FALLACIES OF LANGUAGE AND LOGIC
1. Emotional Terms, Expressions and Stereotypes: Slurs and hyperboles used to arouse a feeling of acceptance or rejection.
“He’s a man of God”
She’s a typical, bleeding-heart liberal”
“He’s a politician.”
“Those wetbacks and towel-heads are stealing our jobs!”
2. Metaphor: Inappropriate comparisons in choosing words or phrases.
“Infant technologies are emerging from the womb of progress.”
3. Simile: An analogy offered for comparison, using “like” or ‘as.”
“Trying to get through this exercise is like beating my head against the wall.”
4. Personification: Attributing human qualities to a non-human or inanimate object.
“The economy is struggling.”
“Your flowers want more water.”
5. Accent: Stressing selective words in an oral or written presentation for emphasis.
“We shouldn’t speak negatively of our friends.” (Emphasizing any one word changes the meaning)
6. Quoting out of Context: Selecting only a portion of a quote to support your argument.
(The love of) “Money is the root of all evil.”
(I never said) “You’re an idiot!”
(With this loan, I don’t have to announce) “We’re going bankrupt!”
7. Slogan: Brief statements used to identify a product, stimulate thought or promote action.
“The reason for the season”
“Yes we can!”
“Things go better with Coke,”
“Better dead than Red.”
8. Vague, Undefined or Ambiguous Terms: Avoiding specifics by using catch-all terms or phrases.
“I support good education.”
“Vote for liberty!”
“I’ll represent all of you in Washington!”
9. Amphibole: Careless arrangement of words, conveying the wrong message.
“The subject of tonight’s lecture is homicidal maniacs; we’re expecting a large turnout.”
10. Appearance: Images set by clothes, jewelry, homes, cars, facial expressions, society, professions, etc. Examples: Parades, royalty, musicians, news broadcasters, doctors
Avoiding the Question
1. Red Herring: Using an irrelevant point in an attempt to prove an argument.
“Floridians are courageous; they live in the path of hurricanes.”
2. Ad Hominem: Attacking an opponent’s character or beliefs instead of disproving his argument.
“That Mr. Smith is a poor teacher, he got caught smoking pot once.”
“How can you accept Einstein’s theory of relativity? He was an agnostic who believed in evolution.”
3. Genetic Fallacy: Condemning or supporting an argument on a basis of its origin or history.
“Religion is bunk; it comes from an age of superstition.”
“Who are you going to believe, some black guy from Harlem or an ordained priest?”
4. Tu Quoque (You Too): Dismissing a viewpoint because the speaker doesn’t exemplify it.
An investment broker who drives an old, beat-up car
An obese weight-reduction clinician
A divorced marriage counselor
5. Faulty Appeal to Authority: Accepting authority from someone who isn’t knowledgeable in that area.
“My dentist says that Cubans are all communists.”
“The librarian told me that next year we’ll have a warm winter.”
6. Appeal to the People (Might is Right): If enough people believe in something, it must be true.
Most Americans believe that invading Iraq was a good idea.
Most Americans vacation in Florida, so it must be the nicest place to live.
1. Circular Reasoning: Attempting to prove an argument by restating it.
“College develops your mind by making you think better.”
2. Equivocation: Changing the meaning of a word in the middle of an argument.
“You call me irresponsible, yet anytime anything goes wrong, you say I’m responsible!”
3. Loaded (leading) Question: Asking a question in a manner which implies an answer to a second question.
“Do you steal things very often?
“Are you still cheating on your taxes?”
4. Part to Whole: Asserting that if part of a statement is true, the entire argument must be true.
“Since warm air is lighter than cold air, when I blow up this balloon it will float upward.”
“Twenty people came into our store in the last five minutes; we’ll be rich by noon!”
“Jim comes from a nice family; I know you’ll like him.”
5. Whole to Part: Asserting that if a statement is true, all of its parts must be true.
“With most patients indigent, Doctors overpaid, and insurance rates sky high, no wonder our hospitals are financially stressed!”
6. Either-Or (Black or white): Asserting only two alternatives when there are many more.
“Are you for or against pay raises for American workers?”
“Are you a left-wing liberal or a right-wing conservative?”
“Since evolution is a fact, and you don’t believe in it, you’re irrational.”
1. Hasty Generalization: A large generalization based on a small or incorrect example.
“John Wilkes Booth was an Episcopalian; shows you what they teach you!”
“The Sanders moved here from Tampa and want zoning; those Floridians want to change everything.”
2. Weak Analogy: Claiming that minor similarities are the equivalent of sameness.
“Arabs, Hindus – all those rag heads think alike.”
“Children should be treated strictly; after all, spare the rod and spoil the child.”
3. Post hoc, ergo propter hoc: Asserting that a precedent is necessarily a cause.
“I dropped my Bible into the toilet; the next morning my aunt died.”
“The day after the Democrats won the election, the stock market fell nearly 100 points.”
4. Proof by lack of evidence: Assuming something must be true if there’s no evidence to the contrary.
“Of course demons are invisible; have you ever seen one?”
1. Appeal to Fear: An attempt to convince by threat or fear.
“If I’m not elected President, terrorism will increase”
“Get those druggies off the streets before they kill you!”
“We need to re-roof your home now; if it starts leaking it will ruin your ceilings, walls, floor, and furniture.”
2. Appeal to Pity: Persuasion by arousing sympathy.
“These poor homeless kids deserve better education, and if I’m elected, they’ll get it!”
“Officer, my uncle just died and I’m trying to lose weight; do I really deserve this speeding ticket?”
3. Bandwagon: Pressure to be part of the crowd.
“It’s going to be a great concert; everyone will be there!”
“Tune in with the rest of America, watch Fox News!”
4. Exigency: Imposing a time limit to force a decision.
“Only $19.95 if you call in the next 20 minutes!”
“Jimmy, you get down off the roof this instant! One, two, three…..”
“If you don’t take the job, there are six more candidates waiting outside the office!”
5. Repetition: Constantly repeating a message in the hope that it will be accepted.
“M&Ms….Mmmmmmmm…M&Ms are great for snacks. Get a bag of M&Ms today!”
“It’s time for a change.”
“Flip-flop, flip-flop, flip-flop….”
6. Transfer: An attempt to associate a good or bad impression with something unrelated.
A TV ad shows a car being driven through beautiful scenery by an attractive model.
A housing development in the wilderness is named Mountain View Estates.
7. Snob Appeal: Assurance that a product will make us superior or enviable.
”Weed-No-Mor will give you the most beautiful lawn on your street.”
“Look, Marge; Sally is wearing her new diamond necklace from Jim’s Jewelry Mart!”
8. Appeal to Tradition: The argument that old values are better values.
“Made by skilled craftsmen in the time-honored tradition.”
“It was good enough for my grandpa; it’s good enough for me!”
“We’ve made cars this way for 50 years, and we aren’t changing now!”
9. Appeal to Hi-tech: Arguing that the latest thing is the best thing, often using techno-babble.
“New washday Cyclo-Scrub now contains Oxy-Catalyst for fast, clean, softening action.”