Before we explain common logical fallacies with examples, let’s have a look at what are fallacies in logic.
Logical fallacies are flaws in reasoning that appear to follow the established rules of inference but are invalid. Fallacies in logic tend to trick people into believing that they are legitimate by disguising themselves as valid arguments.
However, a closer look brings to light the critical flaw that lies at the core of every logical fallacy. It can be challenging to notice fallacies amid a heated argument because logical fallacies often contain an element of truth. The flaw in logic undermines the justification of an intended conclusion. A fallacy may even reach the correct conclusion but arriving there in an illogical manner, renders the conclusion invalid.
Fallacies in logic are not always intended to deceive or manipulate people. Misunderstandings, bias, and emotions may be the underlying causes giving rise to the fallacies.
To avoid being deceived by fallacies in logic and prevent making fallacious arguments yourself, one should be able to spot them in arguments.
- 1 Why Are Fallacies So Prevalent?
- 2 Significance Of Detecting Fallacies In Logic
- 3 Categories Of Logical Fallacies
- 4 What Are Formal Fallacies?
- 4.1 Affirming the Consequent
- 4.2 Denying the Antecedent
- 4.3 Affirming a Disjunct
- 4.4 Denying a Conjunct
- 4.5 The Fallacy of the Undistributed Middle
- 4.6 The Fallacy of Four Terms
- 5 What Are Informal Fallacies?
- 6 Fallacies Of Irrelevant Premises
- 6.1 Genetic Fallacy
- 6.2 Red Herring Fallacy
- 6.3 Ad Hominem Fallacy
- 6.4 Straw Man Fallacy
- 6.5 Appeal to Authority Fallacy
- 6.6 Fallacy of Composition
- 6.7 Fallacy of Division
- 6.8 Equivocation Fallacy
- 6.9 Appeal to Popularity Fallacy
- 6.10 Appeal to Tradition Fallacy
- 6.11 Appeal to Ignorance Fallacy
- 6.12 Variations of Appeal to Ignorance
- 6.13 Appeal to Emotions Fallacy
- 6.14 Two Wrongs Make A Right
- 7 Fallacies of Unacceptable Premises
- 7.1 Circular Reasoning
- 7.2 False Dichotomy
- 7.3 Slippery Slope Fallacy
- 7.4 Hasty Generalization
- 7.5 Argument from Hearsay
- 7.6 Faulty Analogy
- 7.7 False Cause Fallacy
- 7.8 Fallacy Fallacy
- 8 The Ending Note
Why Are Fallacies So Prevalent?
Fallacies are effective. The fact that logical fallacies are effective does not mean that they provide you with knowledge or understanding of universal truths. Instead, it means that false forms of reasoning can often be incredibly successful in persuading people to believe things they shouldn’t.
Politicians, lawyers, marketers, and many people leverage the power of fallacious arguments to persuade people that something is true. Therefore, identifying logical fallacies is necessary for clear, thorough, and critical thinking.
Significance Of Detecting Fallacies In Logic
Logical fallacies are harmful because they threaten disproving accepted truths and advance rash judgments built on faulty premises. Therefore, understanding an argument’s weaknesses is crucial. Spotting an argument’s weaknesses also gives you an upper hand.
Learn how to avoid being deceived because there are many out there who will try to trick you. Logical fallacies conceal the truth at the core of a conversation, preventing the participants on all sides of the issue from seeing clearly and defeating the objective of the argument, which is to bring the truth to light.
This article discusses common logical fallacies with examples to make it simpler for you to navigate through fallacies arguments and to avoid committing fallacies yourself.
Categories Of Logical Fallacies
Fallacies of logic are broadly categorized into:
- Formal fallacies
- Informal fallacies
What Are Formal Fallacies?
Formal fallacies are errors in the design of deductive reasoning that render an argument false. Formal fallacies can take many various forms, but the most common ones are frequently produced without the offenders even being aware of them. This could then make it more difficult to speak clearly.
Formal fallacies include:
- Affirming the consequent
- Denying the antecedent
- Affirming a disjunct
- Denying a conjunct
- The fallacy of the undistributed middle
- The fallacy of four terms
Let’s take a closer look at each of them.
Affirming the Consequent
It occurs when someone concludes that, because one conditional statement is true, its opposite must also be true. In such cases, this assumption is predicated on a failure to take into account additional potential antecedents that may be used to provide true conditional assertions as well. In other words, the speaker has not taken into account all of the potential causes of the result. This fallacy is also known as a converse error, asserting the consequent, fallacy of the consequent, and affirmation of the consequent.
If X then Y.
- Brutus will bark if there is a burglar. Brutus just barked. So, there must be an intruder.
- If an animal has a tail it is a cat. My pet lizard has a tail. So my pet lizard is a cat.
- Whenever I have the flu, I get a fever. I’m feeling feverish. So I must have the flu as well.
Let’s consider the first example to understand how you can counter the fallacy of affirming the consequence. That is not true. Why? The first premise does not state that Brutus will bark if and only if there is an intruder, hence the premises may or may not be true.
Even if Brutus occasionally barks for other reasons as well, the first premise — that he will bark if there is an intruder — may be true.
