3 Fallacies

I. what a re fallacies 1.

Fallacies are mistakes of reasoning, as opposed to making mistakes that are of a factual nature. If I counted twenty people in the room when there were in fact twenty-one, then I made a factual mistake. On the other hand, if I believe that there are round squares I believe something that is contradictory. A belief in “round squares” is a mistake of reasoning and contains a fallacy because, if my reasoning were good, I would not believe something that is logically inconsistent with reality.

In some discussions, a fallacy is taken to be an undesirable kind of argument or inference. In our view, this definition of fallacy is rather narrow, since we might want to count certain mistakes of reasoning as fallacious even though they are not presented as arguments. For example, making a contradictory claim seems to be a case of fallacy, but a single claim is not an argument. Similarly, putting forward a question with an inappropriate presupposition might also be regarded as a fallacy, but a question is also not an argument. In both of these situations though, the person is making a mistake of reasoning since they are doing something that goes against one or more principles of correct reasoning. This is why we would like to define fallacies more broadly as violations of the principles of critical thinking , whether or not the mistakes take the form of an argument.

The study of fallacies is an application of the principles of critical thinking. Being familiar with typical fallacies can help us avoid them and help explain other people’s mistakes.

There are different ways of classifying fallacies. Broadly speaking, we might divide fallacies into four kinds:

II. Fallacies of I nconsistency

Fallacies of inconsistency are cases where something inconsistent, self-contradictory or self-defeating is presented.

1. Inconsistency

Here are some examples:

2. Self- D efeating C laims

A self-defeating statement is a statement that, strictly speaking, is not logically inconsistent but is instead obviously false. Consider these examples:

III. Fallacies of R elevance

1. taking irrelevant considerations into account.

This includes defending a conclusion by appealing to irrelevant reasons, e.g., inappropriate appeal to pity, popular opinion, tradition, authority, etc. An example would be when a student failed a course and asked the teacher to give him a pass instead, because “his parents will be upset.” Since grades should be given on the basis of performance, the reason being given is quite irrelevant.

Similarly, suppose someone criticizes the Democratic Party’s call for direct elections in Hong Kong as follows: “These arguments supporting direct elections have no merit because they are advanced by Democrats who naturally stand to gain from it.” This is again fallacious because whether the person advancing the argument has something to gain from direct elections is a completely different issue from whether there ought to be direct elections.

2. Failing to T ake R elevant C onsiderations into A ccount

For example, it is not unusual for us to ignore or downplay criticisms because we do not like them, even when those criticisms are justified. Or sometimes we might be tempted to make a snap decision, believing knee-jerk reactions are the best when, in fact, we should be investigating the situation more carefully and doing more research.

Of course, if we fail to consider a relevant fact simply because we are ignorant of it, then this lack of knowledge does not constitute a fallacy.

IV. Fallacies of Insufficiency

Fallacies of insufficiency are cases where insufficient evidence is provided in support of a claim. Most common fallacies fall within this category. Here are a few popular types:

1. Limited S ampling

In both cases the observations are relevant to the conclusion, but a lot more data is needed to support the conclusion, e.g., studies show that many other people who eat instant noodles live longer, and those who encounter black cats are more likely to suffer from accidents.

2. Appeal to I gnorance

If someone is guilty, it would indeed be hard to find evidence showing that he is innocent. But perhaps there is no evidence to point either way, so a lack of evidence is not enough to prove guilt.

3. Naturalistic F allacy

Many naturalistic fallacies are examples of fallacy of insufficiency. Empirical facts by themselves are not sufficient for normative conclusions, even if they are relevant.

There are many other kinds of fallacy of insufficiency. See if you can identify some of them.

V. Fallacies of Inappropriate Presumption

Fallacies of inappropriate presumption are cases where we have explicitly or implicitly made an assumption that is not reasonable to accept in the relevant context. Some examples include:

VI. List of Common Fallacies

A theory is discarded not because of any evidence against it or lack of evidence for it, but because of the person who argues for it. Example:

A: The Government should enact minimum-wage legislation so that workers are not exploited. B: Nonsense. You say that only because you cannot find a good job.

ad ignorantiam (appeal to ignorance)

The truth of a claim is established only on the basis of lack of evidence against it. A simple obvious example of such fallacy is to argue that unicorns exist because there is no evidence against their existence. At first sight it seems that many theories that we describe as “scientific” involve such a fallacy. For example, the first law of thermodynamics holds because so far there has not been any negative instance that would serve as evidence against it. But notice, as in cases like this, there is evidence for the law, namely positive instances. Notice also that this fallacy does not apply to situations where there are only two rival claims and one has already been falsified. In situations such as this, we may justly establish the truth of the other even if we cannot find evidence for or against it.

ad misericordiam (appeal to pity)

In offering an argument, pity is appealed to. Usually this happens when people argue for special treatment on the basis of their need, e.g., a student argues that the teacher should let them pass the examination because they need it in order to graduate. Of course, pity might be a relevant consideration in certain conditions, as in contexts involving charity.

ad populum (appeal to popularity)

The truth of a claim is established only on the basis of its popularity and familiarity. This is the fallacy committed by many commercials. Surely you have heard of commercials implying that we should buy a certain product because it has made to the top of a sales rank, or because the brand is the city’s “favorite.”

Affirming the consequent

Inferring that P is true solely because Q is true and it is also true that if P is true, Q is true.

The problem with this type of reasoning is that it ignores the possibility that there are other conditions apart from P that might lead to Q. For example, if there is a traffic jam, a colleague may be late for work. But if we argue from his being late to there being a traffic jam, we are guilty of this fallacy – the colleague may be late due to a faulty alarm clock.

Of course, if we have evidence showing that P is the only or most likely condition that leads to Q, then we can infer that P is likely to be true without committing a fallacy.

Begging the question ( petito principii )

In arguing for a claim, the claim itself is already assumed in the premise. Example: “God exists because this is what the Bible says, and the Bible is reliable because it is the word of God.”

Complex question or loaded question

A question is posed in such a way that a person, no matter what answer they give to the question, will inevitably commit themselves to some other claim, which should not be presupposed in the context in question.

A common tactic is to ask a yes-no question that tricks people into agreeing to something they never intended to say. For example, if you are asked, “Are you still as self-centered as you used to be?”, no matter whether you answer “yes” or ”no,” you are bound to admit that you were self-centered in the past. Of course, the same question would not count as a fallacy if the presupposition of the question were indeed accepted in the conversational context, i.e., that the person being asked the question had been verifiably self-centered in the past.

Composition (opposite of division)

The whole is assumed to have the same properties as its parts. Anne might be humorous and fun-loving and an excellent person to invite to the party. The same might be true of Ben, Chris and David, considered individually. But it does not follow that it will be a good idea to invite all of them to the party. Perhaps they hate each other and the party will be ruined.

Denying the antecedent

Inferring that Q is false just because if P is true, Q is also true, but P is false.

This fallacy is similar to the fallacy of affirming the consequent. Again the problem is that some alternative explanation or cause might be overlooked. Although P is false, some other condition might be sufficient to make Q true.

Example: If there is a traffic jam, a colleague may be late for work. But it is not right to argue in the light of smooth traffic that the colleague will not be late. Again, his alarm clock may have stopped working.

Division (opposite of composition)

The parts of a whole are assumed to have the same properties as the whole. It is possible that, on a whole, a company is very effective, while some of its departments are not. It would be inappropriate to assume they all are.


Putting forward an argument where a word changes meaning without having it pointed out. For example, some philosophers argue that all acts are selfish. Even if you strive to serve others, you are still acting selfishly because your act is just to satisfy your desire to serve others. But surely the word “selfish” has different meanings in the premise and the conclusion – when we say a person is selfish we usually mean that he does not strive to serve others. To say that a person is selfish because he is doing something he wants, even when what he wants is to help others, is to use the term “selfish” with a different meaning.

False dilemma

Presenting a limited set of alternatives when there are others that are worth considering in the context. Example: “Every person is either my enemy or my friend. If they are my enemy, I should hate them. If they’re my friend, I should love them. So I should either love them or hate them.” Obviously, the conclusion is too extreme because most people are neither your enemy nor your friend.

Gambler’s fallacy

Assumption is made to take some independent statistics as dependent. The untrained mind tends to think that, for example, if a fair coin is tossed five times and the results are all heads, then the next toss will more likely be a tail. It will not be, however. If the coin is fair, the result for each toss is completely independent of the others. Notice the fallacy hinges on the fact that the final result is not known. Had the final result been known already, the statistics would have been dependent.

Genetic fallacy

Thinking that because X derives from Y, and because Y has a certain property, that X must also possess that same property. Example: “His father is a criminal, so he must also be up to no good.”

Non sequitur

A conclusion is drawn that does not follow from the premise. This is not a specific fallacy but a very general term for a bad argument. So a lot of the examples above and below can be said to be non sequitur.

Post hoc, ergo propter hoc  (literally, “ after this, therefore because of this ” )

Inferring that X must be the cause of Y just because X is followed by Y.

For example, having visited a graveyard, I fell ill and infer that graveyards are spooky places that cause illnesses. Of course, this inference is not warranted since this might just be a coincidence. However, a lot of superstitious beliefs commit this fallacy.

Red herring

Within an argument some irrelevant issue is raised that diverts attention from the main subject. The function of the red herring is sometimes to help express a strong, biased opinion. The red herring (the irrelevant issue) serves to increase the force of the argument in a very misleading manner.

For example, in a debate as to whether God exists, someone might argue that believing in God gives peace and meaning to many people’s lives. This would be an example of a red herring since whether religions can have a positive effect on people is irrelevant to the question of the existence of God. The positive psychological effect of a belief is not a reason for thinking that the belief is true.

Slippery slope

Arguing that if an opponent were to accept some claim C 1 , then they have to accept some other closely related claim C 2 , which in turn commits the opponent to a still further claim C 3 , eventually leading to the conclusion that the opponent is committed to something absurd or obviously unacceptable.

This style of argumentation constitutes a fallacy only when it is inappropriate to think if one were to accept the initial claim, one must accept all the other claims.

An example: “The government should not prohibit drugs. Otherwise the government should also ban alcohol or cigarettes. And then fatty food and junk food would have to be regulated too. The next thing you know, the government would force us to brush our teeth and do exercises every day.”

Attacking an opponent while falsely attributing to them an implausible position that is easily defeated.

Example: When many people argue for more democracy in Hong Kong, a typical “straw man” reply is to say that more democracy is not warranted because it is wrong to believe that democracy is the solution to all of Hong Kong’s problems. But those who support more democracy in Hong Kong never suggest that democracy can solve  all  problems (e.g., pollution), and those who support more democracy in Hong Kong might even agree that  blindly  accepting anything is rarely the correct course of action, whether it is democracy or not. Theses criticisms attack implausible “straw man” positions and do not address the real arguments for democracy.

Suppressed evidence

Where there is contradicting evidence, only confirming evidence is presented.

VII. Exercises

Identify any fallacy in each of these passages. If no fallacy is committed, select “no fallacy involved.”

1. Mr. Lee’s views on Japanese culture are wrong. This is because his parents were killed by the Japanese army during World War II and that made him anti-Japanese all his life.

2. Every ingredient of this soup is tasty. So this must be a very tasty soup.

3. Smoking causes cancer because my father was a smoker and he died of lung cancer.

4. Professor Lewis, the world authority on logic, claims that all wives cook for their husbands. But the fact is that his own wife does not cook for him. Therefore, his claim is false.

5. If Catholicism is right, then no women should be allowed to be priests. But Catholicism is wrong. Therefore, some women should be allowed to be priests.

6. God does not exist because every argument for the existence of God has been shown to be unsound.

7. The last three times I have had a cold I took large doses of vitamin C. On each occasion, the cold cleared up within a few days. So vitamin C helped me recover from colds.

8. The union’s case for more funding for higher education can be ignored because it is put forward by the very people – university staff – who would benefit from the increased money.

9. Children become able to solve complex problems and think of physical objects objectively at the same time that they learn language. Therefore, these abilities are caused by learning a language.

10. If cheap things are no good then this cheap watch is no good. But this watch is actually quite good. So some good things are cheap.

Critical Thinking by Brian Kim is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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critical thinking fallacies list

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How to argue against common fallacies, species of fallacious arguments, fallacies of relevance, 1. the ‘who are you to talk’, or ‘you too’, or tu quoque fallacy.

Doctor: You should quit smoking. It’s a serious health risk. Patient: Look who’s talking! I’ll quit when you quit.

2. The Red Herring Fallacy.

There is a good deal of talk these days about the need to eliminate pesticides from our fruits and vegetables. But many of these foods are essential to our health. Carrots are an excellent source of vitamin A, broccoli is rich in iron, and oranges and grapefruits have lots of Vitamin C.

3. The Strawman Fallacy.

Margaret: “We have to do something about greenhouse gases. The government should raise vehicle fuel efficiency standards to cut down the amount of CO2 we release over the next 20 years”. Roger: “Margaret’s solution would be a disaster. It would kill the economy. How would people get to work without cars?”

4. The Ad Hominem or ‘At the Person’ Fallacy.

“Dear Editor, The current campaign against combining drinking with driving is terrorising law-abiding people. Many law-abiding people are cutting their alcohol consumption because they are afraid of being caught by random breath testing. But research shows that the average drink-driver in a fatal accident has an average blood alcohol level of more than twice the legal limit. The current campaign against drinking and driving is failing to achieve what should be our top priority; getting the heavy and hardened drinkers of the road.” Douglas Myers. CEO, Dominion Breweries.
“Dear Editor, I read Doug Myer’s letter yesterday but he is the CEO of a major brewing company! He has a vested interest in keeping alcohol sales up, and the anti-drink-driving campaign threatens to reduce alcohol sales. We shouldn’t take any notice of his views about drinking and driving”.
“Burton Wexler, spokesperson for the American Tobacco Growers Association, has argued that there is no credible scientific evidence that cigarette smoking causes cancer. Given Wexler’s obvious bias in the matter, his arguments should be treated with care.”

5. Fallacious Appeal to Authority.

Richard Long, a respected retired New Zealand newsreader featured in advertising campaigns for Hanover Finance. Long had no financial expertise.

6. The Fallacy of Composition.

Rugby players Ma’a Nonu, Jerome Kaino and Charles Piatau are all great players. In 2012, they all played for the Auckland Blues. Therefore, the 2012 Auckland Blues were a great team.
“Should we not assume that just as the eye, hand, the foot, and in general each part of the body clearly has its own proper function, so man too has some function over and above the function of his parts?” Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics

7. The Fallacy of Division.

Men are, on average, taller than women. Therefore, Tim is taller than Maria Sharapova.

8. Equivocation.

Any law can be repealed by the proper legal authority. The law of gravity is a law. Therefore, the law of gravity can be repealed by the proper legal authority.
“The only proof capable of being given that an object is visible, is that people actually see it. The only proof that a sound is audible, is that people hear it… In like manner, I apprehend, the sole evidence it is possible to produce that anything is desirable, is that people do actually desire it… [T]his being a fact, we have not only all the proof which the case admits of, but all which it is possible to require, that happiness is a good. ” John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism.

9. Appeal to Popularity.

Essential Bible Blog’s Top 10 Reason the Bible is True:
Reason 8. Leader Acceptance. A majority of the greatest leaders and thinkers in history have affirmed the truth and impact of the Bible.
Reason 9. Global Influence. The Bible has had a greater influence on the laws, art, ethics, music and literature of world civilization than any other book in history.

10. Appeal to Tradition.

People have believed in astrology for a very long time, therefore, it must be true.

11. Appeal to Ignorance: Argumentum Ad Ignorantiam.

There must be intelligent life on other planets: No one has proven there isn’t.
There isn’t any intelligent life on other planets: No one has proven there is.

12. Appeals to Emotion – e.g., pity, affection.

Student to Lecturer: I know I missed most of the lectures and all of my tutorials. But my family will be really upset if I fail this course. Can’t you find a few more marks?
Daughter: Can we get a puppy? Father: No. Daughter: If you loved me, we’d get a puppy.
Daughter: A puppy would grow up and protect us. Can’t we get a puppy? Father: No. Daughter: If you wanted to keep us safe you’d get a puppy! You don’t care about us!

Fallacies of Unacceptable Premises

13. begging the question..

Arthur: God exists. Barbara: How do you know? Arthur: Because it says so in the Bible. Barbara: How to you know what the Bible says is true? Arthur: Because the Bible is divinely inspired. Everything it says is true.

14. False Dilemma or False Dichotomy.

Either Shakespeare wrote all the plays attributed to him, or Bacon did. There’s good reason to think Shakespeare didn’t write all the plays attributed to him. Therefore, Bacon wrote all the plays attributed to Shakespeare.

15. Decision Point Fallacy or the Sorites Paradox.

One grain of wheat doesn’t make a heap. Suppose 1 million does. Take one away. Surely we still have a heap: if a million makes a heap, surely 999,999 does too. One grain can’t turn a heap into a non-heap. Take another away. Surely we still have a heap: if 999,999 does, surely 999,998 does too. One grain … etc. Take another away. Surely we still have a heap …. etc etc etc. But if one grain doesn’t make a difference, then it seems that we will be forced to conclude that 1 grain does make a heap. But that means we can’t talk about heaps of wheat at all: we don’t know when we can describe a collection of grains of wheat as a heap and when we can’t.
At conception an embryo is not a person. At birth, a baby is a person. There is no non-arbitrary way of determining exactly when the embryo became a person. Therefore, there is no moral difference between the embryo and the baby at birth.

16. The Slippery Slope Fallacy.

Don’t get a credit card. If you do, you’ll be tempted to spend money you don’t have. Then you’ll max out your card. Then you’ll be in real debt. You’ll have to start gambling in the hope of getting a big win. But you’ll normally lose. Then you’ll have to steal money to cover your losses. Then your partner will leave you. And you won’t be able to feed the dog, and it’ll die. And it would be bad if the dog died. So you mustn’t get a credit card.

17. Hasty Generalisations.

The oldest woman in the world, Jeanne Calment (122 years, 164 days) smoked until her early 110s. Therefore smoking isn’t really bad for you.
Andrew Wakefield claimed to have shown a correlation between the MMR vaccine, bowel disorders and autism, but – among other flaws – his research focused on children already thought to have the conditions he claimed were caused by the vaccine.

18. Faulty Analogies.

I need a new car. My last three cars have all been reliable, and they were blue. So I’m going to buy a blue car.
A letter to the editor following a report someone had been turned away from an after-hours medical clinic because she couldn’t pay for treatment for her feverish, vomiting child: “Why do people attend private clinics for medical treatment with insufficient funds to cover fees? Do these same people go to the petrol station, fill up, toss $5 out the window and say “I’ll be back with the rest later,” or perhaps after dining out one evening, pay for the meal and promise to return next week, month or year to pay for the wine? I think not. The answer is simple – don’t go to private clinics.”

19. And … the Fallacy Fallacy!

Bob told me that I shouldn’t steal because everyone knows that stealing is wrong, but I recognised immediately that argument contained the popularity fallacy, so I concluded that it was ok to steal the apple.

Formal Fallacies

20. affirming the consequent..

\begin{array}{ll} \text{P1} & \text{If there’s an intruder, then Brutus will bark. }\\ \text{P2} & \text{Brutus hasn’t barked. }\\ &\text{Therefore,}\\ \text{C} & \text{There’s no intruder.} \end{array}
\begin{array}{ll} \text{P1} & \text{If there’s an intruder, then Brutus will bark. }\\ \text{P2} & \text{Brutus has barked.}\\ &\text{Therefore,}\\ \text{C} & \text{There’s an intruder.} \end{array}

21. Denying the Antecedent.

\begin{array}{ll} \text{P1} & \text{If it barks, then it’s a dog.}\\ \text{P2} & \text{It’s barking.}\\ &\text{Therefore,}\\ \text{C} & \text{It’s a dog.} \end{array}
\begin{array}{ll} \text{P1} & \text{If it barks, then it’s a dog.}\\ \text{P2} & \text{It’s not barking.}\\ &\text{Therefore,}\\ \text{C} & \text{It isn’t a dog.} \end{array}

Fallacious Argument FAQS

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Critical Thinking and Decision-Making  - Logical Fallacies

Critical thinking and decision-making  -, logical fallacies, critical thinking and decision-making logical fallacies.

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Critical Thinking and Decision-Making: Logical Fallacies

Lesson 7: logical fallacies.


Logical fallacies

If you think about it, vegetables are bad for you. I mean, after all, the dinosaurs ate plants, and look at what happened to them...

illustration of a dinosaur eating leaves while a meteor falls in the background

Let's pause for a moment: That argument was pretty ridiculous. And that's because it contained a logical fallacy .

A logical fallacy is any kind of error in reasoning that renders an argument invalid . They can involve distorting or manipulating facts, drawing false conclusions, or distracting you from the issue at hand. In theory, it seems like they'd be pretty easy to spot, but this isn't always the case.

Watch the video below to learn more about logical fallacies.

Sometimes logical fallacies are intentionally used to try and win a debate. In these cases, they're often presented by the speaker with a certain level of confidence . And in doing so, they're more persuasive : If they sound like they know what they're talking about, we're more likely to believe them, even if their stance doesn't make complete logical sense.

illustration of a politician saying, "I know for a fact..."

False cause

One common logical fallacy is the false cause . This is when someone incorrectly identifies the cause of something. In my argument above, I stated that dinosaurs became extinct because they ate vegetables. While these two things did happen, a diet of vegetables was not the cause of their extinction.

illustration showing that extinction was not caused by some dinosaurs being vegetarians

Maybe you've heard false cause more commonly represented by the phrase "correlation does not equal causation ", meaning that just because two things occurred around the same time, it doesn't necessarily mean that one caused the other.

A straw man is when someone takes an argument and misrepresents it so that it's easier to attack . For example, let's say Callie is advocating that sporks should be the new standard for silverware because they're more efficient. Madeline responds that she's shocked Callie would want to outlaw spoons and forks, and put millions out of work at the fork and spoon factories.

illustration of Maddie accusing Callie of wanting to outlaw spoons and forks

A straw man is frequently used in politics in an effort to discredit another politician's views on a particular issue.

Begging the question

Begging the question is a type of circular argument where someone includes the conclusion as a part of their reasoning. For example, George says, “Ghosts exist because I saw a ghost in my closet!"

illustration of George claiming that ghosts exists and him seeing one in his closet

George concluded that “ghosts exist”. His premise also assumed that ghosts exist. Rather than assuming that ghosts exist from the outset, George should have used evidence and reasoning to try and prove that they exist.

illustration of George using math and reasoning to try and prove that ghosts exist

Since George assumed that ghosts exist, he was less likely to see other explanations for what he saw. Maybe the ghost was nothing more than a mop!

illustration of a splitscreen showing a ghost in a closet on the left, and that same closet with a mop in it on the right

False dilemma

The false dilemma (or false dichotomy) is a logical fallacy where a situation is presented as being an either/or option when, in reality, there are more possible options available than just the chosen two. Here's an example: Rebecca rings the doorbell but Ethan doesn't answer. She then thinks, "Oh, Ethan must not be home."

illustration showing the false dilemma of either Ethan being home or his home being empty

Rebecca posits that either Ethan answers the door or he isn't home. In reality, he could be sleeping, doing some work in the backyard, or taking a shower.

illustration of Ethan sleeping, doing yard work, and taking a shower

Most logical fallacies can be spotted by thinking critically . Make sure to ask questions: Is logic at work here or is it simply rhetoric? Does their "proof" actually lead to the conclusion they're proposing? By applying critical thinking, you'll be able to detect logical fallacies in the world around you and prevent yourself from using them as well.



147 Logical Fallacies: A Master List With Examples

logical fallacies

A Complete Logical Fallacies List With Examples For Critical Thinking

contributed by Owen M. Wilson , University of Texas El Paso

A logical fallacy is an irrational argument made through faulty reasoning common enough to be named for the nature of its respective logical failure.

The A Priori Argument

Also: Rationalization; Dogmatism, Proof Texting

A corrupt argument from logos, starting with a given, pre-set belief, dogma, doctrine, scripture verse, ‘fact’ or conclusion and then searching for any reasonable or reasonable-sounding argument to rationalize, defend or justify it. Certain ideologues and religious fundamentalists are proud to use this fallacy as their primary method of ‘reasoning’ and some are even honest enough to say so.

Example: Since we know there is no such thing as ‘evolution,’ a prime duty of believers is to look for ways to explain away growing evidence, such as is found in DNA, that might suggest otherwise.

The opposite of this fallacy is the Taboo.

See also the Argument from Ignorance.

See also A Comprehensive List Of 180 Cognitive Biases And Heuristics

Also: The Con Artist’s Fallacy; The Dacoit’s Fallacy; Shearing the Sheeple; Profiteering; ‘Vulture Capitalism,’ ‘Wealth is a disease, and I am the cure.’

