arguing with sharp (black-and-white) distinctions despite any factual or
theoretical support for them, or by classifying any middle point between
extremes as one of the extremes. Ex. "If he is not an atheist then he
is a decent person." "He is either a conservative or a
liberal." "He must not be peace-loving, since he participated in
picketing the American embassy."
Fallacy of argumentum ad
baculum (arguing from power or force).- The Latin means "an
argument according to the stick," "argument by means of the
rod," "argument using force." Arguing to support the
acceptance of an argument by a threat, or use of force. Reasoning is
replaced by force, which results in the termination of logical
argumentation, and elicits other kinds of behavior (such as fear, anger,
reciprocal use of force, etc.)
Fallacy of argumentum ad
hominem (argument against the man).-The Latin means "argument to
the man." Arguing against, or rejecting a person's views by attacking
or abusing his personality, character, motives, intentions,
qualifications, etc., as opposed to providing evidence why the views are
incorrect. Ex. "What John said should not be believed because he was
a Nazi sympathizer."
Fallacy of argumentum ad
ignorantiam (argument from ignorance).- The Latin means "argument
to ignorance." Arguing that something is true because no one has
proved it to be false, or arguing that something is false because no one
has proved it to be true. Ex. a: Spirits exists since no one has as yet
proved that there are not any. b: Spirits do not exist since no one has as
yet proved their existence. Also called the appeal to ignorance: the lack
of evidence (proof) for something is used to support its truth.
Fallacy of argumentum ad
misericordiam (argument to pity).- Arguing by appeal to pity in order
to have some point accepted. Ex. "I've got to have at least a B in
this course, Professor Angeles. If I don't, I won't stand a chance for
medical school, and this is my last semester at the university." Also
called the appeal to pity.
Fallacy of argumentum ad
personam (argument to personal interest).- Arguing by appealing to the
personal likes (preferences, prejudices, predispositions, etc.) of others
in order to have an argument accepted.
Fallacy of argumentum ad
populum (argument to the people). Also the appeal to the gallery,
appeal to the majority, appeal to what is popular, appeal to popular
prejudice, appeal to the multitude, appeal to the mob instinct. Arguing in
order to arouse an emotional, popular acceptance of an idea without
resorting to a logical justification of the idea. An appeal is made to
such things as biases, prejudices, feelings, enthusiasms, attitudes of the
multitude in order to evoke assent rather than to rationally support the
Fallacy of argumentum ad
verecundiam (argument to authority or veneration). Appealing to
authority (including customs, traditions, institutions, etc.) in order to
gain acceptance of a point at issue and/or appealing to the feelings of
reverence or respect we have of those in authority, or who are famous. Ex.
"I believe that the statement ‘You cannot legislate morality’ is
true, because President Eisenhower said it."
Fallacy of accent. Sometimes
classified as an ambiguity of accent. Arguing to conclusions from undue
emphasis (accent, tone) upon certain words or statements. Classified as a
Fallacy of ambiguity whenever this emphasis creates and ambiguity or
amphiboly in the words or statements used in the argument. Ex. "The
queen cannot but be praised."
Fallacy of accident. Also
called by its Latin name a dicto simpliciter ad dictum secundum quid.
Applying a general rule or principle to a particular instance whose
circumstances by "accident" do not allow the proper application
of that generalization. Ex. "It is a general truth that no one should
lie. Therefor, no one should lie if a murderer at the point of a knife
asks you for information you know would lead to a further murder."
Also, the error in argumentation of applying a general statement to a
situation to which it cannot, and was not necessarily intended to, be
Fallacy of ambiguity. An
argument that has at least one ambiguous word or statement from which a
misleading or wrong conclusion is drawn.
Fallacy of amphiboly. Arguing
to conclusions from statements that are amphibolous—ambiguous because of
their syntax (grammatical construction). Sometimes classified as a fallacy
Fallacy of begging the
question. Arriving at a conclusion from statements that themselves are
questionable and have to be proved but are assumed true. Ex. The universe
has a beginning. Every thing that has a beginning has a beginner.
Therefore the universe has a beginner called God. This assumes (begs the
question) that the universe does indeed have a beginning and also that all
things that have a beginning have a beginner. Also, assuming the
conclusion or part of the conclusion in the premises of an argument.
Sometimes called circular reasoning, vicious circularity, vicious circle
fallacy. Ex. "Everything has a cause. The universe is a thing.