You’ll see that you are unable to say, “Oh, the burglar might have eaten Brutus steak that was a tranquilizer. He hasn’t barked because of this. There is a thief! As a result, the first premise—that Brutus will bark if there is an intruder—is disproven, and we are now investigating the implications of the premises. In this case, the conclusion must follow from the premises if they are true.
Denying the Antecedent
Denying the antecedent, often known as the fallacy of the inverse, happens when someone assumes that the inverse cannot be true because a legitimate premise leads to a valid conclusion. The fallacy in this instance happens when someone assumes that just because a premise and conclusion are true, the reverse of that premise must automatically imply that the conclusion is false. It is also an inverse error or inverse fallacy.
If X, then Y.
Therefore, not Y.
- It is a dog if it barks. It does not bark. So, it is not a dog.
- A man might kill someone if you give him a gun. If he doesn’t have a gun, then he won’t kill anyone.
- Sara was in London, England two days ago. She’s not in London anymore, so she’s not in England.
Consider the first example. In the first presumption, it is stated that if something barks, it is a dog (i.e., that only dog’s bark), but it doesn’t mean that all dogs bark. Therefore, even if the premises of this second argument are valid, you cannot be certain that the conclusion is true. The second premise states that the antecedent is untrue or rejected, however, it is possible that something does not bark even though it is a dog.
Affirming a Disjunct
It is mistakenly assumed that a “or” condition in the case of affirming the disjunct removes the possibility that “either/or” could be true. This is an equivocation fallacy where the assumption is made that since one disjunct is true, the other must be false.
It is also called affirming a disjunct, asserting an alternative, fallacy of the alternative disjunct, false exclusionary disjunct, the fallacy of the disjunctive syllogism, and improper disjunctive syllogism.
X or Y.
Therefore, not Y.
- I’m watching TV or getting ready for bed. I’m going to bed since I’m tired, therefore I won’t be watching TV.
- You can perform jumping jacks as aerobics or as a type of exercise. It is not an exercise because it is a type of aerobics.
- I had just lost my job. Either I get employment or I continue to struggle in life. Now that I have a job, I won’t have to struggle any longer.
The third statement can appear to be correct at first look, however, a closer examination of the second part reveals a small mistake. The problem is obvious after only a short amount of investigation: having a job does not always imply not experiencing struggle. You may discover problems on the job that you weren’t aware of before. You might experience difficulties in aspects of your life outside work. It is possible to struggle in life while holding down a job.
Denying a Conjunct
The basis for this fallacy is that two premises cannot both be true at the same time. It is false to assume that because A is false, therefore B must be true under the aforementioned condition. The main problem with this assumption is that it rules out the possibility that both premises might be false.
Not both X and Y.
Therefore, not Y.
- It can not be both rainy and sunny. It’s not sunny today. So, it must be raining.
- Teena is not a communist as well as a hippie. Teena is not a hippy, so she has got to be a communist.
- I can’t smoke weed and work at the factory. I don’t smoke pot. I can therefore secure a position in the factory.
Denying a conjunct is a logical mistake even if the conclusion of the sequence is true. In the aforementioned case, it is believable that the speaker might land a position in a factory. However, you cannot assume that this is the case just because the speaker does not smoke weed. For example, the speaker may lack the skills necessary to be recruited as a factory worker whether or not they smoke weed.
The Fallacy of the Undistributed Middle
This fallacy is also known as nondistributio medii in Latin. It is categorized as a syllogistic fallacy. A syllogism is a type of argument that develops when two premises claim to be true and that enables one to use deductive reasoning to reach a certain conclusion. When one cannot deduce this conclusion because of a logical fault in any or both of the propositions, this is what we call a syllogistic fallacy. When a “middle term,” which is required to arrive at the desired conclusion, is absent from either of two assertions, it is a fallacy known as the “undistributed middle.”
All X’s are Z’s.
All Y’s are Z’s.
Therefore, all X’s are Y’s.
Every student has a backpack.
My grandfather lugs a backpack around.
So, my grandfather is a student.
While it is true that every student has a backpack, not everyone who carries a backpack is a student. All fallacies of the Undistributed Middle are either affirming the consequent or denying the antecedent fallacies. The main distinction is that, in a sense, distributing the middle can fix the mistake of the undistributed middle.
The following, for example, would be a fallacy:
- Every billionaire is an astronaut.
- Jeff Bezos is also an astronaut.
- Therefore, Jeff Bezos is a billionaire.
However, you can address the preceding mistake by offering the following argument:
- Every billionaire is an astronaut.
- Jeff Bezos is also an astronaut.
- Everyone who’s an astronaut is also a billionaire.
- So, Jeff Bezos is also a billionaire.
By adding the third assertion in this sequence, the “middle term” has been added which may then be distributed to the conclusion.
The Fallacy of Four Terms
This fallacy occurs in a categorical syllogism when the syllogism has four words rather than the required three. If it has this form, it is invalid. The equivocation fallacy can use this fallacy when the same phrase is used in two different ways, resulting in four distinct terms, despite only appearing to be three.
All A’s are B’s.
All C’s are D’s.
Therefore, all A’s are D’s.
All humans are mammals.
Alina is a human.
Alina is thus a living organism.
There is now a schism with the fourth term. Mammals, people, and Alina are all living organisms. However, they are not all living organisms. Alina could be dead for all you know. The location all humans are mammals, and the fact that Alina is a human does not imply that she is a living organism.
