Some appeals use faulty reasoning that may seem to be unfair or incorrect thinking. These appeals are called fallacies. They can be very powerful and persuasive, but they are not the most logical. It’s important for us to understand these types of appeals so we can make sure we are making sound and logical arguments. Below are some common fallacies to look for.
The most common:
Begging the Question
Tries to support an argument by restating it in different words. This may make it sound like there is an explanation being given, when in reality there is no reason, just a restating of the original statement.
Ex: “We need to reduce the national debt because the government owes too much money.”
Argue that only two alternatives are possible, when the situation is actually much more complex. It ignores all other possibilities but these two alternatives.
Ex: “Either we get tough with opioid users or we legalize all drugs.”
Means “against the person” in Latin. Attempts to attack an argument by undercutting the credentials of the person who is arguing it.
Ex: “Of course my opponent doesn’t want to build a new park in Bessemer; she’s never lived there and doesn’t have children.
States that because one event followed another, the first event must have caused the second.
Ex: “The baby died of SIDS because he had recently gotten vaccinated.”
Encourages the audience to follow along with the crowd. Attempts to flatter the audience by implying choosing the popular choice in some way makes them better.
Ex: “Everyone knows that you shouldn’t major in History because no one will hire a History major. They learn no marketable skills.”
Slippery Slope Arguments
Asserts that if one event happens, it will set in motion a chain of events that will eventually end in disaster. While this is not always inaccurate, the greater the difference between the original event and the predicted outcome, the more necessary it is to provide evidence that this will actually happen.
Ex: “If we legalize physician assisted suicide, then the suicide rate of teenagers will dramatically increase, as they will be able to commit suicide easily, legally, and without pain.
Straw Man Arguments
Misrepresents an opposing argument, showing it to be more extreme than it actually is so that it is easier to attack. It turns the argument into a “straw man” that is easier to knock down.
Ex: “The Affordable Care Act makes the American healthcare system government-run.”
Draws sweeping conclusions based off of too little evidence.
Ex: “You really shouldn’t drink diet soda. I saw a study on NBC that said the aspartame in diet soda causes cancer.”
Attempts to distract the audience by invoking a consideration that is irrelevant to the topic.
Ex: “I know I’ve made a mistake. But think of my parents. They’re going to kill me.”
Generalizations that exaggerate and, by doing so, oversimplify the truth.
Ex: “Poverty causes crime.”
Appeal to Ignorance
Asserts that there is something that we don’t know, which makes it more difficult to come to an understanding or agreement.
Ex: “No one knows how many innocent people have been convicted of murder. Do we really want to invoke the death penalty on innocent people?”