housed?" Taken out of context, of course it is desirable. But it ignores the context, i.e. the fact that someone else has to pay for said food, clothing and housing.

    The "Slippery Slope" Argument: The Slippery Slope is a fallacy in which a person asserts that some event must inevitably follow from another without any argument for the inevitability of the event in question. In most cases, there are a series of steps or gradations between one event and the one in question and no reason is given as to why the intervening steps or gradations will simply be bypassed. This "argument" has the following form:

    -Event X has occurred (or will or might occur).

    -Therefore event Y will inevitably happen.

    This sort of "reasoning" is fallacious because there is no reason to believe that one event must inevitably follow from another without an argument for such a claim. This is especially clear in cases in which there is a significant number of steps or gradations between one event and another.

    Real life example: The government is trying to regulate guns. Soon, they will try to regulate every aspect of our lives, from the way we eat to the way we think, making us their slaves.

    Note that there isn't a stated causal relationship between the two; the latter half of the argument forces a causal relationship upon the former half and takes the matter for granted. By leaving out any logical cause-effect relationships, the speaker neatly avoids having to justify his case, and can easily "prove" that completely unrelated events are, in his mind, direct results of one another.

    I hope these help you with your arguments. Feel free to call out people's attempts to fool you with these fallacies.
    Senior Administrator

    I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend. - Thomas Jefferson




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