What Are Informal Fallacies?
Informal fallacies happen when the argument’s thesis is flawed. There are numerous varieties of informal fallacies, and any one argument may simultaneously fall victim to more than one of them.
Informal logical fallacies can further be categorized into two types:
- Irrelevant premises fallacies
- Unacceptable premises fallacies
Fallacies Of Irrelevant Premises
Such fallacies have no relevance to the truth of the conclusion. Arguments with irrelevant premises present “reasons” that may appear to support the conclusion but have nothing to do with the conclusion.
These are the fallacies of irrelevant premises:
- Genetic Fallacy
- Red herring fallacy
- Ad Hominem fallacy
- Straw Man fallacy
- Appeal to authority fallacy
- Fallacy of composition
- Fallacy of division
- Equivocation fallacy
- Appeal to popularity fallacy
- Appeal to tradition fallacy
- Appeal to ignorance fallacy
- Appeal to emotions fallacy
The genetic fallacy is also known as the fallacy of origins or the fallacy of virtue. This fallacy occurs when you base the truth of an argument on the origin of its claims or premises.
The origin of the claim is stated.
Therefore, the claim is true/false.
- You can safely disregard that alternative energy strategy. It was created by a liberal think tank in Washington.
- That proposal for resolving the current Social Security mess should be rejected because it was presented by the Republican Party.
- Russell’s idea of raising taxes on the middle class came to him in a dream, so it must be nonsense.
These arguments fail because they reject a claim solely based on where it comes from, rather than on its merits. In most cases, the origin of an idea is unimportant to its truth. Good ideas can come from unlikely places. Bad ideas can come from the most reputable sources. In general, judging a claim solely on its source is a recipe for disaster.
Red Herring Fallacy
The term “red herring fallacy” describes a situation in which one speaker tries to draw another speaker’s attention away from the main argument by making a point that may be accurate but does not truly advance the main points of a counterargument. The red herring will often support a conclusion with a fact that does not truly provide substantive support. It is for the possibility that the pungent fish in issue might “throw one off the scent” of the actual argument itself. It is also known as ignoratio elenchi, false emphasis, changing the subject, irrelevant conclusion, irrelevant thesis, ignorance of refutation, clouding the issue, beside the point, and the Chewbacca defense.
Person 1 presents argument X.
Person 2 intercepts with argument Y.
Argument X has now been abandoned.
- Child: This fish has an odd flavor. I don’t feel like eating this.
Parent: Children in Africa are starving. Be grateful and eat your meal.
- Winston: I find it horrible that a hunter killed a lion named Cecil.
Karen: What about all the children who are aborted every day?
- Henrietta: I firmly believe that action must be taken to address the nation’s escalating rates of poverty and homelessness.
Karen: Why are you concerned about poverty? Do you ever think about how many babies are aborted each day?
Apart from being a logical fallacy, red herring is also a common literary and cinematic trick that can be used to divert the reader or viewer’s attention. This technique is frequently used in mysteries, suspense thrillers, and other stories that end with surprising plot twists. For instance, in a murder mystery, the author may provide several hints that suggest an innocent victim is a murderer, but in fact, the real murderer is hiding in plain sight.
It is a variation of the red herring fallacy. The more general term for deflecting attention from something is misdirection. This might be done for amusement, to avoid embarrassment, or for any other reason, including argumentation.
Ad Hominem Fallacy
Argumentum ad hominem is a phrase meaning “to the person.” It is an argument that centers on the criticism of the speaker rather than the argument’s main points. Instead of dissecting a person’s arguments, this rhetorical technique employs an approach meant to cast doubt on the person’s motivations, character, or other aspects of their life.
- Person 1 makes an argument X.
- But person 1 is a dimwit.
- Therefore, argument X is false.
- Sara: The concept of the moral law, in my opinion, necessitates the existence of a lawgiver (i.e. God).
Anthony: Of course, you would say that. You are a Christian after all. Why should I listen to you?
- Jessie: Legalizing marijuana is a good idea in my opinion. The nation would benefit more if the drug war didn’t exist.
Skyler: You are a pothead. So, you are obviously going to believe that.
- Karen: Jessica who is running against me says that decreasing taxes will be a wonderful idea. She eats a pint of Ben and Jerry’s every night.
In the third example, the fact that Jessica likes to eat ice cream has nothing to do with tax reduction and is thus irrelevant to the debate. Ad hominem attacks are typically used in desperation when there is no logical counterargument.
- Tu Quoque Fallacy
It is a type of ad hominem fallacy. The Tu Quoque fallacy is also known as “you also.” It involves one speaker discrediting another by criticizing their behavior as being incompatible with their position. This is a phony attack line since it focuses more on the speaker’s traits than on the substance of their genuine argument. The main distinction is that this personal attack is framed as having a direct connection to the argument itself, unlike ad hominem, which instead uses a rhetorical argument instead of a personal line of attack. The purpose of this framing is not to disqualify the speaker based on who they are, but rather on how they act and, in turn, how that behavior looks to contradict the main idea of the speaker’s argument.
Person 1 argues that X is true, but person 1 does not act like X is true.
So, X cannot be true.
- Speaker 1: Divorce is detrimental to the family and society at large.