A corrupt argument from ethos, arguing that because someone is intellectually slower, physically or emotionally less capable, less ambitious, less aggressive, older or less healthy (or simply more trusting or less lucky) than others, s/he ‘naturally’ deserves less in life and may be freely victimized by those who are luckier, quicker, younger, stronger, healthier, greedier, more powerful, less moral or more gifted (or who simply have more immediate felt need for money, often involving some form of addiction). This fallacy is a ‘softer’ argumentum ad baculum. When challenged, those who practice this fallacy seem to most often shrug their shoulders and mumble ‘Life is ruff and you gotta be tuff [ sic ],’ ‘You gotta do what you gotta do to get ahead in this world,’ ‘It’s no skin off my nose,’ ‘That’s free enterprise,’ ‘That’s the way life is!’ or similar.

Actions have Consequences

The contemporary fallacy of a person in power falsely describing an imposed punishment or penalty as a ‘consequence’ of another’s negative act.

Example: The consequences of your misbehavior could include suspension or expulsion.’

A corrupt argument from ethos, arrogating to oneself or to one’s rules or laws an ethos of cosmic inevitability, i.e., the ethos of God, Fate, Karma, Destiny or Reality Itself. Illness or food poisoning is likely ‘consequences’ of eating spoiled food, while being ‘grounded’ is a punishment for , not a ‘consequence,’ of childhood misbehavior. Freezing to death is a natural ‘consequence’ of going out naked in subzero weather but going to prison is a punishment for bank robbery, not a natural, inevitable or unavoidable ‘consequence,’ of robbing a bank. Not to be confused with the Argument from Consequences, which is quite different.

An opposite fallacy is that of Moral Licensing.

See also Blaming the Victim.

The Ad Hominem Argument

Also: ‘Personal attack,’ ‘Poisoning the well’

The fallacy of attempting to refute an argument by attacking the opposition’s intelligence, morals, education, professional qualifications, personal character or reputation, using a corrupted negative argument from ethos. E.g., ‘That so-called judge;’ or ‘He’s so evil that you can’t believe anything he says.’ Another obverse of Ad Hominem is the Token Endorsement Fallacy, where, in the words of scholar Lara Bhasin, ‘Individual A has been accused of anti-Semitism, but Individual B is Jewish and says Individual A is not anti-Semitic, and the implication, of course, is that we can believe Individual B because, being Jewish, he has special knowledge of anti-Semitism. Or, a presidential candidate is accused of anti-Muslim bigotry, but someone finds a testimony from a Muslim who voted for said candidate, and this is trotted out as evidence against the candidate’s bigotry.’  The same fallacy would apply to a sports team offensively named after a marginalized ethnic group,  but which has obtained the endorsement (freely given or paid) of some member, traditional leader or tribal council of that marginalized group so that the otherwise offensive team name and logo magically become ‘okay’ and nonracist.  

The opposite of this is the ‘Star Power’ fallacy. 

See also ‘Guilt by Association.’

See also 16 Characteristics Of A Critical Thinking Classroom

The Affective Fallacy

Also: The Romantic Fallacy; Emotion over Reflection; ‘Follow Your Heart’

An extremely common modern fallacy of Pathos, that one’s emotions, urges or ‘feelings’ are innate and in every case self-validating, autonomous, and above any human intent or act of will (one’s own or others’), and are thus immune to challenge or criticism. (In fact, researchers now [2017] have robust scientific evidence that emotions are actually cognitive and not innate. ) In this fallacy one argues, ‘I feel it, so it must be true. My feelings are valid, so you have no right to criticize what I say or do, or how I say or do it.’ This latter is also a fallacy of stasis, confusing a respectful and reasoned response or refutation with personal invalidation, disrespect, prejudice, bigotry, sexism, homophobia, or hostility. A grossly sexist form of the Affective Fallacy is the well-known crude fallacy that the phallus ‘Has no conscience’ (also, ‘A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do;’ ‘Thinking with your other head.’), i.e., since (male) sexuality is self-validating and beyond voluntary control what one does with it cannot be controlled either and such actions are not open to criticism, an assertion eagerly embraced and extended beyond the male gender in certain reifications of ‘Desire’ in contemporary academic theory.

See also, Playing on Emotion. Opposite to this fallacy is the Chosen Emotion Fallacy (thanks to scholar Marc Lawson for identifying this fallacy), in which one falsely claims complete, or at least reliable prior voluntary control over one’s own autonomic, ‘gut level’ affective reactions. Closely related if not identical to this last is the ancient fallacy of Angelism, falsely claiming that one is capable of ‘objective’ reasoning and judgment without emotion, claiming for oneself a viewpoint of Olympian ‘disinterested objectivity’ or pretending to place oneself far above all personal feelings, temptations or bias.

See also, Mortification.

Alphabet Soup

A corrupt modern implicit fallacy from ethos in which a person inappropriately overuses acronyms, abbreviations, form numbers and arcane insider ‘shop talk’ primarily to prove to an audience that s/he ‘speaks their language’ and is ‘one of them’ and to shut out, confuse or impress outsiders. E.g., ‘It’s not uncommon for a K-12 with ASD to be both GT and LD;’ ‘I had a twenty-minute DX Q-so on 15 with a Zed-S1 and a couple of LU2’s even though the QR-Nancy was 10 over S9;’ or ‘I hope I’ll keep on seeing my BAQ on my LES until the day I get my DD214.’  See also, Name Calling. This fallacy has recently become common in media pharmaceutical advertising in the United States, where ‘Alphabet Soup’ is used to create false identification with and to exploit patient groups suffering from specific illnesses or conditions, e.g., ‘If you have DPC with associated ZL you can keep your B2D under control with Luglugmena®. Ask your doctor today about Luglugmena® Helium Tetracarbide lozenges to control symptoms of ZL and to keep your B2D under that crucial 7.62 threshold. Side effects of  Luglugmena® may include K4 Syndrome, which may lead to lycanthropic bicephaly, BMJ and occasionally, death. Do not take Luglugmena® if you are allergic to dogbite or have type D Flinder’s Garbosis…’

Alternative Truth

Also: Alt Facts; Counterknowledge; Disinformation; Information Pollution

A newly-famous contemporary fallacy of logos rooted in postmodernism, denying the resilience of facts or truth as such. Writer Hannah Arendt, in her The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951) warned that ‘The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the dedicated communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction, true and false, no longer exists.’ Journalist Leslie Grass (2017) writes in her Blog Reachoutrecovery.com, ‘Is there someone in your life who insists things happened that didn’t happen, or has a completely different version of events in which you have the facts? It’s a form of mind control and is very common among families dealing with substance and behavior problems.’ She suggests that such ‘Alternate Facts’ work to ‘put you off balance,’ ‘control the story,’ and ‘make you think you’re crazy,’ and she notes that ‘presenting alternate facts is the hallmark of untrustworthy people.’

The Alternative Truth fallacy is related to the Big Lie Technique.

See also Gaslighting, Blind Loyalty, The Big Brain/Little Brain Fallacy, and Two Truths

The Appeal to Closure :

The contemporary fallacy that an argument, standpoint, action, or conclusion no matter how questionable must be accepted as final or else the point will remain unsettled, which is unthinkable because those affected will be denied ‘closure.’ This fallacy falsely reifies a specialized term (closure) from Gestalt Psychology while refusing to recognize the undeniable truth that some points will indeed remain open and unsettled, perhaps forever. E.g., ‘Society would be protected, real punishment would be inflicted, crime would be deterred and justice served if we sentenced you to life without parole, but we need to execute you in order to provide some closure.’ See also, Argument from Ignorance, and Argument from Consequences.

The opposite of this fallacy is the Paralysis of Analysis.

The Appeal to Heaven

Also: Argumentum ad Coelum, Deus Vult, Gott mit Uns, Manifest Destiny, American Exceptionalism, or the Special Covenant

An ancient, extremely dangerous fallacy (a deluded argument from ethos) that of claiming to know the mind of God (or History, or a higher power), who has allegedly ordered or anointed, supports or approves of one’s own country, standpoint or actions so no further justification is required and no serious challenge is possible. (E.g., ‘God ordered me to kill my children,’ or ‘We need to take away your land, since God [or Scripture, or Manifest Destiny, or Fate, or Heaven] has given it to us as our own.’) A private individual who seriously asserts this fallacy risks ending up in a psychiatric ward, but groups or nations who do it are far too often taken seriously. Practiced by those who will not or cannot tell God’s will from their own, this vicious (and blasphemous) fallacy has been the cause of endless bloodshed over history. See also, Moral Superiority, and Magical Thinking. Also applies to deluded negative Appeals to Heaven, e.g., ‘You say that famine and ecological collapse due to climate change are real dangers during the coming century, but I know God wouldn’t ever let that happen to us!’

The opposite of the Appeal to Heaven is the Job’s Comforter fallacy.

The Appeal to Nature

Also: Biologizing; The Green Fallacy

The contemporary romantic fallacy of ethos (that of ‘Mother Nature’) that if something is ‘natural’ it has to be good, healthy and beneficial.  E.g., ‘Our premium herb tea is lovingly brewed from the finest freshly-picked and delicately dried natural T. Radicans leaves. Those who dismiss it as mere ‘Poison Ivy’ don’t understand that it’s 100% organic, with no additives, GMO’s or artificial ingredients  It’s time to Go Green and lay back in Mother’s arms.’ One who employs or falls for this fallacy forgets the old truism that left to itself, nature is indeed ‘red in tooth and claw.’ This fallacy also applies to arguments alleging that something is ‘unnatural,’ or ‘against nature’ and thus evil ( The Argument from Natural Law ) e.g. ‘Homosexuality should be outlawed because it’s against nature,’ arrogating to oneself the authority to define what is ‘natural’ and what is unnatural or perverted. E.g., during the American Revolution British sources widely condemned rebellion against King George III as ‘unnatural,’ and American revolutionaries as ‘perverts,’ because the Divine Right of Kings represented Natural Law, and according to 1 Samuel 15:23 in the Bible, rebellion is like unto witchcraft.

The Appeal to Pity

Also: ‘Argumentum ad Miserecordiam’

The fallacy of urging an audience to ‘root for the underdog’ regardless of the issues at hand. A classic example is, ‘Those poor, cute little squeaky mice are being gobbled up by mean, nasty cats ten times their size!’ A contemporary example might be America’s uncritical popular support for the Arab Spring movement of 2010-2012 in which The People (‘The underdogs’) were seen to be heroically overthrowing cruel dictatorships, a movement that has resulted in retrospect in chaos, impoverishment, anarchy, mass suffering, civil war, the regional collapse of civilization and rise of extremism, and the largest refugee crisis since World War II. A corrupt argument from pathos. See also, Playing to Emotions. The opposite of the Appeal to Pity is the Appeal to Rigor, an argument (often based on machismo or on manipulating an audience’s fear) based on mercilessness. E.g., ‘I’m a real man, not like those bleeding hearts, and I’ll be tough on [fill in the name of the enemy or bogeyman of the hour].’ In academia this latter fallacy applies to politically-motivated or elitist calls for ‘Academic Rigor,’ and rage against university developmental/remedial classes, open admissions, ‘dumbing down’ and ‘grade inflation.’

The Appeal to Tradition

Also: Conservative Bias; Back in Those Good Times, ‘The Good Old Days’

The ancient fallacy that a standpoint, situation, or action is right, proper, and correct simply because it has ‘always’ been that way, because people have ‘always’ thought that way, or because it was that way long ago (most often meaning in the audience members’ youth or childhood, not before) and still continues to serve one particular group very well. A corrupted argument from ethos (that of past generations). E.g., ‘In America, women have always been paid less, so let’s not mess with long-standing tradition.’  See also Argument from Inertia, and Default Bias. The opposite of this fallacy is The Appeal to Novelty (also, ‘Pro-Innovation bias,’ ‘Recency Bias,’ and ‘The Bad Old Days;’ The Early Adopter’s Fallacy), e.g., ‘It’s NEW, and [therefore it must be] improved!’ or ‘This is the very latest discovery–it has to be better.’


Also: ‘Assertiveness,’ ‘The squeaky wheel gets the grease;’ ‘I know my rights!’

This fallacy, most often popularly connected to the shameful pre-World War II appeasement of Hitler, is in fact still commonly practiced in public agencies, education and retail business today, e.g. ‘Customers are always right, even when they’re wrong. Don’t argue with them, just give’em what they want so they’ll shut up and go away, and not make a stink–it’s cheaper and easier than a lawsuit.’  Widespread unchallenged acceptance of this fallacy encourages offensive, uncivil public behavior and sometimes the development of a coarse subculture of obnoxious, ‘assertive’ manipulators who, like ‘spoiled’ children, leverage their knowledge of how to figuratively (or sometimes even literally!) ‘make a stink’ into a primary coping skill in order to get what they want when they want it. The works of the late Community Organizing guru Saul Alinsky suggest practical, nonviolent ways for groups to harness the power of this fallacy to promote social change, for good or for evil.

See also Bribery.

The Argument from Consequences

Also: Outcome Bias

The major fallacy of logos, arguing that something cannot be true because if it were the consequences or outcome would be unacceptable.

Example: Global climate change cannot be caused by human burning of fossil fuels, because if it were, switching to non-polluting energy sources would bankrupt American industry,’ or ‘Doctor, that’s wrong! I can’t have terminal cancer, because if I did that’d mean that I won’t live to see my kids get married!’

Not to be confused with Actions have Consequences.

The Argument from Ignorance

Also: Argumentum ad Ignorantiam

The fallacy is that since we don’t know (or can never know, or cannot prove) whether a claim is true or false, it must be false, or it must be true. E.g., ‘Scientists are never going to be able to positively prove their crazy theory that humans evolved from other creatures because we weren’t there to see it! So, that proves the Genesis six-day creation account is literally true as written!’ This fallacy includes Attacking the Evidence (also, ‘Whataboutism’; The Missing Link fallacy), e.g. ‘Some or all of your key evidence is missing, incomplete, or even faked!  What about that? That proves you’re wrong and I’m right!’ This fallacy usually includes fallacious ‘Either-Or Reasoning’ as well: E.g., ‘The vet can’t find any reasonable explanation for why my dog died. See! See! That proves that you poisoned him! There’s no other logical explanation!’ A corrupted argument from logos, and a fallacy commonly found in American political, judicial and forensic reasoning. The recently famous ‘Flying Spaghetti Monster’ meme is a contemporary refutation of this fallacy–simply because we cannot conclusively disprove the existence of such an absurd entity does not argue for its existence.

See also A Priori Argument, Appeal to Closure, The Simpleton’s Fallacy, and Argumentum ex Silentio.

The Argument from Incredulity

The popular fallacy of doubting or rejecting a novel claim or argument out of hand simply because it appears superficially ‘incredible,’ ‘insane’ or ‘crazy,’ or because it goes against one’s own personal beliefs, prior experience or ideology.  This cynical fallacy falsely elevates the saying popularized by Carl Sagan, that ‘Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof,’ to an absolute law of logic. See also Hoyle’s Fallacy. The common, popular-level form of this fallacy is dismissing surprising, extraordinary or unfamiliar arguments and evidence with a wave of the hand, a shake of the head, (saying) ‘that’s crazy!’

The Argument from Inertia

Also: ‘Stay the Course’

The fallacy that it is necessary to continue on a mistaken course of action regardless of pain and sacrifice involved and even after discovering it is mistaken, because changing course would mean admitting that one’s decision (or one’s leader, or one’s country, or one’s faith) was wrong, and all one’s effort, expense, sacrifice, and even bloodshed was for nothing, and that’s unthinkable. A variety of the Argument from Consequences, E for Effort, or the Appeal to Tradition. See also ‘Throwing Good Money After Bad.’

The Argument from Motives

Also Questioning Motives

The fallacy of declaring a standpoint or argument invalid solely because of the evil, corrupt or questionable motives of the one making the claim. E.g., ‘Bin Laden wanted us to withdraw from Afghanistan, so we have to keep up the fight!’ Even evil people with the most corrupt motives sometimes say the truth (and even good people with the highest and purest motives are often wrong or mistaken). A variety of the Ad Hominem argument. The opposite side of this fallacy is falsely justifying or excusing evil or vicious actions because of the perpetrator’s apparent purity of motives or lack of malice. (E.g., ‘Sure, she may have beaten her children bloody now and again but she was a highly educated, ambitious professional woman at the end of her rope, deprived of adult conversation and stuck between four walls for years on end with a bunch of screaming, fighting brats, doing the best she could with what little she had. How can you stand there and accuse her of child abuse?’)

See also Moral Licensing.

Argumentum ad Baculum

Also: Argument from the Club,’ ‘Argumentum ad Baculam,’ ‘Argument from Strength,’ ‘Muscular Leadership,’ ‘Non-negotiable Demands,’ ‘Hard Power,’ Bullying, The Power-Play, Fascism, Resolution by Force of Arms, Shock, and Awe.

The fallacy of ‘persuasion’ or ‘proving one is right’ by force, violence, brutality, terrorism, superior strength, raw military might, or threats of violence. E.g., ‘Gimmee your wallet or I’ll knock your head off!’ or ‘We have the perfect right to take your land, since we have the big guns and you don’t.’ Also applies to indirect forms of threat. E.g., ‘Give up your foolish pride, kneel down and accept our religion today if you don’t want to burn in hell forever and ever!’ A mainly discursive Argumentum ad Baculum is that of forcibly silencing opponents, ruling them ‘out of order,’ blocking, censoring, or jamming their message, or simply speaking over them or/speaking more loudly than they do, this last a tactic particularly attributed to men in mixed-gender discussions.

Argumentum ad Mysteriam

ALSO: ‘Argument from Mystery;’ also Mystagogy.

A darkened chamber, incense, chanting or drumming, bowing and kneeling, special robes or headgear, holy rituals, and massed voices reciting sacred mysteries in an unknown tongue  have a quasi-hypnotic effect and can often persuade more strongly than any logical argument.  The Puritan Reformation was in large part a rejection of this fallacy. When used knowingly and deliberately this fallacy is particularly vicious and accounts for some of the fearsome persuasive power of cults.  An example of an Argumentum ad Mysteriam is the ‘ Long Ago and Far Away ‘ fallacy, the fact that facts, evidence, practices or arguments from ancient times, distant lands and/or ‘exotic’ cultures seem to acquire a special gravitas or ethos simply because of their antiquity, language or origin, e.g., publicly chanting Holy Scriptures in their original (most often incomprehensible) ancient languages, preferring the Greek, Latin, Assyrian or Old Slavonic Christian Liturgies over their vernacular versions, or using classic or newly invented Greek and Latin names for fallacies in order to support their validity.

See also, Esoteric Knowledge. An obverse of the Argumentum ad Mysteriam is the Standard Version Fallacy.

Argumentum ex Silentio

Also: Argument from Silence

The fallacy that if available sources remain silent or current knowledge and evidence can prove nothing about a given subject or question this fact in itself proves the truth of one’s claim. E.g., ‘Science can tell us nothing about God. That proves God doesn’t exist.’ Or ‘Science admits it can tell us nothing about God, so you can’t deny that God exists!’ Often misused in the American justice system, where, contrary to the 5th Amendment and the legal presumption of innocence until proven guilty,  remaining silent or ‘taking the Fifth’ is often falsely portrayed as proof of guilt. E.g., ‘Mr. Hixon can offer no alibi for his whereabouts the evening of January 15th. This proves that he was in fact in room 331 at the Smuggler’s Inn, murdering his wife with a hatchet!’ In today’s America, choosing to remain silent in the face of a police officer’s questions can make one guilty enough to be arrested or even shot.

See also, Argument from Ignorance.

Availability Bias

Also: Attention Bias, Anchoring Bias

A fallacy of logos stemming from the natural tendency to give undue attention and importance to information that is immediately available at hand, particularly the first or last information received, and to minimize or ignore broader data or wider evidence that clearly exists but is not as easily remembered or accessed. E.g., ‘We know from experience that this doesn’t work,’ when ‘experience’ means the most recent local attempt, ignoring overwhelming experience from other places and times where it ha s worked and does work. Also related is the fallacy of Hyperbole [also, Magnification, or sometimes Catastrophizing] where an immediate instance is immediately proclaimed ‘the most significant in all of human history,’ or the ‘worst in the whole world!’ This latter fallacy works extremely well with less-educated audiences and those whose ‘whole world’ is very small indeed, audiences who ‘hate history’ and whose historical memory spans several weeks at best.

The Bandwagon Fallacy

Also: Argument from Common Sense, Argumentum ad Populum

The fallacy of arguing that because ‘everyone,’ ‘the people,’ or ‘the majority’ (or someone in power who has widespread backing) supposedly thinks or does something, it must therefore be true and right. E.g., ‘Whether there actually is large scale voter fraud in America or not, many people now think there is and that makes it so.’ Sometimes also includes Lying with Statistics , e.g. ‘Over 75% of Americans believe that crooked Bob Hodiak is a thief, a liar and a pervert. There may not be any evidence, but for anyone with half a brain that conclusively proves that Crooked Bob should go to jail! Lock him up! Lock him up!’ This is sometimes combined with the ‘Argumentum ad Baculum,’ e.g., ‘Like it or not, it’s time to choose sides: Are you going to get on board  the bandwagon with everyone else, or get crushed under the wheels as it goes by?’ Or in the 2017 words of former White House spokesperson Sean Spicer, ”They should either get with the program or they can go,’ A contemporary digital form of the Bandwagon Fallacy is the Information Cascade, ‘ in which people echo the opinions of others, usually online, even when their own opinions or exposure to information contradicts that opinion. When information cascades form a pattern, this pattern can begin to overpower later opinions by making it seem as if a consensus already exists.’ (Thanks to Teaching Tolerance for this definition!)

See also Wisdom of the Crowd, and The Big Lie Technique.

For the opposite of this fallacy see the Romantic Rebel fallacy. 

The Big Brain/Little Brain Fallacy

Also: the Führerprinzip; Mad Leader Disease

A not-uncommon but extreme example of the Blind Loyalty Fallacy below, in which a tyrannical boss, military commander, or religious or cult-leader tells followers ‘Don’t think with your little brains (the brain in your head), but with your BIG brain (mine).’ This last is sometimes expressed in positive terms, i.e., ‘You don’t have to worry and stress out about the rightness or wrongness of what you are doing since I, the Leader. am assuming all moral and legal responsibility for all your actions. So long as you are faithfully following orders without question I will defend you and gladly accept all the consequences up to and including eternal damnation if I’m wrong.’

The opposite of this is the fallacy of ‘Plausible Deniability.’ See also, ‘Just Do It!’, and ‘Gaslighting.’

The Big ‘But’ Fallacy

Also: Special Pleading

The fallacy of enunciating a generally-accepted principle and then directly negating it with a ‘but.’ Often this takes the form of the ‘Special Case,’ which is supposedly exempt from the usual rules of law, logic, morality, ethics or even credibility  E.g., ‘As Americans, we have always believed on principle that every human being has God-given, inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, including in the case of criminal accusations a fair and speedy trial before a jury of one’s peers. BUT, your crime was so unspeakable and a trial would be so problematic for national security that it justifies locking you up for life in Guantanamo without trial, conviction or possibility of appeal.’  Or, ‘Yes, Honey, I still love you more than life itself, and I know that in my wedding vows I promised before God that I’d forsake all others and be faithful to you ‘until death do us part,’ but you have to understand, this was a special case…’

See also, ‘Shopping Hungry,’ and ‘We Have to do Something !’

The Big Lie Technique

Also: the Bold Faced Lie; ‘Staying on Message.’

The contemporary fallacy of repeating a lie, fallacy, slogan, talking-point, nonsense-statement, or deceptive half-truth over and over in different forms (particularly in the media) until it becomes part of daily discourse and people accept it without further proof or evidence. Sometimes the bolder and more outlandish the Big Lie becomes the more credible it seems to a willing, most often angry audience. E.g., ‘What about the Jewish Problem?’ Note that when this particular phony debate was going on there was no ‘Jewish Problem,’ only a Nazi Problem, but hardly anybody in power recognized or wanted to talk about that, while far too many ordinary Germans were only too ready to find a convenient scapegoat to blame for their suffering during the Great Depression. Writer Miles J. Brewer expertly demolishes The Big Lie Technique in his classic (1930) short story, ‘The Gostak and the Doshes.’ However, more contemporary examples of the Big Lie fallacy might be the completely fictitious August 4, 1964 ‘Tonkin Gulf Incident’ concocted under Lyndon Johnson as a false justification for escalating the Vietnam War, or the non-existent ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’ in Iraq (conveniently abbreviated ‘WMD’s’ in order to lend this Big Lie a legitimizing, military-sounding ‘Alphabet Soup’ ethos), used in 2003 as a false justification for the Second Gulf War. The November, 2016 U.S. President-elect’s statement that ‘millions’ of ineligible votes were cast in that year’s American. presidential election appears to be a classic Big Lie.

