Abusing the Man: (Latin: argumentum ad hominem) Any attempt to disprove a proposition or argument by launching a personal attack on the author of it. A person’s charac- ter does not necessarily predict the truth or falsity of a proposition or argument. Example: All of Marx’s economic doctrines are hogwash. But this was to be expected given he studied only philosophy in university, not business, and he never even held down a regular job.
Appeal to Authority: (Latin: argumentum ad verecundiam) An attempt to prove a conclusion by an improper appealing to an authority, and this appeal is considered improper when the authority is irrelevant and/or unrecognized. So, an appeal to authority can be relevant and proper when the authority you appeal to is: (1) recognized as having authoritative expertise in that area, and ( 2 ) if we ourselves lack the information, the experience,or cannot firsthand acquire the information required ourselves for the argument. Example: My mom says if I eat watermelon seeds, a plant will grow in my belly and I’ll turn green. Because my mom said it, it is true.
Accident Fallacy: (Latin: a dicto simpliciter ad dictum secundum quid) Also known as the fallacy of sweeping generalization. It is an attempt to apply a general rule to a situation with disregard for relevant exceptions to that rule. In other words, it is taking a general rule and attempting to apply it like a universal one (something that has no exceptions). Example: All birds can fly.
Amphiboly: A fallacy of ambiguity, where the ambiguity in question arises directly from the poor grammatical structure in a sentence. The fallacy occurs when a bad argument relies on the grammatical ambiguity to sound strong and logical. Example: I’m going to return this car to the dealer I bought this car from. Their ad said “Used 1995 Ford Taurus with air conditioning, cruise, leather, new exhaust and chrome rims.” But the chrome rims aren’t new at all.
Appeal to Force: (Latin: argumentum ad baculum) Any attempt to make someone accept a proposition or argument by using some type of force or threat, possibly including the threat of violence. Example: Company policy concerning customer feedback is “it’s either perfect ( 100% ) or we failed ( 99% or less).” Anyone who doesn’t support this will be fired.
Appeal to Ignorance: (Latin: argumentum ad Ignorantiam; Also known as Burden of Proof or Argument from Incredulity) The attempt to argue for or against a proposition or position because there is a lack of evidence against or for it: I argue X because there is no evidence showing not-X. As another example, in debate the burden of proof is placed on the affirmative team. As a final example, in most cases the burden of proof rests on those who claim something exists (such as Bigfoot, psychic powers, universals, and sense data). Example: There is intelligent life on Neptune, for sure. Science has not found any evidence that there isn’t life there.
Appeal to Novelty: (Latin: argumentum ad novitatem) This fallacy is the opposite of appeal to tradition, in that it is the attempt to claim that the newness or modernity of something is evidence of its truth and superiority. Example: String Theory is a new and rising research area in particle physics, and therefore it must be true.
Appeal to Pity: (Latin: argumentum ad misericordiam) Any attempt to make someone accept a proposition or argument by arousing their emotions. A strong emotional appeal is meant to subvert someone’s rational thinking. Example: The defendant should not be found guilty of this crime. Her life has been filled with endless abuse, a lack of love and respect, and so many hardships.
Appeal to Popularity: (Latin: argumentum ad numeram) The attempt to use the popularity of a position or premise as evidence for its truthfulness. Example: Eating quinoa daily is a healthy thing everyone is doing, so it must be the right choice.
Appeal to Tradition: (Latin: argumentum ad antiquitatem) This fallacy happens when someone cites the historical preferences and practices of a culture or even a particular person, as evidence for a proposition or argument being correct. Example: We have turkey for Thanksgiving dinner and duck for Christmas dinner every year, because that is how my parents and grandparents did it.
Begging the Question: (Latin: Petitio Principii) The fallacy of attempting to prove something by assuming the very thing you are trying to prove. In its form, the conclusion occurs as one of the premises, or concerning a chain of arguments the final conclusion is a premise in an earlier argument. This is a fallacy that rests on a circular argument. Example: All of the statements in Smith’s book Crab People Walk Among Us are true. Why, he even says in the preface that his book only contains true statements and firsthand stories.
Equivocation: (Also known as doublespeak) A fallacy that occurs when one uses an ambiguous term or phrase in more than one sense, thus rendering the argument misleading. The ambiguity in this fallacy is lexical and not grammatical, meaning the term or phrase that is ambiguous has two distinct meanings. One can often see equivocation in jokes. Example: If you don’t pay your exorcist you can get repossessed. Example: A feather is light; whatever is light cannot be dark; therefore, a feather cannot be dark.