Speaker 2: Considering that you have divorced yourself, I guess you don’t believe that.
- Parent: I don’t want you to go around smoking weed. It’s still against the law and can get you in trouble.
Child: When you were my age, didn’t you take weed? It’s not as big of a deal as you are making it out to be.
- Democratic Speaker 1: Donald Trump is a well-known adulterer. It speaks poorly of him and raises the possibility that he is not reliable.
Republican Speaker 2: What about Bill Clinton? You seemed unconcerned when he cheated.
This error occurs when one person accuses the other person of being hypocritical instead of replying directly to an issue. The high level of divisiveness in today’s political discourse usually leads to a type of tu quoque fallacy known as “whataboutism.”
Straw Man Fallacy
The strawman fallacy happens when a speaker attempts to disprove another speaker’s position by substituting a similar but much weaker premise. In essence, the speaker is “building a straw man” that can quickly dismantle a counterargument. This rhetorical strategy has a drawback because it does not address the original argument directly; instead, it shifts the focus to a more manageable argument.
- Person 1 makes an argument X.
- Person 2 reiterates argument X in a twisted way.
- Person 2 now criticizes argument X’s warped version.
Argument X is false.
- Speaker 1: I believe we should lower the age of sexual consent to 16 years old.
Speaker 2: Sixteen-year-olds are children. So you think it should be acceptable for children to have sex? No, we should not decrease the consent age.
- Speaker 1: I believe in single-payer, universal health care.
Speaker 2: Communist countries attempted it. We do not want America to become a communist state. We should not have a single-payer system for health care.
- Zaccaria: What are your thoughts on the Christian God?
Mike: I don’t believe in any Gods.
Zaccaria: So, you believe we are here by chance, and that all of nature’s design is pure chance, and that the cosmos just made itself?
Mike: You got all of that from my saying I don’t believe in any gods?
In the third example, Mike said that he doesn’t believe in any gods. You can derive such assumptions from this, such as the fact that he is not a theist, a practicing Christian, Catholic, Jew, or a member of any other religion that needs believing in a God, but you cannot deduce that he believes everyone is here by chance, nature is chance, and the universe created itself. Mike may have no belief in these matters. Maybe he distinguishes between “accident” and “natural selection,” or maybe he feels that the concept of design is something that models after the universe, or maybe he believes in some other supernatural explanation. Regardless, this was a blatant misinterpretation of Mike’s reasoning.
Appeal to Authority Fallacy
It is also called argumentum ad verecundiam, the argument from authority, and ipse dixit. It is a type of argument in which a speaker says that a relevant authority figure supports their point of view. This endorsement claim offers a sufficient argument in and of itself, absolving the speaker of the need to present any additional evidence to support their thesis.
Person 1, who is an expert on the subject of X, believes that X is correct.
Therefore, X must be correct.
- My philosophy teacher believes in ghosts and attends séances. She’s a bright, educated person, therefore ghosts must exist.
- According to my minister, the Covid vaccine will trigger genetic abnormalities. He holds a college diploma and is a pious guy, therefore he cannot be wrong.
- Aristotle believed that women were inferior to men. Aristotle was one of the wisest men who ever lived, so he has got to be right.
If all sides of a dispute agree that the mentioned individual is a relevant authority figure and that the facts expressed about this figure are correctly ascribed, the appeal may not be fallacious. As a result, there is significant controversy over whether the appeal to authority is necessarily flawed. However, in environments such as science, where authority must be challenged for discoveries to be made, any such appeal that lacks empirical foundation should be dismissed as false.
- Appeal to False Authority
It is an alternative form of appeal to authority. Other names for this fallacy include an appeal to doubtful authority, an appeal to dubious authority, an appeal to improper authority, an appeal to inappropriate authority, an appeal to irrelevant authority, an appeal to misplaced authority, an appeal to unqualified authority, and the argument from false authority.
This fallacy occurs when the speaker may cite someone with some influence, but usually in an area unrelated to the main argument. For example, one can erroneously quote a medical expert’s political opinion just because she is a very smart doctor.
Expert A shares her opinion on problem B.
The competence of expert A has little to no bearing on problem B.
People’s opinions toward issue B influence expert A’s advice.
Eddie’s fifth-grade teacher once told him that if boys learned to dance, girls would go crazy for them. So, learn to dance if you want to make the ladies fall in love with you.
Even if the fifth-grade teacher were an expert on relationships, her theory about what makes girls “go crazy” for boys is speculative or circumstantial. In other words, the teacher’s expertise is in dance, not in attraction psychology.
Fallacy of Composition
The composition fallacy involves treating a distributed feature as if it were collective. It happens when someone makes the error of attributing to a group (or a whole) a quality that is solely true of its members (or parts), and then draws conclusions from that mistake.
A is a constituent of B.
A possesses the attribute X.
So, B must also have the attribute X.
- Ron: We will always win if we have all of the best players on our side.
- Alaina: Every block in that building weighs less than a pound. So, we can conclude that the entire building weighs less than a pound.
- Rupert: Molecules constitute your brain, but molecules do not impart any consciousness. Therefore, consciousness does not originate in your brain.