See also, Alternative Truth; The Bandwagon Fallacy, the Straw Man, Alphabet Soup, and Propaganda.   

Blind Loyalty

Also: Blind Obedience, Unthinking Obedience, the ‘Team Player’ appeal, the Nuremberg Defense

The dangerous fallacy that an argument or action is right simply and solely because a respected leader or source (a President, expert, one’s parents, one’s own ‘side,’ team or country, one’s boss or commanding officers) says it is right. This is over-reliance on authority, a gravely corrupted argument from ethos that puts loyalty above truth,  above one’s own reason and above conscience. In this case a person attempts to justify incorrect, stupid or criminal behavior by whining ‘That’s what I was told to do,’ or ‘I was just following orders.’ 

See also, The Big Brain/Little Brain Fallacy, and The ‘Soldiers’ Honor’ Fallacy.

Blood is Thicker than Water

Also: Favoritism; Compadrismo; ‘For my friends, anything.’

The reverse of the ‘Ad Hominem’ fallacy, a corrupt argument from ethos where a statement, argument or action is automatically regarded as true, correct and above challenge because one is related to, knows and likes, or is on the same team or side, or belongs to the same religion, party, club or fraternity as the individual involved.  (E.g., ‘My brother-in-law says he saw you goofing off on the job. You’re a hard worker but who am I going to believe, you or him? You’re fired!’)  See also the Identity Fallacy.


Also: Propaganda, ‘Radicalization.’

The Cold War-era fantasy that an enemy can instantly win over or ‘radicalize’ an unsuspecting audience with their vile but somehow unspeakably persuasive ‘propaganda,’  e.g., ‘Don’t look at that website! They’re trying to brainwash you with their propaganda!’ Historically, ‘brainwashing’ refers more properly to the inhuman Argumentum ad Baculum of  ‘beating an argument into’ a prisoner via a combination of pain, fear, sensory or sleep deprivation, prolonged abuse and sophisticated psychological manipulation (also, the ‘ Stockholm Syndrome .’). Such ‘brainwashing’ can also be accomplished by pleasure (‘ Love Bombing ,’); e.g., ‘Did you like that? I know you did. Well, there’s lots more where that came from when you sign on with us!’ (See also, ‘Bribery.’) An unspeakably sinister form of persuasion by brainwashing involves deliberately addicting a person to drugs and then providing or withholding the substance depending on the addict’s compliance. Note: Only the other side brainwashes. ‘We’ never brainwash.

Also: Material Persuasion, Material Incentive, Financial Incentive

The fallacy of ‘persuasion’ by bribery, gifts or favors is the reverse of the Argumentum ad Baculum. As is well known, someone who is persuaded by bribery rarely ‘stays persuaded’ in the long term unless the bribes keep on coming in and increasing with time.

See also Appeasement.

Calling ‘Cards’

A contemporary fallacy of logos, arbitrarily and falsely dismissing familiar or easily-anticipated but valid, reasoned objections to one’s standpoint with a wave of the hand, as mere ‘cards’ in some sort of ‘game’ of rhetoric, e.g. ‘Don’t try to play the ‘Race Card’ against me,’ or ‘She’s playing the ‘Woman Card’ again,’ or ‘That ‘Hitler Card’ won’t score with me in this argument.’ See also, The Taboo, and Political Correctness.

Circular Reasoning

Also: The Vicious Circle; Catch 22, Begging the Question, Circulus in Probando

A fallacy of logos where A is because of B, and B is because of A, e.g., ‘You can’t get a job without experience, and you can’t get experience without a job.’ Also refers to falsely arguing that something is true by repeating the same statement in different words. E.g., ‘The witchcraft problem is the most urgent spiritual crisis in the world today. Why? Because witches threaten our very eternal salvation.’ A corrupt argument from logos. See also the ‘Big Lie technique.’

The Complex Question

The contemporary fallacy of demanding a direct answer to a question that cannot be answered without first analyzing or challenging the basis of the question itself. E.g., ‘Just answer me ‘yes’ or ‘no’:  Did you think you could get away with plagiarism and not suffer the consequences?’ Or, ‘Why did you rob that bank?’ Also applies to situations where one is forced to either accept or reject complex standpoints or propositions containing both acceptable and unacceptable parts. A corruption of the argument from logos.

A counterpart of Either/Or Reasoning.

Confirmation Bias

A fallacy of logos, the common tendency to notice, search out, select and share evidence that confirms one’s own standpoint and beliefs, as opposed to contrary evidence. This fallacy is how ‘fortune tellers’ work–If I am told I will meet a ‘tall, dark stranger’ I will be on the lookout for a tall, dark stranger, and when I meet someone even marginally meeting that description I will marvel at the correctness of the ‘psychic’s’ prediction. In contemporary times Confirmation Bias is most often seen in the tendency of various audiences to ‘curate their political environments, subsisting on one-sided information diets and [even] selecting into politically homogeneous neighborhoods’ ( Michael A. Neblo et al., 2017, Science magazine ).  Confirmation Bias (also, Homophily) means that people tend to seek out and follow solely those media outlets that confirm their common ideological and cultural biases, sometimes to a degree that leads a the false (implicit or even explicit) conclusion that ‘everyone’ agrees with that bias and that anyone who doesn’t is ‘crazy,’ ‘looney,’ evil or even ‘radicalized.’

See also, ‘Half Truth,’ and ‘Defensiveness.’ 

A fallacy of ethos (that of a product), the fact that something expensive (either in terms of money, or something that is ‘hard fought’ or ‘hard won’ or for which one ‘paid dearly’) is generally valued more highly than something obtained free or cheaply, regardless of the item’s real quality, utility or true value to the purchaser. E. g., ‘Hey, I worked hard to get this car!  It may be nothing but a clunker that can’t make it up a steep hill, but it’s mine , and to me it’s better than some millionaire’s limo.’  Also applies to judging the quality of a consumer item (or even of its owner! ) primarily by the item’s brand, price, label or source, e.g., ‘Hey, you there in the Jay-Mart suit! Har-har!’ or, ‘Ooh, she’s driving a Mercedes! ‘

Default Bias

Also: Normalization of Evil, ‘Deal with it;’ ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it;’ Acquiescence; ‘Making one’s peace with the situation;’ ‘Get used to it;’ ‘Whatever is , is right;’  ‘It is what it is;’ ‘Let it be, let it be;’ ‘This is the best of all possible worlds [or, the only possible world];’ ‘Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.’

The logical fallacy of automatically favoring or accepting a situation simply because it exists right now, and arguing that any other alternative is mad, unthinkable, impossible, or at least would take too much effort, expense, stress, or risk to change. The opposite of this fallacy is that of Nihilism (‘Tear it all down!’), blindly rejecting what exists in favor of what could be, the adolescent fantasy of romanticizing anarchy, chaos (an ideology sometimes called political ‘ Chaos Theory ‘), disorder, ‘permanent revolution,’ or change for change’s sake.


Also: Choice-support Bias: Myside Bias

A fallacy of ethos (one’s own), in which after one has taken a given decision, commitment or course of action, one automatically tends to defend that decision and to irrationally dismiss opposing options even when one’s decision later on proves to be shaky or wrong. E.g., ‘Yeah, I voted for Snith. Sure, he turned out to be a crook and a liar and he got us into war, but I still say that at that time he was better than the available alternatives!’ 

See also ‘Argument from Inertia’ and ‘Confirmation Bias.’

Deliberate Ignorance

Also: Closed-mindedness; ‘I don’t want to hear it!’; Motivated Ignorance; Tuning Out; Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil [The Three Monkeys’ Fallacy]

As described by author and commentator Brian Resnik on Vox.com (2017), this is the fallacy of simply choosing not to listen, ‘tuning out’ or turning off any information, evidence or arguments that challenge one’s beliefs, ideology, standpoint, or peace of mind, following the popular humorous dictum: ‘Don’t try to confuse me with the facts; my mind is made up!’ This seemingly innocuous fallacy has enabled the most vicious tyrannies and abuses over history, and continues to do so today.

See also Trust your Gut, Confirmation Bias, The Third Person Effect, ‘They’re All Crooks,’ the Simpleton’s Fallacy, and The Positive Thinking Fallacy.

Diminished Responsibility

The common contemporary fallacy of applying a specialized judicial concept (that criminal punishment should be less if one’s judgment was impaired) to reality in general. E.g., ‘You can’t count me absent on Monday–I was hungover and couldn’t come to class so it’s not my fault.’  Or, ‘Yeah, I was speeding on the freeway and killed a guy, but I was buzzed out of my mind and didn’t know what I was doing so it didn’t matter that much.’ In reality the death does matter very much to the victim, to his family and friends, and to society in general. Whether the perpetrator was high or not does not matter at all since the material results are the same. This also includes the fallacy of Panic , a very common contemporary fallacy that one’s words or actions, no matter how damaging or evil, somehow don’t ‘count’ because ‘I panicked!’ This fallacy is rooted in the confusion of ‘consequences’ with ‘punishment.’

See also ‘Venting.’

Disciplinary Blinders

A very common contemporary scholarly or professional fallacy of ethos (that of one’s discipline, profession or academic field),  automatically disregarding, discounting or ignoring a priori otherwise-relevant research, arguments and evidence that come from outside one’s own professional discipline, discourse community or academic area of study. E.g., ‘That might be relevant or not, but it’s so not what we’re doing in our field right now.’  See also, ‘Star Power’ and ‘Two Truths.’ An analogous fallacy is that of Denominational Blinders , arbitrarily ignoring or waving aside without serious consideration any arguments or discussion about faith, morality, ethics, spirituality, the Divine or the afterlife that come from outside one’s own specific religious denomination or faith tradition.

Dog-Whistle Politics

An extreme version of reductionism and sloganeering in the public sphere, a contemporary fallacy of logos and pathos in which a brief phrase or slogan of the hour, e.g., ‘Abortion,’ ‘The 1%,’ ‘9/11,’ ‘Zionism,”Chain Migration,’ ‘Islamic Terrorism,’ ‘Fascism,’ ‘Communism,’ ‘Big government,’ ‘Taco trucks!’, ‘Tax and tax and spend and spend,’ ‘Gun violence,’ ‘Gun control,’ ‘Freedom of choice,’ ‘Lock ’em up,’, ‘Amnesty,’ etc. is flung out as ‘red meat’ or ‘chum in the water’ that reflexively sends one’s audience into a snapping, foaming-at-the-mouth feeding-frenzy. Any reasoned attempt to more clearly identify, deconstruct or challenge an opponent’s ‘dog whistle’ appeal results in puzzled confusion at best and wild, irrational fury at worst. ‘Dog whistles’ differ widely in different places, moments and cultural milieux, and they change and lose or gain power so quickly that even recent historic texts sometimes become extraordinarily difficult to interpret. A common but sad instance of the fallacy of Dog Whistle Politics is that of  candidate ‘debaters’ of differing political shades simply blowing a succession of discursive ‘dog whistles’ at their audience instead of addressing, refuting or even bothering to listen to each other’s arguments, a situation resulting in contemporary (2017) allegations that the political Right and Left in America are speaking ‘different languages’ when they are simply blowing different ‘dog whistles.’

See also, Reductionism..

The ‘Draw Your Own Conclusion’ Fallacy

Also: the Non-argument Argument; Let the Facts Speak for Themselves

In this fallacy of logos, an otherwise uninformed audience is presented with carefully selected and groomed, ‘shocking facts’ and then prompted to immediately ‘draw their own conclusions.’ E.g., ‘Crime rates are more than twice as high among middle-class Patzinaks than among any other similar population group–draw your own conclusions.’ It is well known that those who are allowed to ‘come to their own conclusions’ are generally much more strongly convinced than those who are given both evidence and conclusion upfront. However, Dr. William Lorimer points out that ‘The only rational response to the non-argument is ‘So what?’ i.e. ‘What do you think you’ve proved, and why/how do you think you’ve proved it?” Closely related (if not identical) to this is the well-known ‘Leading the Witness’ Fallacy , where a sham, sarcastic or biased question is asked solely in order to evoke a desired answer.

The Dunning-Kruger Effect

A cognitive bias that leads people of limited skills or knowledge to mistakenly believe their abilities are greater than they actually are. (Thanks to Teaching Tolerance for this definition!)  E.g., ‘I know Washington was the Father of His Country and never told a lie, Pocahontas was the first Native American, Lincoln freed the slaves, Hitler murdered six million Jews, Susan B. Anthony won equal rights for women, and Martin Luther King said ‘I have a dream!’  Moses parted the Red Sea, Caesar said ‘Et tu, Brute?’ and the only reason America didn’t win the Vietnam War hands-down like we always do was because they tied our generals’ hands and the politicians cut and run. See? Why do I need to take a history course? I know everything about history!’

E’ for Effort

Also: Noble Effort; I’m Trying My Best; The Lost Cause

The common contemporary fallacy of ethos that something must be right, true, valuable, or worthy of respect and honor solely because one (or someone else) has put so much sincere good-faith effort or even sacrifice and bloodshed into it. (See also Appeal to Pity; Argument from Inertia; Heroes All; or Sob Story).  An extreme example of this fallacy is Waving the Bloody Shirt ( also , the ‘Blood of the Martyrs’ Fallacy) , the fallacy that a cause or argument, no matter how questionable or reprehensible, cannot be questioned without dishonoring the blood and sacrifice of those who died so nobly for that cause. E.g., ‘ Defend the patriotic gore / That flecked the streets of Baltimore.. .’ (from the official Maryland State Song).

See also Cost Bias, The Soldier’s Honor Fallacy, and the Argument from Inertia.

Either/Or Reasoning

Also: False Dilemma, All or Nothing Thinking; False Dichotomy, Black/White Fallacy, False Binary

A fallacy of logos that falsely offers only two possible options even though a broad range of possible alternatives, variations, and combinations are always readily available. E.g., ‘Either you are 100% Simon Straightarrow or you are as queer as a three dollar bill–it’s as simple as that and there’s no middle ground!’ Or, ‘Either you’re in with us all the way or you’re a hostile and must be destroyed!  What’s it gonna be?’  Or, if your performance is anything short of perfect, you consider yourself an abject failure. Also applies to falsely contrasting one option or case to another that is not really opposed, e.g., falsely opposing ‘Black Lives Matter’ to ‘Blue Lives Matter’ when in fact not a few police officers are themselves African American, and African Americans and police are not (or ought not to be!) natural enemies. Or, falsely posing a choice of either helping needy American veterans or helping needy foreign refugees, when in fact in today’s United States there are ample resources available to easily do both should we care to do so. 

See also, Overgeneralization.


The fallacy of deliberately failing to define one’s terms, or knowingly and deliberately using words in a different sense than the one the audience will understand. (E.g., President Bill Clinton stating that he did not have sexual relations with ‘that woman,’ meaning no sexual penetration, knowing full well that the audience will understand his statement as ‘I had no sexual contact of any kind with that woman.’) This is a corruption of the argument from logos, and a tactic often used in American jurisprudence.  Historically, this referred to a tactic used during the Reformation-era religious wars in Europe, when people were forced to swear loyalty to one or another side and did as demanded via ‘equivocation,’  i.e., ‘When I solemnly swore true faith and allegiance to the King I really meant to King Jesus, King of Kings, and not to the evil usurper squatting on the throne today.’ This latter form of fallacy is excessively rare today when the swearing of oaths has become effectively meaningless except as obscenity or as speech formally subject to perjury penalties in legal or judicial settings.

The Eschatological Fallacy

The ancient fallacy of arguing, ‘This world is coming to an end, so…’  Popularly refuted by the observation that ‘Since the world is coming to an end you won’t need your life savings anyhow, so why not give it all to me?’

Esoteric Knowledge

Also: Esoteric Wisdom; Gnosticism; Inner Truth; the Inner Sanctum; Need to Know

A fallacy from logos and ethos, that there is some knowledge reserved only for the Wise, the Holy or the Enlightened, (or those with proper Security Clearance), things that the masses cannot understand and do not deserve to know, at least not until they become wiser, more trusted or more ‘spiritually advanced.’  The counterpart of this fallacy is that of Obscurantism (also Obscurationism, or Willful Ignorance), that (almost always said in a basso profundo voice) ‘There are some things that we mere mortals must never seek to know!’ E.g., ‘Scientific experiments that violate the privacy of the marital bed and expose  the deep and private mysteries of human sexual behavior to the harsh light of science are obscene, sinful and morally evil. There are some things that we as humans are simply not meant to know!’ For the opposite of this latter, see the ‘Plain Truth Fallacy.’

See also, Argumentum ad Mysteriam.


A fallacy of logos that proposes a person or thing ‘is what it is and that’s all that it is,’ and at its core will always be the way it is right now (E.g., ‘All terrorists are monsters, and will still be terrorist monsters even if they live to be 100,’ or ”The poor you will always have with you,’ so any effort to eliminate poverty is pointless.’). Also refers to the fallacy of arguing that something is a certain way ‘by nature,’ an empty claim that no amount of proof can refute. (E.g., ‘Americans are cold and greedy by nature,’ or ‘Women are naturally better cooks than men.’) See also ‘Default Bias.’  The opposite of this is Relativizing, the typically postmodern fallacy of blithely dismissing any and all arguments against one’s standpoint by shrugging one’s shoulders and responding ‘ Whatever…, I don’t feel like arguing about it;’ ‘It all depends…;’ ‘That’s your opinion; everything’s relative;’ or falsely invoking Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, Quantum Weirdness or the Theory of Multiple Universes in order to confuse, mystify or ‘refute’ an opponent.

See also, ‘Red Herring’ and  ‘Appeal to Nature.’

The Etymological Fallacy

Also: ‘The Underlying Meaning’

A fallacy of logos, drawing false conclusions from the (most often long-forgotten) linguistic origins of a current word, or the alleged meanings or associations of that word in another language. E.g., ‘As used in physics, electronics and electrical engineering the term ‘hysteresis’ is grossly sexist since it originally came from the Greek word for ‘uterus’ or ‘womb.”  Or, ‘I refuse to eat fish! Don’t you know that the French word for ‘fish’ is ‘poisson,’ which looks just like the English word ‘poison’? And doesn’t that suggest something to you?’ Famously, postmodern philosopher Jacques Derrida played on this fallacy at great length in his (1968) ‘Plato’s Pharmacy.’

The Excluded Middle

A corrupted argument from logos that proposes that since a little of something is good, more must be better (or that if less of something is good, none at all is even better). E.g., ‘If eating an apple a day is good for you, eating an all-apple diet is even better!’ or ‘If a low fat diet prolongs your life, a no-fat diet should make you live forever!’  An opposite of this fallacy is that of Excluded Outliers , where one arbitrarily discards evidence, examples or results that disprove one’s standpoint by simply describing them as ‘Weird,’ ‘Outliers,’ or ‘Atypical.’ See also, ‘The Big ‘But’ Fallacy.’ Also opposite is the Middle of the Road Fallacy (also, Falacia ad Temperantiam; ‘The Politics of the Center;’ Marginalization of the Adversary), where one demonstrates the ‘reasonableness’ of one’s own standpoint (no matter how extreme) not on its own merits, but solely or mainly by presenting it as the only ‘moderate’ path among two or more obviously unacceptable extreme alternatives.  E.g., anti-Communist scholar Charles Roig (1979) notes that Vladimir Lenin successfully argued for Bolshevism in Russia as the only available ‘moderate’ middle path between bomb-throwing Nihilist terrorists on the ultra-left and a corrupt and hated Czarist autocracy on the right. As Texas politician and humorist Jim Hightower famously declares in an undated quote, ‘The middle of the road is for yellow lines and dead armadillos.’

The ‘F-Bomb’

Also: Cursing; Obscenity; Profanity

An adolescent fallacy of pathos, attempting to defend or strengthen one’s argument with gratuitous, unrelated sexual, obscene, vulgar, crude or profane language when such language does nothing to make an argument stronger, other than perhaps to create a sense of identity with certain young male ‘urban’ audiences. This fallacy also includes adding gratuitous sex scenes or ‘adult’ language to an otherwise unrelated novel or movie, sometimes simply to avoid the dreaded ‘G’ rating. Related to this fallacy is the Salacious Fallacy , falsely attracting attention to and thus potential agreement with one’s argument by inappropriately sexualizing it, particularly connecting it to some form of sex that is perceived as deviant, perverted or prohibited (E.g., Arguing against Bill Clinton’s presidential legacy by continuing to wave Monica’s Blue Dress, or against Donald Trump’s presidency by obsessively highlighting his past boasting about genital groping). Historically, this dangerous fallacy was deeply implicated with the crime of lynching, in which false, racist accusations against a Black or minority victim were almost always salacious in nature, and the sensation involved was successfully used to whip up public emotion to a murderous pitch.

See also, Red Herring.

The False Analogy

The fallacy of incorrectly comparing one thing to another in order to draw a false conclusion. E.g., ‘Just like an alley cat needs to prowl, a normal adult can’t be tied down to one single lover.’ The opposite of this fallacy is the Sui Generis Fallacy (also, Differance), a postmodern stance that rejects the validity of analogy and of inductive reasoning altogether because any given person, place, thing or idea under consideration is ‘sui generis’ i.e., different and unique, in a class unto itself. 

Finish the Job

The dangerous contemporary fallacy, often aimed at a lesser-educated or working-class audience, that an action or standpoint (or the continuation of that action or standpoint) may not be questioned or discussed because there is ‘a job to be done’ or finished, falsely assuming ‘jobs’ are meaningless but never to be questioned. Sometimes those involved internalize (‘buy into’) the ‘job’ and make the task a part of their own ethos. 

Example: ‘Ours is not to reason why / Ours is but to do or die.’) Related to this is the ‘ Just a Job’ fallacy. (E.g., ‘How can torturers stand to look at themselves in the mirror? But I guess it’s OK because for them it’s just a job like any other, the job that they get paid to do.’)

See also ‘Blind Loyalty,’ ‘The Soldiers’ Honor Fallacy’ and the ‘Argument from Inertia.’

The Free Speech Fallacy

The infantile fallacy of responding to challenges to one’s statements and standpoints by whining, ‘It’s a free country, isn’t it?  I can say anything I want to!’ A contemporary case of this fallacy is the ‘ Safe Space,’ or ‘Safe Place,’ where it is not allowed to refute, challenge or even discuss another’s beliefs because that might be too uncomfortable or ‘triggery’ for emotionally fragile individuals. E.g., ‘All I told him was, ‘Jesus loves the little children,’ but then he turned around and asked me ‘But what about birth defects?’ That’s mean. I think I’m going to cry!’ Prof. Bill Hart Davidson (2017) notes that ‘Ironically, the most strident calls for ‘safety’ come from those who want us to issue protections for discredited ideas. Things that science doesn’t support AND that have destroyed lives – things like the inherent superiority of one race over another. Those ideas wither under demands for evidence. They *are* unwelcome. But let’s be clear: they are unwelcome because they have not survived the challenge of scrutiny.’ Ironically, in contemporary America ‘free speech’ has often become shorthand for freedom of racist, offensive or even neo-Nazi expression, ideological trends that once in power typically quash free speech. Additionally, a (201) scientific study has found that, in fact, ‘ people think harder and produce better political arguments when their views are challenged ‘ and not artificially protected without challenge.

The Fundamental Attribution Error

Also: Self Justification

A corrupt argument from ethos, this fallacy occurs as a result of observing and comparing behavior. ‘You assume that the bad behavior of others is caused by character flaws and foul dispositions while your behavior is explained by the environment.  So, for example, I get up in the morning at 10 a.m.  I say it is because my neighbors party until 2 in the morning (situation) but I say that the reason why you do it is that you are lazy. Interestingly, it is more common in individualistic societies where we value self volition. Collectivist societies tend to look at the environment more. (It happens there, too, but it is much less common.)’  [Thanks to scholar Joel Sax for this!] The obverse of this fallacy is Self Deprecation (also Self Debasement) , where, out of either false humility or a genuine lack of self-esteem, one deliberately puts oneself down, most often in hopes of attracting denials, gratifying compliments, and praise.