Fallacy of Composition: (Also known as exception fallacy) The fallacy of assuming that when a property applies to all members of a class, it must also apply to the class as a whole. Example: Every player in the NHL is wealthy; therefore, the NHL must be a wealthy organization.
Fallacy of Division: (Also known as false division, or faulty division) The fallacy of assuming that when a property applies to the class as a whole, it must also apply to every member of that class as well. Example: The US Republican Party platform states that abortion is wrong and should be illegal. Therefore, every republican must believe a woman doesn’t have the right or freedom to choose.
Fallacy of the Undistributed Middle: (Also known as undistributed middle term) A formal fallacy that occurs in a categorical syllogism, when the middle term is undistributed is not distributed at least in one premise. According to the rules of categorical syllogism, the middle term must be distributed at least once for it to be valid. Example: All ghosts are spooky; all zombies are spooky; therefore all ghosts are zombies.
False Cause: (Latin: Post hoc ergo propter hoc) This fallacy happens when one argues that because X happened immediately after Y, that Y was the cause of X. Or, when concerning event types: event type X happened immediately after event type Y, therefore event type Y caused event type X. In a sense, it is jumping to a conclusion based upon coincidence, rather than on sufficient testing, repeated occurrence, or evidence. Example: The sun always rises a few minutes after the rooster crows. So, the rooster crowing causes the sun to rise.
False Dilemma: (Also known as false dichotomy, black-and-white fallacy) A fallacy that happens when only two choices are offered in an argument or proposition, when in fact a greater number of possible choices exist between the two extremes. False dilemmas typically contain ‘either, or’ in their structure. Example: Either you help us kill the zombies, or you love them.
Hasty Generalization: (Also known as argument from small numbers, unrepresentative sample) This fallacy occurs in the realm of statistics. It happens when a conclusion or generalization is drawn about a population and it is based on a sample that is too small to properly represent it. Example: My Grandfather drank a bottle of whiskey and smoked three cigars a day, and he lived to be 95 years old. Therefore, daily smoking and drinking cannot be that bad for you.
Loaded Question Fallacy: (Also known as complex question, fallacy of presupposition, trick question ) The fallacy of asking a question that has a presupposition built in, which implies something (often questionable) but protects the person asking the question from accusations of false claims or even slander. Example: Have you stopped beating your wife yet?
Naturalistic Fallacy: (Latin: argumentum ad Naturam) A fallacy that occurs when a person bases their argument of position on the notion that what is natural is better or what ‘ought to be’. In other words, the foundation for the argument or position is a value judgment; the fallacy happens when the argument shifts from a statement of fact to one of value. Example: It is only natural to feel angry sometimes; therefore there is nothing wrong with feeling angry.
Non Sequitur Fallacy: (From Latin, means ‘does not follow’) A logical fallacy that is most often absurd, where the premises have no logical connection with or relevance to the conclusion. Example: The police have not been able to crack this homicide cold case, so they’ve called a psychic in to help out. They have tried all the traditional police investigation methods and the case still isn’t solved. Therefore, the psychic (the non-traditional method) is needed.
Red Herring: (Latin: Ignoratio elenchi) This fallacy involves the raising of an irrelevant issue in the middle of an argument, derailing the original discussion, and causing the argument to contain two totally different and unrelated issues. Example: The ‘Occupy Wall Street’ protesters complain that corporations and their money control Washington. But how can we take them seriously when their camps are messy, disorganized, with homeless people and drug addicts now living with them, and they are making life hell for the shop owners in their area?
Straw Man Fallacy: Like the red herring, a straw man tends to happen when one person is criticizing or attacking another’s position or argument. It occurs when a person misrepresents or purposely distorts the position or argument of their opponent in order to weaken it, thus defeating it more easily. Example: The Leader of the Opposition is against the purchase of new submarines and helicopters. Clearly he is okay with our country being defenseless and open to invasion by our enemies. He also obviously hates our country. So, be ready to learn a new language and give up all our freedoms!
Weak Analogy: (Also known as faulty analogy, questionable analogy) When someone uses an analogy to prove or disprove an argument or position by using an analogy that is too dissimilar to be effective. Two important things to remember about analogies: No analogy is perfect, and even the most dissimilar objects can share some commonality or similarity. Analogies are neither true nor false, but come in degrees from identical or similar to extremely dissimilar or different. Example: Not believing in the monster under the bed because you have yet to see it is like not believing the Titanic sank because no one saw it hit the bottom.