The third example offers a typical justification for a paranormal explanation of consciousness. On the surface, it seems impossible to think that a group of molecules could produce something like consciousness because you are concentrating on the characteristics of the parts (molecules) rather than the entire system, which includes emergence, motion, the use of energy, temperature (vibration), order, and other relational characteristics.
Fallacy of Division
This fallacy is based on the assumption that something is true for one or more of the components because it is true for the total. It is the opposite of the composition fallacy. It is also known as a faulty deduction, division fallacy, or false division.
B comprises A.
B possesses attribute X.
As a result, A has attribute X.
- Jack: Most of the homes in the area are about half the size of his mansion. His doors must all be around 3 1/2 feet high as a result.
- Alex: According to what I’ve heard, the Catholic Church covered up a sex scandal. So my 102-year-old Catholic neighbor, who regularly goes to church, must also be guilty.
In the first example, the doors of a person’s home almost probably won’t be smaller, especially not by the same proportions. The size of any individual part of the house is not inversely proportional to the size of the house as a whole. In the latter example, even when it’s likely that the 102-year-old grandmother is guilty of some offenses, such as using way too much perfume, she would not automatically be found guilty of any sex scandals due to her affiliation with the Church. Granted, one could argue that Granny is morally culpable because she supports the Church financially, but it is obvious that her “crimes” are distinct from those who are responsible for the cover-ups.
This logical fallacy is also known as the Motte-and-Bailey fallacy. It occurs when a speaker distorts the distinction between two opposing viewpoints that share some characteristics. It is feasible to associate a moderate position (Motte), and so readily argued, with a more radical position (Bailey), and thus more challenging to defend, by distorting this line. By equating two perspectives, the speaker is presenting a false equivalence and compelling the opposing speaker to defend a position that is more challenging to support.
In the premise, the term X is used to refer to Y.
In the conclusion, the term X is used to denote Z.
- Amy: Did you torture the prisoner?
Jared: No, we simply mock-hung him after holding him underwater for a bit.
- Stacey: The Supreme Court has ruled that we have a right to abortion. Therefore, it is acceptable to have an abortion.
- Martha: The priest advised me to have faith. I have faith that my daughter will do well in school this year. I think the priest will be happy to know that.
The priest used the word “faith” in the religious sense, which is different from having “faith” in your daughter, in which case years of good prior performance would be the basis for any “faith” you would have in your daughter.
Appeal to Popularity Fallacy
It is also similar to the argumentum ad populum or common belief fallacy. This phrase describes a situation in which a speaker claims that something is true because many people hold that belief. In this fallacy, the speaker claims that something is indisputably true merely because the majority of people believe it to be the case, rather than offering evidence to back up their claim. The bandwagon fallacy is a different kind of this fallacy that implies that one should embrace a position or opinion (i.e., jump on the bandwagon) because so many other people do. Another form is the claim that a view or stance holds by an elite group of people, implies that you might wish to agree with them.
Everyone believes in X.
So, X must be correct.
- Tim: Most philosophers throughout history have believed that men were more rational than women, so this must be right.
- Gwen: Mormonism is one of the fastest-growing Christian sects today, thus the whole tale about Joseph Smith receiving the golden plates, which regrettably vanished back into heaven, has to be genuine!
- Hal: According to a 2005 Gallup Poll, approximately 25% of Americans over the age of 18 believe in astrology, or that the positions of the stars and planets can influence people’s lives. That equates to approximately 75,000,000 people. Therefore, astrology must be right.
In the second example, while it is true that Mormonism is quickly expanding, this in no way proves the claims made by Mormonism to be valid. In the last example, the popularity of the astrological belief is unrelated to the credibility of astrological assertions. Beliefs are frequently cultural memes that spread from person to person based on considerations other than the truth.
Appeal to Tradition Fallacy
It is also known as argumentum ad antiquitatem, appeal to antiquity, appeal to common practice, appeal to wisdom, appeal to past practice, appeal to traditional wisdom, and proof from tradition. The fallacy arises when a conclusion or viewpoint only supports it because it has long been accepted as superior or true. Age, however, is not necessarily a reliable indicator of the validity or efficacy of a system.
Our ancestors have been doing X for many years.
As a result, we should continue doing X.
Our forefathers believed X to be true.
So, X is right.
- Dave: For five generations, the ladies in our family have married and raised children while the men attended Stanford and became doctors. I must therefore train to be a doctor.
Katie: Do you want to become a doctor?
Dave: It doesn’t matter; it’s a tradition in our family. I shouldn’t break it.
- Gay marriage ought to be prohibited since, in the past, marriages have only ever been between men and women.
Let’s look at the first example. Traditions start and end by people. A tradition should not be used as justification when taking a particular decision or action; it would be like viewing the same movie repeatedly without ever considering why you should do so. As for the second example, traditions frequently derive from religious and/or antiquated ideas, and unless people examine the justification and logic behind such traditions, those who suffer as a result of them will continue to endure hardship. It does not follow that something is acceptable today simply because it was acceptable in earlier cultures and eras. Consider slavery, corporal punishment, racism, and sexism.
Appeal to Ignorance Fallacy
It is also known as ad ignorantiam. This fallacy occurs when a conclusion or fact is based solely on the absence of opposing evidence. The phrase sums up the appeal to ignorance fallacy well, “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”
The black swan fallacy, appeal to mystery, and toupee fallacy is variations of appeal to ignorance.
