Common Fallacies

A fallacy is an error in logic, a misleading or incorrect belief, and is the basis for an unsound argument. Below are some common fallacies. Encountering a fallacy in an argument doesn't necessarily mean the argument is false; it just means that the point hasn't been argued correctly. Strive to avoid fallacies in your arguments as well as sources that contain fallacies in order to strengthen your position.

This page presents only a few fallacies that are most common in arguments. There are many resources available on the web if you'd like to learn more. Try searching Google for: common fallacies in arguments.

Ad Hominem Expand_plus

Attacking the person instead of the argument
  1. You are so stupid you're argument couldn't possibly be true
  2. Senator X can't be right because he's a moron

Appeal to the Popular Expand_plus

Arguing that a certain position must be correct because the majority of people, in the speaker's opinion, agree to it.
  1. All of my neighbors are going to vote for Sally to be the head of the school board. You should too.
  2. Most Americans don't want a government-run health care option. Therefore, nationalized health care would be bad for America.

Appeal to Tradition (Appeal to Common Practice) Expand_plus

Arguing that a position must be true because it has been done or believed for a long time.
  1. This is the way we've always done it. Therefore, it is the right way.
  2. This law has been around since 1804! It must be a good law since it's been around so long.

Begging the Question (Circular Logic) Expand_plus

Assuming the argument you are trying to prove is true, or using your own argument as proof that the argument is correct.
  1. God exists because the Bible says so. The Bible is inspired. Therefore, we know that God exists.
  2. You can't give me a D in this class; I'm an A student!

Emotional Appeal (Appeal to Pity, Appeal to Fear) Expand_plus

Arguing that a conclusion must be true through an appeal to emotions such as pity, anger, or fear.
  1. It's so sad that the bank foreclosed on my neighbor's house. The bank is completely wrong to do that.
  2. What's in your refrigerator could kill you - details at 11.

False Dichotomy (Either-Or, Oversimplification) Expand_plus

Simplifying the possible choices in an argument to two. Often one of the two is given favorable treatment, while the other choice is cast as a dangerous alternative.
  1. Our only choices for preventing an energy crisis in the future are either wind or solar power.
  2. If you don't give me an A, I won't get into Law School!

Faulty Causality (Post hoc ergo propter hoc) Expand_plus

Usually translated as "after this, therefore because of this," arguing that a certain effect must be caused by an event simply due to their relationship in time.
  1. My child was vaccinated 5 years ago, and now he has developed autism. This proves that vaccines cause autism.
  2. I had a cold last week, and I drank a lot of orange juice over the weekend. I feel better this week, so orange juice must've cured my cold.

Hasty Generalization Expand_plus

Drawing a conclusion from insufficient evidence.
  1. Any stereotype.
  2. We know that Senator X is going to win the election next week based on the poll results. The poll quoted predominantly surveyed people in Senator X's party.

Slippery Slope Expand_plus

Arguing that a tiny misstep or decision made now will cause tomorrow's disaster. Slippery slope arguments are similar to scare tactics in that the presented consequences are usually greatly exaggerated.
  1. Legalizing gay marriage will cause the downfall of our society.
  2. If we start giving everyone the Wednesday before Thanksgiving off, before you know it, we'll have to give everyone the whole week off.
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