A recently-prominent, vicious fallacy of logic, denying or invalidating a person’s own knowledge and experiences by deliberately twisting or distorting known facts, memories, scenes, events and evidence in order to disorient a vulnerable opponent and to make him or her doubt his/her sanity. E.g., ‘Who are you going to believe?  Me, or your own eyes?’ Or, ‘You claim you found me in bed with her ? Think again!  You’re crazy! You seriously need to see a shrink.’ A very common, though cruel instance of Gaslighting that seems to have been particularly familiar among mid-20th century generations is the fallacy of Emotional Invalidation , questioning, after the fact, the reality or ‘validity’ of  affective states, either another’s or one’s own. E.g., ‘Sure, I made it happen from beginning to end, but it wasn’t me doing it, it was just my stupid hormones betraying me.’ Or, ‘You didn’t really mean it when you said you ‘hate’ Mommy. Now take a time-out and you’ll feel better.’ Or, ‘No, you’re not really in love; it’s just infatuation or ‘puppy love.” The fallacy of ‘Gaslighting’ is named after British playwright Patrick Hamilton’s 1938 stage play ‘Gas Light,’ also known as ‘Angel Street.’  See also, Blind Loyalty, ‘The Big Brain/Little Brain Fallacy,’ The Affective Fallacy, and ‘Alternative Truth.’

Guilt by Association

The fallacy of trying to refute or condemn someone’s standpoint, arguments, or actions by evoking the negative ethos of those with whom the speaker is identified or of a group, party, religion, or race to which he or she belongs or was once associated with. A form of Ad Hominem Argument, e.g., ‘Don’t listen to her. She’s a Republican so you can’t trust anything she says,’ or ‘Are you or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?’  An extreme instance of this is the Machiavellian ‘For my enemies, nothing’ Fallacy , where real or perceived ‘enemies’ are by definition always wrong and must be conceded nothing, not even the time of day, e.g., ‘He’s a Republican, so even if he said the sky is blue I wouldn’t believe him.’

The Half Truth

Also: Card Stacking, Stacking the Deck, Incomplete Information

A corrupt argument from logos, the fallacy of consciously selecting, collecting and sharing only that evidence that supports one’s own standpoint, telling the strict truth but deliberately minimizing or omitting important key details in order to falsify the larger picture and support a false conclusion.(E.g. ‘The truth is that Bangladesh is one of the world’s fastest-growing countries and can boast of a young, ambitious and hard-working population, a family-positive culture, a delightful, warm climate of tropical beaches and swaying palms where it never snows, low cost medical and dental care, a vibrant faith tradition and a multitude of places of worship, an exquisite, world-class spicy local curry cuisine and a swinging entertainment scene. Taken together, all these solid facts clearly prove that Bangladesh is one of the world’s most desirable places for young families to live, work and raise a family.’)

See also, Confirmation Bias.


Also: ‘The Perfect is the Enemy of the Good’

A postmodern fallacy of ethos under which, since nothing and nobody in this world is perfect there are not and have never been any heroes: Washington and Jefferson held slaves, Lincoln was (by our contemporary standards) a racist, Karl Marx sexually exploited his family’s own young live-in domestic worker and got her pregnant, Martin Luther King Jr. had an eye for women too, Lenin condemned feminism, the Mahatma drank his own urine (ugh!), Pope Francis is wrong on abortion, capitalism, same-sex marriage and women’s ordination, Mother Teresa loved suffering and was wrong on just about everything else too, etc., etc  Also applies to the now near-universal political tactic of ransacking everything an opponent has said, written or done since infancy in order to find something to misinterpret or condemn (and we all have something! ). An early example of this latter tactic is deftly described in Robert Penn Warren’s classic (1946) novel, All the King’s Men . This is the opposite of the ‘Heroes All’ fallacy, below. The ‘Hero Busting’ fallacy has also been selectively employed at the service of the Identity Fallacy (see below) to falsely ‘prove’ that ‘you cannot trust anyone’ but a member of ‘our’ identity-group since everyone else , even the so-called ‘heroes’ or ‘allies’ of other groups, are all racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, or hate ‘us.’  E.g., In 1862 Abraham Lincoln said he was willing to settle the U.S. Civil War either with or without freeing the slaves if it would preserve the Union, thus ‘conclusively proving’ that all whites are viciously racist at heart and that African Americans must do for self and never trust any of ‘them,’ not even those who claim to be allies.

Also: ‘Everybody’s a Winner’

The contemporary fallacy that everyone is above average or extraordinary. A corrupted argument from pathos (not wanting anyone to lose or to feel bad). Thus, every member of the Armed Services, past or present, who serves honorably is a national hero, every student who competes in the Science Fair wins a ribbon or trophy, and every racer is awarded a winner’s yellow jersey. This corruption of the argument from pathos, much ridiculed by disgraced American humorist Garrison Keeler, ignores the fact that if everybody wins nobody wins, and if everyone’s a hero no one’s a hero. The logical result of this fallacy is that, as children’s author Alice Childress writes (1973), ‘A hero ain’t nothing but a sandwich.’

See also the ‘Soldiers’ Honor Fallacy.’  

Hoyle’s Fallacy

A fallacy of logos, falsely assuming that a possible event of low (even vanishingly low) probability can never have happened and/or would never happen in real life. E.g., ‘The probability of something as complex as human DNA emerging by purely random evolution in the time the earth has existed is so negligible that it is for all practical purposes impossible and must have required divine intervention.’  Or, ‘The chance of a casual, Saturday-night poker player being dealt four aces off an honest, shuffled deck is so infinitesimal that it would never occur even once in a normal lifetime!  That proves you cheated!’ See also, Argument from Incredulity. An obverse of Hoyle’s Fallacy is ‘You Can’t Win if You Don’t Play,’ (also, ‘Someone’s gonna win and it might as well be YOU!’) a common and cruel contemporary fallacy used to persuade vulnerable audiences, particularly the poor, the mathematically illiterate and gambling addicts to throw their money away on lotteries, horse races, casinos, and other long-shot gambling schemes.

I Wish I Had a Magic Wand

The fallacy of regretfully (and falsely) proclaiming oneself powerless to change a bad or objectionable situation over which one has power. E.g., ‘What can we do about gas prices? As Secretary of Energy I wish I had a magic wand, but I don’t’ [shrug] . Or, ‘No, you can’t quit piano lessons. I wish I had a magic wand and could teach you piano overnight, but I don’t, so like it or not, you have to keep on practicing.’ The parent, of course, ignores the possibility that the child may not want or need to learn piano.

See also, TINA.

The Identity Fallacy

Also: Identity Politics; ‘Die away, ye old forms and logic!’

A corrupt postmodern argument from ethos, a variant on the Argumentum ad Hominem in which the validity of one’s logic, evidence, experience or arguments depends not on their own strength but rather on whether the one arguing is a member of a given social class, generation, nationality, religious or ethnic group, color, gender or sexual orientation, profession, occupation or subgroup. In this fallacy, valid opposing evidence and arguments are brushed aside or ‘othered’ without comment or consideration, as simply not worth arguing about solely because of the lack of proper background or ethos of the person making the argument, or because the one arguing does not self-identify as a member of the ‘in-group.’ E.g., ‘You’d understand me right away if you were Burmese but since you’re not there’s no way I can explain it to you,’ or ‘Nobody but another nurse can know what a nurse has to go through.’ Identity fallacies are reinforced by common ritual, language, and discourse. However, these fallacies are occasionally self-interested, driven by the egotistical ambitions of academics, politicians and would-be group leaders anxious to build their own careers by carving out a special identity group constituency to the exclusion  of existing broader-based identities and leadership. An Identity Fallacy may lead to scorn or rejection of potentially useful allies, real or prospective, because they are not of one’s own identity. The Identity Fallacy promotes an exclusivist, sometimes cultish ‘do for self’ philosophy which in today’s world virtually guarantees self-marginalization and ultimate defeat.  A recent application of the Identity Fallacy is the fallacious accusation of ‘ Cultural Appropriation,’ in which those who are not of the right Identity are condemned for ‘appropriating’ the cuisine, clothing, language or music of a marginalized group, forgetting the old axiom that ‘Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.’ Accusations of Cultural Appropriation very often stem from competing selfish economic interests (E.g., ‘What right do those Gringos have to set up a taco place right here on Guadalupe Drive to take away business from Doña Teresa’s Taquería? They even dare to play Mexican music in their dining room! That’s cultural appropriation!’).

See also, Othering.


Also: Infortainment; Fake News; InfoWars

A very corrupt and dangerous modern media-driven fallacy that deliberately and knowingly stirs in facts, news, falsities and outright lies with entertainment, a mixture usually concocted for specific, base ideological, and profit-making motives. Origins of this fallacy predate the current era in the form of ‘Yellow’ or ‘Tabloid’ Journalism. This deadly fallacy has caused endless social unrest, discontent and even shooting wars (e.g., the Spanish American War) over the course of modern history. Practitioners of this fallacy sometimes hypocritically justify its use on the basis that their readers/listeners/viewers ‘know beforehand’ (or should know) that the content offered is not intended as real news and is offered for entertainment purposes only, but in fact this caveat is rarely observed by uncritical audiences who eagerly swallow what the purveyors put forth.

See also Dog-Whistle Politics.

The Job’s Comforter Fallacy

Also: ‘Karma is a bi**;’  ‘What goes around comes around.’

The fallacy that since there is no such thing as random chance and we (I, my group, or my country) are under special protection of heaven, any misfortune or natural disaster that we suffer must be a punishment for our own or someone else’s secret sin or open wickedness. The opposite of the Appeal to Heaven, this is the fallacy employed by the Westboro Baptist Church members who protest fallen service members’ funerals all around the United States.

See also, Magical Thinking. 

Just Do it. 

Also: ‘Find a way;’ ‘I don’t care how you do it;’ ‘Accomplish the mission;’ ‘By Any Means Necessary.’

A pure, abusive Argumentum ad Baculum (argument from force), in which someone in power arbitrarily waves aside or overrules the moral objections of subordinates or followers and orders them to accomplish a goal by any means required, fair or foul  The clear implication is that unethical or immoral methods should be used. E.g., ‘You say there’s no way you can finish the dig on schedule because you found an old pioneer gravesite with a fancy tombstone on the excavation site? Well, find a way! Make it disappear! Just do it ! I don’t want to know how you do it, just do it! This is a million-dollar contract and we need  it done by Tuesday.’ 

See also, Plausible Deniability.

Just Plain Folks

Also: ‘Values’

This corrupt modern argument from ethos argues to a less-educated or rural audience that the one arguing is ‘just plain folks’ who is a ‘plain talker,’  ‘says what s/he is thinking,’ ‘scorns political correctness,’ someone who ‘you don’t need a dictionary to understand’ and who thinks like the audience and is thus worthy of belief, unlike some member of the fancy-talking, latte-sipping Left Coast Political Elite, some ‘double-domed professor,’ ‘inside-the-beltway Washington bureaucrat,’ ‘tree-hugger’ or other despised outsider who ‘doesn’t think like we do’ or ‘doesn’t share our values.’  This is a counterpart to the Ad Hominem Fallacy and most often carries a distinct reek of xenophobia or racism as well.

See also the Plain Truth Fallacy and the Simpleton’s Fallacy.

The Law of Unintended Consequences

Also: ‘Every Revolution Ends up Eating its own Young:’ Grit; Resilience Doctrine

In this very dangerous, archly pessimistic postmodern fallacy the bogus ‘Law of Unintended Consequences,’ once a semi-humorous satirical corollary of ‘Murphy’s Law,’ is elevated to the status of an iron law of history. This fallacy arbitrarily proclaims a priori that since we can never know everything or securely foresee anything , sooner or later in today’s ‘complex world’ unforeseeable adverse consequences and negative side effects (so-called ‘unknown unknowns’) will always end up blindsiding and overwhelming, defeating and vitiating any and all naive ‘do-gooder’ efforts to improve our world. Instead, one must always expect defeat and be ready to roll with the punches by developing ‘grit’ or ‘resilience’ as a primary survival skill. This nihilist fallacy is a practical negation of the possibility of any valid argument from logos.

See also, TINA. 

Lying with Statistics

The contemporary fallacy of misusing true figures and numbers to ‘prove’ unrelated claims. (e.g. ‘In real terms, attending college has never been cheaper than it is now. When expressed as a percentage of the national debt, the cost of getting a college education is actually far less today than it was back in 1965!’). A corrupted argument from logos, often preying on the public’s perceived or actual mathematical ignorance. This includes the Tiny Percentage Fallacy, that an amount of action that is quite significant in and of itself somehow becomes insignificant simply because it’s a tiny percentage of something much larger.  E.g., the arbitrary arrest, detention, or interception of ‘only’ a few hundred legally boarded international travelers as a tiny percentage of the tens of thousands who normally arrive. Under this same fallacy a consumer who would choke on spending an extra dollar for two cans of peas will typically ignore $50 extra on the price of a car or $1000 extra on the price of a house simply because these differences are ‘only’ a tiny percentage of the much larger amount being spent.  Historically, sales taxes or value-added taxes (VAT) have successfully gained public acceptance and remain ‘under the radar’ because of this latter fallacy, even though amounting to hundreds or thousands of dollars a year in extra tax burden.

See also Half-truth, the Snow Job, and the Red Herring.

Magical Thinking

Also: the Sin of Presumption; Expect a Miracle

An ancient but deluded fallacy of logos, arguing that when it comes to ‘crunch time,’ provided one has enough faith, prays hard enough, says the right words, does the right rituals, ‘names it and claims it,’ or ‘claims the Promise,’ God will always suspend the laws of the universe and work a miracle at the request of or for the benefit of the True Believer. In practice this nihilist fallacy denies the existence of a rational or predictable universe and thus the possibility of any valid argument from logic

See also, Positive Thinking, the Appeal to Heaven, and the Job’s Comforter fallacy.

Also: Arguing in Bad Faith ; also Sophism

Using an argument that the arguer himself or herself knows is not valid.  E.g., An unbeliever attacking believers by throwing verses from their own Holy Scriptures at them, or a lawyer arguing for the innocence of someone whom s/he knows full well to be guilty. This latter is a common practice in American jurisprudence and is sometimes portrayed as the worst face of ‘Sophism.’  [ Special thanks to Bradley Steffens for pointing out this fallacy! ] Included under this fallacy is the fallacy of  Motivational Truth ( also , Demagogy, or Campaign Promises) , deliberately lying to ‘the people’ to gain their support or motivate them toward some action the rhetor perceives to be desirable (using evil discursive means toward a ‘good’ material end). A particularly bizarre and corrupt form of this latter fallacy is Self Deception (also, Whistling by the Graveyard ) . In which one deliberately and knowingly deludes oneself in order to achieve a goal, or perhaps simply to suppress anxiety and maintain one’s energy level, enthusiasm, morale, peace of mind or sanity in moments of adversity.


A corrupt argument from logos and ethos (that of science and mathematics), the modern Fallacy of Measurability proposes that if something cannot be measured, quantified, and replicated it does not exist or is ‘nothing but anecdotal, touchy-feely stuff’ unworthy of serious consideration, i.e., mere gossip or subjective opinion. Often, achieving ‘Measurability’ necessarily demands preselecting, ‘fiddling’ or ‘massaging’ the available data simply in order to make it statistically tractable, or in order to support a desired conclusion. Scholar Thomas Persing thus describes ‘The modernist fallacy of falsely and inappropriately applying norms, standardizations, and data point requirements to quantify productivity or success. This is similar to complex question, measurability, and oversimplification fallacies where the user attempts to categorize complicated/diverse topics into terms that when measured, suit their position.

Example: ‘The calculation of inflation in the United States doesn’t include the changes in the price of gasoline, because the price of gasoline is too volatile, despite the fact gasoline is necessary for most people to live their lives in the United States.’

See also, ‘A Priori Argument,’ ‘Lying with Statistics,’ and the ‘Procrustean Fallacy.’


Also: ‘The Fallacy of Speculation;’ ‘I can read you like a book’An ancient fallacy, a corruption of stasis theory, speculating about someone else’s thoughts, emotions, motivations, and ‘body language’ and then claiming to understand these clearly, sometimes more accurately than the person in question knows themselves. The rhetor deploys this phony ‘knowledge’ as a fallacious warrant for or against a given standpoint. Scholar Myron Peto offers as an example the baseless claim that ‘Obama doesn’t a da** [sic] for human rights.’ Assertions that ‘call for speculation’ are rightly rejected as fallacious in U.S. judicial proceedings but far too often pass uncontested in public discourse. The opposite of this fallacy is the postmodern fallacy of Mind Blindness (also, the Autist’s Fallacy ), a complete denial of any normal human capacity for ‘Theory of Mind,’ postulating the utter incommensurability and privacy of minds and thus the impossibility of ever knowing or truly understanding another’s thoughts, emotions, motivations or intents. This fallacy, much promoted by the late postmodernist guru Jacques Derrida, necessarily vitiates any form of Stasis Theory. However, the Fallacy of Mind Blindness has been decisively refuted in several studies, including recent (2017) research published by the Association for Psychological Science , and a (2017) Derxel University study indicating how ‘our minds align when we communicate.’

Moral Licensing

The contemporary ethical fallacy that one’s consistently moral life, good behavior or recent extreme suffering or sacrifice earns him/her the right to commit an immoral act without repercussions, consequences or punishment. E.g., ‘I’ve been good all year, so one bad won’t matter,’ or  ‘After what I’ve been through, God knows I need this.’  The fallacy of Moral Licensing is also sometimes applied to nations, e.g., ‘Those who criticize repression and the Gulag in the former USSR forget what extraordinary suffering the Russians went through in World War II and the millions upon millions who died.’  See also Argument from Motives.  The opposite of this fallacy is the (excessively rare in our times) ethical fallacy of Scruples, in which one obsesses to pathological excess about one’s accidental, forgotten, unconfessed or unforgiven sins and because of them, the seemingly inevitable prospect of eternal damnation.

Moral Superiority

Also: Self Righteousness; the Moral High Ground

An ancient, immoral, and extremely dangerous fallacy, enunciated in Thomistic / Scholastic philosophy in the late Middle Ages, arguing that Evil has no rights that the Good and the Righteous are bound to respect. That way lies torture, heretic-burning, and the Spanish Inquisition. Those who practice this vicious fallacy reject any ‘moral equivalency’ (i.e., even-handed treatment) between themselves (the Righteous) and their enemies (the Wicked), against whom anything is fair, and to whom nothing must be conceded, not even the right to life. This fallacy is a specific denial of the ancient ‘Golden Rule,’ and has been the cause of endless intractable conflict, since if one is Righteous no negotiation with Evil and its minions is possible; The only imaginable road to a ‘just’ peace is through total victory, i.e., the absolute defeat and liquidation of one’s Wicked enemies.  American folk singer and Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan expertly demolishes this fallacy in his 1963 protest song, ‘With God on Our Side.’

See also the Appeal to Heaven, and Moving the Goalposts.


Also: Live as Though You’re Dying; Pleasure-hating; No Pain No Gain

An ancient fallacy of logos, trying to ‘beat the flesh into submission’ by extreme exercise or ascetic practices, deliberate starvation or infliction of pain, denying the undeniable fact that discomfort and pain exist for the purpose of warning of lasting damage to the body. Extreme examples of this fallacy are various forms of self-flagellation such as practiced by the New Mexico ‘ Penitentes ‘ during Holy Week or by Shia devotees during Muharram. More familiar contemporary manifestations of this fallacy are extreme ‘insanity’ exercise regimes not intended for normal health, fitness or competitive purposes but just to ‘toughen’ or ‘punish’ the body. Certain pop-nutritional theories and diets seem based on this fallacy as well. Some contemporary experts suggest that self-mortification (an English word related to the Latinate French root ‘mort,’ or ‘death.’) is in fact ‘suicide on the installment plan.’ Others suggest that it involves a narcotic-like addiction to the body’s natural endorphins.

The opposite of this fallacy is the ancient fallacy of Hedonism , seeking and valuing physical pleasure as a good in itself, simply for its own sake.

Moving the Goalposts

Also: Changing the Rules; All’s Fair in Love and War; The Nuclear Option

‘Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing’): A fallacy of logos, demanding certain proof or evidence, a certain degree of support or a certain number of votes to decide an issue, and then when this is offered, demanding even more, different or better support in order to deny victory to an opponent. For those who practice the fallacy of Moral Superiority (above), Moving the Goalposts is often perceived as perfectly good and permissible if necessary to prevent the victory of Wickedness and ensure the triumph of one’s own side, i.e, the Righteous.

Mind Your Own Business

Also: You’re Not the Boss of Me; ‘None of yer beeswax,’ ‘So What?’, The Appeal to Privacy

The contemporary fallacy of arbitrarily prohibiting or terminating any discussion of one’s own standpoints or behavior, no matter how absurd, dangerous, evil or offensive, by drawing a phony curtain of privacy around oneself and one’s actions. A corrupt argument from ethos (one’s own). E.g., ‘Sure, I was doing eighty and weaving between lanes on Mesa Street–what’s it to you? You’re not a cop, you’re not my nanny. It’s my business if I want to speed, and your business to get the hell out of my way. Mind your own damn business!’ Or, ‘Yeah, I killed my baby. So what? Butt out! It wasn’t your brat, so it’s none of your damn business!’  Rational discussion is cut off because ‘it is none of your business!’ See also, ‘Taboo.’ The counterpart of this is ‘ Nobody Will Ever Know, ‘ (also ‘What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas;’ ‘I Think We’re Alone Now,’ or the Heart of Darkness Syndrome) the fallacy that just because nobody important is looking (or because one is on vacation, or away in college, or overseas) one may freely commit immoral, selfish, negative or evil acts at will without expecting any of the normal consequences or punishment . Author Joseph Conrad graphically describes this sort of moral degradation in the character of Kurtz in his classic novel, Heart of Darkness .


A variety of the ‘Ad Hominem’ argument. The dangerous fallacy that, simply because of who one is or is alleged to be, any and all arguments, disagreements or objections against one’s standpoint or actions are automatically racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, bigoted, discriminatory or hateful. E.g., ‘My stand on abortion is the only correct one. To disagree with me, argue with me or question my judgment in any way would only show what a pig you really are.’ Also applies to refuting an argument by simply calling it a ‘fallacy,’ or declaring it invalid without proving why it is invalid, or summarily dismissing  arguments or opponents by labeling them ‘racist,’ ‘communist,’ ‘fascist,’ ‘moron,’ any name followed by the suffix ‘tard’ (short for the highly offensive ‘retard’) or some other negative name without further explanation. E.g., ‘He’s an a**hole, end of story’ or ‘I’m a loser.’  A subset of this is the Newspeak fallacy, creating identification with a certain kind of audience by inventing or using racist or offensive, sometimes military-sounding nicknames for opponents or enemies, e.g., ‘The damned DINO’s are even worse than the Repugs and the Neocons.’ Or, ‘In the Big One it took us only five years to beat both the J*ps and the Jerries, so more than a decade and a half after niner-eleven why is it so hard for us to beat a raggedy bunch of Hajjis and Towel-heads?’ Note that originally the word ‘Nazi’ belonged in this category, but this term has long come into use as a proper English noun.

See also, ‘Reductionism,’ ‘Ad Hominem Argument,’ and ‘Alphabet Soup.’

The Narrative Fallacy

Also: the Fable; the Poster Child

The ancient fallacy of persuasion by telling a ‘heartwarming’ or horrifying story or fable, particularly to less-educated or uncritical audiences who are less likely to grasp purely logical arguments or general principles.  E.g., Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol.’ Narratives and fables, particularly those that name names and personalize arguments, tend to be far more persuasive at a popular level than other forms of argument and are virtually irrefutable, even when the story in question is well known to be entirely fictional. This fallacy is found even in the field of science, as noted by a recent (2017) scientific study .

The Not in My Back Yard Fallacy

Also ‘Build a Wall!’; ‘Lock’em up and throw away the key;’ The Ostrich Strategy; The Gitmo Solution

The infantile fallacy that a problem, challenge, or threat that is not physically nearby or to which I am not directly exposed has for all  practical purposes ‘gone away’ and ceased to exist. Thus, a problem can be permanently and definitively solved by ‘making it go away,’ preferably to someplace ‘out of sight,’ a walled-off ghetto or a distant isle where there is no news coverage, and where nobody important stays. Lacking that, it can be made to go away by simply eliminating, censoring, or ignoring ‘negative’ media coverage and public discussion of the problem and focusing on ‘positive, encouraging’ things instead.

No Discussion

Also: No Negotiation; the Control Voice; Peace through Strength; a Muscular Foreign Policy; Fascism

A pure Argumentum ad Baculum that rejects reasoned dialogue, offering either instant, unconditional compliance/surrender or defeat/death as the only two options for settling even minor differences, e.g., screaming ‘Get down on the ground, now!’ or declaring ‘We don’t talk to terrorists.’ This deadly fallacy falsely paints real or potential ‘hostiles’ as monsters devoid of all reason, and far too often contains a very strong element of ‘machismo’ as well. I.e. ‘A real, muscular leader never resorts to pantywaist pleading, apologies, excuses, fancy talk, or argument. That’s for lawyers, liars, and pansies and is nothing but a delaying tactic. A real man stands tall, says what he thinks, draws fast, and shoots to kill.’ The late actor John Wayne frequently portrayed this fallacy in his movie roles.

