Logical fallacies are errors in reasoning that occur when arguments are constructed or evaluated. They are deceptive and misleading, often leading to false or weak conclusions. Recognizing and avoiding logical fallacies is essential for critical thinking and effective communication.
These flaws in rhetorical logic can be observed aplenty in modern political and civil discourse. They are among the easiest types of argument to dispel, because their basic type has been discredited and compiled together with other discarded forms of rational persuasion, to make sure that ensuing generations don’t fall for the same tired old unethical ideas.
By understanding and identifying these common logical fallacies, individuals can sharpen their critical thinking skills and engage in more productive, rational discussions. Recognizing fallacies also helps avoid being swayed by deceptive or unsound arguments — which abound in increasing volume thanks to the prevalence of misinformation, disinformation, and disingenuous forms of motivated reasoning.
|Logical fallacy||Explanation||Example / Notes|
|ad hominem attack||attacking something about the character of the opposing side, instead of engaging with the argument or offering a critique|
|ambiguity||using double meanings and language ambiguity to mislead|
|anecdotal||appeal to a personal, individual observation as relates to the topic in question||often used to dismiss statistical analysis|
|appeal to authority||using opinion of authority figure or institution in place of an actual argument|
|appeal to emotion||manipulating emotional response in lieu of valid argument||a huge part of Donald Trump's playbook|
|appeal to nature||arguing that b/c something is “natural” it is valid / justified / inevitable / good / ideal|
|bandwagon||appealing to popularity as evidence of validation||Retort: "When everyone once believed the earth was flat — did that make it true?"|
|begging the question||when conclusion is included in the premise||one form of circular argument (tautology is another)|
|black or white||presenting two alternative states as the only options, when more possibilities exist||very commonly used by political and media resources as a way to polarize issues|
|burden of proof||claiming the responsibility lies with someone else to disprove one's claim (& not with the claimant to prove it)|
|composition/division||assuming what is true of one part of something must be applied to all parts|
|fallacy fallacy||presuming that a poorly argued claim, or one in which a fallacy has been made, is wrong|
|false cause||presuming that a real or perceived relationship between things implies causation|
|gambler's fallacy||putting a tremendous amount of weight on previous events, believing they will influence future outcomes (even when outcome is random)||also a psychological bias|
|genetic||value judging based on where something comes from|
|loaded question||asking a question with an assumption built in, so it can't be answered without appearing guilty|
|middle ground||claiming a compromise between two extremes must be the truth||the media establishment is often guilty of this for a number of reasons: lack of time for thorough inquiry; need for ratings; available field of pundits and wonks; established programming formats, and so on|
|no true scotsman||making an appeal to purity as a way to dismiss relevant criticisms or flaws|
|personal incredulity||saying that because a concept or argument is difficult to understand, it can't be true|
|slippery slope||arguing that a small change or decision will inevitably lead to larger-than-intended (perhaps even disastrous) consequences rapidly|
|special pleading||moving goalpost to create exceptions when a claim is shown to be false|
|strawman||misrepresenting someone's argument to make it easier to attack|
|texas sharpshooter||cherry-picking data to suit an argument, or finding a pattern to fit a presumption||the impending era of big data will increase the prevalence of this type of sheister|
|tu quoque||avoiding having to engage with criticism by criticizing the accuser|
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