You've seen them on social media. You heard them in the film's dialogue. Heck, you've probably used them.
They are logical fallacies, those not very logically sound statements that may seem sound at first glance but fall apart the moment you think twice about them.
logical fallacies areeverywhere🇧🇷 Once you know how to recognize them, you'll notice how common they are and how they can undermine the point the writer is trying to get across. Being able to spot logical fallacies in other people's writing as well as your own will make you a more critical thinker, which in turn will make you a stronger writer and reader.
say what you mean
Grammarly helps you communicate efficiently
What is a logical fallacy?
A logical fallacy is an argument that can be refuted through reasoning. This is different from an argument that is subjective or that can be refuted with facts; for a position to be a logical fallacy, it ishave tobe logically flawed or misleading in any way.
Compare the following two refutable arguments. Only one of them contains a logical fallacy:
- If you go outside without a coat, you'll catch a cold.
- If you go outside without a coat, you'll catch a cold and infect the rest of the family. So your sister will have to cut class, get a bad grade and fail the course.
Can you identify the logical fallacy in the second argument? It is aslippery slopefallacy, a position that asserts that very specific consequences will follow an action. While both claims may prove to be incorrect by going coatless and staying perfectly healthy (and pointing to the proven fact thatthe only way to catch a cold is to be exposed to a virus), the first is simply wrong, it has no logical flaws.
The history of logical fallacies.
Logical fallacies are probably as old as language itself, but they were recognized and listed as such for the first time in theNyāya-Sutras, the founding text of the Nyāya school of Hindu philosophy. This text, written somewhere between the 6th century B.C. C. and the 2nd century AD. C. and attributed to Akṣapāda Gautama, identified five different ways in which an argument can be logically flawed.
The Greek philosopher Aristotle also wrote about logical fallacies. He identified thirteen fallacies, divided into verbal and material fallacies, in his workSophistic refutations.By Aristotle's definition, a verbal fallacy is one in which the language used is ambiguous or incorrect, and a material fallacy is an argument that involves faulty or faulty reasoning.
Today, our understanding of logical fallacies comes from these sources, as well as the contributions of later scholars such as Richard Whately and Francis Bacon.
Where can I find logical fallacies?
You will find logical fallacies almost everywhere you find people discussing and usingrhetoric, especially in spaces that are not academic or professional in nature. In fact, we can almost guarantee that you've come across logical fallacies on social media, especially in comments on controversial posts. But keep in mind that they can and do show up in academic writing, especially in the types ofwritingwhere the author has to defend a position, such asargumentative essaysypersuasive writing🇧🇷 They may even appear inexpository writing.
Logical fallacies are not limited to a single age group, political affiliation, gender, race, religion, subculture or other shared characteristic: they are universally human. Our brains aren't perfect, and even smart people can fall prey to logically inconsistent statements and arguments. Typically, people make these kinds of statements because they haven't had time to think them through logically, not because they intend to make the wrong argument. But in some cases the writer or speakerdoesyou intend to make a flawed argument, usually in an attempt to sway readers' opinions or make your opposition look worse.
The best way to avoid logical errors in your own writing is to become familiar with them and learn to recognize them. That way, they will stand out when you read your first draft and you'll see exactly where your essay needs careful revision.
What are the 15 common types of logical fallacies?
As you will see below, there is abatchways in which an argument can be flawed. Take a look at fifteen of the most commonly used logical fallacies.
1for the man
An ad hominem fallacy is one that attempts to invalidate an opponent's position based on a personal trait or fact about the opponent rather than logic.
Example: Katherine is a poor choice for mayor because she didn't grow up in this town.
ONEsmokescreenit is an attempt to divert the focus of the current debate by introducing an irrelevant point.
Example:Losing a tooth can be scary, but have you heard of the Tooth Fairy?
ONEstraw man argumentis one who argues against a hyperbolic and inaccurate version of the opposition rather than their actual argument.
Example: Erin believes we need to stop using all plastics, right now, to save the planet from climate change.
A misnomer is a statement made to mislead or confuse readers or listeners by using multiple meanings or interpretations of a word or by simply using unclear words.
Example:While I have a clear budget plan for the campus that accounts for every dollar spent, my opponent simply wants to invest money in special interest projects.
Using a slippery slope fallacy, the arguer claims that a specific series of events will follow a starting point, usually without evidence to support that chain of events.
Example: If we make an exception for Bijal's guide dog, other people will want to bring their dogs. Then everyone will bring their dogs, and before you know it, our restaurant will be overrun with dogs and their drool and their hair and all the noise they make, and no one will want to eat here anymore.
A hasty generalization is a statement made after considering only one or a few examples, rather than relying on more extensive research to support the statement. It is important to note that what constitutes sufficient research depends on the topic at hand and the claim that is made about it.
Example: I got nauseous both times I had Georgio's pizza, so I must be allergic to something in the pizza.
7appeal to authority
In an appeal to authority, the arguer claims knowledge of an authority figure to support a claim, even if that knowledge is irrelevant or exaggerated.
Example: If you want to be healthy, you must stop drinking coffee. I read about it on a fitness blog.
A false dilemma, also known as a false dichotomy, states that there are only two options in a given situation. Often these two options are extremes of each other, not recognizing that other, more reasonable options exist.
Example:If you don't support my decision, you were never really my friend.
With the car fallacy, the arguer claims that a certain action is the right thing to do because it is popular.
Example:Of course, it's okay to wait until the last minute to write your work. Everyone does it!
