Rhetorical Fallacies: A Theoretical Overvies

Hussain Alwan Hussain

2021 / 1 / 4

1. Rhetorical Fallacies
Rhetorical fallacies are forms of unreasonable arguments that aim at deceiving the addressees. This domain of study has had a long history that goes back to Aristotle up to the present times.
1.2 Aristotle
Aristotle described how arguers can appeal to ethos (Ethics), pathos (Feelings), and logos (Reason) in order to persuade their addressees of their particular claim(s). This entails that persuasive arguments call for making use of genuine and truthful appeals that can stand up against critical thinking. However, and for the purpose of winning the audience to their views, arguers may resort, whether advertently´-or-inadvertently, to the use of certain weak types of appeals that do not stand up to investigation. Instances of such unsound use of rhetorical structures are called argumentative -´-or-rhetorical fallacies in the literature of rhetoric. The term "fallacy" itself is an ambiguous homonym. Thus, the website Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it either as "a false´-or-mistaken idea",´-or-as "an often plausible argument using false´-or-invalid inference". However, in academic research, the latter argument conception of fallacies is its prevalent reference.
Again, written records show that the systematic study of rhetorical fallacies, i.e. faulty argumentation´-or-defective persuasion, goes at least as far back as Aristotle himself. In his two treatises on: Rhetoric-;- and Sophistical Refutations (henceforth: SR), he identified thirteen fallacies (Jasinski, 2001: 241). In the fourth and fifth chapters of SR, those fallacies were classified into two major types: six that depend on language (in dictione), and seven that do not depend on language (extra dictionem) (RH 4, 165b24-166b28-;- RH 5, 166b28-168a18). Fallacies dependent on language consist in:
1. Ambiguity (Equivocation´-or-lexical homonymy: repetition of a word that has multiple ambiguous meanings).
2. Amphiboly (Syntactic ambiguity: a sentence conveys multiple meanings that are confusing).
3. Combination (Composition: unrelated lexical items are grouped together as if they were related).
4. Division (Imparting the attributes of the whole to its parts).
5. Accent (A certain word is emphasized for the purpose of imparting a different meaning to it than that of its meaning when used alone).
6. Form of expression (Figure of speech: different words in Greek had different cases´-or-genders even though their case´-or-gender endings were the same).

As for fallacies outside of language, they cover the examples of:
1. Accident (A general rule is used to explain an unrelated specific case).
2. The use of words in their specific´-or-wider meanings (The specific aspect is generalized).
3. Misconception of refutation (The conclusion is irrelevant to the argument).
4. Begging the question (An unproven topic is used to prove the argument).
5. Consequent (Affirming the consequent: if A is true, then B is also true, and the vice versa).
6. Non causa pro causa (False cause: a non-cause is cited as the cause).
7. Complex question (Raising too many related´-or-unrelated questions at the same argument to confuse the addressee).
Parry et al. (1991: 435)
1.3 Subsequent Developments
Fallacies were again studied systematically by the logicians in Medieval Europe, giving them Latin names. In modern times, the later twentieth century witnessed the beginning of third major period of rhetorical fallacies study with the publication of two works: Copi (1961) and Hamblin s (1970) influential book-length treatment of Fallacies.
1.3.1 Copi s (1961) Formal and Informal Fallacies
In his textbook, Introduction to Logic (1961), Copi defined a fallacy as “a form of argument that seems to be correct but which proves, upon examination, not to be so” (IBID. 52). He discussed eleven of Aristotle s fallacies, as well as seven extra ones.
Copi s main contribution to the theory of fallacies is the distinction he made between "formal" and "informal" ones. Formal fallacies are structural in that they draw deductively invalid inferences. Informal fallacies look like good arguments but exhibit errors in reasoning that are either ambiguous´-or-irrelevant to the subject matter (IBID. 53). This set of fallacies includes: accident, converse accident, false cause, petitio principii, complex question, ignoratio elenchi, ad baculum, ad hominem abusive, ad hominem circumstantial, ad ignorantiam, ad misericordiam, ad populum, and ad verecundiam (For fallacies definitions and examples, see
1.3.2 Hamblin (1970)
In this monograph, entitled Fallacies, Hamblin rejected what he dubbed the widely accepted definition of a fallacy as "an argument that seems to be valid but is not so” found in logic text-books by questioning all its terms (i.e. argument, valid, invalid), and by calling for replacing the term "valid argument " with "good argument". Then he argued that "we have lost the doctrine of fallacy and need to rediscover it" (IBID. 11).