You cannot demonstrate that Y is false, hence Y must be true.
Y cannot be true, because you cannot demonstrate that Y is true.
- It has been shown that the moon is not composed of spare ribs, but it has not been shown that the moon’s core cannot be composed of spare ribs; as a result, the moon’s core is composed of spare ribs.
- Life must be the consequence of supernatural intervention because science has not yet been able to produce life out of nothing.
In the first example, the moon being stocked with spare ribs is one of an infinite number of things one cannot prove. You may think that any “normal” individual would understand that the moon cannot contain spare ribs, yet you would be unrealistic in your expectations. People make outrageous assertions and get away with them because the opposite cannot be demonstrated. In the second example, the lack of a method for producing life from non-life is neither proof that there isn’t a method for producing life from non-life, nor is it proof that scientists will ever be able to; it is only proof that they are unaware of the method.
Variations of Appeal to Ignorance
The Black Swan Fallacy
You commit the black swan fallacy when you assert that contradicting data or assertions must disregard prior experience. It treats the heuristic of induction like an algorithm. Because no one had ever seen a black swan before, it was believed that “all swans are white” until they did. If you lived in a time before black swans, it would be logical to believe that all swans that you now know of are white. Leave room for discovery unless it is proven that the contrary facts, assertions, or statements would be impossible to be true. For instance, asserting all triangles have three sides is true and logical.
This fallacy occurs when an argument is pronounced false due to the lack of supporting evidence. Take the claim that “all toupées appear false; I’ve never seen one that I couldn’t tell was fake.” into consideration. When they did see one they couldn’t tell was false, they weren’t able to tell it was phony, which is why they’ve never seen one they couldn’t tell was fake.
Appeal to Mystery
The Appeal to mystery makes the particular claim that the inability to establish something stems from the fact that “it is a mystery.” Instead of questioning if the assertion is real, one assumes that it is true and stops further research by dismissing it as a mystery.
Appeal to Emotions Fallacy
It is also known as emotional appeal, playing on emotions, argument by vehemence, and appeal to pathos. Appeal to emotions is an umbrella term for a variety of fallacies that try to convince the audience by appealing to their emotions rather than logic. In place of sound reasoning, it is a form of manipulation.
There is no evidence for claim X.
Emotion utilizes to persuade the interlocutor that X is true instead of logic or facts.
- Power lines are cancer-causing. A young cancer patient I met who lived less than 20 miles from a power line gazed into my eyes and begged me to do everything in my power to spare other children from going through what he was. I implore you to support this legislation, which will replace all electrical lines with monkeys running on treadmills.
- There must be absolute, universal right and wrong. If not, how are you able to claim that torturing infants for amusement is ever justified?
The first example includes the statement, emotional appeal, and call to action (conclusion); and offers no evidence anywhere. The fact that a young boy with cancer is showing compassion for others rather than feeling sorry for himself can make everyone cry, but that has nothing to do with the claim or the conclusion.
The idea of someone abusing infants for amusement quickly conjures up disturbing images of insane people. There are actual objective right and bad actions. The argument is constructed in a way that links its findings that there is an overarching moral standard to the notion that torturing infants for amusement is bad. Regardless of how you personally feel about a terrible act, your emotions cannot take the place of an objective explanation for why the conduct is terrible.
Two Wrongs Make A Right
Two wrongs do not make a right fallacy occurs when you argue that your morally wrong behavior is justified because someone else did the same or similar thing.
A did Y to B.
So, B has justification to do Y to A.
- He stole my laptop a month ago, so I stole his. I think it’s fair.
- I can have an affair because my wife had one.
This fallacy promotes the notion that in some way, the wrongdoings of another can make yours right. However, if your deed is morally wrong, someone else’s deed cannot change that. If your action is unjustified, it cannot become justified by what another person does.
Fallacies of Unacceptable Premises
Unacceptable premises have some relevance to the conclusion but are doubtful overall. Although the premises of an argument may be relevant to the conclusion, they do not adequately support it.
Premises can be deemed unacceptable if they are equally questionable as they claim they are meant to support, if the evidence they supply is insufficient to adequately support the conclusion, or if they have other flaws that render them completely useless.
- Circular Reasoning
- False Dichotomy
- Slippery Slope
- Hasty Generalization
- Faulty Analogy
It is also known as a circular argument, circular cause, and consequence, paradoxical thinking, vicious circle, and reasoning in a circle. A sort of reasoning in which the conclusion is supported by the premises, which in turn are supported by the conclusion, resulting in a logical loop in which no relevant information is conveyed. This fallacy can be hilarious.
Because of Y, X is true.
Because of X, Y is true.
- Abortion should be legalized because women should be able to choose whether or not to terminate a pregnancy.
- It is illegal to break the law, so you should not break it.
- God declares that the Bible contains His Word, thus we know it to be true.
Many people rely their entire life on this extremely serious circular reasoning. The notion that people rely on the Bible because it is God’s word is circular, whether it is explicitly stated or implied.
- Begging the Question
It is also known as petitio principii, circulus in probando, chicken and the egg argument, assuming the answer, and assuming the initial point. It is a type of circular reasoning. Begging the question is any type of argument in which the conclusion is implied by one of the premises. Many people misinterpret the word “begging the question” to mean “prompts one to raise the inquiry.” That is NOT the correct way to say it. Begging the question is a type of circular reasoning.
