Logical fallacies define typical reasoning errors or faulty reasoning that invalidate or undermine the logic of an argument. Often, they lead to wrong conclusions, as they are flawed in their nature, although they seem logical and persuasive from the outside. There are informal and formal logical fallacies, which will be thoroughly explained in this article, as well as the most common types of logical fallacies.
- 1 Definition: Logical fallacies
- 2 Types and sections on fallacies
- 3 List of common fallacies
- 4 Genetic fallacy
- 5 Moralistic fallacy
- 6 Referential fallacy
- 7 Assertion fallacy
- 8 Base rate fallacy
- 9 Black-or-white fallacy
- 10 Continuum fallacy
- 11 Definist fallacy
- 12 Correlation-causation logical fallacy
- 13 Critical thinking
- 14 FAQs
Definition: Logical fallacies
Logical fallacies describe flaws or errors creating faulty reasoning rather than valid reasoning in an argument. These can occur purposefully to manipulate others or accidentally due to misunderstandings. As they are usually subtly integrated, they are often difficult to detect and seem convincing, although they do not support their conclusion. Most logical fallacies consist of one or more claims, also called premises, and contain an underlying conclusion.
In this instance, the focus is on degrading the opponent’s character rather than assessing the shortcomings of the proposed healthcare reform.
Types and sections on fallacies
Logical fallacies are prominent in discussions, everyday dialogue, and debates. There are various types and sections on fallacies. Essentially, they can be assigned to formal and informal types of faulty reasoning that occur in an argument. The spectrum of logical fallacies is extensive; however, we outlined the most prevalent ones for you in the following:
Informal fallacies define mistakes in reasoning that result from misusing evidence, incorrect logic, or manipulating emotions. In these cases, the error lies in the content rather than the logic of the argument. Some of the most common informal fallacies include ad hominem, straw man, appeal to authority, and red herrings. The informal fallacy ad hominem is outlined in the following example:
In this scenario, Person 2 attacks Person 1 personally rather than focusing on the impact of human activities causing global warming.
Other known informal fallacies are appeal to popularity (ad populum), begging the question (circular reasoning), false dichotomy (black-or-white fallacy), and slippery slope.
Formal fallacies can be detected by assessing the structure of the argument itself. In this case, the error is not within the content but rather in the logic of the argument, making the conclusion of the argument invalid. Some of the most common formal fallacies include affirming the consequent, fallacy of four terms, and denying the antecedent.
This conclusion illustrates a logical fallacy, as there are other possible reasons why the streets are slippery, e.g., a car leaking fuel. In other words, the streets being wet cannot definitively conclude that it is raining.
Other common types and sections
Here is a selection of other common types and sections of fallacies. Knowing them can be valuable in both destructing and constructing arguments effectively.
- Accent: Manipulating by omitting or emphasizing selected words.
- Amphiboly: Expressing ambiguous sentences to mislead.
- Equivocation: Including the same word with two different meanings in one argument.
- Appeal to emotion: Arguing based on emotions instead of logic.
- Appeal to ignorance: Assuming something is true because it has not been proven wrong.
- Appeal to nature: Drawing a conclusion based on what is perceived as natural or unnatural.
- Appeal to probability: Assuming that an undesired position is more probable, regardless of evidence.
- Bifurcation: Crooked thinking that there are only two black and white solutions to an issue.
- Complex question: Asking a question that assumes an unproven premise.
- Composition: Making the assumption that if a fraction is true, the whole must be true, too.
- Division: Making the assumption that if the whole is true, a fraction must be true, too.
List of common fallacies
The following list outlines some of the most common logical fallacies that you may come across in the realm of academic writing in more detail.
Red Herring logical fallacy
The red herring fallacy defines a calculated attempt to mislead someone towards a different conclusion by including irrelevant details in an argument.
Bandwagon logical fallacy
The Bandwagon fallacy, also known as the Bandwagon argument, an appeal to popularity or ad populum fallacy, is committed when an argument is assumed to be true based on many people believing in it. In other words, the argument must be valid or logical because many people agree with it.
Straw man logical fallacy
When the straw man fallacy is committed, a person deliberately misinterprets, distorts, or exaggerates an argument that someone makes. This is usually with the purpose of an easier counterattack.
Slippery slope logical fallacy
The slippery slope fallacy emerges when a person argues that a specific decision or action will result in a range of serious consequences without giving a supportive argument to prove it.
Hasty generalization logical fallacy
The hasty generalization fallacy refers to when someone draws a conclusion from a restricted sample size or insufficient evidence, hence, a faulty generalization.
A genetic fallacy occurs when an argument is rejected or accepted based on its genesis (origin) and not on its level of truth or quality. In other words, it is assumed that the retrieved information supporting the claim is false or correct based on the belief that the source of information is of a specific origin or provides biased evidence. The following examples express genetic logical fallacies.
These examples refer to arguments that deny or support an idea, belief, or product based on where the source originates instead of assessing the true quality on its own merits
The moralistic fallacy represents the counterpart of the naturalistic fallacy. The naturalistic fallacy draws moral conclusions or “ought” statements from factual statements, whereas the moralistic fallacy draws factual conclusions or “is” statements from moral premises. In other words, moralistic fallacies occur when something is claimed to be true or false based on whether it is morally desirable or undesirable. The subsequent examples outline common examples of moralistic logical fallacies.