In nine chapters, Hamblin discussed Aristotle s list, the Aristotelian tradition, the ancient Indian tradition, formal fallacies, the concept of argument, formal dialectic, and equivocation. In the first chapter, he criticized what he terms "the standard treatment of fallacies" – especially Copi s (1961) – as being "debased, worn-out and dogmatic a treatment as could be imagined—incredibly tradition bound, yet lacking in logic and in historical sense alike, and almost without connection to anything else in modern Logic at all" (IBID. 1970: 12). However, Johnson (1990: 165) blamed Hamblin s critique of the Standard Treatment of the fallacies in textbooks for "lacking argumentation", as well as "misstatements of fact, unfairness to some of the authors, and a failure to give textbooks credit for the innovations they made".
1.3.3 Johnson and Blair (1977)
Hamblin s book exerted great influence upon the study of argumentation in that it helped to revive research in the field of fallacies. In response to Hamblin s critique of the fallacy tradition, Woods and Walton (1989) provided rigorous analyses of fallacies as a critical tool, which drew the attention of logicians to this field. Some more recent works (e.g. Biro and Siegel 2007-;- van Eemeren 2010) aimed at incorporating rhetorical fallacies into the theories of argumentation. It has also led to approaching them from the angle of informal logic, as was the case in Johnson and Blair’s Logical Self-Defense, a textbook first published in 1977, with several subsequently revised editions. By "informal logic", the authors mean "a branch of logic whose task is to develop non-formal standards, criteria, and procedures for the analysis, interpretation, evaluation, critique and construction of argumentation in everyday discourse" (Johnson and Blair, 1977: 148). Thus, in place of the term "valid argument", the authors made use of the concept of cogent argument, whose premises are acceptable, relevant to, and sufficient for its conclusion. This means that this approach replaces "truth" with "acceptability", defined relative to the audience, i.e. the addressees for whom the arguments are intended. According to them, a fallacy is “any argument that violates one of the criteria of good argument … and is committed frequently in argumentative discourse” (Johnson and Blair: 1994, 317–18). Their approach situates the study of fallacies as part of the "the theory of criticism" (Johnson and Blair, 1983: 186-87).
1.3.4 Finnocchiaro (1987)
Similar to Johnson and Blair, Finocchiaro (1987: 263–82), in his "Six Types of Fallaciousness: Toward a Realistic Theory of Logical Criticism", replaced the term fallacies with fallacious arguments, i.e. arguments in which the conclusion fails to follow from the premises. He described six ways in which arguments can be fallacious.
1. Formal fallaciousness (The conclusion does not follow validly from the premises)
2. Explanatory fallaciousness (A specified conclusion follows with no more certainty from the given premises than does a rival conclusion)
3. Presuppositional fallaciousness (An argument depends on a false presupposition)
4. Positive fallaciousness (The given premises - complemented by other propositions taken as true - support a conclusion inconsistent with the given conclusion)
5. Semantical fallaciousness (One sense of the ambiguous term given in the premises makes the premises true, the other false)
6. Persuasive fallaciousness (The conclusion is the same as the premises).
The number of rhetorical fallacies has been increasing in recent research. Thus, for example, Kahane (1971) discussed twenty-five different types of them, LaBossiere (2002-2010) forty-two, and Pirie (2006) seventy-eight. Since the latter model to rhetorical fallacies is one of the most comprehensible to-date, I shall adopt it in data analysis.
1.3.5 Pirie (2006)
In his book: How to Win Every Argument: The Use and Abuse of Logic, Madsen Pirie (2006: ix) defines rhetorical fallacies in broad terms as: " Any trick of logic´-or-language which allows a statement´-or-a claim to be passed off as something it is not". The author considers knowledge of fallacies very beneficial in providing the arguers with a defensive as well as an offensive capability in order to make the arguments go their way (IBID. x).
