- a mistaken belief, especially one based on unsound argument.
- a failure in reasoning that renders an argument invalid.
- faulty reasoning; misleading or unsound argument.
We will be talking about fallacies today. These are general definitions of a fallacy.
- In your own words, what is a fallacy?
- What fallacies have you heard of?
Intro to Fallacies
Your textbook has a good list of fallacies beginning on page 363.
One important point to keep in mind is that we are always using logic to justify what we believe. The problem comes when we begin with assumptions instead of questioning our position.
Fallacies are connected to the different appeals: Ethos, Logos, and Pathos.
- Ethos is appeals to credibility or character
- Logos is appeals to logic and reason
- Pathos is appeals to feelings or emotions.
Appealing to ethos or pathos is not in itself a fallacy, only appealing to them or using them unethically is. Here is an example of a fallacy used to persuade.
- Argument: A conclusion together with the premises that support it.
- Premise: A reason offered as support for another claim.
- Conclusion: A claim that is supported by a premise.
- Valid: An argument whose premises genuinely support its conclusion.
- Unsound: An argument that has at least one false premise.
- Fallacy: An argument that relies upon faulty reasoning.
- Booby-trap: An argument that, while not a fallacy itself, might lead an inattentive reader to commit a fallacy.
This is a great resource for further reading on fallacies and how they are not so simple. The article lists 223 of the most common fallacies.
I do not expect you to know them all or to never use any. Fallacies are controversial. We appreciate logic and honesty in Western rhetorical thinking and that is at odds with many fallacies.
Fallacies are not necessarily wrong, they work very well and are very good at persuading people. Fallacies are considered unethical and so we try to avoid them. They are thought of as flaws in thought, tricks, and sneaky uses of persuasion to convince others.
Emotional Fallacies (Pathos)
Scare Tactics – Scaring people and exaggerating dangers. Also known as fear mongering.
Either-or Choices / False Dichotomy – Oversimplification to only two choices.
Slippery Slope – Exaggerating the consequences of an action.
Sentimental Appeals – Excessive emotion intended to distract.
Bandwagon Appeals – Follow the path of everyone else.
Ethical Fallacies (Ethos)
False Authority – Offering yourself or other authorities as sufficient evidence.
Dogmatism – persuade by assuming a position based in biblical passages.
Moral Equivocation – suggesting that serious wrongdoings do not differ from minor ones.
Ad Hominem (At the person) – Attacks directed at character instead of the claims or argument.
Logical Fallacies (Logos)
Hasty Generalizations – conclusions drawn from insufficient evidence. Jumping to conclusions. The most common fallacy you will encounter.
Faulty Causality – assuming because one event happened after another, the first causes the second.
Begging the Question – a form of circular logic. an argument based on claims that cannot be accepted as true.
Equivocation – the use of ambiguous language to conceal the truth or to avoid committing oneself.
Non Sequitur – an argument in which claims, reasons, or warrants fail to connect logically.
The Straw Man – Misrepresenting an argument in order to knock it down. Arguing something that is not really there.
Faulty Analogy – An extended comparison that is inaccurate or inconsequential.
Red Herring – Partway through an argument, the arguer goes off on a tangent, raising a side issue that distracts the audience from what’s really at stake. Often, the arguer never returns to the original issue.