These examples express arguments that are regarded as right or wrong based on moral premises and incomplete evidence rather than analyzing objective data or empirical proof.
When detecting faulty reasoning in the fields of art and literary criticism, we most likely deal with referential logical fallacies. A referential fallacy refers to someone thinking that a piece of literature or art definitively and directly depicts the real world, meaning that it is unambiguously based on its reference to an external reality. Simply put, this type of logical fallacy fails to notice the ambiguities and complexities that can be interpreted in artworks or literature.
Essentially, a referential fallacy degrades a written piece or work of art to a superficial, direct depiction of the real world, rather than delving into its more profound meanings, interpretation, and symbols.
When an argument lacks justification or contributory evidence to support a claim, and it is believed that the mere account of a statement makes it factual, we speak of assertion fallacies. These are generally not widely known in the class of fallacies in logic.
In essence, assertion logical fallacies overlook the requirement for justification or evidence when making claims or statements.
Base rate fallacy
The base rate logical fallacy, also called base rate neglect, occurs when someone fails to notice or overlook the underlying general rate of specific and new information. Based on this, someone can’t make an accurate generalization, and faulty reasoning and conclusions may emerge.
If the base rate of all programmers in the population of the town equals only a small percentage, there is a higher probability of the assumption being wrong than correct.
A black-or-white fallacy, also called a false dilemma, false dichotomy, or either/or fallacy, refers to a debate with two contradicting opinions that are presented as the only two possible answers or outcomes. In other words, if one of these opinions is concluded to be right, the other is false, and there are no other options. This approach is often used in advertising, as the audience is forced to only accept one of the given options.
The continuum fallacy, also referred to as the decision-point fallacy, sorites paradox, or the fallacy of the beard, describes a type of logical fallacy with faulty reasoning and the abstract belief that small indiscernible changes won’t affect the quality of something, even in the long run. Thus, ultimately, there will be no difference at all.
This example expresses a continuum logical fallacy, as a certain amount of facial hair removal will eventually make someone with a beard without a beard. Essentially, this type of logical fallacy doesn’t consider the fact that continuous incremental changes may ultimately create a noticeable difference.
When someone uses a label or definition so that it assumes a specific stand on a topic in a controversial position rather than arguing with factual evidence, a definist fallacy occurs. In essence, it poses a type of begging the question, as the conclusion is drawn based on the definition itself.
This argument entails a specific definition of “real music” and draws the conclusion to exclude the genre in discussion completely, rather than supporting the argument and addressing its merits directly. Generally, the definist fallacy is used to overlook the actual controversy or debate by relying on a specific definition.
Correlation-causation logical fallacy
The correlation-causation fallacy, also called correlation does not imply causation, refers to the conclusion that two events occurring simultaneously have a cause-and-effect relationship. It is a logical fallacy when the conclusion is based merely on the fact that the proposed cause occurred before the proposed effect and there happens to be a correlation between these two variables.
In the process of understanding and identifying logical fallacies, critical thinking poses a crucial skill to be able to conceptualize, apply, analyze, and evaluate information in order to navigate action or belief. Critical thinking can help in various aspects when applied to logical fallacies, as listed below:
Avoiding cognitive biases:
Some types of bias can make one susceptible to accepting logical fallacies based on their pre-existing beliefs. Critical thinking can help you become more objective.
If an appeal to ignorance logical fallacy occurs, a critical thinker would challenge it by demanding supportive and contributory evidence.
Identifying logical fallacies:
Critical reasoning and thinking can help grasp whether an argument is based on valid reasoning or on an erroneous premise.
Putting assumptions in question:
Logical fallacies often occur from assumptions that aren’t questioned. Critical thinking provides the skill to ask for the underlying arguments supporting the assumption.
Reflecting on own arguments:
The critical thinking concept in terms of logical fallacies allows you not only to analyze others’ arguments but also reflect upon your own regarding your arguments and beliefs.
If an appeal to emotion logical fallacy is applied, it typically has the purpose of manipulating the listener through their feelings. Critical thinkers can identify these manipulations.
Structuring the arguments:
With the skill of critical reasoning and thinking, you can section an argument into its premises, inferences, and conclusions and assess validity and coherence.
A critical thinker tends to look at the overall context of an argument, which promotes recognizing whether information is misrepresented or selectively presented.
When a logical fallacy occurs, an argument is rendered as invalid as it entails faulty reasoning.
The 8 logical fallacies of relevance are:
- Argument from ignorance
- Appeal to inappropriate authority
- Argument ad hominem
- Appeal to emotion
- Appeal to pity
- Appeal to force
- Irrelevant conclusions
A logical fallacy refers to an error in the reasoning of an argument. They are commonly used in the media or by politicians to control or manipulate the audience.
Although logical fallacies often seem persuasive and trustworthy, the argument is actually flawed, which makes the conclusion invalid. Therefore, it is crucial to avoid logical fallacies to ensure that arguments consist of valid logic and reason rather than false or misleading information.
Some of the most commonly committed types of logical fallacies are: Ad hominem, false dilemma, slippery slope, hasty generalization, post hoc, and red herring fallacy.