Pirie describes (78) rhetorical fallacies in alphabetical order, divided into i.) formal ones (involving defects in the structure of reasoning), and ii.) informal ones (involving defective ambiguity´-or-irrelevant use of valid reasoning). These two divisions are further sub-classified into five broad categories (IBID. 179-182) (For fallacies definitions and examples, see
Firstly, formal fallacies include: affirming the consequent, conclusion which denies premises, contradictory premises, denying the antecedent, exclusive premises, existential fallacy, false conversion, illicit process, positive conclusion/negative premises, quaternio terminorum, and undistributed middle.
Secondly, informal linguistic fallacies are: accent, amphiboly, composition, division, equivocation, and reification.
Thirdly, informal fallacies of relevance (omission) include: bogus dilemma, concealed quantification, damning the alternatives, definitional retreat, extensional pruning, hedging, argumentum ad ignorantiam, argumentum ad lapidem, argumentum ad nauseam, one-sided assessment, refuting the example, shifting ground, shifting the burden of proof, special pleading, straw man, the exception that proves the rule, trivial objections, unaccepted enthymemes, and unobtainable perfection.
Fourthly, informal fallacies of relevance (intrusion) cover the rhetorical fallacies of: blinding with science, argumentum ad crumenam, emotional appeals, every schoolboy knows, genetic fallacy, argumentum ad hominem (abusive), argumentum ad hominem (circumstantial), ignoratio elenchi, irrelevant humour, argumentum ad lazarum, loaded words, argumentum ad misericordiam, poisoning the well, argumentum ad populum, the red herring, the runaway train, the slippery slope, tu quoque, argumentum ad verecundiam, and wishful thinking.
Finally, informal fallacies of relevance (presumption) consist in: abusive analogy, accident, analogical fallacy, argumentum ad antiquitam, apriorism, bifurcation, circulus in probando, complex questions, cum hoc ergo propter hoc, dicto simpliciter, ex-post-facto statistics, the gambler s fallacy, non-anticipation, argumentum ad novitam, petitio principia, post hoc ergo propter hoc, secundum quid, argumentum ad temperantiam, Thatcher s blame.
1.4 De-script-ion of Rhetorical Fallacies
In the de-script-ion and examples of rhetorical fallacies given hereunder, Pirie s (2006) model is adopted. In this model, the individual fallacies are alphabetically arranged and numbered, all together.
1. Abusive analogy
This is a specialized version of the ad hominem argument. An in-dir-ect insult to the opponent is made by drawing an analogy that brings him into scorn´-or-disrepute.
Smith has proposed we should go on a sailing holiday, though he knows as much about ships as an Armenian bandleader does.
(Pirie, 2006: 1)
2. Accent
A stress is put on the words´-or-phrases for the purpose of imparting implications to them that are not part of their literal meaning.
He said he would never lie to the American people. You will notice all of the things that left him free to do.
(IBID. : 4)
3. Accident
The accidental´-or-exceptional features of a case are used to justify the rejection of a general rule.
We should reject the idea that it is just to repay what is owed. Supposing a man lends you weapons, and then goes insane? Surely it cannot be just to put weapons into the hands of a madman?
(IBID. : 5)
4. Affirming the consequent
The consequent is affirmed in order to prove the antecedent that has nothing to do with it.
If he had wanted to cut up the body, he would have needed a big saw. Such a saw was found in his toolshed.
(IBID. : 9)
5. Amphiboly
A syntactically ambiguous construction is used so that the whole meaning of a statement can be taken in more than one way.
I met the ambassador riding his horse. He was snorting and steaming, so I gave him a lump of sugar.
(IBID. : 10)
6. Analogical fallacy
Things that are similar in one respect are argued to be also similar in others.
The body politic, like any other body, works best when there is a clear brain -dir-ecting it. This is why authoritarian governments are more efficient.
(IBID. : 11)
7. Antiquitam, argumentant ad (Arguing to the antiquity)
Arguing that something´-or-some act is good´-or-right just because it is old.
You are not having a car. I never had a car, my father never had one, and nor did his father before him.
(IBID. : 14)
8. Apriorism
Instead of testing one s principles with facts, one starts out with certain principles from the first (a priori) for the purpose of using them as the basis for accepting´-or-rejecting the facts.
We don t need to look through your telescope, Mr Galileo. We know there cannot be more than seven heavenly bodies.
