Logical Fallacies

Logical fallacies are errors of either formal or informal logic that render an argument invalid even if it is true. For example, saying, “The sky is blue because my mom says it is” is a fallacious appeal to authority, rendering the argument invalid even though the statement that the sky is blue is correct.

Use of Logical Fallacies

Logical fallacies are common rhetorical devices and are particularly likely to be used in political arguments, religious debates, on commercials, and in emotionally charged discussions. Philosophers have categorized logical fallacies for thousands of years, but the use of fallacies is still commonplace. Fallacies merely demonstrate that an argument is poorly formed and can be used to undermine the logic used to reach a conclusion; they do not demonstrate that an argument is false. Some logicians have argued that repeatedly pointing out another person’s logical fallacies in order to win an argument is, in itself, a logical fallacy.

Examples of Fallacies

There are hundreds of logical fallacies, and philosophers and logicians frequently propose new fallacies and debate the definitions of old fallacies. Some common, well-accepted fallacies include:

  • Ad hominem attacks attack a person rather than an argument. A political candidate might, for example, emphasize his or her opponent’s marital infidelity rather than discussing national defense or healthcare.
  • Strawman fallacies mischaracterize another’s arguments. In a political argument, a person might characterize an argument in favor of lower taxes as an argument in favor of ensuring that the homeless never get any services and the rich get richer.
  • Red herring fallacies distract from the primary issue. These fallacies often incorporate elements of other fallacies. For example, a political candidate who calls his opponent a socialist in response to a question about healthcare is committing both a red herring to distract and an ad hominem fallacy to attack.

Reference:

  1. Gula, R. J. (2002). Nonsense: A handbook of logical fallacies. Mount Jackson, VA: Axios Press.

Last Updated: 08-11-2015

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