See also, The Pout.

No True Scotsman

Making a generalization true by changing the generalization to exclude a counterexample.


A deluded fallacy in which one deliberately chooses not to publicly ‘recognize’  ground truth, usually on the theory that this would somehow reward evil-doers if we recognize their deeds as real or consequential. Often the underlying theory is that the situation is ‘temporary’ and will soon be reversed. E.g., In the decades from 1949 until Richard Nixon’s presidency the United States officially refused to recognize the existence of the most populous nation on earth, the People’s Republic of China, because America supported the U.S.-friendly Republic of China government on Taiwan instead and hoped they might somehow return to power on the mainland. Perversely, in 2016 the U.S. President-Elect caused a significant international flap by chatting with the President of the government on Taiwan, a de facto violation of long-standing American non-recognition of that same regime. More than half a century after the Korean War the U.S. still refuses to pronounce the name of, or recognize (much less conduct normal, peaceful negotiations with) a nuclear-armed DPRK (North Korea). An individual who practices this fallacy risks institutionalization (e.g., ‘I refuse to recognize Mom’s murder, ‘cuz that’d give the victory to the murderer! I refuse to watch you bury her! Stop!  Stop!’) but tragically, such behavior is only too common in international relations.

See also the State Actor Fallacy, Political Correctness, and The Pout.

The Non Sequitur

The deluded fallacy of offering evidence, reasons or conclusions that have no logical connection to the argument at hand (e.g. ‘The reason I flunked your course is because the U. S. government is now putting out purple five-dollar bills! Purple! ‘). Occasionally involves the breathtaking arrogance of claiming to have special knowledge of why God, fate, karma or the Universe is doing certain things. E.g., ‘This week’s earthquake was obviously meant to punish those people for their great wickedness.’ See also, Magical Thinking, and the Appeal to Heaven.

Nothing New Under the Sun

Also: Uniformitarianism, ‘Seen it all before;’ ‘Surprise, surprise;’ ‘Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.’

Fairly rare in contemporary discourse, this deeply cynical fallacy, a corruption of the argument from logos, falsely proposes that there is not and will never be any real novelty in this world. Any argument that there are truly ‘new’ ideas or phenomena is judged  a priori to be unworthy of serious discussion and dismissed with a jaded sigh and a wave of the hand as ‘the same old same old.’  E.g., ‘[Sigh!] Idiots! Don’t you see that the current influx of refugees from the Mideast is just the same old Muslim invasion of Christendom that’s been going on for 1,400 years?’ Or, ‘Libertarianism is nothing but re-warmed anarchism, which, in turn, is nothing but the ancient Antinomian Heresy. Like I told you before, there’s nothing new under the sun!’ 

See also Red Herring.

Olfactory Rhetoric

Also: ‘The Nose Knows’

A vicious, zoological-level fallacy of pathos in which opponents are marginalized, dehumanized, or hated primarily based on their supposed odor, lack of personal cleanliness, imagined diseases, or filth. E. g.,  ‘Those demonstrators are demanding something or another but I’ll only talk to them if first they go home and take a bath!’ Or, ‘I can smell a Jew a block away!’  Also applies to demeaning other cultures or nationalities based on their differing cuisines, e.g., ‘I don’t care what they say or do, their breath always stinks of garlic. And have you ever smelled their kitchens?’  Olfactory Rhetoric straddles the borderline between a fallacy and a psychopathology. A 2017 study by Ruhr University Bochum suggests that olfactory rhetoric does not arise from a simple, automatic physiological reaction to an actual odor, but in fact, strongly depends on one’s predetermined reaction or prejudices toward another, and one’s olfactory center ‘is activated even before we perceive an odor.’

See also, Othering. Oops!

Also: ‘Oh, I forgot…,’ ‘The Judicial Surprise,’ ‘The October Surprise,’

A corrupt argument from logos in which toward the decisive end of a discussion, debate, trial, electoral campaign period, or decision-making process an opponent suddenly, elaborately and usually sarcastically shams having just remembered or uncovered some salient fact, argument or evidence–e.g., ‘Oops, I forgot to ask you:  You were convicted of this same offense twice before, weren’t you?!’ Banned in American judicial argument, this fallacy is only too common in public discourse. Also applies to supposedly ‘discovering’ and sensationally reporting some potentially damning information or evidence and then, after the damage has been done or the decision has been made, quietly declaring, ‘Oops, I guess that really wasn’t that significant after all. Ignore what I said. Sorry ’bout that!’ 

Also: Otherizing, ‘They’re Not Like Us,’ Stereotyping, Xenophobia, Racism, Prejudice

A badly corrupted, discriminatory argument from ethos where facts, arguments, experiences or objections are arbitrarily disregarded, ignored or put down without serious consideration because those involved ‘are not like us,’ or ‘don’t think like us.’ E.g., ‘It’s OK for Mexicans to earn a buck an hour in the maquiladoras [Mexico-based ‘Twin Plants’ run by American or other foreign corporations]. If it happened here I’d call it brutal exploitation and daylight robbery but south of the border, down Mexico way the economy is different and they’re not like us.’  Or, ‘You claim that life must be really terrible over there for terrorists to ever think of blowing themselves up with suicide vests just to make a point, but always remember that they’re different from us. They don’t think about life and death the same way we do.’ A vicious variety of the Ad Hominem Fallacy, most often applied to non-white or non-Christian populations. A variation on this fallacy is the ‘Speakee’ Fallacy (‘You speakee da English?’; also the Shibboleth), in which an opponent’s arguments are mocked, ridiculed and dismissed solely because of the speaker’s alleged or real accent, dialect, or lack of fluency in standard English, e.g., ‘He told me ‘Vee vorkers need to form a younion!’ but I told him I’m not a ‘vorker,’ and to come back when he learns to speak proper English.’ A very dangerous, extreme example of Othering is Dehumanization, a fallacy of faulty analogy where opponents are dismissed as mere cockroaches, lice, apes, monkeys, rats, weasels or bloodsucking parasites who have no right to speak or to live at all, and probably should be ‘squashed like bugs.’ This fallacy is ultimately the ‘logic’ behind ethnic cleansing, genocide and gas ovens. See also the Identity Fallacy, ‘Name Calling’ and ‘Olfactory Rhetoric.’

The opposite of this fallacy is the ‘Pollyanna Principle’ below.


A fallacy of logos stemming from the real paradox that beyond a certain point, more explanation, instructions, data, discussion, evidence or proof inevitably results in less, not more, understanding. Contemporary urban mythology holds that this fallacy is typically male (‘ Mansplaining ‘), while barely half a century ago the prevailing myth was that it was men who were naturally monosyllabic, grunting or non-verbal while women would typically overexplain (e.g., the 1960 hit song by Joe Jones, ‘You Talk Too Much’). ‘Mansplaining’ is, according to scholar Danelle Pecht, ‘the infuriating tendency of many men to always have to be the smartest person in the room, regardless of the topic of discussion and how much they actually know!’

See also The Snow Job, and the ‘Plain Truth’ fallacy.


Also: Hasty Generalization; Totus pro Partes Fallacy ; the Mereological Fallacy

A fallacy of logos where a  broad generalization that is agreed to be true is offered as overriding all particular cases, particularly special cases requiring immediate attention. E.g., ‘Doctor, you say that this time of year a  flu vaccination is essential. but I would counter that ALL vaccinations are essential’ (implying that I’m not going to give special attention to getting the flu shot). Or, attempting to refute ‘Black Lives Matter’ by replying, ‘All Lives Matter,’ the latter undeniably true but still a fallacious overgeneralization in that specific and urgent context. ‘ Overgeneralization can also mean one sees a single negative outcome as an eternal pattern of defeat. Overgeneralization may also include the Pars pro Toto Fallacy , the stupid but common fallacy of incorrectly applying one or two true examples to all cases. E.g., a minority person who commits a particularly horrifying crime, and whose example is then used to smear the reputation of the entire group, or when a government publishes special lists of crimes committed by groups who are supposed to be hated, e.g., Jews, or undocumented immigrants. Famously, the case of one Willie Horton was successfully used in this manner in the 1988 American presidential election to smear African Americans, Liberals, and by extension, Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis. See also the fallacy of ‘Zero Tolerance’ below.

The Paralysis of Analysis

Also: Procrastination; the Nirvana Fallacy

A postmodern fallacy that says since all data is never in, any conclusion is always provisional, no legitimate decision can ever be made and any action should always be delayed until forced by circumstances. A corruption of the argument from logos.

See also the ‘Law of Unintended Consequences.’

The Passive Voice Fallacy

Also: the Bureaucratic Passive

A fallacy from ethos, concealing active human agency behind the curtain of the grammatical passive voice, e.g., ‘It has been decided that you are to be let go,’ arrogating an ethos of cosmic infallibility and inevitability to a very fallible conscious decision made by identifiable, fallible and potentially culpable human beings. Scholar Jackson Katz notes (2017): ‘We talk about how many women were raped last year, not about how many men raped women. We talk about how many girls in a school district were harassed last year, not about how many boys harassed girls. We talk about how many teenage girls in the state of Vermont got pregnant last year, rather than how many men and boys impregnated teenage girls. …  So you can see how the use of the passive voice has a political effect. [It] shifts the focus off of men and boys and onto girls and women. Even the term ‘Violence against women’ is problematic. It’s a passive construction; there’s no active agent in the sentence. It’s a bad thing that happens to women, but when you look at the term ‘violence against women’ nobody is doing it to them, it just happens to them… Men aren’t even a part of it.’  See also, Political Correctness. An obverse of the Passive Voice Fallacy is the Be-verb Fallacy , a cultish linguistic theory and the bane of many a first-year composition student’s life, alleging that an extraordinary degree of ‘clarity,’ ‘sanity,’ or textual ‘liveliness’ can be reached by strictly eliminating all passive verb forms and all forms of the verb ‘to be’ from English-language writing. This odd but unproven contention, dating back to Alfred Korzybski’s ‘General Semantics’ self-improvement movement of the 1920’s and ’30’s via S. I. Hayakawa, blithely ignores the fact that although numerous major world languages lack a ubiquitous ‘be-verb,’ e.g., Russian, Hindi and Arabic, speakers of these languages, like English-speaking General Semantics devotees themselves, have never been proven to enjoy any particular cognitive advantage over ordinary everyday users of the passive voice and the verb ‘to be.’ Nor have writers of the curiously stilted English that results from applying this fallacy achieved any special success in academia, professional or technical writing, or in the popular domain.


A serious fallacy of ethos, arbitrarily tut-tutting, dismissing or ignoring another’s arguments or concerns as ‘childish’ or ‘immature;’ taking a condescending attitude of superiority toward opposing standpoints or toward opponents themselves. E.g., ‘Your argument against the war is so infantile. Try approaching the issue like an adult for a change,’ ‘I don’t argue with children ,’ or ‘Somebody has to be the grownup in the room, and it might as well be me. Here’s why you’re wrong…’  Also refers to the sexist fallacy of dismissing a woman’s argument because she is a woman, e.g., ‘Oh, it must be that time of the month, eh?’

See also ‘Ad Hominem Argument’ and ‘Tone Policing.’


A deluded fallacy of ethos, seeing yourself or someone else as the essential cause of some external event for which you or the other person had no responsibility. E.g., ‘Never fails! It had to happen! It’s my usual rotten luck that the biggest blizzard of the year had to occur just on the day of our winter festival. If it wasn’t for ME being involved I’m sure the blizzard wouldn’t have happened!’ This fallacy can also be taken in a positive sense, e.g. Hitler evidently believed that simply because he was Hitler every bullet would miss him and no explosive could touch him. ‘Personalization’ straddles the borderline between a fallacy and a psychopathology.

See also, ‘The Job’s Comforter Fallacy,’ and ‘Magical Thinking.’

The Plain Truth Fallacy

Also: the Simple Truth fallacy, Salience Bias, the KISS Principle [Keep it Short and Simple / Keep it Simple, Stupid], the Monocausal Fallacy; the Executive Summary

A fallacy of logos favoring familiar, singular, summarized or easily comprehensible data, examples, explanations and evidence over those that are more complex and unfamiliar but much closer to the truth. E.g., ‘Ooooh, look at all those equations and formulas!  Just boil it down to the Simple Truth,’ or ‘I don’t want your damned philosophy lesson!  Just tell me the Plain Truth about why this is happening.’  A more sophisticated version of this fallacy arbitrarily proposes, as did 18th-century Scottish rhetorician John Campbell, that the Truth is always simple by nature and only malicious enemies of  Truth would ever seek to make it complicated. (See also, The Snow Job, and Overexplanation.) The opposite of this is the postmodern fallacy of Ineffability or Complexity (also, Truthiness; Post-Truth), arbitrarily declaring that today’s world is so complex that there is no truth, or that Truth (capital-T), if indeed such a thing exists, is unknowable except perhaps by God or the Messiah and is thus forever inaccessible and irrelevant to us mere mortals, making any cogent argument from logos impossible.

See also the Big Lie and Paralysis of Analysis.

Plausible Deniability

A vicious fallacy of ethos under which someone in power forces those under his or her control to do some questionable or evil act and to then falsely assume or conceal responsibility for that act in order to protect the ethos of the one in command. E.g., ‘Arrange a fatal accident but make sure I know nothing about it!’ 

Playing on Emotion

Also: the Sob Story; the Pathetic Fallacy; the ‘Bleeding Heart’ fallacy, the Drama Queen / Drama King Fallacy

The classic fallacy of pure argument from pathos, ignoring facts and evoking emotion alone. E.g., ‘If you don’t agree that witchcraft is a major problem just shut up, close your eyes for a moment, and picture in your mind all those poor moms crying bitter tears for their innocent tiny children whose cozy little beds and happy tricycles lie all cold and abandoned, just because of those wicked old witches! Let’s string’em all up!’ The opposite of this is the Apathetic Fallacy (also, Cynicism; Burnout; Compassion Fatigue), where any and all legitimate arguments from pathos are brushed aside because, as noted country music artist Jo Dee Messina sang (2005), ‘My give-a-damn’s busted.’ Obverse to Playing on Emotion is the ancient fallacy of Refinement (‘ Real Feelings’), where certain classes of living beings such as plants and non-domesticated animals, infants, babies and minor children, barbarians, slaves, deep-sea sailors, farmworkers, criminals and convicts, refugees, addicts, terrorists, Catholics, Jews, foreigners, the poor, people of color, ‘Hillbillies,’ ‘Hobos,’ homeless or undocumented people, or ‘the lower classes’ in general are deemed incapable of experiencing real pain like we do, or of having any ‘ real feelings’ at all, only brutish appetites, vile lusts, evil drives, filthy cravings, biological instincts, psychological reflexes and automatic tropisms. Noted rhetorician Kenneth Burke falls into this last, behaviorist fallacy in his otherwise brilliant (1966) Language as Symbolic Action, in his discussion of a bird trapped in a lecture room .

Political Correctness (‘PC’)

A postmodern fallacy, a counterpart of the ‘Name Calling’ fallacy, supposing that the nature of a thing or situation can be changed by simply changing its name. E.g., ‘Today we strike a blow for animal rights and against cruelty to animals by changing the name of ‘pets’ to ‘animal companions.’’ Or ‘Never, ever play the ‘victim’ card, because it’s so manipulative and sounds so negative, helpless and despairing. Instead of being ‘victims,’ we are proud to be ‘survivors.” (Of course, when ‘victims’ disappear then perpetrators conveniently vanish as well!)  See also, The Passive Voice Fallacy, and The Scripted Message. Also applies to other forms of political ‘ Language Control,’ e.g., being careful never to refer to North Korea or ISIS/ISIL by their rather pompous proper names (‘the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’ and ‘the Islamic State,’ respectively) or to the Syrian government as the ‘Syrian government,’ (It’s always the ‘Regime’ or the ‘Dictatorship.’). Occasionally the fallacy of ‘Political Correctness’ is falsely confused with simple courtesy, e.g., ‘I’m sick and tired of the tyranny of Political Correctness, having to watch my words all the time–I want to be free to speak my mind and to call out (insert derogatory term here) in public any time I damn well feel like it!’

An opposite of this fallacy is the fallacy of Venting, below.

See also, Non-recognition.

The Pollyanna Principle

Also: ‘The Projection Bias,’ ‘They’re Just Like Us,’ ‘Singing ‘Kumbaya.”

A traditional, often tragic fallacy of ethos, that of automatically (and falsely) assuming that everyone else in any given place, time and circumstance had or has basically the same (positive) wishes, desires, interests, concerns, ethics and moral code as ‘we’ do. This fallacy practically if not theoretically denies both the reality of difference and the human capacity to chose radical evil.  E.g., arguing that ‘The only thing most Nazi Storm Troopers wanted was the same thing we do, to live in peace and prosperity and to have a good family life,’ when the reality was radically otherwise. Dr. William Lorimer offers this explanation: ‘The Projection Bias is the flip side of the ‘They’re Not Like Us’ [Othering] fallacy. The Projection bias (fallacy) is ‘They’re just people like me, therefore they must be motivated by the same things that motivate me.’ For example: ‘I would never pull a gun and shoot a police officer unless I was convinced he was trying to murder me; therefore, when Joe Smith shot a police officer, he must have been in genuine fear for his life.’ I see the same fallacy with regard to Israel: ‘The people of Gaza just want to be left in peace; therefore, if Israel would just lift the blockade and allow Hamas to import anything they want, without restriction, they would stop firing rockets at Israel.’ That may or may not be true – I personally don’t believe it – but the argument clearly presumes that the people of Gaza, or at least their leaders, are motivated by a desire for peaceful co-existence.’ The Pollyanna Principle was gently but expertly demolished in the classic twentieth-century American animated cartoon series, ‘The Flintstones,’ in which the humor lay in the absurdity of picturing ‘Stone Age’ characters having the same concerns, values and lifestyles as mid-twentieth century white working-class Americans.  This is the opposite of the Othering fallacy. (Note: The Pollyanna Principle fallacy should not be confused with a psychological principle of the same name which observes that positive memories are usually retained more strongly than negative ones. )   

The Positive Thinking Fallacy

An immensely popular but deluded modern fallacy of logos, that because we are ‘thinking positively’ that in itself somehow biases external, objective reality in our favor even before we lift a finger to act. See also, Magical Thinking. Note that this particular fallacy is often part of a much wider closed-minded, somewhat cultish ideology where the practitioner is warned against paying attention to or even acknowledging the reality of evil, or of ‘negative’ evidence or counter-arguments against his/her standpoints. In the latter case rational discussion, argument or refutation is most often futile. See also, Deliberate Ignorance.

The Post Hoc Argument

Also: ‘Post Hoc Propter Hoc;’  ‘Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc;’ ‘Too much of a coincidence,’ the ‘Clustering Illusion’): The classic paranoiac fallacy of attributing an imaginary causality to random coincidences, concluding that just because something happens close to, at the same time as, or just after something else, the first thing is caused by the second. E.g., ‘AIDS first emerged as an epidemic back in the very same era when Disco music was becoming popular–that’s too much of a coincidence: It proves that Disco caused AIDS!’ Correlation does not equal causation.

Also: The Silent Treatment; Nonviolent Civil Disobedience; Noncooperation

an often-infantile Argumentum ad Baculum that arbitrarily rejects or gives up on dialogue before it is concluded. The most benign nonviolent form of this fallacy is found in passive-aggressive tactics such as slowdowns, boycotts, lockouts, sitdowns, and strikes.  Under President Barack Obama the United States finally ended a half-century-long political Pout with Cuba.

See also ‘No Discussion’ and ‘Nonrecognition.’

The Procrustean Fallacy

Also: ‘Keeping up Standards,’ Standardization, Uniformity, Fordism

The modernist fallacy of falsely and inappropriately applying the norms and requirements of standardized manufacturing. quality control and rigid scheduling, or of military discipline to inherently diverse free human beings, their lives, education, behavior, clothing, and appearance. This fallacy often seems to stem from the pathological need of someone in power to place in ‘order’ their disturbingly free, messy, and disordered universe by restricting others’ freedom and insisting on rigid standardization, alphabetization, discipline, uniformity, and ‘objective’ assessment of everyone under their power. This fallacy partially explains why marching in straight lines, mass calisthenics, goose-stepping, drum-and-bugle or flag corps, standing at attention, saluting, uniforms, and standardized categorization are so typical of fascism, tyrannical regimes, and of tyrants petty and grand everywhere. Thanks to author Eimar O’Duffy for identifying this fallacy!


Also: Prosopography, Reciting the Litany; ‘Tell Me, What Were Their Names?’; Reading the Roll of Martyrs

An ancient fallacy of pathos and ethos, publicly reading out loud, singing, or inscribing at length a list of names (most or all of which will be unknown to the reader or audience), sometimes in a negative sense, to underline the gravity of a past tragedy or mass-casualty event, sometimes in a positive sense, to emphasize the ancient historical continuity of a church, organization or cause. Proper names, especially if they are from the same culture or language group as the audience, can have near-mystical persuasive power. In some cases, those who use this fallacy in its contemporary form will defend it as an attempt to ‘personalize’ an otherwise anonymous recent mass tragedy. This fallacy was virtually unknown in secular American affairs before about 100 years ago, when the custom emerged of listing of the names of local World War I casualties on community monuments around the country. That this is indeed a fallacy is evident by the fact that the names on these century-old monuments are now meaningful only to genealogists and specialized historians, just as the names on the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington or the names of those who perished on 9/11 will surely be in another several generations.

The Red Herring

Also: Distraction

An irrelevant argument, attempting to mislead and distract an audience by bringing up an unrelated but emotionally loaded issue. E.g., ‘In regard to my several bankruptcies and recent indictment for corruption let’s be straight up about what’s really important: Terrorism!  Just look at what happened last week in [name the place]. Vote for me and I’ll fight those terrorists anywhere in the world!’  Also applies to raising unrelated issues as falsely opposing the issue at hand, e.g., ‘You say ‘Black Lives Matter,’ but I would rather say ‘Climate Change Matters!” when the two contentions are in no way opposed, only competing for attention.

See also Availability Bias, and Dog Whistle Politics.

Reductio ad Hitlerum

Also: ad Hitleram

A highly problematic contemporary historical-revisionist contention that the argument ‘That’s just what Hitler said (or would have said, or would have done)’ is a fallacy, an instance of the Ad Hominem argument and/or Guilt by Association. Whether the Reductio ad Hitlerum can be considered an actual fallacy or not seems to fundamentally depend on one’s personal view of Hitler and the gravity of his crimes.


Also: Oversimplifying, Sloganeering

The fallacy of deceiving an audience by giving simple answers or bumper-sticker slogans in response to complex questions, especially when appealing to less educated or unsophisticated audiences. E.g., ‘If the glove doesn’t fit, you must vote to acquit.’ Or, ‘Vote for Snith. He’ll bring back jobs!’ In science, technology, engineering and mathematics (‘STEM subjects’) reductionism is intentionally practiced to make intractable problems computable, e.g., the well-known humorous suggestion, ‘First, let’s assume the cow is a sphere!’.

See also, the Plain Truth Fallacy, and Dog-whistle Politics.

Also: Mistaking the Map for the Territory :

The ancient fallacy of treating imaginary intellectual categories, schemata or names as actual, material ‘things.’ (E.g., ‘The War against Terror is just another chapter in the eternal fight to the death between Freedom and Absolute Evil!’)

Sometimes also referred to as ‘ Essentializing ‘ or ‘ Hypostatization .’

The Romantic Rebel

Also: the Truthdig/Truthout Fallacy ; the Brave Heretic; Conspiracy theories; the Iconoclastic Fallacy

The contemporary fallacy of claiming Truth or validity for one’s standpoint solely or primarily because one is supposedly standing up heroically to the dominant ‘orthodoxy,’ the current Standard Model, conventional wisdom or Political Correctness, or whatever may be the Bandwagon of the moment; a corrupt argument from ethos. E.g., ‘Back in the day the scientific establishment thought that the world was flat, that was until Columbus proved them wrong!  Now they want us to believe that ordinary water is nothing but H 2 O. Are you going to believe them? The government is frantically trying to suppress the truth that our public drinking-water supply actually has nitrogen in it and causes congenital vampirism! And what about Area 51? Don’t you care? Or are you just a kiss-up for the corrupt scientific establishment?’

The opposite of the Bandwagon fallacy.

