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Illogic: Fallacies of Logic

Written by Jenifer Chrisman on April 27, 2020.

“The illogical logic is just logical explanation of illogical logic which is logically logic.”

– Mayank Gupta

Just because it is in the news or on the news doesn’t make it true. In this political climate, with a pandemic on the loose, spotting logical fallacies is more important than ever. And whether for or against a political party, politician, actor, etc., accurate information, not Logical Fallacies, is key to making informed and logical decisions.

But what are logical fallacies?

Common enough in use to warrant fancy names, logical fallacies are errors in reasoning that undermine an argument’s logic, but can trick the listener/reader into agreement. Whether using irrelevant points or illegitimate arguments, the lack of evidence cannot support the claim.

EXAMPLE: (See Example at the bottom for sources)

We should stop using paper. Paper is made from trees. Trees produce oxygen. The more paper we use the more trees we cut down. The more trees we cut down, the more paper we use. The next thing you know, there will be no more trees left to produce oxygen. Then we will be dead. So, we should stop using paper.

This absurd and convoluted paragraph is a Slippery Slope and is an excellent example of just how easily the fallacies can be used to confuse a topic. To help clarify, let’s stick with just the facts:

  • Oxygen derived from terrestrial (land) photosynthesis is not just from trees, but also shrubs, grasses and other plants
  • At least half the world’s oxygen is generated from phytoplankton, a microscopic marine algae that drift along the currents near the water’s surface.

Illogical Fallacies fall into two unique categories:

  • Formal Fallacy: a structural error in deductive (also known as top-down) argument. The sequence is not correct.
  • Informal Fallacy: denotes an error in the inductive (also known as bottom-up) argument. The content is off-kilter or incorrect.

Beneath the Informal Fallacy category are numerous fallacies. Used correctly by a speaker or writer with intent, the audience can easily find itself being misled.

Accident applies a general rule to a specific case or all similar situations. This precludes legitimate exceptions that might otherwise be made, allowing the speaker to preserve the illusion of a perfect law.

Ad Antiquitatem/Appeal to Tradition states that something must be true because it has been true in the past or been that way for years.

Ad Misericordiam/Appeal to Pity uses an appeal to sympathy to distract from the topic at hand.

Ad Nauseam/Argument by Repetition is the repetition of a statement or argument as an assertation of its truthfulness.

Argumentum ad Baculum (Appeal to the Stick)/Appeal to Fear, also known as “scare tactics,” is one of the most common fallacies used throughout history. It uses fear as the primary motivator to get the audience to accept a conclusion, proposition or idea.

Argumentum Ad Crumenam/Appeal to Wealth implies that the rich, by default of their money, have a higher intelligence, are more truthfulness and/or they are naturally right.

Argumentum ad Hominem (Against the Man)/Argument Against the Person is an abusive, personal attack (characteristics, appearance, background, etc.) either rejecting or criticizing a specific individual rather than logically debating the argument itself.

Argumentum ad Ignorantiam/Appeal to Ignorance is one of the most common logical fallacies. Simply put, if something can’t be proven then it must be true or, conversely, it must be false.

Argumentum ad Misericordiam (Argument to Compassion)/Appeal to Pity is a form of emotional manipulation bearing no relevance to the argument or claim.

Argumentum ad Numeram (Appeal to Numbers)/Appeal to Popularity can be very difficult to spot. Using sheer numbers of people to back up authority or claim, this appeal tricks common sense into believing that if something is popular then it must be true, good and/or valid or, conversely, false, bad and/or invalid.

Argumentum ad Verecundiam/Appeal to Authority, despite offering no supportive evidence, insists that something must be true because an expert or valid authority says it is true.

Cherry Picking withholds any evidence that would go against the subject at hand while presenting selected evidence that will persuade the audience into believing the truthfulness of the assertation.

Complex Question hides a (not known to be factual) question within a question with a presupposition built in, while also protecting the questioner from false claim accusations.

False Dilemma/False Dichotomy allows for only two options, this or that, or an option and omission, this or not, to be presented, thus excluding any other possible options that might allow a middle ground.

False Equivalence tries to equate two opposing things that appear to be, but are not, equivalent, usually through blowing things out of proportion, generalization or demonization.

Hasty Generalization utilizes only a small-sized sample, rather than a broad statistic overview to draw a conclusion. Because there is no quantified “sufficient” evidence, Hasty Generalization is often considered the most common Illogical Fallacy.

Ignoratio Elenchi (Ignoring Refutation)/Missing the Point is the misleading disapproval of an opponent’s argument using information irrelevant to the question or statement.

Non Sequitur (It Does Not Follow) uses a conclusion that doesn’t follow the premise.

Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc (After This, Therefore Because of That)/False Cause declares blame on the person in power if something is bad or goes wrong, thus ignoring that correlation isn’t necessarily causation.

Red Herring deliberately attempts to redirect an argument or discussion to an issue that appears relevant to the topic but isn’t to move to a topic that is safer or easier to address.

Slippery Slope uses an insignificant first event to lead through an unwarranted chain of events that become more and more improbable until it culminates into a highly unlikely ultimate event. The chain is generally connected by “the next thing you know…”

Suppressed Evidence is the deliberate exclusion of evidence that would weaken the conclusion.

Strawman attacks the opponent by calling into question a position that person doesn’t hold, rather than contending with the actual argument or statement.

Sunk-Cost Fallacy reasons that by not further investing resources, without consideration of overall losses in future, the investments to that point are unrecoverable and will be wasted.

Tu Quoque Fallacy/Appeal to Hypocrisy uses the diversionary tactic of calling out an opponent on the person’s hypocrisy to deflect criticism away from the accuser.

This is by no means a complete list, but many of the Logical Fallacies listed above are commonly used in today’s spotlight. Examples of these fallacies, such as the excerpt above can be found with minimal effort, both in support of or against ongoing current events. Fact checking and research are key to the landmines presented by Logical Fallacies.

For a far more expansive but not exhaustive list, along with examples of many of the fallacies, visit:



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