10appeal to ignorance
A plea to ignorance is a claim that something must be true because it has not been proven false. It can also be a statement that something must be false because it has not been proven to be true. This is also known as the burden of proof fallacy.
Example: There must be fairies living in our attic because no one has ever proved that there aren't fairies living in our attic.
A circular argument is one that uses the same statement as both the premise and the conclusion. No new information or justification is introduced.
Example: Bell peppers are the easiest vegetables to grow because I believe bell peppers are the easiest vegetables to grow.
12sunk cost fallacy
With the sunk cost fallacy, the arguer justifies his decision to pursue a particular course of action by the amount of time or money he has already spent on it.
Example:I'm not enjoying this book but I bought it so I have to finish reading it.
13call for mercy
An appeal to pity attempts to sway the opinion of a reader or listener by emotionally provoking them.
Example: I know I should have been on time for the interview, but I woke up late and felt really bad about it, so the stress of being late made it hard for me to concentrate on driving here.
A causal fallacy is one that implies a relationship between two things where one cannot be proved.
Example:When ice cream sales increase, so do shark attacks. Therefore, buying ice cream increases the risk of being bitten by a shark.
15appeal to hypocrisy
An appeal to hypocrisy, also known as the tu quoque fallacy, is a rebuttal that responds to a claim with reactive criticism rather than a response to the claim itself.
Example: "You don't have enough experience to be the new leader." "Neither you!"
While this list covers the most common logical fallacies, it is not exhaustive. Other logical fallacies include theis not true Scottishfallacy ("New Yorkers double the pizza, so you must not really be from New York if you eat yours with silverware") and theTexas sniperfallacy (selecting data to support a claim rather than drawing a logical conclusion from a large body of evidence).
Examples of logical fallacies
Take a look at these examples and see if you can spot the logical fallacy:
- My dad scolded me for getting a speeding ticket, so I asked him about all the tickets he racked up when he was my age.
- Aliens do not exist. If they did, we would have seen one by now.
- I want to change my course to English but I am very close to finishing my chemistry course.
These are just a few examples of common logical fallacies (appeal to hypocrisy, appeal to ignorance, and sunk cost, respectively) that we encounter in everyday speech. The next time you listen to conversations or read debates online, think carefully about the arguments being presented and determine whether they fit into one of the categories of fallacies listed above.
How to avoid using logical fallacies
The most effective way to avoid using logical fallacies in your work is to think carefully about each argument you make, tracing your mental steps to ensure that each one can be supported by facts and does not contradict other statements you've made in your work. Do this during the brainstorming phase so you can separate the strong ideas from the weak ones and choose which ones to include in your work. Continue to validate (and, where necessary, invalidate) your ideas as you move through the description stage, noting the evidence you have to support your claims under each heading.
Don't just back up their claims, challenge them! Imagine that you are defending an opposing position and want to expose the flaws in your original argument.
If you find logical fallacies in your writing, take the time to reconstruct your positions so they are logically sound. This might mean changing the way you approach and explain your argument, or tweaking the argument itself. Remember, using a logical fallacy does not necessarily mean that the idea being discussed is incorrect; it may be an objective fact or a defensible opinion, but it is simply presented in an illogical manner.
Frequently asked questions about logical fallacies
What is a logical fallacy?
A logical fallacy is an argument that can be refuted through reasoning.
Why do people use logical fallacies?
People use logical fallacies for different reasons. In some cases, speakers and writers intentionally use logical fallacies in an effort to make their opposition seem worse, simplify an issue, or make their own position seem superior. In other cases, people use them unintentionally, either because they haven't thought their statements through or don't understand why their arguments are logically flawed.
What are the logical fallacies and their definitions? ›
Logical fallacies are flawed, deceptive, or false arguments that can be proven wrong with reasoning. There are two main types of fallacies: A formal fallacy is an argument with a premise and conclusion that doesn't hold up to scrutiny. An informal fallacy is an error in the form, content, or context of the argument.What are the example of logical fallacies? ›
Example: Person A: "Dogs are great companions because I love them." Person B: "Well, it's clear to me that you are using the anecdotal evidence fallacy to prove your point. Due to this, I find it hard to believe that dogs make good pets."What are the 6 common logical fallacies that we must avoid? ›
- Hasty Generalization. A Hasty Generalization is an informal fallacy where you base decisions on insufficient evidence. ...
- Appeal to Authority. ...
- Appeal to Tradition. ...
- Post hoc ergo propter hoc. ...
- False Dilemma. ...
- The Narrative Fallacy. ...
- 6 Logical Fallacies That Can Ruin Your Growth.
Example: “People have been trying for centuries to prove that God exists. But no one has yet been able to prove it. Therefore, God does not exist.” Here's an opposing argument that commits the same fallacy: “People have been trying for years to prove that God does not exist.What are the 5 logical fallacy? ›
- (1) Red Herring Fallacy. ...
- (2) Strawman Fallacy. ...
- (3) Slippery Slope Fallacy. ...
- (4) Begging the Question Fallacy. ...
- (5) Post Hoc Fallacy.
The common fallacies are usefully divided into three categories: Fallacies of Relevance, Fallacies of Unacceptable Premises, and Formal Fallacies. Many of these fallacies have Latin names, perhaps because medieval philosophers were particularly interested in informal logic.What are the 5 types of fallacy? ›
Five of the most common fallacies are the Appeal to Ignorance, the False Dilemma, the False Cause, Ambiguity, and the Red Herring.What are the major types of definitions in logic? ›
In logic, extensional and intensional definitions are two key ways in which the objects, concepts, or referents a term refers to can be defined.