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Informal Fallacies  

Last Updated: Jun 23, 2014 URL: http://libguides.lssc.edu/fallacies Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

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Definition

Fallacies are false arguments used to persuade through appeals to emotion or prejudice and through the use of misleading statements rather than through appeals to logic, demonstrable facts, and reason.

 

Why are Fallacies Important?

You need to be able to recognize fallacies in discussions because the fallacies (such as red herring and ad hominem) may be used against you at some point. You also need to be aware that in marketing, in politics, and in religion, fallacious arguments (such as appeals to emotion and appeals to tradition) are often used to persuade you to believe something that is not grounded in either reason or experience.

 

Types of Fallacies

Straw man    
Misrepresenting someone else’s position so that it can be attacked more easily; setting up a straw man (the misrepresented position) that can be knocked down easily and then concluding that the original position has been refuted

Slippery slope   
Arguing that adopting one policy or taking one action will lead to a series of other policies or actions that are more frightening than the originally proposed policy or action and that, therefore, the proposed policy or action should be avoided

Red herring
Introducing irrelevant facts or arguments in an attempt to distract attention from the question at hand (The red herring argument does proves a point.  It doesn’t prove the point at issue.)

Ad hominem
Attacking the character or motives of the person who has stated an idea rather than attacking the idea itself

Post hoc, ergo propter hoc
Translates to "after this, therefore because of this" -assuming that event A has caused event B simply because event A has occurred before event B

Appeal to tradition
Asserting that something is right/good because it is old or has always been believed or done that way (For some reason, the standard for continuing a tradition is usually lower than the standard for making a change.)

Appeal to authority
Attempting to bolster claims by citing the opinions or testimony of “experts”

Appeal to the majority
Attempting to win acceptance for an argument by demonstrating that a large group of people already accept the claim

Appeal to emotion
Appealing to the audience’s emotions rather than to logic or reason for the sake of getting a conclusion accepted (These appeals to emotion are irrelevant to the argument and draw attention away from the real issue. Often, these appeals are appeals to prejudices or fears or desires.)

Begging the question   
Stating premises that are at least as questionable as the conclusion to be reached from the premises

Hasty generalization   
Forming a general rule by examining only a few specific cases that are not representative of all possible cases

Sweeping generalization
Imposing a comprehensive conclusion without having examined the individual cases

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