In order to get better at reasoning, I decided to go through some books on the topic. So last month I started with The Fallacy Detective by Nathaniel Bluedorn. Right now I’m reading Logically Fallacious by Bo Bennett as a follow up. Logical Fallacies are associated with informal logic, or reasoning to be precise.
Let’s dive further into the nitty gritty of it. The Fallacy is defined as:
A fallacy is a mistake in reasoning or argumentation that can lead to incorrect conclusions.
Take this scenario for example:
Dad: People just don’t use their heads anymore
Johnny: I don’t know about that, Dad. I use my head a lot playing soccer
Dad and Johnny are talking about two different ways of using heads. The fallacy in this example is called Fallacy of Equivocation, where the same term is used with different meanings.
A logical fallacy is like a mistake in how we think or argue. It is something that seems true or makes sense, but it is actually wrong. It can trick us into believing something that isn’t right. It’s important to avoid these fallacies and think carefully to make sure our ideas and arguments are correct.
Logical fallacies are often used by advertising agencies, governments & other people in authority to manipulate or exploit masses for their advantage.
Therefore, it becomes very important to spot the fallacies in one’s reasoning, thinking, or someone’s argument. By being aware of logical fallacies, we can protect ourselves from being misled or deceived.
List of Fallacies
There are numerous logical fallacies, and it is difficult to provide an exact number as new ones may be identified or categorized over time. However, there are commonly recognized and studied fallacies that can be grouped into different categories.
I have compiled a list of logical fallacies below, providing a brief summary and an example for each. This can serve as a handy cheat sheet for future reference.
Avoiding the Question
- Red Herring – Introducing an irrelevant point into an argument. Someone may think it proves his side, but it really doesn’t. – Little Sister: Grizzly bears can’t be dangerous – they look so cute.
- Special Pleading – Using a double standard or arguing for an unjustified exception. – Grandma: I’m not gambling! This is Bingo; not poker. It’s different; we’re not using a deck of cards.
- Ad Hominem – Attacking an opponent’s character or his motives for believing something instead of disproving his argument. – Jenny: My uncle says that all murderers should be put to death because then nobody would want to murder anybody anymore. Sylvia: Wasn’t your uncle in jail once? I don’t think that we can trust the opinion of a former criminal.
- Genetic Fallacy – Condeming an argument because of where it began, how it began, or who began it. – Bert: Mr. Gritchus, why do you always wear suspenders and never a belt? Mr. Gritchus: Because belts were developed in the military centuries ago and were used by soldiers. Since the military is evil, and belts came from the military, therefore I can’t wear a belt.
- Tu Quoque (You Too) – Dismissing another person’s viewpoint on an issue because the speaker is inconsistent in that very thing. – Fred: I wouldn’t smoke cigarettes if I were you. It is a bad habit, and it will bring you all kinds of problems. Jake: Don’t tell me not to smoke. You do it, too.
- Faulty Appeal to Authority – Appealing to the authority of someone who has no special knowledge in the area he is discussing. – Mother: My car mechanic says the best way to fix computer problems is to just give the computer a good, sharp kick.
- Appeal to the People – Claiming one’s viewpoint is correct just because many other people agree with it. – Political Candidate: My opponent says abortion is murder – despite the fact that a recent poll concluded 76 percent of Americans believe an abortion does not murder an innocent child.
- Straw Man - “Changing or exaggerating an opponent’s position to make it easier to refute. – Mrs.: Our car isn’t running right. I think we need to buy a better one – something more comfortable.Mr.: Oh, so you want us to buy a brand new fancy car? I don’t think we have enough money for a Rolls Royce.”
- Circular Reasoning – Attempting to prove a conclusion by simply restating it. Someone says “P is true because Q is true, and Q is true because P is true.” – Jimmy: Dad, why do I have to learn logic? Dad: Because it will help to develop your mind. Jimmy: Why will it develop my mind? Dad: Because it will help you think better.
- Equivocation – Changing the meaning of a word in the middle of an argument. – Grandma: If the English don’t drive on the right side of the road, what are they doing on the wrong side?
