Types of Fallacies

Types of Fallacies

Types of Fallacies Jonathan Poland

A fallacy is an error in reasoning that can lead to an incorrect conclusion. Fallacies can be found in arguments, statements, or other forms of communication and are often used to mislead or deceive others. It is often easier to identify fallacies in an argument than it is to prove that the argument is logically correct, which is why fallacies are an important aspect of critical thinking and logical analysis. If an argument does not contain any fallacies, it may be considered to be logically sound, even if it cannot be definitively proven to be true. Fallacies can occur in many different forms, such as false assumptions, misdirection, and flawed logic, and it is important to be able to recognize and identify them in order to make informed decisions and evaluate arguments critically.

The following are common fallacies:

  • Affirming The Consequent – Assuming that the converse of a true statement is also true.
  • Anecdotal Fallacy – An argument based on a statistically insignificant example in the form of a story or personal experience.
  • Appeal To Accomplishment – Using the opinion of an accomplished individual as proof or inferring that someone has no right to talk about a topic due to a lack of accomplishment. For example, “if you know so much about acting, why aren’t you a famous movie star?”
  • Appeal To Authority – Implying that those with power must know best. For example, “Who are you to question the Prime Minister, you work at a coffee shop.”
  • Appeal To Consequences – Suggesting that consequences are impossible when they are not. For example, “If robots could really think then they might take over the planet someday. Clearly this is impossible.”
  • Appeal To Emotion – Arguments that prey on emotions such as fear, hope and anger.
  • Appeal To Novelty – Overstating the benefits of new or innovative things out of a sense of excitement.
  • Appeal To Possibility – Suggesting that because something is possible, that it will necessarily happen.
  • Appeal To Ridicule – Acting as if someone’s argument is obviously ridiculous when it isn’t.
  • Appeal To Tradition – Claiming that something is right because it has been that way for some time.
  • Argument From Ignorance – Asserting that something is true because it hasn’t been proven false or vice versa.
  • Argument From Silence – Arguments based on the absence of evidence.
  • Argument To Moderation -Suggesting that the middle between two extremes is necessarily correct.
  • Argumentum Ad Hominem – Attacking the person instead of their argument.
  • Argumentum Ad Nauseam -Literally “arguing to the point of nausea”, meaning a long, repetitive argument that causes an opponent to concede out of boredom and despair.
  • Association Fallacy – Arguing that things are the same merely because they are associated. Also known as Guilt By Association or Honor By Association.
  • Bandwagon Argument – An argument that something is true because many people believe it.
  • Base Rate Fallacy – A tendency to focus on specific information over general probabilities. Often results in dramatic errors of math.
  • Begging The Question – A type of circular reasoning that assumes the conclusion of an argument. Often takes the form of proving something using a word that’s a synonym. For example, America is rich because it has great wealth.
  • Broken Window Fallacy – An argument that ignores opportunity costs. Associated with economics and the false idea that damage such as wars and natural disasters are good for the economy.
  • Cherry Picking – Choosing evidence that supports a theory and ignoring evidence that contradicts it.
  • Circular Reasoning – An argument that refers to itself as proof.
  • Conjunction Fallacy – Falsely assuming that specific information is more likely than general.
  • Conspiracy Fallacy – Assuming that theoretical conspiracies are real and concrete.
  • Correlation Proves Causation – Incorrectly assuming that one thing causes another simply because the two are correlated.
  • Destroying The Exception – A rule of thumb that is mostly true with the exception of minor or obscure special cases. Such arguments may have value as a rule of thumb despite being a fallacy.
  • Equivocation – Misuse of a word that has multiple meanings.
  • Fallacy Fallacy – Assuming a conclusion is wrong simply because an argument for it contains errors.
  • Fallacy Of Composition – Inferring that something has the same properties as its parts.
  • Fallacy Of Division – Assuming that parts have the same properties as the whole.
  • False Analogy – A misleading analogy.
  • False Dichotomy – The incorrect assertion that two things are opposites.
  • False Equivalence – Asserting that things are the same that are clearly different.
  • Gambler’s Fallacy – The belief that a random event becomes less likely after it has just occurred.
  • Hasty Generalization – Easily seeing patterns in things that are statistically insignificant.
  • Historians Fallacy – Evaluating the past as if people had access to the same information we do now. Also applies to imposing modern values on the past.
  • If-By-Whiskey – An argument that strongly takes both sides of a controversial issue. Named for a remarkable 1952 speech.
  • Irrelevant Conclusion – A solid argument that fails to support the conclusion. For example, arguing that America is great when asked about a controversial topic.
  • Kettle Logic – A series of valid arguments that contradict each other.
  • Ludic Fallacy – The overuse of games to model more complex real life scenarios.
  • Masked Man Fallacy – Falsely assuming that two things aren’t identical because they don’t share a property. The term is an analogy to the assumption that someone is a different person because they are wearing a mask.
  • Misleading Vividness – The tendency for an extremely detailed example to be convincing despite being statistically insignificant.
  • Moralistic Fallacy – The argument that something can’t be true because its result is morally objectionable. For example, “war can’t be in human nature, because then we’re all doomed.”
  • Nirvana Fallacy – Asserting that a practical approach is invalid because it contains minor flaws or isn’t ideal. In many cases, the ideal approach is unfeasible or impossible to achieve.
  • Overwhelming Exception – An large exception that makes a statement meaningless. For example, “we are always fair except when it’s not in our best interests.”
  • Proof By Example – An attempt to prove something based on a statistically insignificant example.
  • Proof By Verbosity – A long, boring and convoluted argument that wins because it is too much work to debunk it.
  • Prosecutor’s Fallacy – A valid statistic that is interpreted incorrectly such as a base rate fallacy.
  • Proving Too Much – An overly broad argument that suggests absurd things.
  • Psychologists Fallacy – An ability to see the fallacies and cognitive biases of others but being blind to your own.
  • Red Herring – An argument designed to distract.
  • Regression Fallacy – An argument that ignores the impact of regression toward the mean.
  • Reification – Treating an abstraction as a concrete thing.
  • Retrospective Determinism – Viewing past events if they were predestined when in fact they could have worked out differently. For example, “once the industrial revolution started pollution was bound to damage the Great Barrier Reef.” The statement presupposes that no other options were available.
  • Slippery Slope – A dramatic argument that one small action leads to greater actions in the same direction until some tragedy ensures.
  • Straw Man Fallacy – Refuting an argument that your opponent didn’t make.
  • Survivorship Bias – Only considering the survivors or winners in a particular situation, typically resulting in an overly optimistic analysis or argument.
  • Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy – Changing your target as you go. Often results in a clustering illusion whereby you find patterns that are random.
  • Thought-Terminating Cliche – Use of a catch-phase or slogan in place of rational thought.
  • Traitorous Critic Fallacy – Attacking a person’s group membership as opposed to their argument. For example, “you’re only saying that because you’re a conservative.”
  • Wrong Direction – Confusing cause and effect.
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