identifying fallacious arguments

In a world of debates, opinions, reasons, doctrines, etc. it can be difficult to wade through the mess.  Identifying fallacies in argumentation can go a long way in helping you discern what is credible argumentation and what is not.

This is a list of some of the most common fallacies (Latin terms), followed by a brief description of each:

Argumentum ad antiquitatem (appeal to tradition)a fallacy in which a thesis is deemed correct on the basis that it correlates with some past or present tradition.

Argumentum ad hominem (“to the man”/character assassination)– an attempt to link the truth of a claim to a negative characteristic or belief of the person advocating it.

Argumentum ad ignorantiam (appeal to ignorance)– a fallacy that asserts that a proposition is true because it has not been proven false (or vice versa).

Argumentum ad misericordiam (appeal to pity)a fallacy in which someone tries to win support for an argument or idea by exploiting his or her opponent’s feelings of pity or guilt.

Argumentum ad nauseam (“to the point of nausea”)a fallacy of trying to prove something by saying it again and again.

Argumentum ad populum (appeal to the people)– a fallacy that concludes a proposition to be true because many or most people believe it.

Argumentum ad verecundiam (argument from authority) a fallacy of defective induction, where it is argued that a statement is correct because the statement is made by a person or source that is commonly regarded as authoritative.

Circulus in demonstrando (circular logic/reasoning)-  a formal logical fallacy in which the proposition to be proved is assumed implicitly or explicitly in one of the premises.

Plurium interrogationum (complex/trick question)-  a fallacy of phrasing a question that, by the way it is worded, assumes something not contextually granted, assumes something not true, or assumes a false dichotomy.

Post hoc ergo propter hoc (“post hoc”/correlation not causation)- a logical fallacy that states, “Since that event followed this one, that event must have been caused by this one.”

Dicto simpliciter (sweeping generalization)– a fallacy that occurs when an acceptable exception is ignored or eliminated.

Non Sequitur (“It does not follow”)- a fallacy that occurs when a conclusion does not follow from its premises.

Petitio principii (begging the question)- a type of logical fallacy in which the proposition to be proven is assumed implicitly or explicitly in the premise.

Tu quoque (“you too”/appeal to hypocrisy)- a fallacy that attempts to discredit the opponent’s position by asserting his failure to act consistently in accordance with that position.

Red herring– an idiomatic expression referring to the rhetorical or literary tactic of diverting attention away from an item of significance.

Slippery slope- an informal fallacy that states that a relatively small first step leads to a chain of related events culminating in some significant effect, much like an object given a small push over the edge of a slope sliding all the way to the bottom.

Straw man- to create the illusion of having refuted a proposition by replacing it with a superficially similar yet unequivalent proposition (the “straw man”), and refuting it, without ever having actually refuted the original position.

It’s beneficial to familiarize yourself with some of these fallacious arguments and identify them in your own thinking or in others argumentation.

About kurtkjohnson

Husband to Abbey Johnson, proud father, irregular blogger and occasionally creative. View all posts by kurtkjohnson

2 responses to “identifying fallacious arguments

  • Luke Quigley

    Here’s something that might be of interest to you…

    The “Baloney Detection Kit” by Carl Sagan.

  • Sherry

    Most of these are worth noting and being careful not to fall into in debate. Dear God, help me in this! This one is one argumentum I would not call fallacious if the authority is God and His holy word on the subject:

    Argumentum ad verecundiam (argument from authority)- a fallacy of defective induction, where it is argued that a statement is correct because the statement is made by a person or source that is commonly regarded as authoritative.


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