Therefore, the universe is a thing that has a cause. Cf. Petitio
principii. Also, arguing in a circle. One statement is supported by
reference to another statement which statement itself is supported by
reverence to the first statement. Ex. "Aristocracy is the best form
of government because the best form of government is that which has strong
Fallacy of complex question
(or loaded question). Asking questions for which either a yes or a no
answer will incriminate the respondent. The desired answer is already
tacitly assumed in the question and no qualification of the simple answer
is allowed. Ex. "Have you discontinued the use of opiates?"
Also, asking questions that are based on unstated attitudes or
questionable (or unjustified) assumptions. These questions are often asked
rhetorically of the respondent in such a way as to elicit an agreement
with those attitudes or assumptions from others. Ex. "How long are
you going to put up with this brutality?"
Fallacy of composition.
Arguing that what is true of each part of a whole is also (necessarily)
true of the whole itself, or that what is true of some parts of a whole is
also (necessarily) true of the whole itself. Ex. "Each member (or
some members) of the team is married; therefore the team also has (must
have) a wife." Inferring that a collection has certain
characteristics merely on the basis that its parts have them erroneously
proceeds from regarding the collection distributively to regarding it
Fallacy of consensus
gentium. Arguing that an idea is a true on the basis that the majority
of people believe it and/or that it has been universally held by all men
at all times. Ex. "God exists because all cultures have had some
concept of a God."
Fallacy of converse accident.
Sometimes converse fallacy of accident. Also called by its Latin name a
dicto secundum quid ad dictum simpliciter. The error of generalizing
from atypical or exceptional instances. Ex. "A shot of warm brandy
each night helps older people relax and sleep better. People in general
ought to drink warm brandy to relieve their tension and sleep
Fallacy of division. Arguing
that what is true of a whole is also (necessarily) true of its parts
and/or also true of some of its parts. Ex. "The community of Pacific
Palisades is extremely wealthy. Therefore, every person living there is
(must be) extremely wealthy (or therefore Adam, who lives there, is [must
be] extremely wealthy)." Inferring that the parts of a collection
have certain characteristics merely on the basis that their collection has
them erroneously proceeds from regarding the collection collectively to
regarding it distributively.
Fallacy of equivocation. An
argument in which a word is used with one meaning (or sense) in one part
of the argument and with another meaning in another part. A common
example: "The end of a thing is its perfection; death is the
end of life; hence, death is the perfection of life."
Fallacy of non causa pro
causa. The Latin may be translated as "there is no cause of the
sort which has been given as the cause." Believing that something is
the cause of an effect when in reality it is not. Ex. "My
incantations caused it to rain." Also, arguing so that a statement
appears unacceptable because it implies another statement that is false
(but in reality is not).
Fallacy of post hoc ergo
propter hoc. The Latin means "after this therefore the
consequence (effect) of this," or "after this therefore because
of this." Sometimes simply fallacy of false cause. Concluding that
one thing is the cause of another simply because it precedes it in time. A
confusion between the concept of succession and that of causation. Ex.
"A black cat ran across my path. Ten minutes later I was hit by a
truck. Therefore, the cat’s running across my path was the cause of my
being hit by a truck."
Fallacy of hasty
generalization. Sometimes fallacy of hasty induction. An error of
reasoning whereby a general statement is asserted (inferred) based on
limited information, inadequate evidence, or an unrepresentative sampling.
Fallacy of ignoratio
elenchi (irrelevant conclusion). An argument that is irrelevant; that
argues for something other than that which is to be proved and thereby in
no way refutes (or supports) the points at issue. Ex. A lawyer is
defending his alcoholic client who has murdered three people in a drunken
spree argues that alcoholism is a terrible disease and attempts should be
made to eliminate it. Ignoratio elenchi is sometimes used as a
general name for all fallacies that are based on irrelevancy (such as ad
baculum, ad hominem, ad misericordiam, ad populum,
ad verecundiam, consensus gentium, etc.)
Fallacy of inconsistency.
Arguing from inconsistent statements, or to conclusions that are
inconsistent with the premises. See the fallacy of tu quoque below.
Fallacy of irrelevant
purpose. Arguing against something on the basis that it has not fulfilled
its purpose (although in fact that was not its intended purpose).
Fallacy of "is" to
"ought." Arguing from premises that have only descriptive
statements (is) to a conclusion that contains an ought, or a should.
Fallacy of limited (or false)
alternatives. The error of insisting without full inquiry or evidence that
the alternatives to a course of action have been exhausted and/or are
Fallacy of many questions.
Sometimes fallacy of the false question. Asking a question for which a
single and simple answer is demanded yet the question (a) requires a
series of answers, and/or (b) requires answers to a host of other
questions, each of which should be answered separately. Ex. “Have you left
Fallacy of misleading
context. Arguing by misrepresenting, distorting, omitting, or quoting
something out of context.
