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Fallacy

A fallacy is a faulty or erroneous argument. It depends on poor premises and an illogical conclusion. It is used in literature as well as in everyday conversations.

Fallacies are quite common and usually fairly easy to stop. There are also several different types of fallacies. They are appeal to ignorance, appeal to popular opinion, appeal to authority, association, attacking the person, begging the question, circular, relationship implies causation, false dilemma (also known as false dichotomy), illogical conclusion, syllogism fallacy, and slippery slope (they are explored below in detail). 

Depending on the argument, someone might use a fallacy intentionally. This could occur in a debate, speech, in advertising, or even for the purposes of comedy. The listener should be able to spot the fallacy, but often, if it’s created cleverly, it goes unnoticed, and the audience is taken in by it. This can be quite dangerous depending on what the audience is being persuaded to believe or do. In these instances, fallacies can insult someone’s character, diver the argument (red herring), use circular reasoning, make illogical jumps, use selective facts (also known as card stacking), and more. 

Fallacy pronunciation: fah-luh-see

Fallacy definition and examples

 

Definition of Fallacy 

Fallacious arguments are those that contain false or faulty reasoning. Sometimes, they are created to appear more believable and true than they really are. This means that on some occasions, the speaker realizes they’re making a poor argument, while on other occasions, they’re unaware of their illogical reasoning. The soundness of an argument depends on which context it’s made in as well as its structure. For example, a formal fallacy is that which contains a flaw in the deductive argument that renders the who argument invalid. An informal fallacy originates in an error in reasoning, something besides an illogical form. These fallacies sometimes exploit one’s emotions, a psychological weakness, and other intellectual weak spots. 

Although it seems like it should be easy to find and ignore fallacious arguments, they can be quite convincing, especially if they’re delivered with confidence. If one can learn how to spot these arguments, it’s going to result in an improved ability to create better, more logical arguments. 

 

Types of Fallacies 

Below are a few of the many different types of fallacies one might encounter in speeches, everyday conversations, literature, and more. It’s important to understand them so that one might be prepared to push back against these arguments when they appear in the real world. 

 

Appeals 

There are several different types of appeals. These include appeals to ignorance, authority, and popular opinion. The latter asserts that something is true because a lot of people believe it. An appeal to authority is also known as “arugmentum verecundia.” It occurs when the speaker tries to attach their argument to someone in a position of power, therefore lending it credence. An appeal to ignorance makes use of an individual’s lack of knowledge on a specific topic. For example, taking advantage of someone’s amateur status to make them believe a company, job, task, policy, or idea works in a certain way. 

 

Guilt by association 

This type of fallacy occurs when someone connects a particular thought or idea to someone negative. This makes the audience feel uncomfortable about believing or thinking the same thing. For example, someone who is generally viewed negatively by the public coming out in favor of a policy position, a product, or other. Then, a backlash occurring against that thing by all those opposed to the person. No one wants to be associated with something negative, or they might be compared to that same disliked person. 

 

Circular argument 

This is one of the most common types of fallacies. It is also known as “circulus in probando.” The argument uses evidence as part of the argument. For example, saying that one believes a statement and them using that belief as evidence that the statement is the fact.  For example, believing something just because you read it. One might say they believe a piece of information because they read it on the internet. Its existence is taken as proof of its truth. 

 

False Dilemma 

Also known as a false dichotomy, this kind of error occurs when someone presents a false ultimatum. They suggest that there are only two possible outcomes when there are more. This is also sometimes known as bifurcation. For example, saying, “you can either come with me or her.” This sets the listener up to feel like there are only two possible options when there is a myriad of others. 

 

Illogical conclusion 

A fallacy that includes a conclusion that is illogical and doesn’t follow from the premises and evidence. Very common. 

 

Syllogism Fallacy 

Forms incorrect conclusions that are strange. It is a false argument that leads to a false conclusion. Similar to a slippery slope fallacy in which one makes bigger and bigger leaps to false conclusions. The boundaries and the audience’s tolerance are pushed along with the outrageous progressions the arguer makes. They get used to hearing strange things and grow immune to them. 

 

Why Do Writers Use Fallacies? 

Writers use fallacious arguments when they want to convince the audience of something that they don’t quite have the evidence for. This is common in political speeches and debates. It can also be found in lesser academic papers and in everyday conversations between friends, family members, and colleagues. Sometimes, these arguments are made intentionally. But, other times, they are created on accident when someone simply doesn’t know how to back up something they’re arguing for or against. 

 

Related Literary Terms 

  • Argument: a piece of literature is a statement towards the beginning of a work that declares what it’s going to be about.
  • Bandwagon: a persuasive style of writing that is used to convince readers of an argument or make them understand a certain perspective.
  • Characterization: a literary device that is used to detail and explains the aspects of a specifically crafted character in a novel, play, or poem.
  • Conflict: a plot device used by writers when two opposing sides come up against each other.
  • Ad Hominem: an attack that uses irrelevant information in an attempt to discredit someone’s opinion or argument.
  • Literary Argument: the argument of a piece of literature is a statement towards the beginning of a work that declares what it’s going to be about.

 

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