(IBID. : 16)
9. Baculum, argumentum ad (Argument to the cudgel´-or-stick)
Force is used as a means of persuasion.
It would be better if you told us what we want to know. After all, we wouldn t want your aged mother´-or-your crippled sister to suffer, would we?
(IBID. : 18)
10. Bifurcation
Another name for this fallacy is "black and white". An either/or situation is presented as the only available option when there is a range of other options.
If you are not with us, you are against us.
(IBID. : 19)
11. Blinding with science
The objectivity of scientific jargon is exploited to get away with making a challengeable statement without being challenged.
The amotivational syndrome is sustained by peer group pressure except where achievement orientation forms a dominant aspect of the educational and social milieu.
(The challengeable argument made here is that people don t work if their friends don t, unless they want to get on.)
(IBID. : 22)
12. The bogus dilemma
Presenting a dilemma where there is none.
If we allow this hostel for problem teenagers to be set up in our area, either it will be empty´-or-it will be full. If it is empty it will be a useless waste of money-;- and if it is full it will bring in more trouble-makers than the area can cope with. Reluctantly, therefore...
(IBID. : 26)
13. Circulus in probando (Circle in proving)
This is a specialized form of the petitio principii fallacy,´-or-circular argument. In it, a fact authenticated by the very conclusion it supports is used as evidence for it.
- I didn t do it, sir. Smith Minor will vouch for my honesty.
- Why should I trust Smith Minor?
- Oh, I can guarantee his honesty, sir.
(IBID. : 27)
14. The complex question (plurium interrogationum)
Plurium interrogationum means: of many questions . In this fallacy, more than one question requiring a yes-or-no answer combine into one in order to make it difficult for the opponent to answer.
Is your stupidity inborn?
(IBID. : 30)
Every one of the questions above contains the pre-assumption that the concealed questions (i.e. causing pollution, making misleading claims, being stupid) has been previously answered affirmatively by the addressee.
This same fallacy can also be involved in asking questions beginning with who ´-or- why about facts that have not been established yet.
Why did you make your wife her will in your favour? And why did you then go along to the chemist to buy rat poison? Why did you then put it into her cocoa, and how did you do it without attracting her attention?
(IBID. : 30)
15. Composition
The claim that what is true for individual members of a class is also true for the class as a whole.
I have gathered into one regiment all of the strongest men in the army. This will be my strongest regiment.
(IBID. : 32)
16. Concealed quantification
The ambiguity of the scope of the expression permits a misunderstanding of the actual quantity which is spoken of.
It is well known that members of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament are communists. (All,´-or-some?)
(IBID. : 34)
17. Conclusion which denies premises
An argument that starts by maintaining that certain things must be true, and ends up with a conclusion that flatly contradicts them.
- Son, because nothing is certain in this world we have to hold on to what experience tells us.
- Are you sure, Dad?
- Yes, son. I m certain.
(IBID. : 36)
18. Contradictory premises
Two premises contradict each other in that they cannot both be true.
Everything is mortal, and God is not mortal, so God is not everything.
(IBID. : 38))
19. Crumenam, argumentum ad (An argument to the purse)
The assumption that those with money are more likely to be correct.
If you re so right, why ain t you rich?
(IBID. : 39)
20. Cum hoc ergo propter hoc (With this, therefore because of this)
Events that co-occur are assumed to be causally connected leaving no room for coincidence,´-or-for the operation of an outside factor.
A tourist met a Spanish peasant and his wife on a train. They had never seen bananas before, so he offered one to each of them. As the farmer bit into his, the train entered a tunnel. Don t eat it, Carmen, he shouted, They make you blind.
(IBID. : 42)
20 Damning the alternatives
Arguing in favour of one alternative while the set of all the alternatives is neither fixed nor known.
a. Hawkins theory has to be the right answer. All the others have been proved hopelessly wrong.
(And his may be proved wrong tomorrow.)
(IBID. : 44)
21. Definitional retreat
changing the meaning of the words in order to deal with an objection raised against the original wording.
- He s never once been abroad.
- As a matter of fact, he has been to Boulogne.
- You cannot call visiting Boulogne going abroad!
(IBID. : 47)
22. Denying the antecedent
Rejecting the possibility that different events can produce similar outcomes.
If I eat too much, I ll be ill. Since I have not eaten too much, I will not be ill.