Fallacy of prejudice. Arguing
from a bias or emotional identification or involvement with an idea
(argument, doctrine, institution, etc.).
Fallacy of red herring.
Ignoring a criticism of an argument by changing attention to another
subject. Ex. “You believe in abortion, yet you don’t believe in the
right-to-die-with-dignity bill before the legislature.”
Fallacy of slanting.
Deliberately omitting, deemphasizing, or overemphasizing certain points to
the exclusion of others in order to hide evidence that is important and
relevant to the conclusion of an argument and that should be taken account
of in an argument.
Fallacy of special pleading.
Accepting an idea or criticism when applied to an opponent’s argument but
rejecting it when applied to one’s own argument. Also, rejecting an idea
or criticism when applied to and opponent’s argument but accepting it when
applied to one’s own.
Fallacy of straw man.
Presenting an opponent’s position in as weak or misrepresented a version
as possible so that it can be easily refuted. Ex. “Darwinism is in error.
It claims that we are all descendants from an apelike creature, from which
we evolved according to natural selection. No evidence of such a creature
has been found. No adequate and consistent explanation of natural
selection has been given. Therefore, evolution according to Darwinism has
not taken place.”
Fallacy of the beard. Arguing
that small or minor differences do not (or cannot) make a difference, or
are not ( or cannot be) significant. Also, arguing so as to find a
definite point at which something can be named. For example, insisting
that a few hairs lost here and there do not indicate anything significant
about my impending baldness; or trying to determine how many hairs a
person must have before he can be called bald (or not bald).
Fallacy of tu quoque
(you also). Presenting evidence that a person’s actions are not consistent
with that for which he is arguing. Ex. “John preaches that we should be
kind and loving. He doesn’t practice it. I’ve seen him beat up his kids.”
Also, showing that a person’s views are inconsistent with what he
previously believed and therefore (1) he is not to be trusted, and/or (2)
his new view is to be rejected. Ex. “Judge Farmer was against marijuana
legislation four years ago when he was running for office. Now he is for
it. How can you trust a man who has changed his mind on such an important
issue? His present position is inconsistent with his earlier view and therefore
should not be accepted.” Sometimes related to the fallacy of two wrongs
make a right. Ex. The Democrats for years used illegal wiretapping;
therefore the Republicans should not be condemned for illegal wiretapping.
Fallacy of unqualified
source. Using as support in an argument a source of authority that is not
qualified to provide evidence.
Gambler’s fallacy. Arguing
that since, for example, a penny has fallen tails ten times in a
row then it will fall head the eleventh time. Also, arguing that since,
for example, an airline has not had an accident for the past ten
years, it is then soon due for an accident. The gambler’s fallacy rejects
the assumption in probability theory that each event is independent of its
previous happening. The chances of an event happening are always the same
no matter how many times that event has taken place in the past. Given
those events happening over a long enough period of time then their
frequency would average out to ½. Sometimes referred to as the Monte Carlo
Fallacy (a generalized form of the gambler’s fallacy): The error of
assuming that because something has happened less frequently than expected
in the past, there is an increased chance that it will happen soon.
Genetic fallacy. Arguing that
the origin of something is identical with that from which it originates.
Ex. “Consciousness originates in neural processes. Therefore,
consciousness is (nothing but) neural processes.” Sometimes referred to as
the nothing-but fallacy, or the Reductive Fallacy. Also, appraising or
explaining something in terms of its origin, or source, or beginnings.
And, arguing that something is to be rejected because its origins are
known and/or are suspicious.
Pragmatic fallacy. Arguing
that something is true because it has practical effects upon people: it
makes them happier, easier to deal with, more moral, loyal, stable. Ex. “An
immortal life exists because without such a concept men would have nothing
to live for. There would be no meaning or purpose in life and everyone
would be immoral.”
The naturalistic or reductive fallacy.
Also the “nothing but” fallacy. 1. Erroneously believing (a) that a complex
whole is nothing but, or identical with, its parts or causes, and/or (b) that a
complex whole can be entirely explained in terms of the description of its
parts or causes. Ex. Mental states are caused by neural processes. Neural
processes can exist without the occurrence of mental states. Therefore mental
states are nothing but neural processes. 2. The error of explaining a
phenomenon and regarding its explanation as being real rather than the
phenomenon being explained.See item
The pathetic fallacy. Incorrectly
projecting (attributing) human emotions, feelings, intentions, thoughts, traits
upon events or objects which do not possess the capacity for such qualities.