Errors of Rhetoric: Logical Fallacies

A logical fallacy is a flaw in reasoning.
Strong arguments are based on testable premises and logical relationships, whilst weak arguments – whether due to weak premises or to weak relationships – tend to use logical fallacies to appear stronger than they are or to appear to weaken an opposing argument. Most people inadvertently commit logical fallacies in presenting an argument, but regrettably they are often deliberately used by politicians, the media, salespeople, and others to manipulate and fool people, and by those in power and authority to deflect, denigrate, or dismiss criticism.
It is important to recognize these fallacies so that one can avoid letting a debate be hijacked and insist that it return to the actual issue under discussion.

[Click here to open all notes.]

Black-or-White Syndrome

Where two alternative states are presented as the only or exclusive possibilities, when in fact more possibilities exist, both possibilities may co-exist, and/or neither may be valid.

» more »

Straw Man

Misrepresenting someone’s argument to make it easier to attack.

» more »

Reduction to Absurdity

Reductio ab Absurdum or Argumentum ab Absurdum.

» more »

Slippery Slope

Asserting that if we allow A to happen, then Z will consequently happen too, therefore A should not happen.

» more »

Changing the Subject

Avoiding engagement with an argument by creating a new one.

» more »

Non Sequitur

Excluding the Middle, leaping from a premise to conclusion without a valid intervening connection.

Ad Hominem

Attacking your opponent’s character or personal traits, or simply name calling, in an attempt to thereby undermine or dismiss their argument.

» more »

Genetic Fallacy

Judging something good or bad on the basis of where or whom it comes from.

» more »

Bandwagon

Appealing to popularity or the fact that many people do or believe something as an attempted form of validation.

» more »

Appeal to Emotion

Manipulating an emotional response in place of a valid or compelling argument.

Also:  Argumentum ad Populum, appealing to group fears and prejudices, myths and ideals.

» more »

Appeal to Authority

Saying that because an authority says something, it must therefore be true.

» more »

Appeal to Nature

Making the argument that because something is ‘natural’ it is therefore valid, justified, inevitable, good, or ideal.

» more »

Enemy Narrative

Casting the argument in the mold of a hero-villain story.

» more »

Special Pleading

Moving the goalposts, or asserting exception or new conditions when a claim is shown to be false.

No True Scotsman

Making an Appeal to Purity as a way to dismiss relevant criticisms or flaws of an argument.

» more »

Nocebo

Dismissing a claim by accusing the person making it of being manipulated by or suggestible to the agendas of others.

» more »

Tu Quoque

Avoiding having to engage with criticism by turning it back on the accuser – answering criticism with criticism.

» more »

Projection

Assuming someone or something has the same characteristics as you and yours.

» more »

Begging the Question

A circular argument, in which the conclusion is included in the premise.

» more »

Loaded Question

Asking a question that has an assumption built into it so that it can’t be answered without appearing guilty.

» more »

False Cause

Presuming that a real or perceived relationship between things means that one is the cause of the other.

» more »

Texas Sharpshooter

Cherry-picking data clusters to suit an argument, or finding a pattern to fit a presumption.

» more »

Burden of Proof

Saying that the burden of proof lies not with the person making the claim, but with someone else to disprove the claim.

» more »

Faulty Analogy

Assuming that what’s true about one thing or a part of something is true about something similar or the whole.

» more »

Anecdote

Using personal experience or an isolated example instead of a valid argument, especially to dismiss statistics.

» more »

Personal Incredulity

Saying that because one finds something difficult to understand, it’s therefore not true.

» more »

Ambiguity

Using double meanings, ambiguities of language, or equivocation, which weakens the conclusions or defies being pinned down.

» more »

Doublethink

Asserting that two conflicting ideas are the same.

» more »

Middle Ground

Saying that a compromise, or middle point, between two extremes must be the truth.

» more »

Gambler’s Fallacy

Believing that ‘runs’ occur (or don’t occur) to statistically independent phenomena such as roulette wheel spins.

» more »

Fallacy Fallacy

Presuming a claim to be necessarily wrong because a fallacy has been committed in its the argument.

» more »