(IBID. : 49)
23. Dicto simpliciter (From a saying without qualification)
This is the fallacy of sweeping generalization. A broad general rule is applied to an individual case whose special features might make it exceptional.
Of course you voted for the resolution. You re a dock-worker, and your -union- cast 120,000 votes in favour.
(IBID. : 52)
24 Division
Attributing to the individuals in a group something which is only true of the group as a unit.
Welsh-speakers are disappearing. Dafydd Williams is a Welsh-speaker, therefore Dafydd Williams is disappearing.
(IBID. : 53)
25 Emotional appeals
The use of language calculated to arouse that emotion, regardless of reason. The appeals can be targeted to arouse fear (argumentum admetum), envy (ad invidiam), hatred (ad odium), superstition (ad superstitionem) pride (ad superbiam), have a proportion of everything (ad modum),´-or-claiming that sentiment is a better guide than reason (sentimens superior) (IBID. : 56).
There is no way in which Robinson could have solved the problem. That would make him better than we are.
(IBID. : 56-8)
26. Equivocation
Words are used ambiguously, often with intent to deceive.
Happiness is the end of life.
The end of life is death-;-
So happiness is death.
(IBID. : 58-9)
27. Every schoolboy knows
The arguer assures his addresses that every schoolboy knows the truth of what s/he is saying so that the argument passes off unquestioned. The name of this fallacy comes from the start of the argument
Every schoolboy knows that the rate of gene loss from a closed reproductive system is expressed by a simple and well-known formula.
(IBID. : 61)
Similar initiators of this fallacy might be "Everybody knows..-;- We all agree..-;- It is a truism/common knowledge...etc."
28. Exclusive premises
The argument has a conclusion drawn from two negatives premises. In a standard three-line argument (syllogism), there are two premises that provide evidence, and one conclusion deduced from them. However, no conclusion can be validly drawn If both of the premises are negative as is the case in this fallacy.:
No handymen are bakers, and no bakers are fishermen, so no handymen are fishermen.
(IBID. : 65)
29. The existential fallacy
a conclusion is drawn that implies existence from premises which do not imply such an existence.
All UFOs are spaceships, and all spaceships are extraterrestrial, so some UFOs are extraterrestrial.
(IBID. : 68)
30. Ex-post-facto statistics (Out of the aftermath statistics)
The application of probability laws to past events.
I drew the ace of spades. It was only a 1 in 52 chance, but it came up.
(The same applied to all the cards, but one had to come up.)
(IBID. : 69)
31. Extensional pruning
The arguer subsequently retreats from extensional meaning of his words by insisting upon only a literal intentional definition. This fallacy is made possible because words can be understood in two ways: intensionally, by describing the properties of what is referred to-;- and extensionally by giving examples to it.
All we said was that we d install a switchboard. We didn t say it would work.
(IBID. : 73)
32. False conversion
The subject and predicate of a statement is invalidly conversed, as when the invalid statement "all animals are cats" is deduced from the statement: "all cats are animals".
All rats are four-legged animals, so obviously all four-legged animals are rats.
(IBID. : 75)
33. False precision
Exact numbers are used for inexact notions.
People say the Scots are mean, but they have been shown in surveys to be 63 per cent more generous than the Welsh.
(What measurement of generosity allows for that kind of a figure to be put on it?)
(IBID. : 76)
34. The gambler s fallacy
The belief that the next toss (or spin,´-or-draw) will somehow be influenced by the last one (IBID. : 79).
I m backing Hillary Clinton on this one. She can t be wrong all the time.
(Oh yes she can.)
(IBID. : 80)
35. The genetic fallacy
Dismissing an argument´-or-opinion because of disliking its source. This fallacy is also called: damning the origin (IBID. : 82).
Tinkering with genes is fascist talk. That s what Hitler tried to do.
(IBID. : 83)
36. Half-concealed qualification
The argument glosses over a half-concealed qualification through accentuation.
Practically every single case of monetary expansion is followed within months by an attendant general price rise of the same proportions.
(The stress is given to every single to gloss over the half-concealed qualifying word practically .)
(IBID. : 84)
37. Hedging
Sheltering behind ambiguous meanings so that the sense can be changed later.
