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The Top 10 Most Popular Fallacies Of Argument And How To Detect Them

Posted by Ali & Aerica on Wednesday, November 30, 2011 Under: Top Lists

During an argumentation, you or the person you are arguing with might use some fallacies argument. Fallacies argument are “false” argument. It means that it's a reasoning that appears true and logic, but that is in fact not valuable (not logical). The second characteristic of a fallacious argument is that it is not a MISTAKE: It is used INTENTIONALLY to deceive and/or take advantage during an argumentation. We will give you the ten most popular fallacies of argument used by people every day, whether they are talking or writing.

We wrote this article to help you detect more easily fallacies of argument, but we also want to play a little game with you: Once you finish reading this page, we defy you to conduct a research on the internet or to listen to people around you for fallacies of argument. If you find any, comment back this blog post and tell us what type of fallacies argument was it that you've observed. You will realize a very shocking truth: lots of people use fallacies arguments to prove their points! Your teachers, your family, your friends, yourself, etc.


1 – Using a False Relation of Cause And Effect

This is when somebody links two events together and pretends that the first event has caused the second one. For example: “If the human beings' nose has the shape that it has, it was meant to be able to wear glasses. Our body has shaped our nose this way so that we can wear glasses”.

Now you might laugh at this and think that somebody can't seriously believe that...well you might be very surprised.

The false relation of cause and effect are very popular and most superstitions are built this way. Do you have a superstition? Well this might be created from a false cause and effect. To avoid this, you need to use the logic of the science: repeat the experience over and over again and see if the event is indeed happening over and over again no matter who does the experience.

2 – The False Dilemma or False Dichotomy

Let's say that you are arguing with somebody and the other person says that there are only two possible ways to solve the problem. A dilemma is then presented by the person, to solve the problem. That means you have to choose between “this” or “that”, you have to choose between A and B. The problem with this way of reasoning is that if “A” is false, then the answer has to be “B” and vice-versa. The people using this technique during an argumentation to prove their points are trying to make the others believe that there are only two possible ways of seeing and understanding the problem. They are trying to make the others believe that there are only two possible solutions to the problem. If the solution is not “A”, then it must be “B”. And, of course, the solution B is their point and the solution A was your point.

One of the most popular false dilemma is saying that “If you are not with me, then you are against me”.

3 – Using The Authority As An Argument

This is when people pretend that their argument is valid based on their authority. For example: “I am older than you and so I have more knowledge and so what I say is true” (and blah blah). Or “because my teacher said that so it must be true.” We are not saying that an expert that his basing his experience on an argument is using a false argument. Saying that you are an “expert” in a field and base this as an argument is OK as long as your argument is strictly based on that field. In other words, if your argument is about your domain, then it's not a false argument.

The authority is a false argument when:

you “pass the line” of your competence. This is the same thing if you are basing your argument on an expert sayings, you must make sure that the expert was indeed in his area of competence and that he/she's enough experienced on the subject.

When the expert is influenced by something else. For example, saying that cigarettes don't cause cancer, despite the fact this expert works for a tobacco company...

When the “expert” is not clearly identified in your argument (You can't just say: “an expert said that” or that “all experts agreed on that”).

When the area of competence is not “legitimate”. Example: a so-called “spiritual healing guru” said that.

4 – Using The Popularity

It's when you are using your popularity or someone's popularity to justify the validity of an argument. This is a very popular fallacies argumentation, especially on the internet. In this world of democracy, we tend to listen to the majority and that's why this type of false argument is so popular. People tend to believe in this type of false argument too easily, but they shouldn't. For example: “Because a certain product is popular and sold a lot, it's probably because it's good and so it will be good for you.”

5 – The Straw Man Technique: Intentionally Weakening The Others' Arguments

The person will intentionally repeat your argument, but will not say exactly what you have said and, instead, weaken your argument. The person will repeat your argument, but will intentionally weaken it to make it easily refutable by HIS/HER argument. Example: “if you doubt the sincerity of this woman despite the fact that she says that she has been raped, then you are not helping the raped-woman's cause and you are defending the rapers”. Or “how can you allocate more budget to the military? Then you are not thinking about these hungry kids and families.

You got the idea.

6 – The Abusive Generalization

This is a very popular false argument. The person will generalize too fast and abusively without making enough observation. That is where most stereotypes come from. Example: “This blonde cashier didn't give me the right amount of change! That's the proof that blond girls are not good in Math.” It was pretty hard to find a good example to explain this, despite the fact that there many stereotypes out there...But you got the idea.

7 – The Slippery Slope

This is when somebody attacks someone's argument by saying that if we apply this argument, then the consequences will worsen in the future. Example: “if we allow people to smoke pot today, then in the future we might as well allow them to smoke other types of drugs!

8 - The Red Herring or The Smoked Herring

the name of this logical fallacy comes from the South of the United States because, in the past, prisoners, to escape the prison, would leave smoked herring behind them to distract the dogs retriever. A person using this strategy will bring you on another subject other than the one that is currently discussed. So if you're arguing with somebody and smells that fishy'll know it!

9 – Inconsistent Criteria

That is when somebody applies rules or criteria to something, but do not follow the same criteria to other things for no objective reasons. For example, the person might say that everybody should respect the speed limit, but that the people working for the government shouldn't have to.

10 – Personal Attacks

This one is also popular and maybe probably the most irrelevant and disgusting method of argumentation. It's when the person has nothing else to say other than using personal attacks. Example: “How can you believe what he says. He has been to jail in the past so he's not trustworthy!”.

Have you observed more fallacies of argument? Or have more examples of fallacies argument presented in this blog post? Please comment and share with us!

Happy argumentation!

In : Top Lists 

Tags: "fallacies of argument example"  "logical fallacies"  "false argument"  "how to argument"  "argument tips" 
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