A fallacy is any flaw in logic or reasoning, and any misconception that results from flawed reasoning. Some of the most important fallacies are discussed below:
An ad hominem fallacy substitutes personal attacks for reason. This fallacy occurs when someone rejects or criticises another point of view because of the individual’s personal traits, ethnic background, outward appearance, or other irrelevant characteristics.
‘She promises to balance the budget, but she is incapable of doing so because she has never run a business.’
A straw man argument, which frequently takes the counter-argument to its logical extreme, attacks a subject other than the one being discussed. This kind of deception is used to give the impression that one’s position is stronger than it actually is.
‘Suzanne is getting surveillance cameras installed in her house. I think she doesn’t trust her neighbors.’
It deceives by dividing complex problems into two sides that are fundamentally opposite to each other. The false dilemma fallacy asserts that there are only two mutually exclusive outcomes, rather than acknowledging that most issues can be thought of as having a range of possibilities and stances. It gives false credence to extreme positions while ignoring opportunities for compromise or reframing the issue.
‘If COVID vaccines are effective then why are vaccinated people still contracting COVID?’
Appeal to Ignorance
An argument based on ignorance asserts that something must be true because it isn’t false or there isn’t any evidence to support it.
‘Tom couldn’t prove his innocence before the jury. So he must have committed the crime.’
It is a fallacy in which one rejects a course of action without much or any evidence, claiming that it will result in a chain reaction of unfavorable outcomes. This line of reasoning avoids the issue at hand by focusing on extreme scenarios. Because there is no evidence to support the assertion that such scenarios will occur, this fallacy takes the form of an appeal to emotion fallacy. In reality, unsupported conjecture unfairly taints the current discussion.
‘If you stray from your diet tonight and eat one cookie, you’ll just want to eat 10 cookies tomorrow, and before you know it, you’ll have put on the 15 pounds you lost.’
Circular reasoning makes use of its conclusion as either a stated or unstated premise. Instead of providing evidence, it simply repeats the conclusion, inviting the listener to accept it as settled when, in fact, it has not. A circular argument violates the acceptability criterion because the premise is the same as the conclusion, and thus equally questionable.
‘You must invite Meghan to your party because it would not be polite if you did not invite her.’
A hasty generalization is a fallacy in which the conclusion reached is not logically supported by sufficient or objective evidence. A hasty generalization-based argument always moves from the particular to the general. A small sample is used, and conclusions are extrapolated and applied to a larger population.
‘Alaina’s classmate is a football player who is also a class clown. He is disrupting the class and failing. Alaina now thinks that all football players are not serious students.’
A red herring is a fallacious argument that attempts to divert attention from a real issue by creating confusion or distraction. Red herrings typically include an unimportant idea, fact, or event that has little bearing on the main problem. When someone wants to divert attention from a difficult or dangerous topic of discussion, they frequently use red herrings as a diversionary strategy. Red herrings, however, can also occur accidentally.
‘My flatmate talked to me about cleaning the garage, so I asked her what she thought of the patio furniture. Now she’s out shopping for patio furniture and hasn’t brought up the topic of garage cleaning again.’
When an argument incorrectly concludes that a cause and effect are in connection, it commits a causal fallacy. Consider the causal fallacy as the umbrella term for all other fallacies involving speculative causes.
‘The sun rises whenever a rooster crows. Crows have got to be the creator of the universe.’
Appeal to Hypocrisy
It’s another name is tu quoque fallacy and focuses on the hypocrisy of a rival. By blaming the other person for the same issue or something similar, the tu quoque fallacy diverts attention away from oneself.
A strategy to shift responsibility is the tu quoque fallacy. The fallacy typically occurs when the opposing party attempts to deflect criticism by displaying what appears to be hypocrisy.
‘My mom used to smoke when she was my age. She has no right to tell me to avoid smoking.’
Appeal to Authority
It is the misuse of a source’s opinion to support your position in an argument. An authority’s opinion may be supported by facts and evidence, but if their knowledge or stature is exaggerated, fraudulent, or unrelated to the subject, it is a fallacy.
‘If the Pope says something is true, it should be added to the religious doctrine because he is infallible.’
The sunk cost fallacy is when someone continues to do something because of the effort they have already invested, regardless of whether the additional costs surpass the potential benefits. Any past costs that can no longer be recovered are referred to in economics as “sunk costs.”
‘I hate living with my husband, but I’m married to him for ten years now and have two kids, so I might as well live the rest of my life with him.’
Appeal to Pity
Instead of relying on factual evidence to convince you, an appeal to pity uses your emotions to win you over. The appeal to pity fallacy is made to sway an audience’s emotions, divert their attention, and reinforce their point of view.
‘Mr. Garwood, you have to let me pass this course. I’ll lose my scholarship if I fail.’
Equivocation is the deliberate use of a word, phrase, or sentence to confound, deceive, or mislead. Alternatively, saying one thing while meaning another.
‘I can say whatever I want because I have the right to freedom of speech.’
The bandwagon fallacy assumes that something is true simply because other people concur with it. The fallacy contends that you should think a certain way if everyone else does, in other words. One issue with this line of thinking is that just because something is widely accepted doesn’t mean that it is factually justified. People’s opinions can be erroneous, clouded, misled, or even willfully irrational, so using them to support an argument is problematic.
‘It’s okay to break the traffic laws because everyone does it.’
The Ending Note
Understanding the most common fallacies will allow you to effortlessly resolve disagreements with family, friends, and acquaintances.