The ‘Save the Children’ Fallacy

Also: Humanitarian Crisis

A cruel and cynical contemporary media-driven fallacy of pathos, an instance of the fallacious Appeal to Pity, attracting public support for intervention in somebody else’s crisis in a distant country by repeatedly showing in gross detail the extreme (real) suffering of the innocent, defenseless little children (occasionally extended even to their pets!) on ‘our’ side, conveniently ignoring the reality that innocent children on all sides usually suffer the most in any war, conflict, famine or crisis. Recent (2017) examples include the so-called ‘Rohingya’ in Myanmar/Burma (ignoring multiple other ethnicities suffering ongoing hunger and conflict in that impoverished country), children in rebel-held areas of Syria (areas held by our rebels, not by the Syrian government or by Islamic State rebels), and the children of Mediterranean boat-people (light complected children from the Mideast, Afghanistan and North Africa, but not darker, African-complected children from sub-Saharan countries, children who are evidently deemed by the media to be far less worthy of pity). Scholar Glen Greenwald points out that a cynical key part of this tactic is hiding the child and adult victims of one’s own violence while ‘milking’ the tragic, blood-soaked images of children killed by the ‘other side’ for every tear they can generate as a causus belli [a puffed-up excuse for war, conflict or American/Western intervention].


Also: Blamecasting

The ancient fallacy that whenever something goes wrong there’s always someone other than oneself to blame. Although sometimes this fallacy is a practical denial of randomness or chance itself, today it is more often a mere insurance-driven business decision (‘I don’t care if it was an accident! Somebody with deep pockets is gonna pay for this!’), though often scapegoating is no more than a cynical ploy to shield those truly responsible from blame. The term ‘Scapegoating’ is also used to refer to the tactic of casting collective blame on marginalized or scorned ‘Others,’ e.g., ‘The Jews are to blame!’ A particularly corrupt and cynical example of scapegoating is the fallacy of Blaming the Victim, in which one falsely casts the blame for one’s own evil or questionable actions on those affected, e.g., ‘If you move an eyelash I’ll have to kill you and you’ll be to blame!’ ‘If you don’t bow to our demands, we’ll shut down the government and it’ll be totally your fault!

See also, the Affective Fallacy.

Scare Tactics

Also: Appeal to Fear; Paranoia; the Bogeyman Fallacy; Shock Doctrine [ShockDoc]; Rally ‘Round the Flag; Rally ‘Round the President

A variety of Playing on Emotions, a corrupted argument from pathos, taking advantage of an emergent or deliberately-created crisis and its associated public shock, panic, and chaos in order to impose an argument, action, or solution that would be clearly unacceptable if carefully considered. E.g., ‘If you don’t shut up and do what I say we’re all gonna die! In this moment of crisis, we can’t afford the luxury of criticizing or trying to second-guess my decisions when our very lives and freedom are in peril!  Instead, we need to be united as one!’ Or, in the (2017) words of former White House Spokesperson Sean Spicer, ‘This is about the safety of America!’ This fallacy is discussed at length in Naomi Klein’s (2010) The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism and her (2017) No is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need. See also, The Shopping Hungry Fallacy, Dog-Whistle Politics, ‘We Have to do Something!’, and The Worst-Case Fallacy.


Also: Moving the Ball Down the Field, the Sports World Fallacy; ‘Hey, Sports Fans!’

An instance of faulty analogy, the common contemporary fallacy of inappropriately and most often offensively applying sports, gaming, hunting or other recreational imagery to unrelated areas of life, such as war or intimacy. E.g., ‘Nope, I haven’t scored with Francis yet, but last night I managed to get to third base!’  or ‘We really need to take our ground game into Kim’s half of the field if we ever expect to score against North Korea.’ This fallacy is almost always soaked in testosterone and machismo. An associated fallacy is that of Evening up the Score (also, Getting Even), exacting tit-for-tat vengeance as though life were some sort of ‘point-score’ sports contest. Counter-arguments to the ‘Scoring’ fallacy usually fall on deaf ears, since the one and only purpose for playing a game is to ‘score,’ isn’t it?

The Scripted Message

Also: Talking Points

A contemporary fallacy related to Big Lie Technique, where a politician or public figure strictly limits her/his statements on a given issue to repeating carefully scripted, often exaggerated or empty phrases developed to achieve maximum acceptance or maximum desired reaction from a target audience. See also, Dog Whistle Politics, and Political Correctness, above.

The opposite of this fallacy is that of ‘Venting.’

Sending the Wrong Message

A dangerous fallacy of logos that attacks a given statement, argument or action, no matter how good, true or necessary, because it will ‘send the wrong message.’ In effect, those who use this fallacy are openly confessing to fraud and admitting that the truth will destroy the fragile web of illusion they have deliberately created by their lies. E.g., ‘Actually, we haven’t a clue about how to deal with this crisis, but if we publicly admit it we’ll be sending the wrong message.’

See also, ‘Mala Fides.’ 

Shifting the Burden of Proof

A classic fallacy of logos that challenges an opponent to disprove a claim rather than asking the person making the claim to defend his/her own argument. E.g., ‘These days space-aliens are everywhere among us, masquerading as true humans, even right here on campus! I dare you to prove it isn’t so! See?  You can’t! You admit it! That means what I say has to be true. Most probably, you’re one of them, since you seem to be so soft on space-aliens!’ A typical tactic in using this fallacy is first to get an opponent to admit that a far-fetched claim, or some fact related to it, is indeed at least theoretically ‘possible,’ and then declare the claim ‘proven’ absent evidence to the contrary. E.g., ‘So you admit that massive undetected voter fraud is indeed possible under our current system and could have happened in this country at least in theory, and you can’t produce even the tiniest scintilla of evidence that it didn’t actually happen! Ha-ha! I rest my case.’

See also, Argument from Ignorance. 

The Shopping Hungry Fallacy : A fallacy of pathos, a variety of Playing on Emotions and sometimes Scare Tactics, making stupid but important decisions (or being prompted, manipulated, or forced to ‘freely’ take public or private decisions that may be later regretted but are difficult to reverse) ‘in the heat of the moment’ when under the influence of strong emotion (hunger, fear, lust, anger, sadness, regret, fatigue, even joy, love or happiness). E.g., Trevor Noah, (2016) host of the Daily Show on American television attributes public approval of draconian measures in the Patriot Act and the creation of the U. S. Department of Homeland Security to America’s ‘shopping hungry’ immediately after 9/11. See also, Scare Tactics; ‘We Have to Do Something; ‘ and The Big ‘But’ Fallacy.

The Silent Majority Fallacy

A variety of the argument from ignorance, this fallacy, famously enunciated by disgraced American President Richard Nixon, alleges special knowledge of a hidden ‘silent majority’ of voters (or of the population in general) that stands in support of an otherwise unpopular leader and his/her policies, contrary to the repeated findings of polls, surveys and popular vote totals. In an extreme case, the leader arrogates to him/herself the title of the ‘ Voice of the Voiceless.’

The Simpleton’s Fallacy

Also: The ‘Good Simpleton’ Fallacy

A corrupt fallacy of logos, described in an undated quote from science writer Isaac Asimov as ‘The false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.” The name of this fallacy is borrowed from Walter M. Miller Jr.’s classic (1960) post-apocalyptic novel, A Canticle for Leibowitz, in which in the centuries after a nuclear holocaust knowledge and learning become so despised that ‘Good Simpleton’ becomes the standard form of interpersonal salutation. This fallacy is masterfully portrayed in the person of the title character in the 1994 Hollywood movie, ‘Forrest Gump.’ The fallacy is widely alleged to have had a great deal to do with the outcome of the 2016 US presidential election, See also ‘Just Plain Folks,’ and the ‘Plain Truth Fallacy.’ U.S. President Barrack Obama noted to the contrary (2016), ‘In politics and in life, ignorance is not a virtue. It’s not cool to not know what you’re talking about. That’s not real or telling it like it is. That’s not challenging political correctness. That’s just not knowing what you’re talking about.’ The term ‘Simpleton’s Fallacy’ has also been used to refer to a deceptive technique of argumentation, feigning ignorance in order to get one’s opponent to admit to, explain, or overexplain something s/he would rather not discuss. E.g., ‘I see here that you have a related prior conviction for something called ‘Criminal Sodomy.’ I may be a poor, naive simpleton but I’m not quite sure what that fine and fancy lawyer-talk means in plain English.  Please explain to the jury in simple terms what exactly you did to get convicted of that crime.’

See also, Argument from Ignorance, and The Third Person Effect.

The Slippery Slope

Also: the Domino Theory

The common fallacy that ‘one thing inevitably leads to another.’ E.g., ‘If you two go and drink coffee together one thing will lead to another and next thing you know you’ll be pregnant and end up spending your life on welfare living in the Projects,’ or ‘If we close Gitmo one thing will lead to another and before you know it armed terrorists will be strolling through our church doors with suicide belts, proud as you please, smack in the middle of the 10:30 a.m. Sunday worship service right here in Garfield, Kansas!’

The Snow Job

Also: Falacia ad Verbosium; Information Bias

A fallacy of logos, ‘proving’ a claim by overwhelming an audience (‘snowing them under’) with mountains of true but marginally-relevant documents, graphs, words, facts, numbers, information, and statistics that look extremely impressive but which the intended audience cannot be expected to understand or properly evaluate. This is a corrupted argument from logos.

See also, ‘Lying with Statistics.’ The opposite of this fallacy is the Plain Truth Fallacy.

The Soldiers’ Honor Fallacy

The ancient fallacy that all who wore a uniform, fought hard, and followed orders are worthy of some special honor or glory or are even ‘heroes,’ whether they fought for freedom or fought to defend slavery, marched under Grant or Lee, Hitler, Stalin, Eisenhower or McArthur, fought to defend their homes, fought for oil or to spread empire, or even fought against and killed U.S. soldiers! A corrupt argument from ethos (that of a soldier), closely related to the ‘Finish the Job’ fallacy (‘Sure, he died for a lie, but he deserves honor because he followed orders and did his job faithfully to the end!’). See also ‘Heroes All.’ This fallacy was recognized and decisively refuted at the Nuremburg Trials after World War II but remains powerful to this day nonetheless. See also ‘Blind Loyalty.’ Related is the State Actor Fallacy , that those who fight and die for their country (America, Russia, Iran, the Third Reich, etc.) are worthy of honor or at least pardonable while those who fight for a non-state actor (armed abolitionists, guerrillas, freedom-fighters, jihadis, mujahideen) are not and remain ‘terrorists’ no matter how noble or vile their cause, until or unless they win and become the recognized state, or are adopted by a state after the fact.

The Standard Version Fallacy

The ancient fallacy, a discursive Argumentum ad Baculum, of choosing a ‘Standard Translation’ or ‘Authorized Version’ of an ancient or sacred text and arbitrarily declaring it ‘correct’ and ‘authoritative,’ necessarily eliminating much of the poetry and underlying meaning of the original but conveniently quashing any further discussion about the meaning of the original text, e.g., the Vulgate or The King James Version. The easily demonstrable fact that translation (beyond three or four words) is neither uniform nor reversible (i.e., never comes back exactly the same when retranslated from another language) gives the lie to any efforts to make the translation of human languages into an exact science. Islam clearly recognizes this fallacy when characterizing any attempt to translate the sacred text of the Holy Qur’an out of the original Arabic as a ‘paraphrase’ at very best. An obverse of this fallacy is the Argumentum ad Mysteriam, above. An extension of the Standard Version Fallacy is the Monolingual Fallacy, at an academic level the fallacy of ignorantly assuming (as a monolingual person) that transparent, in-depth translation between languages is the norm, or even possible at all, allowing one to conveniently and falsely ignore everyday issues of translation when close-reading translated literature or academic text and theory. At the popular level, the Monolingual Fallacy allows monolinguals to blithely demand that visitors, migrants, refugees, and newcomers learn English, either before arriving or else overnight after arrival in the United States, while applying no such demand to themselves when they go to Asia, Europe, Latin America, or even French-speaking areas of Canada. Not rarely, this fallacy descends into gross racism or ethnic discrimination, e.g., the demagogy of warning of ‘Spanish being spoken right here on Main Street and taco trucks on every corner!’

See also, Othering, and Dog-Whistle Politics.

Also: Testimonial, Questionable Authority, Faulty Use of Authority, Falacia ad Vericundiam; Eminence-based Practice

In academia and medicine, a corrupt argument from ethos in which arguments, standpoints, and themes of professional discourse are granted fame and validity or condemned to obscurity solely by whoever may be the reigning ‘stars’ or ‘premier journals’ of the profession or discipline at the moment. E.g., ‘Foster’s take on Network Theory has been thoroughly criticized and is so last week!.This week everyone’s into Safe Spaces and Pierce’s Theory of Microaggressions. Get with the program.’ (See also, the Bandwagon.) Also applies to an obsession with journal Impact Factors. At the popular level this fallacy also refers to a corrupt argument from ethos in which public support for a standpoint or product is established by a well-known or respected figure (i.e.,. a star athlete or entertainer) who is not an expert and who may have been well paid to make the endorsement (e.g., ‘Olympic gold-medal pole-vaulter Fulano de Tal uses Quick Flush Internet–Shouldn’t you?’ Or, ‘My favorite rock star warns that vaccinations spread cooties, so I’m not vaccinating my kids!’ ). Includes other false, meaningless or paid means of associating oneself or one’s product or standpoint with the ethos of a famous person or event (e.g., ‘Try Salsa Cabria, the official taco sauce of the Winter Olympics!’). This fallacy also covers Faulty use of Quotes (also, The Devil Quotes Scripture), including quoting out of context or against the clear intent of the original speaker or author.  E.g., racists quoting and twisting the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s statements in favor of racial equality against contemporary activists and movements for racial equality. 

The Straw Man

Also: ‘The Straw Person’ ”The Straw Figure’

The fallacy of setting up a phony, weak, extreme, or ridiculous parody of an opponent’s argument and then proceeding to knock it down or reduce it to absurdity with a rhetorical wave of the hand. E.g., ‘Vegetarians say animals have feelings like you and me. Ever seen a cow laugh at a Shakespeare comedy? Vegetarianism is nonsense!’ Or, ‘Pro-choicers hate babies and want to kill them!’ Or, ‘Pro-lifers hate women and want them to spend their lives barefoot, pregnant, and chained to the kitchen stove!’  A too-common example of this fallacy is that of highlighting the most absurd, offensive, silly or violent examples in a mass movement or demonstration, e.g. ‘Tree huggers’ for environmentalists, ‘bra burners’ for feminists, or ‘rioters’ when there are a dozen violent crazies in a peaceful, disciplined demonstration of thousands or tens of thousands, and then falsely portraying these extreme examples as typical of the entire movement in order to condemn it with a wave of the hand.

See also Olfactory Rhetoric.

Also: Dogmatism

The ancient fallacy of unilaterally declaring certain ‘bedrock’ arguments, assumptions, dogmas, standpoints, or actions ‘sacrosanct’ and not open to discussion, or arbitrarily taking some emotional tones, logical standpoints, doctrines or options ‘off the table’ beforehand. (E.g., ‘ ‘No, let’s no t discuss my sexuality,’ ‘Don’t bring my drinking into this,’ or ‘Before we start, you need to know I won’t allow you to play the race card or permit you to attack my arguments by claiming ‘That’s just what Hitler would say!”)  Also applies to discounting or rejecting certain arguments, facts, and evidence (or even experiences!) out of hand because they are supposedly ‘against the Bible’ or other sacred dogma (See also the A Priori Argument). This fallacy occasionally degenerates into a separate, distracting argument over who gets to define the parameters, tones, dogmas and taboos of the main argument, though at this point reasoned discourse most often breaks down and the entire affair becomes a naked Argumentum ad Baculum

See also, MYOB, Tone Policing, and Calling ‘Cards.’

They’re All Crooks : The common contemporary fallacy of refusing to get involved in public politics because ‘all’ politicians and politics are allegedly corrupt, ignoring the fact that if this is so in a democratic country it is precisely because decent people like you and I refuse to get involved, leaving the field open to the ‘crooks’ by default. An example of Circular Reasoning. Related to this fallacy is ‘ They’re All Biased ,’ the extremely common contemporary cynical fallacy of ignoring news and news media because none tells the ‘objective truth’ and all push some ‘agenda.’  This basically true observation logically requiring audiences to regularly view or read a variety of media sources in order to get any approximation of reality, but for many younger people today (2017) it means in practice, ‘Ignore news, news media and public affairs altogether and instead pay attention to something that’s fun, exciting or personally interesting to you .’ The sinister implication for democracy is, ‘Mind your own business and leave all the ‘big’ questions to your betters, those whose job is to deal with these questions and who are well paid to do so.’

See also the Third Person Effect, and Deliberate Ignorance.

The ‘Third Person Effect’

Also: ‘Wise up!’ and ‘They’re All Liars’

An example of the fallacy of Deliberate Ignorance, the arch-cynical postmodern fallacy of deliberately discounting or ignoring media information a priori , opting to remain in ignorance rather than ‘listening to the lies’ of the mainstream media, the President, the ‘medical establishment,’ professionals, professors, doctors and the ‘academic elite’ or other authorities or information sources, even about urgent subjects (e.g., the need for vaccinations) on which these sources are otherwise publicly considered to be generally reliable or relatively trustworthy. According to Drexel University researchers (2017), the ‘Third Person Effect … suggests that individuals will perceive a mass media message to have more influence on others, than themselves. This perception tends to counteract the message’s intended ‘call-to-action.’ Basically, this suggests that over time people wised up to the fact that some mass media messages were intended to manipulate them — so the messages became less and less effective.’ This fallacy seems to be opposite to and an overreaction to the Big Lie Technique.

See also, Deliberate Ignorance, the Simpleton’s Fallacy, and Trust your Gut.

The ‘Thousand Flowers’ Fallacy

Also: ‘Take names and kick butt.’

A sophisticated, modern ‘Argumentum ad Baculum’ in which free and open discussion and ‘brainstorming’ are temporarily allowed and encouraged (even demanded ) within an organization or country not primarily in order to hear and consider opposing views, but rather to ‘smoke out,’ identify and later punish, fire or liquidate dissenters or those not following the Party Line. The name comes from the Thousand Flowers Period in Chinese history when Communist leader Chairman Mao Tse Tung applied this policy with deadly effect.

Throwing Good Money After Bad

Also: ‘Sunk Cost Fallacy’)

In his excellent book, Logically Fallacious (2015), Author Bo Bennett describes this fallacy as follows: ‘Reasoning that further investment is warranted on the fact that the resources already invested will be lost otherwise, not taking into consideration the overall losses involved in the further investment.’  In other words, risking additional money to ‘save’ an earlier, losing investment, ignoring the old axiom that ‘Doing the same thing and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.’  E.g., ‘I can’t stop betting now, because I already bet the rent and lost, and I need to win it back or my wife will kill me when I get home!’

See also Argument from Inertia.

TINA (There Is No Alternative)

Also: the ‘Love it or Leave It’ Fallacy; ‘Get over it,’ ‘Suck it up,’ ‘It is what it is,’ ‘Actions/Elections have consequences,’ or the ‘Fait Accompli’): A very common contemporary extension of the either/or fallacy in which someone in power quashes critical thought by announcing that there is no realistic alternative to a given standpoint, status or action, arbitrarily ruling any and all other options out of bounds, or announcing that a decision has been made and any further discussion is insubordination, disloyalty, treason, disobedience or simply a waste of precious time when there’s a job to be done. (See also, ‘Taboo;’ ‘Finish the Job.’)  TINA is most often a naked power-play, a slightly more sophisticated variety of the Argumentum ad Baculum.

See also Appeal to Closure.

Tone Policing

A corrupt argument from pathos and delivery, the fallacy of judging the validity of an argument primarily by its emotional tone of delivery, ignoring the reality that a valid fact or argument remains valid whether it is offered calmly and deliberatively or is shouted in a ‘shrill’ or even ‘hysterical’ tone, whether carefully written and published in professional, academic language in a respected, peer-reviewed journal or screamed through a bull-horn and peppered with vulgarity. Conversely, a highly urgent emotional matter is still urgent even if argued coldly and rationally.  This fallacy creates a false dichotomy between reason and emotion and thus implicitly favors those who are not personally involved or emotionally invested in an argument, e.g., ‘I know you’re upset, but I won’t discuss it with you until you calm down,’ or ‘I’d believe what you wrote were it not for your adolescent overuse of exclamation points throughout the text.’ Or alternately, ‘You seem to be taking the death of your spouse way too calmly. You’re under arrest for homicide. You have the right to remain silent…’ Tone Policing is frequent in contemporary discourse of power, particularly in response to discourse of protest, and is occasionally used in sexist ways, e.g. the accusation of being ‘shrill’ is almost always used against women, never against men.

See also, The F-Bomb.

Also: Name Dropping

A corrupt argument from ethos, falsely associating a famous or respected person, place or thing with an unrelated thesis or standpoint (e.g. putting a picture of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on an advertisement for mattresses, using Genghis Khan, a Mongol who hated Chinese, as the name of a Chinese restaurant, or using the Texas flag to sell more cars or pickups in Texas that were made in Detroit, Kansas City or Korea). This fallacy is common in contemporary academia in the form of using a profusion of scholarly-looking citations from respected authorities to lend a false gravitas to otherwise specious ideas or text.

See also ‘Star Power.’

Trust your Gut

Also: Trust your Heart; Trust Your Feelings; Trust your Intuition; Trust your Instincts; Emotional Reasoning): A corrupt argument from pathos, the ancient fallacy of relying primarily on ‘gut feelings’ rather than reason or evidence to make decisions. A 2017 Ohio State University study finds, unsurprisingly, that people who ‘trust their gut’ are significantly more susceptible to falling for ‘fake news,’ phony conspiracy theories, frauds, and scams than those who insist on hard evidence or logic.

See also Deliberate Ignorance, the Affective Fallacy, and The ‘Third Person Effect.’

Also: ‘You Do it Too!’; also, Two Wrongs Make a Right

A corrupt argument from ethos, the fallacy of defending a shaky or false standpoint or excusing one’s own bad action by pointing out that one’s opponent’s acts, ideology or personal character are also open to question, or are perhaps even worse than one’s own.

Example: ‘Sure, we may have tortured prisoners and killed kids with drones, but we don’t cut off heads like they do!’ Or, ‘You can’t stand there and accuse me of corruption! You guys are all into politics and you know what we have to do to get reelected!’ Unusual, self-deprecating variants of this fallacy are the Ego / Nos Quoque Fallacies (‘I/we do it too!’), minimizing or defending another’s evil actions because I am / we are guilty of the same thing or of even worse. E.g., In response to allegations that  Russian Premier Vladimir Putin is a ‘killer,’ American President Donald Trump (2/2017) told an interviewer, ‘There are a lot of killers. We’ve got a lot of killers. What, do you think our country’s so innocent?’

This fallacy is related to the Red Herring and to the Ad Hominem Argument.

Two-sides Fallacy

Also: Teach the Controversy

The presentation of an issue that makes it seem to have two sides of equal weight or significance, when in fact a consensus or much stronger argument supports just one side. Also called ‘false balance’ or ‘false equivalence.’ (Thanks to Teaching Tolerance for this definition!)

Example: ‘Scientists theorize that the Earth is a sphere, but there are always two sides to any argument: Others believe that the Earth is flat and is perched on the back of a giant turtle, and a truly balanced presentation of the issue requires teaching both explanations without bias or unduly favoring either side over the other.’

Also: Compartmentalization; Epistemically Closed Systems; Alternative Truth

A very corrupt and dangerous fallacy of logos and ethos, first formally described in medieval times but still common today, holding that there exists one ‘truth’ in one given environment (e.g., in science, work, or school) and simultaneously a different, formally contradictory but equally true ‘truth’ in a different epistemic system, context, environment, intended audience or discourse community (e.g., in one’s religion or at home). This can lead to a situation of stable cognitive dissonance where, as UC Irvine scholar Dr. Carter T. Butts describes it (2016), ‘I know but don’t believe,’ making rational discussion difficult, painful, or impossible. This fallacy also describes the discourse of politicians who cynically proclaim one ‘truth’ as mere ‘campaign rhetoric’ used ‘to mobilize the base,’ or ‘for domestic consumption only,’ and a quite different and contradictory ‘truth’ for more general or practical purposes once in office.

See also Disciplinary Blinders; Alternative Truth.

Also: Letting off Steam; Loose Lips

In the Venting fallacy, a person argues that her/his words are or ought to be exempt from criticism or consequence because s/he was ‘only venting,’ even though this very admission implies that the one ‘venting’ was, at long last, freely expressing his/her true, heartfelt and uncensored opinion about the matter in question. This same fallacy applies to minimizing, denying the significance of, or excusing other forms of frank, unguarded or uninhibited offensive expression as mere ‘ Locker-room Talk ,’ ‘ Alpha-male Speech ‘ or nothing but cute, adorable, perhaps even sexy ‘ Bad-boy Talk .’

Opposites to this fallacy are the fallacies of Political Correctness and the Scripted Message, above.