Claim X is based on the assumption that X is true.
As a result, claim X is correct.
Cigarette smoking can kill you because cigarettes are lethal.
Since it is neither natural nor healthy to forsake sexual activity, celibacy is an unnatural and unhealthy lifestyle.
Paranormal activity is genuine because I have witnessed what can only be defined as paranormal activity.
Take the third example into account. The premise “I have encountered what can only be defined as paranormal activity” supports the conclusion that “paranormal activity is genuine.” The premise presumes, or assumptions, that the proposition “paranormal activity is real” is already true.
This fallacy is also frequently referred to as a false dilemma, all-or-nothing fallacy, either fallacy, the fallacy of false alternative, the fallacy of false choice, bifurcation, no middle ground, excluded middle, and the fallacy of exhaustive hypotheses. It occurs when a person wrongly places restrictions on their available options in a certain situation. This misconception assumes that one must choose a binary decision when it’s conceivable that there are several possibilities. In essence, this happens when the variety of alternatives and options is condensed into a straightforward either-or situation.
Either A is true or B.
- You are either for or against God.
- You seemed like a nice person to me, but you weren’t in church today.
- You may either support the cops or Black Lives Matter.
The false dichotomy confounds “contraries” and “contradictories.” With contradictory statements, one of them must be true. For example, if you say someone is alive, you must assume they are not dead, and vice versa. Contraries, on the other hand, are statements in which at most one of them must be true, but it is also possible that neither statement is true. For example, if you say that someone “is not here,” you cannot conclude that the person is not at home. The person could be at home, at the supermarket, or aboard the International Space Station. You have no idea. All we can deduce from the statement is that the individual is not present. The false dichotomy ignores the full array of possibilities.
- Decision Point Fallacy/Sorites Paradox
It is a variation of the false dichotomy fallacy. This fallacy is committed based on the argument that there are no differences or gradations in that process because no line or distinction can be drawn at any point in it.
Pro-abortion stance: An embryo is not a person when it is conceived (not an entity with full moral rights, including a right to life). There is also no specific time during the protracted gestation period at which you can say with certainty that the fetus has changed from being a nonperson to being a person. The fetus is therefore not a person at any stage of gestation—it is simply not a person.
Pro-life stance: There is no point during the protracted gestation period when you can say with certainty that the fetus has turned into a person. Various points have been put forth as the emergence of personhood, such as viability, but none of these are tenable. However, conception makes sense as the beginning of personhood because, at that point, the embryo receives the DNA that will allow it to develop into a fully human being. As a result, personhood begins to exist at conception.
Often people harbor vague concepts to reflect the fact that many processes lack a decisive point or a dynamic moment that abruptly changes something into something else. You cannot say when a fetus transforms into a person. The decision-point fallacy leads you to the false conclusion that a specific transforming point exists or should exist.
Slippery Slope Fallacy
It is also known as the continuum fallacy, domino fallacy, camel’s nose, absurd extrapolation, and the thin edge of the wedge. This fallacy happens when a speaker asserts that one step taken in a certain direction will inevitably result in a string of subsequent and unintended events. Based on a single verifiable premise, this argument leads to several unexpected and implausible conclusions. The problem with the slippery slope theory is that it frequently predicts a wide range of likely future events, leaving out the possibility that a series of more moderate events might occur in place of them.
If X, then Y, then…eventually Z.
- We cannot afford to lose the Vietnam War. If the communists take over South Vietnam, Thailand will follow suit. If Thailand falls to them, South Korea will follow. And before you know it, Southeast Asia will be completely under communist control.
- Do you smoke weed? If you continue down this road, you will become a heroin addict within two years.
- If we legalize marijuana, people will want to legalize meth and heroin as well.
These arguments follow the pattern of a slippery slope. They are fallacies not because they assert that one event or state of affairs inevitably leads to another, but because there is no reason to believe them.
Hasty generalization fallacy falls many other names including, inductive generalization, argument by generalization, faulty generalization, statistics of small numbers, the argument from small numbers, lonely fact fallacy, over generalization, over generality, insufficient sample, and unrepresentative sample.
This fallacy occurs when the conclusion is deducted about numerous instances of a phenomenon based on evidence that is limited to one or a few instances of said phenomenon. This means that one might try to generalize an explanation for an occurrence based on an untrustworthy small sample set.
Sample X draws from population Y.
Sample X represents a very small portion of the population Y.
Z is derived from sample X and applied to population Y.
- My father smoked four packs of cigarettes a day since the age of fourteen and lived to the age of 69. So, smoking cannot be that bad for you.
- My next-door neighbor’s child was abducted while playing alone in her yard. My city must be dangerous for children.
- I know four low-income families. They are drug addicts who are good for nothing. I think all poor people are slacker drug addicts.
The fallacy of hasty or faulty generalization is most prevalent when you associate stereotypes to entire demographic groups based on anecdotal evidence or limited interaction with only a subset of that group’s representation. A person who owned a pet cat with a bad temper, for example, might make the stereotypical generalization that all cats have bad tempers.
