·   · 18 terms

Argumentation Fallacies (List)

Dialogue #1

Ad Hominem (Latin for "against the man") is a fallacy in which someone rejects his or her opponent's argument on the basis of that person's personal characteristics (appearance, age, birthplace and etc.) 

ET: I don't think all people should go to college now.. The college degree is overrated and you have to spend a lot of money on it risking to be drowned in hefty loans until you retire. For example, lots of people are very good at working with their hands, they might as well become carpenters and be much better off without a degree.

Adam: ET, you are extraterrestrial, you haven't had any human experiences, so you can't know what is good for us humans.  

ET: I don't think that my planet of origin should define my ability to hold a position that could touch upon people and their experiences. Those who like to create things made of wood and they do it well don't have to get psychology or political science degrees just to have a piece of paper confirming that they had 4 years of college education. They can earn as much or even more by doing what they really like, be satisfied and debt-free. 

Strawman is a fallacy in which a person attacks a position that his or her opponent doesn't really hold. It could be done deliberately when a person has nothing to offer against the real argument and wants to distort it to be able to attack it. Or it could be done accidentally when a person doesn't get the opponent's argument.  

Adam: So you're trying to say that psychology, political science and other liberal arts degrees are useless!? Look at Mary: she's a psychology major and she's got a very successful private practice..Or look at John: he studied international relations and now he's a popular podcaster and he's already paid off his loans! Most people I know who went to college are doing well now..

ET: Not at all, I'm not claiming that liberal arts degrees are useless. On the contrary, they can be enlightening and worthwhile for many people, especially those who are genuinely interested in pursuing careers related to liberal arts degrees. All I'm saying is that you don't have to do what you don't like to do just because you or your parents are seeking status in the form of a college degree. Carpenters are just an example, there're lots of vocations that don't require degrees and are compensated handsomely. There are lots of people who have a great potential for these vocations and who could do easily without a college degree.  

Appeal to Ignorance (Argumentum ad Ignorantiam) is a fallacy in which a person claims that a statement is true if it can't be proven false, or a statement is false if it can't be proven true.

Adam: Have you ever seen any studies confirming that it's better for these people to not pursue any college degrees? There's no proof so we can't say that these people are better off not going to college. 

ET: I can ask you the same question whether you've ever seen any evidence that getting a college degree is better than doing something that you really like. The mere fact that there's no proof that doing a trade that you like is better than getting a liberal arts degree doesn't indicate that my argument is necessarily wrong.

Appeal to Popularity (Bandwagon Fallacy) is a fallacy in which a person claims that a statement is true since a significant number of people believe it is true. 

Appeal to Authority is a fallacy in which a person claims that a statement is true because a certain important (or not very important) person says so. 

Appeal to Tradition is a fallacy in which a person claims that a statement is true because it is correlated with a certain tradition, past or present. 

Appeal to Emotion (pity, affection) is a fallacy in which a person tries to win the argument by manipulating his or her opponent's emotions.

Adam: The thing is, 99% of people do not agree with you and understand the importance of college education for everyone. Moreover, both Ben Affleck and George Clooney believe that college education is essential. All countries have been trying to promote higher education for decades so that everyone could benefit from that and now it's part of every modern country's tradition to prepare high school students for college. And how dare you speak all this dangerous stuff! Think about those poor little kids who might get out of their hopeless situations by pursuing a college degree!?

ET: Everything that you just said is unreasonable and too emotional. You don't present any valid points and instead appeal to what other people think and have thought or to what some public figures believe is true.

False Dilemma is a fallacy in which somebody limits the number of options in an argument, e.g. presenting two options when there are in fact more than two options.

Adam: Well, when a person finishes high school, they should do something good with their lives that is go to college to prosper and contribute to society or else they will end up using drugs and they will wind up in jail. 

ET: There's absolutely no reason to believe that there are only two outcomes after you finish high school. You can explore many other options like going to a trade school, joining an apprenticeship program or starting your own venture. 

Slippery Slope Fallacy is a fallacy in which somebody suggests an unlikely outcome in an argument without providing enough data.

Adam: I know what happens to people who don't care about college degrees.. They start exploring different options, try this, try that. They think they can succeed by doing something unusual, but the thing it's super hard to do something unique, so when you realize it, it's too late and nobody wants to employ you because you have no degree and you end up on the street.

ET: Not going to college doesn't mean you're doomed for failure. Yes, it's immensely hard to create something new and not copy anyone. But like I said, there are many other alternatives to college nowadays. The prestige of college degrees is overrated. But still it doesn't mean that nobody should pursue college education. For many people it's a viable option. But it also doesn't mean that going to college is the only way to succeed.


Dialogue #2

Sunk Costs Fallacy is a fallacy in which someone argues that something has to continue (project, business etc.) despite being fruitless and unpromising only because a lot of resources has already been used to maintain the project. 

Stan: I have spent so much time, resources and money on my project, I just can't give it up.. Even though it's not working out now, I have to try more and the adoption rate will rebound. All these efforts don't have to be in vain.

Mary: I understand that you feel bitter and you don't want to give up your project. But the fact that you have spent much on the project doesn't have to define what you're going to do next. You clearly didn't find a product-market fit, even though you have a nice product. It's time to move on, scrap the project and start something new benefiting from the experience from your previous project.

Hasty Generalization is a fallacy in which a person draws a conclusion without providing sufficient data to support it.

Stan: My friend Dan was experiencing serious problems with a project similar to mine but he survived so I should also keep on trying with my project.

Mary: Your friend Dan's case is not representative of the whole population who had similar projects. He succeeded but it doesn't mean that all other people have succeeded. 

Circular Argument is a fallacy in which a person basically makes the same point in both sides of the argument.

Stan: Dan's business is awesome and successful, because Dan is such a successful businessman.

Mary: Not sure how this is relevant but you are making the same point twice... 

Tu Quoque Fallacy (Appeal to hypocrisyis a type of Ad Hominem fallacy in which a person tries to discredit the opponent by claiming that the opponent doesn't act according to the argument's conclusion.

Stan: Well, Mary, you were working on your project for two years and it was clear after one year that it wasn't working out. And now you are trying to convince me to quit so early.

Mary: I agree that I made a mistake and quit much later than I could have. But it doesn't mean that you have to follow my example.

Causal Fallacy is a fallacy in which a person presents an incorrect cause. 

Stan: I think one of the reasons why my project is failing is that I started it in the summer. Everytime I start doing something serious in the summer I end up failing.

Mary: I don't think that this fact had any impact on the outcome. There's a number of objective factors that contributed to the outcome.

Equivocation (ambiguity) is a fallacy in which someone uses a phrase or a word in multiple senses in an argument. 

Stan: Well, I have the right to work on my project, therefore it's right for me to continue doing what I'm doing. 

Mary: No one disputes your right to do what you want. But I wouldn't agree that continuing your project is a right thing to do. 


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Comments (2)
  • Hello,

    that was a very nice topic.  I learned a lot from it.  It´s nice to know all these different ways of analysing arguments presented by someone trying to prove you wrong.

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    • Thank you Mauricio! Glad you liked it:) I'm planning to expand this by adding other fallacies and also add new terms related to the argumentation subject

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