List of fallacies to get you through the election season

August 16, 2007 | By | Reply More

The political season is getting into high gear, so it’s a good idea to have a list of types of fallacious arguments handy. I recently found this collection, titled “The Nizkor Project.”  All of your favorite fallacies are here, including these:

Ad Hominem
Ad Hominem Tu Quoque
Appeal to Authority
Appeal to Belief
Appeal to Common Practice
Appeal to Consequences of a Belief
Appeal to Emotion
Appeal to Fear
Appeal to Flattery
Appeal to Novelty
Appeal to Pity
Appeal to Popularity
Appeal to Ridicule
Appeal to Spite
Appeal to Tradition
Begging the Question
Biased Sample
Burden of Proof
Circumstantial Ad Hominem
Confusing Cause and Effect
False Dilemma
Gambler’s Fallacy
Genetic Fallacy
Guilt By Association
Hasty Generalization
Ignoring A Common Cause
Middle Ground
Misleading Vividness
Personal Attack
Poisoning the Well
Post Hoc
Questionable Cause
Red Herring
Relativist Fallacy
Slippery Slope
Special Pleading
Straw Man
Two Wrongs Make A Right

What is a “fallacy”?  Here is the Nizkor Project’s description:

A fallacy is, very generally, an error in reasoning. This differs from a factual error, which is simply being wrong about the facts. To be more specific, a fallacy is an “argument” in which the premises given for the conclusion do not provide the needed degree of support. A deductive fallacy is a deductive argument that is invalid (it is such that it could have all true premises and still have a false conclusion). An inductive fallacy is less formal than a deductive fallacy. They are simply “arguments” which appear to be inductive arguments, but the premises do not provided enough support for the conclusion. In such cases, even if the premises were true, the conclusion would not be more likely to be true.

I found this topic to be of special interest after looking through the list, reading the descriptions and noticing how incredibly often these sorts of fallacious arguments are made by pubic figures and public officials. 

Maybe my project of calling officials on their fallacious reasons is naive, however.   Maybe we no longer care whether our logic is intact, whether we are consistent or whether there needs to be any rhyme or reason for our assertions.  Perhaps we’re living in the age of the ascent of “Personal attacks,” “Special Pleading,” “Straw Men” and “Appeal to Ridicule.”


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Category: Language, Politics

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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