I said the last thing we wanted in the Middle East was an all-out war, and I stand by that. What we have embarked upon is a-limit-ed war... )
(IBID. : 86)
38. argumentum ad Hominem (abusive), (To the person)
Attacking the arguer in stead of the argument.
Dr Green argues very plausibly for fluoridation. What he does not tell is that he is the same Dr Green who ten years ago published articles favour of both euthanasia and infanticide.
(IBID. : 88)
39. argumentum ad Hominem (circumstantial),
Instead of testing the argument on the basis of the evidence given, the arguer appeals to the special circumstances of the person with whom one is arguing (IBID. : 90).
No one in this university audience can be opposed to handing out state money to subsidize services, otherwise you would not be here, occupying a subsidized place.
(Actually, it is other state handouts which students oppose.)
(IBID. : 91)
40. argumentum ad Ignorantiam, (Argument from ignorance)
Lack of knowledge about something is used in order to infer that its opposite is the case.
Ghosts exist all right. Research teams have spent many years and millions of pounds attempting to prove that they don t-;- and they have never succeeded.
(The same could probably be said of Aladdin s lamp and the prospects for world peace.)
(IBID. : 92)
41. Ignoratio elenchi (Irrelevant conclusion)
The arguer believes her/himself to be proving one thing, but succeeds in proving something else instead (IBID. : 94).
I shall oppose this measure to permit people to leave school earlier proving once again the value of education.
(Proving the value of education does not prove the case against permitting earlier leaving. Perhaps it takes education, as opposed to schooling, to see the difference.)
(IBID. : 95)
42. Illicit process
Making conclusions about things that we have no evidence on, especially by violating the rule that if a term in the conclusion refers to the whole class, then the evidence to that conclusion must also tell about that whole class (IBID. : 97).
All cyclists are economical people, and no farmers are cyclists, so no farmers are economical people.
(IBID. : 98)
43. Irrelevant humour
Jocular material irrelevant to the subject under review is introduced in order to divert attention away from the argument.
a. My opponent s position reminds me of a story...
(Which will not remind the audience of the argument.)
b. QUESTIONER: What do you know about agriculture? How many toes has a pig?
NANCY ASTOR: Why don t you take off your shoes and count them?
(IBID. : 99-100)
44. argumentum ad Lapidem, (Appeal to the stone)
Ignoring the argument altogether by refusing to discuss its central claim.
He s a friend of mine. I won t hear a word spoken against him.
(Top marks for loyalty-;- none for knowledge.)
(IBID. : 102)
45. argumentum ad Lazarum, (Appeal to poverty)
This fallacy, named after the poor man, Lazarus, takes it that the poverty of the arguer enhances the case s/he is making (IBID. : 104).
The best view I ever heard on this was told to me by a simple, honest woodcutter...
(IBID. : 104)
46. Loaded words
Influencing the outcome of a judgment by the deliberate use of prejudiced terms to conjure up an attitude more favourable´-or-more hostile than the unadorned facts would elicit.
(The two headlines tell us the same thing: that the leaders of Germany and France had seen the heads of their armed forces. In Germany these are war lords , but in France they are defence chiefs .)
(IBID. : 106)
47. argumentum ad Misericordiam, (Argument from pity´-or-misery)
Appealing to pity instead of reasoned discourse to support a particular contention.
In asking yourself if this man is to be convicted, ask yourself what it means for him to be locked up in prison, deprived of his liberty, and turned into an outcast from humanity.
(The question is whether he is guilty´-or-not, not what conviction will do to him.)
(IBID. : 109)
48. argumentum ad Nauseam, (Argument by repetition)
Constant repetition, often in the face of massive evidence against a contention, is used to make it more likely to be accepted (IBID. : 111).
Just the place for a Snark! I have said it thrice-;- what I tell you three times is true.
(Whereas in fact if someone repeats the same thing three times it is because he has nothing else to say.)
(IBID. : 112)
49. Non-anticipation
A new idea is rejected on the grounds that if it were any good it should have been already been done´-or-said.
If tobacco really is so harmful, how come people didn t ban it years ago?
(IBID. : 114)
50. argumentum ad Novitam, (Appeal to newness)
Arguing that the newness of an idea is a factor contributing to its soundness.
These new tower-blocks are the coming thing. We should build some ourselves.