The ancient fallacy of Venue, a corrupt argument from kairos, falsely and arbitrarily invalidates an otherwise-valid argument or piece of evidence because it is supposedly offered in the wrong place, at the wrong moment or in an inappropriate court, medium or forum. According to PhD student Amanda Thran, ‘Quite often, people will say to me in person that Facebook, Twitter, etc. are ‘not the right forums’ for discussing politically and socially sensitive issues. … In this same vein, I’ve also encountered the following argument: ‘Facebook, which is used for sharing wedding, baby, and pet photos, is an inappropriate place for political discourse; people don’t wish to be burdened with that when they log in.’ In my experience, this line of reasoning is most often employed (and abused) to shut down a conversation when one feels they are losing it. Ironically, I have seen it used when the argument has already been transpiring on the platform [in] an already lengthy discussion.’

See also Disciplinary Blinders.

We Have to Do Something

Also: the Placebo Effect; Political Theater; Security Theater; We have to send a message

The dangerous contemporary fallacy that when ‘People are scared/People are angry/People are fed up/People are hurting/People want change,’ it becomes necessary to do something, anything , at once without stopping to ask ‘What?’ or ‘Why?’, even if what is done is an overreaction, is a completely ineffective sham, an inert placebo, or actually makes the situation worse, rather than ‘just sitting there doing nothing.’ (E.g., ‘Banning air passengers from carrying ham sandwiches onto the plane and making parents take off their newborn infants’ tiny pink baby-shoes probably does nothing to deter potential terrorists, but people are scared and we have to do something to respond to this crisis!’) This is a badly corrupted argument from pathos.

See also ‘Scare Tactic’ and ‘The Big ‘But’ Fallacy.’

Where there’s Smoke, there’s Fire

Also: Hasty Conclusion; Jumping to a Conclusion

The dangerous fallacy of ignorantly drawing a snap conclusion and/or taking action without sufficient evidence.

Example: ‘Captain! The guy sitting next to me in coach has dark skin and is reading a book in some kind of funny language all full of accent marks, weird squiggles above the ‘N’s’ and upside-down question marks. It must be Arabic! Get him off the plane before he blows us all to kingdom come!’

A variety of the ‘Just in Case’ fallacy.

The opposite of this fallacy is the ‘Paralysis of Analysis.’ 

The Wisdom of the Crowd

Also: The Magic of the Market; the Wikipedia Fallacy; Crowdsourcing

A very common contemporary fallacy that individuals may be wrong but ‘the crowd’ or ‘the market’ is infallible, ignoring historic examples like witch-burning, lynching, and the market crash of 2008. This fallacy is why most American colleges and universities currently (2017) ban students from using Wikipedia as a serious reference source.

The Worst-Case Fallacy

Also: ‘Just in case;’ ‘We can’t afford to take chances;’ ‘An abundance of caution;’ ‘Better Safe than Sorry;’ ‘Better to prevent than to lament.’): A pessimistic fallacy by which one’s reasoning is based on an improbable, far-fetched, or even completely imaginary worst-case scenario rather than on reality. This plays on pathos (fear) rather than reason and is often politically motivated

Example: ‘What if armed terrorists were to attack your county grain elevator tomorrow morning at dawn? Are you ready to fight back? Better stock up on assault rifles and ammunition today, just in case!’

The opposite of this is the Positive Thinking Fallacy.

See also Scare Tactics .

The Worst Negates the Bad

Also: Be Grateful for What You’ve Got

The extremely common modern logical fallacy that an objectively bad situation somehow isn’t so bad simply because it could have been far worse, or because someone, somewhere has it even worse. E.g., ‘I cried because I had no shoes, until I saw someone who had no feet.’ Or, ‘You’re protesting because you earn only $7.25 an hour? You could just as easily be out on the street! I happen to know there are people in Uttar Pradesh who are doing the very same work you’re doing for one-tenth of what you’re making, and they’re pathetically glad just to have work at all. You need to shut up, put down that picket sign, get back to work for what I care to pay you, and  thank me each and every day for giving you a job!’ 

Zero Tolerance

Also: Zero Risk Bias, Broken Windows Policing, Disproportionate Response; Even One is Too Many; Exemplary Punishment; Judenrein

the contemporary fallacy of declaring an ’emergency’ and promising to disregard justice and due process and devote unlimited resources (and occasionally, unlimited cruelty) to stamp out a limited, insignificant or even nonexistent problem.E.g., ‘I just read about an actual case of cannibalism somewhere in this country. That’s disgusting, and even one case is way, way too many! We need a Federal Taskforce against Cannibalism with a million-dollar budget and offices in every state, a national SCAN program in all the grade schools (Stop Cannibalism in America Now!), and an automatic double death penalty for cannibals; in other words, zero tolerance for cannibalism in this country!’ This is a corrupt and cynical argument from pathos, almost always politically driven, a particularly sinister variety of Dog Whistle Politics and the ‘We Have to do Something’ fallacy.

See also, ‘Playing on Emotions,’ ‘Red Herring,’ and also the ‘Big Lie Technique.’

OW 7/06 with thanks to the late Susan Spence. Final revision 1/18, with special thanks to Business Insider, Teaching Tolerance, and Vox.com, to Bradley Steffens , to Jackson Katz, Brian Resnick, Glen Greenwald, Lara Bhasin, Danelle M. Pecht, Marc Lawson, Eimar O’Duffy, and Mike Caetano, to Dr. William Lorimer, Dr. Carter T. Butts, Dr. Bo Bennett, Myron Peto, Joel Sax, Thomas Persing, Amanda Thran, and to all the others who suggested corrections, additions and clarifications.

Open Courseware | OCW |This work is dedicated to the Public Domain.

About The Author

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16 Common Logical Fallacies and How to Spot Them

Karla Hesterberg

Published: July 26, 2022

Logical fallacies — those logical gaps that invalidate arguments — aren't always easy to spot.

Team member pointing out logical fallacies to their coworkers

Our guide on logical fallacies will help you build better arguments and identify logical missteps.

What is a logical fallacy?

Logical fallacies are deceptive or false arguments that may seem stronger than they actually are due to psychological persuasion, but are proven wrong with reasoning and further examination.

These mistakes in reasoning typically consist of an argument and a premise that does not support the conclusion. There are two types of fallacies: formal and informal.

Having an understanding of basic logical fallacies can help you more confidently parse the arguments and claims you participate in and witness on a daily basis — separating fact from sharply dressed fiction.

15 Common Logical Fallacies

1. the straw man fallacy.

This fallacy occurs when your opponent over-simplifies or misrepresents your argument (i.e., setting up a "straw man") to make it easier to attack or refute. Instead of fully addressing your actual argument, speakers relying on this fallacy present a superficially similar — but ultimately not equal — version of your real stance, helping them create the illusion of easily defeating you.

John: I think we should hire someone to redesign our website.

Lola: You're saying we should throw our money away on external resources instead of building up our in-house design team? That's going to hurt our company in the long run.

2. The Bandwagon Fallacy

Just because a significant population of people believe a proposition is true, doesn't automatically make it true. Popularity alone is not enough to validate an argument, though it's often used as a standalone justification of validity. Arguments in this style don't take into account whether or not the population validating the argument is actually qualified to do so, or if contrary evidence exists.

While most of us expect to see bandwagon arguments in advertising (e.g., "three out of four people think X brand toothpaste cleans teeth best"), this fallacy can easily sneak its way into everyday meetings and conversations.

The majority of people believe advertisers should spend more money on billboards, so billboards are objectively the best form of advertisement.

3. The Appeal to Authority Fallacy

While appeals to authority are by no means always fallacious, they can quickly become dangerous when you rely too heavily on the opinion of a single person — especially if that person is attempting to validate something outside of their expertise.

Getting an authority figure to back your proposition can be a powerful addition to an existing argument, but it can't be the pillar your entire argument rests on. Just because someone in a position of power believes something to be true, doesn't make it true.

Despite the fact that our Q4 numbers are much lower than usual, we should push forward using the same strategy because our CEO Barbara says this is the best approach.

4. The False Dilemma Fallacy

This common fallacy misleads by presenting complex issues in terms of two inherently opposed sides. Instead of acknowledging that most (if not all) issues can be thought of on a spectrum of possibilities and stances, the false dilemma fallacy asserts that there are only two mutually exclusive outcomes.

This fallacy is particularly problematic because it can lend false credence to extreme stances, ignoring opportunities for compromise or chances to re-frame the issue in a new way.

We can either agree with Barbara's plan, or just let the project fail. There is no other option.

5. The Hasty Generalization Fallacy

This fallacy occurs when someone draws expansive conclusions based on inadequate or insufficient evidence. In other words, they jump to conclusions about the validity of a proposition with some — but not enough — evidence to back it up, and overlook potential counterarguments.

Two members of my team have become more engaged employees after taking public speaking classes. That proves we should have mandatory public speaking classes for the whole company to improve employee engagement.

6. The Slothful Induction Fallacy

Slothful induction is the exact inverse of the hasty generalization fallacy above. This fallacy occurs when sufficient logical evidence strongly indicates a particular conclusion is true, but someone fails to acknowledge it, instead attributing the outcome to coincidence or something unrelated entirely.

Even though every project Brad has managed in the last two years has run way behind schedule, I still think we can chalk it up to unfortunate circumstances, not his project management skills.

7. The Correlation/Causation Fallacy

If two things appear to be correlated, this doesn't necessarily indicate that one of those things irrefutably caused the other thing. This might seem like an obvious fallacy to spot, but it can be challenging to catch in practice — particularly when you really want to find a correlation between two points of data to prove your point.

Our blog views were down in April. We also changed the color of our blog header in April. This means that changing the color of the blog header led to fewer views in April.

8. The Anecdotal Evidence Fallacy

In place of logical evidence, this fallacy substitutes examples from someone's personal experience. Arguments that rely heavily on anecdotal evidence tend to overlook the fact that one (possibly isolated) example can't stand alone as definitive proof of a greater premise.

One of our clients doubled their conversions after changing all their landing page text to bright red. Therefore, changing all text to red is a proven way to double conversions.

9. The Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy

This fallacy gets its colorful name from an anecdote about a Texan who fires his gun at a barn wall, and then proceeds to paint a target around the closest cluster of bullet holes. He then points at the bullet-riddled target as evidence of his expert marksmanship.

Speakers who rely on the Texas sharpshooter fallacy tend to cherry-pick data clusters based on a predetermined conclusion. Instead of letting a full spectrum of evidence lead them to a logical conclusion, they find patterns and correlations in support of their goals, and ignore evidence that contradicts them or suggests the clusters weren't actually statistically significant.

Lisa sold her first startup to an influential tech company, so she must be a successful entrepreneur. (She ignores the fact that four of her startups have failed since then.)

10. The Middle Ground Fallacy

This fallacy assumes that a compromise between two extreme conflicting points is always true. Arguments of this style ignore the possibility that one or both of the extremes could be completely true or false — rendering any form of compromise between the two invalid as well.

Lola thinks the best way to improve conversions is to redesign the entire company website, but John is firmly against making any changes to the website. Therefore, the best approach is to redesign some portions of the website.

11. The Burden of Proof Fallacy

If a person claims that X is true, it is their responsibility to provide evidence in support of that assertion. It is invalid to claim that X is true until someone else can prove that X is not true. Similarly, it is also invalid to claim that X is true because it's impossible to prove that X is false.

In other words, just because there is no evidence presented against something, that doesn't automatically make that thing true.

Barbara believes the marketing agency's office is haunted, since no one has ever proven that it isn't haunted.

12. The Personal Incredulity Fallacy

If you have difficulty understanding how or why something is true, that doesn't automatically mean the thing in question is false. A personal or collective lack of understanding isn't enough to render a claim invalid.

I don't understand how redesigning our website resulted in more conversions, so there must have been another factor at play.

13. The "No True Scotsman" Fallacy

Often used to protect assertions that rely on universal generalizations (like "all Marketers love pie") this fallacy inaccurately deflects counterexamples to a claim by changing the positioning or conditions of the original claim to exclude the counterexample.

In other words, instead of acknowledging that a counterexample to their original claim exists, the speaker amends the terms of the claim. In the example below, when Barabara presents a valid counterexample to John's claim, John changes the terms of his claim to exclude Barbara's counterexample.

John: No marketer would ever put two call-to-actions on a single landing page.

Barbara: Lola, a marketer, actually found great success putting two call-to-actions on a single landing page for our last campaign.

John: Well, no true marketer would put two call-to-actions on a single landing page, so Lola must not be a true marketer.

14. The Ad Hominem Fallacy

An ad hominem fallacy occurs when you attack someone personally rather than using logic to refute their argument. Instead they’ll attack physical appearance, personal traits, or other irrelevant characteristics to criticize the other’s point of view. These attacks can also be leveled at institutions or groups.

logical fallacy examples: Ad Hominem Fallacy

Barbara: We should review these data sets again just to be sure they’re accurate.

Tim: I figured you would suggest that since you’re a bit slow when it comes to math.

15. The Tu Quoque Fallacy

The tu quoque fallacy (Latin for "you also") is an invalid attempt to discredit an opponent by answering criticism with criticism — but never actually presenting a counterargument to the original disputed claim.

In the example below, Lola makes a claim. Instead of presenting evidence against Lola's claim, John levels a claim against Lola. This attack doesn't actually help John succeed in proving Lola wrong, since he doesn't address her original claim in any capacity.

Lola: I don't think John would be a good fit to manage this project, because he doesn't have a lot of experience with project management.

John: But you don't have a lot of experience in project management either!

16. The Fallacy Fallacy

Here's something vital to keep in mind when sniffing out fallacies: just because someone's argument relies on a fallacy doesn't necessarily mean that their claim is inherently untrue.

Making a fallacy-riddled claim doesn't automatically invalidate the premise of the argument — it just means the argument doesn't actually validate their premise. In other words, their argument sucks, but they aren't necessarily wrong.

John's argument in favor of redesigning the company website clearly relied heavily on cherry-picked statistics in support of his claim, so Lola decided that redesigning the website must not be a good decision.

Recognize Logical Fallacies

Recognizing logical fallacies when they occur and learning how to combat them will prove useful for navigating disputes in both personal and professional settings. We hope the guide above will help you avoid some of the most common argument pitfals and utilize logic instead.

This article was published in July 2018 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

Click here to download our free introductory ebook on marketing psychology.

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The Top 10 Logical Fallacies

Jake Akins in New York City

We’ve ranked the Top 10 Logical Fallacies that are most common logical fallacies. This list of fallacies includes explanations and examples. These are all Informal fallacies.

About this list

This is our article in the Art to Argument series, which teaches logical fallacies and techniques of persuasion.

How To Be Persuasive in Making Arguments: Ethos, Pathos, and Logos

Learning all of the top 10 most common logical fallacies is necessary to avoid them and improve your debate skills. But learning these common logical fallacies will also allow you to recognize when your opponent is using them and when they’re not making a logical argument.

Fallacies are usually studied within college Philosophy or Communication programs, in classes which study logic and rhetoric.

The Fallacies Listed Below Are Not Always Fallacious

For example, the Slippery Slope will be fallacious if the argument’s conclusion doesn’t occur. For example: “If you invest all of your grandmother’s inheritance money into buying NFTs, you will lose it all, then you wont be able to buy a car, and if you don’t have a car, you can’t go to work, and if you can’t go to work you won’t be able to move out of your mother’s house.”

This Slippery Slope becomes fallacious if the person spends all of their inheritance money on NFTs and the following events do not occur. But what if these events do come true, and in exactly this manner? In other words, the Slippery Slope isn’t always or necessarily fallacious. It is merely making predictions based on an initial step and circumstance. That prediction may come true as a consequence of that first step down the slope.

For example, the Appeal to Authority may be appropriate and valid if the authority is qualified and makes factual assertions in whatever is at issue. Such is the nature of Informal Fallacies – they’re only fallacious if the reasoning is faulty.

Formal fallacies are always fallacious because the structure itself is formed incorrectly. There are only a relatively small number of these fallacies by comparison.

A logical conclusion is when the premises are true and the particular conclusion logically follows. These premises often have supporting evidence presented.

What are Logical Fallacies?

Logical Fallacies are flawed reasoning creating false arguments, or arguments constructed wrongly.

Samuel Johnson’s definition:

“Sophism; logical artifice; deceit; deceitful argument; delusory mode of ratiocination.” Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary

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College Student in Library

What Are Informal Fallacies?

These are created by faulty logic, where the conclusion doesn’t follow logically from the premise(s). Either there is a problem with the premise(s), such as insufficient, biased, or irrelevant evidence, or a problem with the conclusion. There may be no logical connection from the premise to the conclusion, the conclusion goes too far or not far enough, is irrelevant, or there is not enough evidence and needs more evidence. They have the proper logical construction, but are fallacious by the conclusion being wrong in some manner that doesn’t follow from the premise(s).

What Are Formal Fallacies?

When an argument is wrongly constructed is known as a Formal Fallacy. These arguments are formally wrong by their formulation. These logical fallacies break the rules of logic in the way that they’re constructed. This is a matter of recognizing a problem in the structure.

1. Straw Man Argument

The Straw Man: This occurs when someone is misrepresenting the position of their opponent. This is done by replacing their position with a different position, and then attacking that different position (attacking the straw man). Changing the opposing position is called that because a man made of straw is a weak target and easier to defeat.

This sets up a false version of the opponent’s argument, and then works at defeating the false version.

Meanwhile, the actual argument of the opponent hasn’t been addressed at all. Arguments cannot be conducted under these fallacious conditions because the content of the argument itself isn’t actually being addressed or contended with.

Mary says “This is the best Thai food restaurant in the city.” John responds with “You think this is the best restaurant in the city?”

How to avoid it :

Make sure that you understand your opponents position clearly. Restate it to the opponent and ask if what you stated is an accurate representation of their argument’s position. This will also prevent against them changing their position later on.

2. Begging the Question (circular argument)

Begging the question occurs when someone re-states or reaffirms the premise (or premises) as the conclusion (without any further explanation or information).

The problem with this is that it never progresses the argument past the premise or premises.

The premises are simply reasserted as the conclusion. Or, the conclusion is put into the premises, and then reasserted as the conclusion.

The premise of an argument has to be different in content and meaning than the conclusion. And the conclusion has to be separate in content and meaning than the premise(s), albeit related through logical coherence.

Mary says “John always tells the truth.” Bob asks “How do you know?” Mary responds “Because John says that he always tells the truth.” Of course John’s honesty is what’s in question, and John speaking on his own behalf begs the question. This is a circular argument because the conclusion is really just the premise restated.

How to avoid Begging the Question :

Make sure that the conclusion isn’t just restating the premise or one of the premises. This means thinking about and comparing the premise and conclusion with each other.

College Student

3. Ad Hominem Argument

Someone uses an Ad Hominem fallacy when they’re attacking the person and not their argument. One example is saying that the identity or some quality of a person disqualifies them from making any valid points. It’s attacking a person, which can include their identity or personal character (such as their physical appearance), instead of attacking their actual position. This is common in political debate.

Cliff cannot be correct when he says that squares have right angles because he is a bad person and has been known to steal ideas and credit them for himself. The position that squares have right angles or not has been left untouched.

You can see this playing out in the political sphere in modern American politics.

How to avoid it:

Make sure that you’re not attacking the person and you’re actually contending with the content of their argument. Leave out any personal biases or irrelevant personal characteristics of the opponent that have nothing to do with the content of the argument. A person can be a bad person in any number of ways and still be logically correct in any given instance.

4. Post Hoc “post hoc ergo propter hoc” (after this, therefore because of this)

This occurs when someone assumes causality from an order of events. Claiming that since B always happens after A, then A must cause B, is the problem. Order of events doesn’t necessarily mean causation.

Actual causation would remain unexplained by only attending to a sequence or order of events. The sequence of events needs actual causation to be understood in order for causation claims to be made.

Incidents of burglars breaking into cars rises whenever the sun is shining, and declines when it’s raining outside. Therefore, sunny days cause crime.

The best way to avoid this is to think about whether you actually understand the causal agent or causal story, and that you’re not inferring causing from the order of events. If you realize that you don’t know the cause of the phenomena, it’s best to just suspend judgments until the cause is known.

5. Loaded Question

This occurs whenever a person asks a question which includes their desired outcome, against the position of the person answering the question.

The classic example of a Loaded Question is “Are you still beating your wife?” Whether the person answers yes or no, the person is framed as a wife beater, whether they are or not.

This is also a tactic often used with lawyers when they’re leading the witness by asking questions to guide the witness to certain conclusions that the lawyer is trying to attain.

How to avoid the Loaded Question fallacy :

This should be easy to avoid since it is usually done intentionally.

6. False Dichotomy (False Dilemma, Either/Or)

A False Dichotomy is an informal fallacy. This occurs when the arguer is presenting only two possible options or outcomes to a position, when in reality there are more options.

It’s done to narrow the opponent’s position to only two possible outcomes. It’s an argument tactic designed to lead narrowed and specific options.

Mom tells her child “Do you want to go to sleep now or in 5 minutes?” The false dilemma is that there are more options than now or in 5 minutes, such as going to bed in 10 minutes. Most kids pick up on this tactic used by parents when they’re still in toddlerhood.

How to avoid the False Dilemma fallacy :

Think about whether the options you’re considering do indeed exhaust all of the possibilities, or if there are other legitimate possibilities to consider as well. Think about alternatives before the list of possibilities is narrowed to only two or one.

7. Equivocation (Doublespeak)

Equivocation is an informal fallacy. To Equivocate means to use language in a wrong or misleading way to either conceal a truth or to avoid being committed to a position. The goal behind this fallacy is to mislead the listener through a manipulation of language. Often the meaning of a word is changed mid-argument to serve the purposes of the one who is being misleading.

Equivocate is to make an incorrect equivalence between words (or concepts that are at issue within the argument).

An example of equivocating would be to use the word “right” in two ways within an argument: right as in morally correct, and right as in functionally correct (such as the right tool to use for the job).

How to avoid the Equivocation fallacy :

Use your words in consistent ways without shifting meanings.

8. Appeal to Authority (ad verecundiam)

Appeal to authority is an informal fallacy. Making an appeal to an authority in an argument doesn’t make the argument correct. An appeal to authority can be correct, or incorrect, depending on the substance of the claim that’s at issue.

There are experts (authorities) on opposing sides of court cases. They can both be right in certain domains, or within the same domain one can be more correct than the other. Being an expert on a given topic doesn’t mean that anything that the expert claims is therefore correct.

Mary says “The earth is flat.” Bob says “How do you know that?” Mary says “Because my geology teacher told me.” It’s doubtful that a geology teacher would actually teach this but it illustrates the fallacy.

How to avoid the Appeal to Authority fallacy :

Don’t appeal to any authority as the basis for the legitimacy of your claim.

9. Hasty Generalization

Hasty Generalization is an informal fallacy. Making a claim about something without sufficient or unbiased evidence for the claim. If the evidence did support the claim, then it would just be a generalization. The hasty description means that the generalization was done too quickly and without evidence.

This is a tricky one because there is no agreed upon threshold of what constitutes a sufficient number of examples or sample size to be considered as legitimate evidence in any given case. Is it more than 50%? However, it can usually be more easily determined as to what constitutes biased or unbiased evidence.

John says “You’re a musician, so therefore you must not have stage fright.”

Consider what the evidence is, and how large the sample size is, and whether they’re sufficient to be representative of the whole before making the claim.

10. Appeal to Popular Opinion (Argumentum ad populum)

Appeal to popular opinion is an informal fallacy. This fallacy occurs when someone is making an argument that a position is true because a great number (or the majority) of people hold to that position. The fallacy here is that the majority may be factually wrong as a result of being misled or having partial information and drawing wrong conclusions.

We’ve seen this in history, in which the majority of people have been misled by their media or by their government or by wrong scientific or philosophical assumptions.

Medieval John says “The sun revolves around the earth, and the earth is fixed in place.” Medieval Mary says “How do you know that the sun revolves around a fixed earth?” To which Medieval John replies “Don’t you know that everyone believes that the earth is fixed in place, around which the sun revolves? It’s common knowledge.”

How to avoid the Appeal to Popular Opinion fallacy :

Consider the merits of the statements on their own grounds without recourse to what others think about it.

More resources:

Frequently Asked Questions

What are examples of logical fallacies.

Straw Man Fallacy, Begging the Question Fallacy, Ad Hominem Fallacy, Post Hoc Fallacy “post hoc ergo propter hoc” (after this, therefore because of this) Fallacy, Loaded Question Fallacy, False Dichotomy (False Dilemma, Either/Or) Fallacy, Equivocation (Doublespeak) Fallacy, Appeal to Authority (ad verecundiam) Fallacy, Hasty Generalization Fallacy, and Appeal to Popular Opinion (ad populum) Fallacy.

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How would you explain a logical fallacy?