- Loaded Question – Asking one question which assumes the answer to a second question. – Judge: Have you stopped beating your poor dog yet?
- Slippery Slope – Assuming that if we take one step, nothing will stop us from taking a series of steps because each step is the same. – Mother: We can’t let her get another dog! Father: Oh, we can handle two dogs in the house. She loves animals. Mother: Two dogs? She’ll ask for three or four next. This isn’t going to stop!”
- Part-to-Whole – Asserting that what is true of part of something must also be true of the whole thing together. – Sports reporter: Team America was selected from all the best players in the United States. Since they are all the best at their positions, this team is going to win.
- Whole-to-Part – Asserting that what is true of something as a whole must also be true of each of its parts. This is the reverse of the part-to-whole fallacy. – Sports reporter: In this year’s games, Team America has won more medals than any other team in history. So Jim, who’s on Team America, must be a great athlete.
- Either-Or – Asserting that we must choose between only two things, when in fact we have more alternatives. – Neighbor: Either you’re an American or you’re a Communist. You aren’t from America, so you must be a Communist.
- Hasty Generalization – Generalizing about a class based upon a small or poor sample. – Homeowner: All plumbers are brilliant. I know a plumber who can calculate pi to the 289,954th digit.
- Weak Analogy – Claiming that some items with only minor similarities are the same in almost everything else. – Scientist: A cloud is 75 percent water. A watermelon is 75 percent water. Since a plane can fly through a cloud, therefore a plane can fly through a watermelon.
- Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc – Assuming that since A happened before B, A must have caused B. – Farmer: Our rooster crows every morning. Then the sun comes up. Now do you understand how important roosters are?
- Proof by Lack of Evidence – Claiming something is true simply because nobody has yet given any evidence to the contrary. – Farmer: There must be mountain lions living in Illinois because I haven’t seen any proof that none exist.
- Appeal to Fear – Moving us to fear the consequences of not doing what someone wants. – Advertisement: Do you know what kind of damage a loose cow can do on your farm? Imagine what would happen if your electric fence failed and your cows wandered into the neighbor’s field. Buy a “Zapper” electric fence, and you won’t have to worry about it.
- Appeal to Pity – Urging us to do something only because we pity someone, or we pity something associated with him. Motorist: But officer, this is the fifth ticket I’ve been given this year. If I get another ticket, then they will take my license away, and I won’t be able to drive to work. My wife and children will starve.
- Bandwagon – Pressuring us to do something just because many other people like us are doing it. – Clyde: Dad, can I go to see the movie “Attack of the Killer Wombats”? Dad: No, son, you can’t go. I heard that movie has bad things in it. Clyde: Aw, come on – everybody’s going to see it.
- Exigency – Offering nothing more than a time limit as a reason for us to do what someone wants. – Advertisement: Genuine lead teacups! Now 95 percent off! Hurry, while supplies last!”
- Repetition – Repeating a message loudly and very often in the hope that we will believe it. – Advertisement: Eat Sugarloops for breakfast! Eat Sugarloops for lunch! Eat Sugarloops for supper! Eat Sugarloops all the time! You will love Sugarloops.
- Transfer – Getting us to transfer our good or bad feelings about one thing to another unrelated thing. – Gorgeous girl with beautiful hair holds up a bottle of shampoo: Use Shimmer Bounce shampoo for better looking and better smelling hair.
- Snob Appeal – Encouraging us to think someone’s product would make us better than or make us stand out from everybody else. – Advertisement: Buy Skunk brand perfume. You will stand out from the crowd.
- Appeal to Tradition – Encouraging us to buy a product or do something because it is associated with something old. – Black and white photograph of man building a guitar: Play Martin Guitars. Our expert guitar craftsmen build guitars using only the most time-honored traditions.
- Appeal to Hi-tech – Urging us to buy something because it is the “latest thing” – but not necessarily because it is the best thing. – Clyde: Hey, Bert, you need to buy one of these new Niko shoes. They have hi-tech “Dinotraction.” It’s a new special feature that helps you cling onto the back of a running plesiosaur without falling off.”
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