(IBID. : 116)
51. argumentum ad Numeram, (Appeal to the people)
Equating the numbers that support a contention with its correctness.
Fifty million Frenchmen can t be wrong!
(A glance at the history of that nation will show that they very often have been.)
(IBID. : 118)
52. One-sided assessment
Only one imbalanced side of the case is taken into consideration (IBID. : 121).
I m not going to get married. There would be all that extra responsibility, not to mention the loss of my freedom. Think of the costs of raising children and putting them through college. Then there are the increased insurance premiums...
(The positive side in marriage is totally ignored.)
(IBID. : 123)
53. Petitio principia (Assuming the initial point)
This fallacy, also called: begging the question , makes use of conclusion as an argument to support that same conclusion.
Justice requires higher wages because it is right that people should earn more.
(Which amounts to saying that justice requires higher wages because justice requires higher wages.)
(IBID. : 124)
54 Hidden Petitio principii
All arguments that claim to prove the unprovable should be carefully scrutinized for hidden petitions.
We should not sell arms to Malaysia because it would be wrong to equip other nations with the means of taking human life.
(This looks and sounds like an argument, but it is really just a clever way of saying that we should not sell arms to Malaysia because we should not sell arms to anyone.)
(IBID. : 125-6)
55. Poisoning the well
Making unpleasant remarks about anyone who might disagree with a chosen position.
Everyone except an idiot knows that not enough money is spent on education.
(IBID. : 127)
56. argumentum ad Populum, (Appeal to popularity)
The arguer appeals to popular attitudes (or uses: mob appeal) instead of presenting relevant material (IBID. : 128).
Are we to see the streets of this ancient land of ours given over to strange faces?
(The prejudice is xenophobia and the implication is that the strange faces do not fit in our streets-;- but no argument is advanced.)
(IBID. : 129 )
57. Positive conclusion from negative premise
A positive conclusion follows from two premises which include one negative one. This fallacy breaks the logical rule that requires an argument to draw only a negative conclusion if one of its two premises is also negative.
Some cats are not stupid, and all cats are animals, so some animals are stupid.
(IBID. : 130)
58. Post hoc ergo propter hoc (After this, therefore on account of this)
Arguing that because one event follows another, then the second has been caused by the first.
Immediately after the introduction of canned peas, the illegitimate birthrate shot up to a new high from which it did not decline until frozen peas edged canned peas out of the market. The link is all too obvious.
(IBID. : 131)
59 Quaternio terminorum (Four terms fallacy)
An argument that violates the standard three-line structure of syllogism (the premise, middle term, and conclusion) by drawing an invalid conclusion from two separate middle terms (IBID. : 133).
John is to the right of Peter, and Peter is to the right of Paul, so John is to the right of Paul.
(IBID. : 134)
60. The red herring
An irrelevant material is used to divert people away from the point being made, and to proceed towards a different conclusion. The name of this fallacy is drawn from the trick of using a red herring, tied to a length of string, to allure the hounds away from their prey.
The police should stop environmental demonstrators from inconveniencing the general public. We pay our taxes.
(IBID. : 136)
61. Refuting the example
Refuting the example cited in support an argument, but leaving the central thesis unchallenged.
Teenagers are very bad-mannered these days. That boy from next door nearly knocked me over in the street yesterday, and didn t even apologize.
You re wrong. Simon is no longer a teenager.
(IBID. : 139)
62. Reification (Hypostatization)
Turning de-script-ive qualities´-or-abstract nouns into real objects.
He realized that he had thrown away his future, and spent the rest of the afternoon trying to find it again.
(IBID. : 140)
63. The runaway train
An argument used to support a course of action could also support more of it (IBID. : 142).
You agreed to allow a bingo hall in the town because people should have the choice to gamble if they want to. I m now proposing to have gaming machines on every street corner for precisely the same reasons.
(IBID. : 144)
64. Secundum quid (Hasty generalization)
Taking the argument from particular cases to a general rule on the basis of inadequate evidence.
I was in Cambridge for ten minutes and I met three people, all drunk. The whole place must be in a state of perpetual inebriation.
(IBID. : 145)
65. Shifting ground
Changing the whole ground the arguer was maintaining, while still claiming continuity.
I said I liked the project and thought it a good one. However, I share the objections you have all voiced, and can only say how much this reinforces a view I have long held that it is not enough for a project to be likeable and good.