As an argument in which the conclusion doesn’t follow from the premise or premises. The premises could be wrong, or the conclusion could be wrong, or both. First, identify which logical fallacy is being used. From there you can describe the fallacy by giving a hypothetical example that your listener will understand. An over-exaggerated example works best, because it draws-out, by exaggeration, where in the argument the fallacy is. Then you can explain exactly how (at the over-exaggerated point) the break in logic occurred, and how the conclusion isn’t supported by the premise(s). For example, with a Straw Man fallacy, you can make another Straw Man type of argument that’s more directly obvious as being fallacious by grossly misrepresenting the opponent’s position. This should illustrate the point of where the mistake occurred.

What makes a logical fallacy?

What makes an Informal Logical Fallacy is an incorrect conclusion reached through faulty thinking. Said another way, reaching a conclusion that is not supported by the premises. You may have correct premises, but yet through faulty reasoning you’ve arrived at an incorrect conclusion. A Formal Fallacy occurs when the argument itself is constructed wrongly. The premises may be true, but the argument is fallacious because the formal construction is faulty.

Is generalization a logical fallacy?

Hasty Generalization is a logical fallacy. The relevant part of this is the “hasty’ nature of the generalization, which means generalizing the group erroneously and without supported evidence, based on the particulars of a few within that group. As explained above, it’s “Making an unwarranted claim about the group from the particulars or characteristics of a select few within the group.” Generalization by itself is not necessarily a fallacy. You would have to look at what’s being generalized, and on what grounds the generalization is based.

What is a fallacy example?

Appeal to Authority Fallacy: appealing to an authority in an argument doesn’t settle the question of the cogency of the argument at hand. Authorities can be wrong. As explained above: The authority’s bona fides needs to be established. Even then it can be fallacious to cite them as an authority, depending on the authority’s claim. This one is tricky because it depends on the circumstances and scenario. There are experts (authorities) on opposing sides of court cases. They can both be right in certain domains, or within the same domain one can be more right than the other. The fallacy would be to make more of a claim than just an expert opinion.

Why are logical fallacies important?

Knowing and understanding logical fallacies is important because it stops the exchange of untruth. They’re only so good as they root out what’s not true, so that, when determined, an argument ceases to be valid, and hopefully ceases to be asserted and/or believed. It’s also important because identifying where the mistake in logic occurred allows for correction. Logical fallacy identification is the corrective for bad argumentation.

How do you respond to a logical fallacy?

The best way to respond to a logical fallacy is to identify it by name, and then explain what the fallacy is, and how it was used, and where it occurred in the argument.

Why should you avoid logical fallacies?

You should avoid logical fallacies to make true arguments, or at least arguments that aren’t false in their formulation or reasoning. The point of avoiding logical fallacies it to make valid arguments. The point of making valid arguments is to interpret and navigate the world and all of its facets correctly and without logical errors.

What is the best way to prevent making logical fallacies in arguments?

The best way to avoid making logical fallacies is first to learn the most common fallacies. Secondly, and just as important, is to assess your own arguments, and see if the arguments you’re making are using any logical fallacy, and if so, which one(s)? This requires self-assessment, analyses, and reflection. The goal is to be able to have an ongoing ability to determine this as the argument is being made (not after the fact, but while the conversation is occurring). It requires having an internal monitor as to the cogency of what you’re saying or writing.

What’s the difference between a Formal and Informal Fallacy?

Formal Fallacy: A formal fallacy occurs when the structure of the argument itself is flawed, by being constructed wrongly. Informal Fallacy refers to faulty or erroneous reasoning within a proper logical construction. In an Informal Fallacy, there is some form of erroneous reasoning involved that undermines the argument.

What does the word Fallacy mean?

The word Fallacy is a derivative of the Latin word fallacia, which meant to trick or be deceptive. The word Fallacy in modern English means to make an error in reasoning, or a false inference. Fallacy refers to a broad category that encompasses individual kinds of fallacies, of which there are many different types. Errors in reasoning can usually be placed within these individual categories, and identified by the nature of the error itself. How the reasoning was faulty determines the category of fallacy in which the error is placed, and identifies the fallacy type.

How do you identify a logical fallacy?

There are a few ways that one may identify a logical fallacy. One way is to learn and familiarize yourself with all of the fallacy types, and thereby be able to identify on the spot which fallacy may be at issue. Another way to identify a logical fallacy is to consider whether the premise or premises are legitimate, and if the conclusion follows. If not, then either there is a premise that goes too far, or not far enough, or is irrelevant to the conclusion. Or the conclusion is too far, or not far enough, or irrelevant from the premises.

There are many other fallacies to consider, including:

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Some Common Fallacies   Fallacies are kinds of errors in reasoning. They are most common when people get overly emotional about an issue. The thing about fallacies is that in the heat of the moment they can seem persuasive, but they are errors in reasoning and they do not reliably lead to the truth. So you want to be on the lookout for them when considering arguments. Below is a brief list of some of the more common fallacies, along with illustrations of them. It is often helpful to look these over when trying to think about what is wrong with an argument (whether it's your own or someone else's!). NOTE: This is the same list of fallacies and examples given in my paper " Moral Reasoning In Applied Ethics ". CRITICAL THINKING STUDENTS: If you're in a critical thinking class, be careful about going by the following definitions. Different textbooks define fallacies differently, and I have deliberately simplified some things in order to make this page more accessible to those who are not taking a critical thinking class.     Table of Contents   1. Ad Hominem Fallacy 2. Fallacy of False Cause 3. Straw Man Fallacy 4. Appeal to Ignorance 5. Appeal To Emotion 6. Slippery Slope 7. Fallacy of Equivocation 8. Appeal to Popularity 9. Appeal to Tradition 1. Ad Hominem Fallacy An ad hominem fallacy is an argument that is directed at the person defending the argument rather than the argument itself, and thus fails to address what is at issue. There are a number of different kinds of ad hominem arguments, but we don't need to distinguish among them here. We can get an idea of how ad hominem fallacies occur with the following examples: (Example 1) "That's what abortion is - killing innocent humans for money. Abortionists are government licensed hit men." - Charley Reese, The Daily Iberian, Nov. 20, 1998. In Example 1, Reese resorts to name-calling, rather than seriously addressing the question of whether abortion is morally permitted, when he claims that abortionist's are "government-licensed hit men." Thus, Reese commits an ad hominem fallacy. Example 2 is more subtle: (Example 2) "University of Virginia professor [Charlotte] Patterson, considered a leading researcher in the field, says she has reviewed 22 studies involving offspring of gays ranging from toddlers to adults. She found none convincing [sic] that the children had suffered or were more than normally inclined to be gay. [...] Conservatives discredit Patterson by pointing out that she is an acknowledged lesbian, with a presumed ideological interest in the subject she studies." - Time, Sept. 20, 1993, p. 71. Simply because someone is a lesbian does not mean that they will not be objective or professional when reporting the results of studies of homosexuals, any more than someone's being heterosexual means that they will not be objective or professional when reporting the results of studies of heterosexuals. To claim otherwise would be to claim that no one could ever be objective when reporting a study involving sexual orientation. This argument is an ad hominem fallacy because it merely points out that Patterson may have an incentive to incorrectly report the studies she cites - it doesn't raise any issue with regard to whether her results were in fact mistaken. People have incentives to do all sorts of things that they would never actually do. For example, if someone cuts you off in traffic, you may have an incentive to shoot them (the incentive being to discharge your anger), but that doesn't mean you'll actually shoot them. It is very different to claim that someone has a motive to do something. Motives, as defined by Webster's, are something that causes a person to act. So if Patterson had a motive to lie, in Webster's sense of the term, that means she had an incentive to lie that she acted on, and this would discredit her results. (Example 3) "Who is Sam Brownbeck, and why is he saying all those terrible things about rock lyrics? On Nov. 6, Brownbeck, an ambitious Kansas Republican ... convened a hearing billed as "An Example of Violent Music Lyrics on Youth Behavior and Well Being ..." Brownbeck's subcommittee, which supervises schools and streets in D.C., has much more important work to do, but the senator, who will run again in 1998, is clearly searching for an issue to give him national prominence." - Rolling Stone Magazine Here, the attack is not directed so much at Brownbeck's personal traits as it is against his plans to run for senator. But again, the fact that Brownbeck is planning a run for senator and might have an incentive to push this issue never touches on the real issue: whether there is a problem with rock lyrics. (Example 4) Jack: You should stop smoking - it's bad for you. Jill: Look who's talking! You smoke three packs a day! Jack's reasoning is perfectly good, while Jill commits the fallacy. Jack is being hypocritical, but that does not mean that what he says is false. Pointing out that someone is being hypocritical often seems like a persuasive refutation of what they've said, but regardless of whether Jack is a hypocrite, what he is saying is obviously true. (Example 5) Representative Gutierrez of Illinois, arguing in Congress on July 11, 1996, replying to Republicans arguing in favor of the "Defense of Marriage Act", a bill stipulating that 'marriage' be defined as being between a man and a woman only, excluding homosexual marriages: "I now realize that my friends on the other side of the aisle aren't the least bit serious when they talk about how important it is for the federal government not to interfere in the lives of our people. I understand that they are just kidding - just teasing us - when they stress the importance of taking power out of Washington and giving it to local officials. And now I know that their biggest joke of all is that old line about family values - all that talk about encouraging people to care about and be committed to each other." This example is more subtle, but again, what Gutierrez is doing is accusing his opponents of being hypocritical, rather than addressing the issues of hand. Thus, he commits an ad hominem fallacy. 2. Fallacy of False Cause As with the ad hominem fallacy, there are really several different kinds of false cause fallacy. But we won't catalogue them all here. The basic problem with every false cause fallacy is that it confuses a correlation with a cause. Two events are correlated if whenever one occurs, the other occurs. Two events are causally related if one event's occurring is sufficient to make the other event occur. For instance, there is an increase in the number of brides in June, as well as an increase in the number of flies in June. But it hardly follows that the one is the cause of the other! The two events are correlated, but not causally related. (Example 1) Utah passed a strict gun-control law, and crime there decreased. Therefore, gun-control laws decrease crime. This is a false cause fallacy because we don't have enough information to conclude that the gun-control law caused the decrease in crime. Lots of things, including the state of the economy, the nature of the illicit drug trade, the weather (hot weather tends to result in an increase in crimes, and unusually cold weather tends to decrease them), and dozens of other factors influence the rate of crime. Until all of these factors are taken into account, we can't be sure whether the gun-control law caused the decrease in crime. Similar sorts of arguments are made for and against the death penalty, and they involve the same fallacy. (Example 2) "An FBI study of thirty-five serial killers revealed that twenty-nine were attracted to pornography and incorporated it into their sexual activity, which included rape and serial murder." - from an anti-pornography ad The suggestion is that pornography causes serial killers to rape and kill. But the argument is not sufficient to establish that pornography causes rape or murder. It's likely that serial rapist/murderers are obsessed with sexual acts to begin with, and it is their obsession that leads to both use of pornography and killing. (Example 3) "In its origins [AIDS] was entirely a disease of sodomites... That the first case was diagnosed a little over a decade after the so-called "Gay Rights" and "Gay Pride" movement gained momentum and force can hardly be coincidental." - Harry Jaffa, Professor Emeritus of Political Philosophy at Claremont McKenna College The suggestion is that since AIDS appeared in the U.S. after the Gay Pride movement, the Gay Pride movement caused AIDS. However, we know that AIDS is not caused by political demonstrations but by the HIV virus. Moreover, we know that AIDS first became an epidemic in Africa where it infected primarily heterosexuals, not homosexuals. 3. Straw Man Fallacy A straw man fallacy occurs when (1) the arguer misrepresents their opponents view, (2) shows that the misrepresentation is mistaken, and then (3) concludes that their opponents view is mistaken. Here are some examples: (Example 1) What I object to most about those people who oppose capital punishment is that they believe that the lives of convicted murderers are more important than the lives of the police and prison guards who protect us. But, obviously, since the lives of those who protect us are of the greatest value, no one should oppose capital punishment. In Example 1 the opponent's view is that capital punishment is wrong. This view is then misrepresented as being the view that the lives of convicted murderers are more important than the lives of the police and prison guards. The remaining two elements of the fallacy are explicitly stated in the example. Sometimes, however, some of the elements of the straw man are implicit, as in Example 2: (Example 2) Consider the following claim by Rush Limbaugh: "I'm a very controversial figure to the animal rights movement. They no doubt view me with some measure of hostility because I am constantly challenging their fundamental premise that animals are superior to human beings." If this is followed with the argument that animals are not superior to human beings, and thus the animal rights movement is misguided, then we have an example of a straw man fallacy. The straw man is the misrepresentation of animal rights activists as holding the view that animals are superior to human beings: virtually no animal rights activists hold this view. (Example 3) "Advocates of legalized abortion predicted it would solve our social problems. Instead, this destruction of one-fourth of a generation has left a more violent society in its wake: Child abuse has exploded, from 167,000 estimated cases in 1973 to 2.4 million in 1989, according to the National Center of Child Abuse and Neglect - a 1,400% increase. Teen suicide, among non-aborted and thus presumably "wanted" children, has doubled. Violent crime has more than doubled." - "The Post Abortion Report", published by Fresno/Madera Right to Life The first sentence is a straw man. Did advocates of legalized abortion ever claim it would solve problems of violent crime, etc.? Insofar as the passage suggests that abortion is the cause of these various social problems, we have a false cause fallacy. 4. Appeal to Ignorance The fallacy of appeal to ignorance occurs when someone uses an opponent's inability to disprove a claim as evidence of that claim's being true or false (or, acceptable or unacceptable). For instance, consider the following: (Example 1) You haven't been able to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that there is no God. Therefore, it is still reasonable for me to believe in God. However, whether it's reasonable to believe something depends on the reasons one has in its favor, not whether others have reasons against it. 5. Appeal To Emotion Appeals to emotion occur when someone tries to manipulate another person's emotions (e.g., sympathy, pity, anger, fear, etc.) in order to get them to accept or reject an argument or view. Here are some examples: (Example 1) Statement made by Carol Everett, a former abortion provider and now an opponent of abortion, explaining why she now opposes abortion: "Then we had a death. A 32-year-old woman hemorrhaged to death as a result of a cervical laceration. I finally realized, we weren't helping women - we were destroying them." - from an ad published by the National Right to Life Here, Everett appeals to the reader's sympathy rather than to their reason. (Example 2) "If you have never been born again, eternal separation from God in the Lake of Fire awaits you. If you are born again, then being with the Lord in heaven forever is your destiny. Which do you choose?" - from "Have You Been Born Again", a pamphlet handed out on the Fresno State University campus, Fall 1997 In Example 2, the authors appeal to your fear of the Lake of Fire to get you to accept their religious beliefs. 6. Slippery Slope The slippery slope fallacy occurs when someone claims that an apparently harmless action is likely to result in a chain reaction of events (the "slippery slope") leading up to a harmful consequence, when, in fact, the chain reaction of events is very unlikely to occur. (Example 1) "A person apparently hopelessly ill may be allowed to take his own life. Then he may be permitted to deputize others to do it for him should he no longer be able to act. The judgment of others then becomes the ruling factor. Already at this point euthanasia is not personal and voluntary, for others are acting on behalf of the patient as they see fit. This may well incline them to act on behalf of other patients who have not authorized them to exercise their judgment. It is only a short step, then, from voluntary euthanasia (self-inflicted or authorized), to directed euthanasia administered to a patient who has given no authorization, to involuntary euthanasia conducted as a part of a social policy." - J. Gay Williams, "The Wrongfulness of Euthanasia" But it's unlikely that permitting euthanasia in a restricted set of cases is likely to result in mass unjust killings, especially in contemporary American society. (Example 2) "I think that the use of marijuana as a medical treatment shouldn't even be considered. If we make drugs legal in a few cases, then we might eventually have to completely legalize them - which is even crazier than Proposition 215. If we want to help people out by letting them do illegal things, then let's just get rid of all our laws." - letter to editor of Newsweek, November 11, 1996. Again, it's unlikely that drugs will be completely legalized, or that we'll get rid of all our laws, as a result of allowing marijuana to be prescribed in a limited range of cases. (Example 3) Representative Largent of Oklahoma, arguing in Congress on July 11, 1996 in favor of the "Defense of Marriage Act", a bill stipulating that 'marriage' be defined as being between a man and a woman only, excluding homosexual marriages: "There is ... a radical element, a homosexual agenda that wants to redefine what marriage is. They want to say that a marriage not only is one man and one woman but it is two men or it is two women. What logical reason is there to keep us from stopping expansion of that definition to include three people or an adult and a child, or any other odd combination that we want to have?  ... and it does not even have to be limited to human beings by the way. I mean it could be anything. ... There is no reason why we cannot just completely erase whatever boundaries that currently exist on the definition of marriage and say it is a free-for-all, anything goes." Another slippery slope. Permitting homosexuals to legally marry is unlikely to result in, e.g., laws permitting an adult to marry a sheep, etc. 7. Fallacy of Equivocation An ambiguous expression is a word or phrase that has more than one distinct meaning in the context in which it is used. For instance, if I say "I went to the bank", given the context, it may be unclear whether I went to First National or the shore of the Mississippi. A fallacy of equivocation occurs when the persuasive force of an argument depends on the shifting meaning of an ambiguous expression. Here are some examples: (Example 1) P1 There are laws of nature. P2 Laws must be made by a lawgiver. C Therefore, a cosmic lawgiver (God) exists. Here, the ambiguous expression is 'laws'. On the one hand, there are laws which form part of a legal system, and these laws require a lawgiver (a person or group of persons with the authority to create and establish government laws). On the other hand, we have what we call laws of nature, which are simply observed regularities in the way the universe operates. The latter, however, obviously need not be the results of a legislative body. Other examples of the fallacy, however, are more subtle: (Example 2) Representative Largent of Oklahoma, arguing in Congress on July 11, 1996 in favor of the "Defense of Marriage Act", a bill stipulating that 'marriage' be between a man and a woman only, excluding homosexual marriages: "Let me just say first of all that this is not about equal rights. We have equal rights. Homosexuals have the same rights as I do. They have the ability to marry right now, today. However, when they get married, they must marry a person of the opposite sex, the same as me." Here, the ambiguity occurs in the phrase 'equal rights'. The equal rights those who advocate homosexual marriages have in mind is the right to legally marry someone to whom you wish to make a public and life-long commitment. The "equal rights" Largent speaks of is the right to legally marry someone of the opposite gender. But guaranteeing the latter right is obviously not the same thing as guaranteeing the former right. (Example 3) "The pro-abortion-rights people, of course, say a baby is not a human until it is born. What do they think it is? A vegetable or a fruit? It just shows where our society is headed when we no longer have value for human life."  - letter to the editor, Columbus Dispatch, March 10, 1996. The ambiguous word here is 'human'. The pro-abortion-rights people say that a baby is not human in the sense that it lacks a right to life, i.e., they define the word 'human' in this context as meaning "having a right to life". The author of the passage then switches from that definition of 'human' to the definition of 'human' in the sense of having a human genetic code. It's in this sense that it is obvious that a human baby is not a vegetable or a fruit. But having a human genetic code is not the same thing as having a right to life. Corpses, for instance, have a human genetic code, but they hardly have a right to life! 8. Appeal to Popularity The appeal to popularity occurs when people infer that something is good or true because it is popular. (Example 1) It's OK to cheat if everybody else does. But merely because something is popular doesn't make it right or correct. At one time, the belief that the earth is flat was popular, but it was certainly never correct! And killing Jews may have been popular among the Nazis, but that won't make it right! 9. Appeal to Tradition In appeals to tradition someone argues that something is good or correct because it is traditional. The problem is that merely because something is traditional is no reason to believe that it is good or right. For instance, slavery was at one time traditional in many cultures, but that's obviously not sufficient to make it right. (Example 1) "I believe that same-sex couples should be entitled to the legal rights that married couples enjoy.... But, my friend, that is as far as I want to go. I define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Before you gay-rights folks land on me with both feet, I would like to remind you that I have been supportive of your movement for many years, have withstood a great deal of criticism in the process and have risked the wrath of some editors and publishers. I cannot support same-sex marriage, however, because it flies in the face of cultural and traditional family life as we have known it for centuries. And that's where I must draw the line. Sorry." - Ann Landers, The Columbus Dispatch, July 21, 1996. Here, Ann Landers makes an explicit appeal to tradition to support her view that same-sex marriages should not be permitted. She also commits the fallacy of appeal to emotion by trying to garner sympathy for herself and the risks she has taken supporting homosexual causes in the past in order to deflect criticism of her view that same-sex marriages should not be permitted.   There are many different kinds of fallacies that people make, but the above nine types of fallacy seem to be the most common ones we make when discussing controversial issues. It's helpful to review a list of fallacies like this on a regular basis, because we all, at one time or another, tend to invoke or fall for these fallacies. But it's important to keep in mind that, as fallacies these arguments are hopelessly flawed and prove nothing about the issues which they purport to address.                  

[F06] List of fallacies

Module: Fallacies and biases

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- Bill Beattie

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Here are some examples of common fallacies:

ad ignorantiam (appeal to ignorance)

Ad misericordiam (appeal to pity), ad populum (appeal to popularity), affirming the consequent.

Inferring that P is true solely because Q is true and it is also true that if P is true, Q is true.

The problem with this type of reasoning is that it ignores the possibility that there are other conditions apart from P that might lead to Q. For example, if there is a traffic jam, a colleague may be late for work. But if we argue from his being late to there being a traffic jam, we are guilty of this fallacy - the colleague may be late due to a faulty alarm clock.

Of course, if we have evidence showing that P is the only or most likely condition that leads to Q, then we can infer that P is likely to be true without committing a fallacy.

Begging the question ( petito principii )

Complex question or loaded question.

A question is posed in such a way that a person, no matter what answer he/she gives to the question, will inevitably commit him/herself to some other claim, which should not be presupposed in the context in question.

A common tactic is to ask a yes-no question that tricks people to agree to something they never intended to say. For example, if you are asked "Are you still as self-centred as you used to be?", then no matter you answer "yes" or "no", you are bound to admit that you were self-centred in the past. Of course, the same question would not count as a fallacy if the presupposition of the question is indeed accepted in the conversational context.

Composition (opposite of division)

Denying the antecedent.

Inferring that Q is false just because if P is true, Q is also true, but P is false.

This fallacy is similar to the fallacy of affirming the consequent. Again the problem is that some alternative explanation or cause might be overlooked. Although P is false, some other condition might be sufficient to make Q true.

Example: If there is a traffic jam, a colleague may be late for work. But it is not right to argue in the light of a smooth traffic that the colleague will not be late. Again, his alarm clock may have stopped working.

Division (opposite of composition)

Equivocation, false dilemma, gambler's fallacy, genetic fallacy, non sequitur, petito principii, post hoc, ergo propter hoc (literally, "after this, therefore because of this").

Inferring that X must be the cause of Y just because X is followed by Y.

For example, having visited a graveyard, I fell ill and infer that graveyards are spooky places that cause illnesses. Of course, this inference is not warranted since this might just be a coincidence. However, a lot of superstituous beliefs commit this fallacy.

Red herring

Within an argument some irrelevant issue is raised which diverts attention from the main subject. The function of the red herring is sometimes to help express a strong, biased opinion. The red herring (the irrelevant issue) serves to increase the force of the argument in a very misleading manner.

For example, in a debate as to whether God exists, someone might argue that believing in God gives peace and meaning to many people's lives. This would be an example of a red herring since whether religions can have a positive effect on people is irrelevant to the question of the existence of God. The good psychological effect of a belief is not a reason for thinking that the belief is true.

Slippery slope

Arguing that if an opponent were to accept some claim C 1 , then he or she has to accept some other closely related claim C 2 , which in turn commits the opponent to a still further claim C 3 , eventually leading to the conclusion that the opponent is committed to something absurd or obviously unacceptable.

This style of argumentation constitutes a fallacy only when it is inappropriate to think if one were to accept the initial claim, one must accept all the other claims.

An example: "The government should not prohibit drugs. Otherwise the government should also ban alcohol or cigarettes. And then fatty food and junk food would have to be regulated too. The next thing you know, the government would force us to brush our teeth and do exercises everyday."

Attacking an opponent by attributing to him/her an implausible position that is easily defeated when this is not actually the opponent's position.

Example: When many people argue for more democracy in Hong Kong, a typical reply is to say that this is not warranted because it is wrong to think that democracy is the solution to all of Hong Kong's problems, or to say that one should not blindly accept democracy. But those who support democracy never suggest that democracy can solve all problems (e.g. pollution), and they might also agree that blindly accepting something is rarely correct, whether it is democracy or not. Those criticisms attack implausible "strawman" positions and do not address the real arguments for democracy.

Suppressed evidence

Where there is contradicting evidence, only confirming evidence is presented.

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