Argument from Hearsay
It is aka anecdotal evidence, Chinese whispers, and the telephone game. This fallacy occurs when you present the testimony of a source who was not there at the alleged event. Message content is likely to alter with each analog transfer of information. As in the butterfly effect in chaos theory, every minor change has the potential to cause many more substantial alterations.
Person 1 informed me that he had seen Y.
Therefore, I must accept that Y is correct.
Laura: Diana told me that Brandon stole some cash from the company fund.
Bill: Was Diana there and actually saw him do that?
Based on hearsay, Laura makes a big claim about Bill. Not only did she not see Bill stealing the money, but neither did Diana.
- Anecdotal Fallacy/Volvo Fallacy
It is a variation of the argument by hearsay fallacy in which anecdotal evidence is to support an argument without any other evidence or reasoning.
Y occurred because X occurred.
Every time X occurs, Y will also happen.
Jason said that was fine, but his grandfather smoked 30 cigarettes a day and lived until the age of 97, so don’t believe everything you read about meta-analyses of methodologically sound studies demonstrating proven causal relationships.
People often find it much easier to believe someone’s testimony than it is to understand complex data and variation across a continuum. Scientific evidence and reasoning are almost always more accurate than personal perceptions and experiences, but people prefer to believe what they can see and/or the word of someone they trust over a more ‘abstract’ statistical reality.
Other names for this fallacy include weak analogy, bad analogy, the argument from spurious similarity, false metaphor, defective arguments by analogy, and questionable analogy. This fallacy is based on the assumption that because two things are similar in one or more ways, they must be similar in another.
X is similar to Y.
P is a characteristic of Y.
As a result, X has the characteristic P.
(However, X is not at all like Y.)
- Not believing in Jesus’ literal resurrection because the Bible contains errors and contradictions is analogous to denying that the Titanic sank because eyewitnesses could not agree on whether the ship broke in half before or after it sank.
- Believing in Jesus’ literal resurrection is akin to believing in zombies’ literal existence.
- Making people register their firearms is analogous to the Nazis forcing Jews to register with their government. This policy is insane.
In the above examples, the things compared are not adequately similar in relevant ways. All of these arguments are weak, a little silly, and justify a wrong conclusion. Eyewitnesses and physical evidence for the sunken titanic exist, whereas no such evidence exists for Jesus’s literal resurrection. The second argument is also weak because Jesus was alive, whereas zombies are undead. The third example also uses an extremely weak analogy because Jews were human beings, whereas firearms are just an object that isn’t even essential for survival.
False Cause Fallacy
It is also similar to a questionable fallacy, butterfly logic, ignoring a common cause, neglecting a common cause, confusing correlation, and causation, confusing cause and effect, false cause, third cause, and third-cause fallacy. This fallacy occurs when you conclude that one thing causes another simply because they are frequently intertwined, you are engaging in the false cause fallacy. The problem here is that the conclusion is based on an assumed causal connection that does not exist.
X correlates with Y.
So, X must be the cause of Y.
Many homosexuals infect with AIDS. As a result, homosexuality causes AIDS.
While AIDS affects a much larger proportion of the homosexual population than the heterosexual population, we cannot conclude that homosexuality causes AIDS any more than heterosexuality causes pregnancy.
It is also similar to argumentum ad logicam, the argument to logic, fallacy’s fallacy, and disproof by fallacy. It is based on concluding that the truth value of an argument is false due to the presence of a fallacy in the argument.
Argument Y is flawed.
As a result, argument Y’s conclusion or truth is false.
- Jim: You can’t borrow my car because at midnight it turns back into a pumpkin.
Sandra: You’re an idiot if you believe that.
Jim: That is an ad hominem fallacy, so I am not an idiot.
Sandra: I must disagree.
- Cassey: I’m sorry, but if you think man used to ride dinosaurs, you’re uneducated.
Richard: To begin with, I have a Ph.D. in creation science, so I am literate. Second, your ad hominem attack demonstrates that you are incorrect, and man did once ride dinosaurs.
Cassey: Obtaining a Ph.D. in a couple of months from a “college” in a trailer park does not constitute as educated. My fallacy is not evidence for man-riding dinosaurs. And whether you like it or not, the Flintstones was not a documentary!
While it is true that Sandra and Cassey have committed the ad hominem fallacy, the fallacy is not evidence that Sandra and Cassey’s counterarguments are wrong. When someone uses a fallacy to support one of their argument’s truth claims because they are at a loss for words, it may be a sign of desperation. This may be proof that they are unable to support their claim, but it does not refute the claim itself.
Bad Reasons Fallacy
It is a variation of the fallacy. However, the argument does not have to contain a fallacy; it could simply be a bad argument with bad evidence or reasons. Bad arguments do not always imply that the conclusion is false; there may be much better arguments and reasons to support the conclusion’s truth.
Tim: God does not exist because I have never seen him.
This is a terrible reason to support a very strong conclusion, but it does not imply that God does not exist; rather, it indicates that the argument is weak.
The Ending Note
Fallacies can be deceptive because they appear plausible. They have consistently demonstrated to be psychologically persuasive while logically ineffective. The primary reason for studying fallacies is to be able to detect them and avoid to deceive. We hope that this extensive list of fallacies will assist you in developing a thorough understanding of fallacies and how they deceive people.