(IBID. : 147)
66. Shifting the burden of proof
This is a specialized form of the argumentum ad ignorantiam wherewith an assertion is putt forward without justification, on the basis that the audience must disprove it if it is to be rejected.
Schoolchildren should be given a major say in the hiring of their teachers.
Why should they?
Give me one good reason why they should not.
(IBID. : 149)
67 The slippery slope
Arguing that a single step in a particular -dir-ection must inevitably and irresistibly lead to the whole distance being covered.
I oppose lowering the drinking age from 21 to 18. This will only lead further demands to lower it to 16. Then it will be 14, and before we know it our new-born will be suckled on wine rather than mother s milk.
(IBID. : 151)
68. Special pleading
A speaker demands less strict treatment for the cause which he espouses than he seeks to apply elsewhere. This Special pleading involves the application of a double standard.
Our attempt to engage in conversation was totally spoiled by all the chattering that other people were doing.
(IBID. : 153)
69. The straw man
The arguer, unable to refute his opponent s argument, misrepresents the opponent s position for the express purpose of winning the argument.
- We should liberalize the laws on marijuana.
- No. Any society with unrestricted access to drugs loses its work ethic goes only for immediate gratification.
(IBID. : 156)
In (69), the proposal was to "liberalize" marijuana laws, meaning to "lessen the restrictions imposed upon its legal use". This argument is misrepresented by the opponent by changing the word "liberalize" into "unrestricted", and the word "marijuana" into "drugs", since the proposal of "unrestricted access to drugs" makes a much lesser defendable target.
70. argumentum ad Temperantiam, (Appeal to moderation)
The arguer takes moderation to be a mark of the soundness of a position.
The -union-s have asked for 6 per cent, the management have offered 2 per cent. Couldn t we avoid all the hardship and waste of a lengthy strike, and agree on 4 per cent?
(If we did, next time the -union-s would demand 20 per cent and the management would offer minus 4 per cent.)
(IBID. : 157)
71. Thatcher s blame
Blame is attached no matter what outcome ensues since the evidence is irrelevant when the determination of guilt precedes the outcome of the actions (IBID. : 161).
I ve been asked to a christening, but I m sure they ll give the child some outlandish name that will make it a laughing-stock. Either that´-or-some unbelievably tedious and commonplace name which will make the child seem like a faceless conformist.
(IBID. : 162)
72. Trivial objections
Opposing a contention on the basis of minor and incidental aspects.
I am totally opposed to the new road around the town. It will make all our town maps out of date.
(IBID. : 162)
73. Tu quoque (You also)
A case is undermined by the claim that its proponent is her/himself guilty of it.
You accuse me of abusing my position, but you re the one whose company car is seen propping up the rails at the local race-course!
(IBID. : 164)
74. Unaccepted enthymemes
When one of the stages of an argument is understood rather than stated, then it is called an enthymeme. An unaccepted enthymeme arises when the tacit assumption is not agreed upon by both parties (IBID. : 166).
Darling, I m sorry. Busy people tend to forget such things as anniversaries.
(This is fine until your colleagues mention that you ve done nothing for two months except the Telegraph crossword.)
(IBID. : 168)
75.The undistributed middle
The classic three-liner argument requires that the middle term must cover the whole of its class at least once, otherwise, it is undistributed.
All horses have four legs, and all dogs have four legs, so all horses are dogs.
(IBID. : 168-9).
76. Unobtainable perfection
Lack of perfection is urged as a basis for rejection, even though none of the alternatives is perfect either.
We should ban the generation of nuclear power because it can never be made completely safe.
(Also coal, oil and hydro-electric, all of which kill people every year in production and use. The question should be whether nuclear power would be better´-or-worse than they are.)
(IBID. : 171)
77. argumentum ad Verecundiam, (Appeal to authority)
The arguer appeals to false authority.
Hundreds of leading scientists reject evolution.
(Close examination shows few, if any, whose expertise is in evolutionary biology.)
(IBID. : 173)
78. Wishful thinking
A contention is accepted because the arguer would like it to be true, rather than that which the evidence support.
Going to work in this awful weather would do no good for anyone. I think I ll take the day off and stay in bed.
(IBID. : 176)

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