Logic & Critical Thinking

Not a Rational World 2

Logical Fallacies

Land of Confusion

Logical fallacies are names given to describe deceptive practices in argument and rhetoric.

Unfortunately, all these named fallacies have proliferated to the point that they are another distraction. They make the topic seem unnecessarily difficult. If you go and search them, you’ll find so many that it’s off-putting. Most people have no trouble with identifying many fallacies, though, as fallacies, even if they don’t know the “name.”

Then go and check out a formal discussion of fallacies, like a paper from a university, and you really go into la-la land, with its opaque terminology and tortured reasoning. In fact, the effort spent on discussion, college courses and other teaching, research and books is ultimately wasted. Perhaps because it’s not an exact science, it doesn’t help us very much in our lives.

That is, naming fallacies isn’t the be-all and end-all. They’re imperfect, and you seldom see them so cut-and-dried in real life, so trying to teach them can lead to more confusion.

It’s important to note that someone will identify a fallacy in a given statement (you’ll see this mistake being made in courses and books on logic), yet there are several fallacies in that statement. More important to note is that many of the “fallacies” we’re told to learn, aren’t really fallacies at all, like “slippery slope,” as we’ll see.

An improved approach is to look for better examples, look at how mistaken the effort into naming most fallacies is, and to look at why fallacious reasoning works, despite all the effort to fight it. We want to look at how fallacious reasoning is used to do things like win arguments, in the real world. We want to uncover how the tricks work.

So, as usual, we’ll be going off the beaten path and taking a fresh approach here.

There’s more to this fight. They don’t really want you learning to be logical, as it would interfere with you being a good consumer, so obfuscation and over-complication are tricks they use to help confuse things — yes, they’ve even weaponized logical fallacies. We’re going to get into how to bypass all the propaganda and misdirection.

We’ll cover many examples here, but if this were used as a college course, it would be as a reference, not that they should all be learned by rote.

Here’s the first short-cut. Itemizing fallacies, ad infinitum, makes the whole topic overly difficult. There is a simple trick to use in analyzing argument, discussions, articles and news reports. That is, to ask: “Is what they are saying true?” Not relative truth, but absolute truth. And not your subjective truth, but objective truth. Simple and straightforward.

Knowing a catalog of names for fallacies is useless in a debate. Suppose your opponent is cursing you out and casting aspersions. You start firing off a bunch of “tut-tuts” and Latin words, and you’d be mocked as a lame-o.

Logical fallacies have been analyzed, cataloged, gone over with a fine-tooth comb, yet are still used. Because they work.

If you’re going to have a formal debate, it would depend on an educated audience, and one that isn’t swayed by emotion. Good luck! What you needs to be realized is that the “bad guys” are using all the logical fallacies as tools to help them in arguments, and, often, pointing out they’re fallacies is just plain daft. The audience is manipulated and mesmerized, not put off, by all the tricks.

The Trivium

There are said to be 50+ logical fallacies as taught in the historic “Trivium.”

Classical education is fundamentally rooted in the artes liberales or liberal arts (from the Latin artes – “skills” or “arts” and liberal from the Latin liber, meaning “free” or independent)…

The medieval framework of the seven artes liberales consisted of the trivium (grammar, dialectic, rhetoric) and quadrivium (arithmetic, music, geometry, and astronomy) and were considered essential to a complete education… considered in classical Greece and Rome to be the pillars of critical thought. Grammar, the nature of a subject; dialectic, that of thought and reason; and rhetoric, that of artful persuasion.

The “Lost Tools of Learning” that Dorothy Sayers refers to in her 1947 essay are the trivium arts of grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric. However, the trivium and quadrivium are not “subjects”, nor are they limited to discrete stages of a child’s development: they are methods of dealing with subjects.

The trivium arts are also cumulative; each building on the other to achieve full potential… As students mature, they progress from gaining knowledge primarily through memorization and imitation, to learning logic and reason, to creating their own informed judgments and expressing their ideas and conclusions in persuasive, elegant language.

So the trivium and quadrivium are essential tools for learning, rather than, as noted, “subjects.” They come into play throughout a child’s learning process, and continue through adulthood. That’s been mostly lost on today’s so-called educators, a serious matter.

A key takeaway from that quote is “lost tools of learning.” There’s little effort put into tools for thought and learning, and subjects are presented in a rote learning fashion in modern education. It’s the same conceit with all the “fallacies,” where they’ve managed to both get carried away in over-analysis (and bad analysis), yet skipped naming some of the most important ones.

Also, it’s the categories of fallacies that are perhaps more important, but given short shrift.

What Logic Is

Logic is a valuable tool, solid and reliable. Infallible, if done right. As we’ve already seen, any failure in logic is grounds for dismissal of a theory. Someone being an “expert” doesn’t counter that if their logic fails, their theory fails.

So what’s its problem? The problem is that we can also be convinced by false or faulty logic. (Of course that’s not really logic at all, but a mimicking of the trappings of logic.)

So, how do we tell if logic is faulty?

Faulty logic takes many forms, and where those forms are identified, they’re called “fallacies.” Falsehoods, really.

What a lengthy and thankless task to list all the “named” fallacies/falsehoods that you can find in books or other search. They are seemingly endless, so it’s good to simplify, to find a way to categorize the multitudes, which we’ll try to do here.


Some fallacies aren’t fallacies at all, depending on circumstances. We see this in a fairly recent attempt to corrupt people’s thoughts: “Correlation is not causality,” or “Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc.” Just because two things occur simultaneously or at proximate times, doesn’t always mean one is related to the other.

“When something happens, then something else happens, the first thing isn’t the cause of the second,” which seems to be a subtle dig to nudge people into the stupid idea that somehow cause and effect does not apply.

Again, they’re misusing logic and trying to mislead. Propagandists try to fluff themselves up with that big statement. A drunk wrapped his pickup around a tree, but that has nothing to do with his head being through the windshield, you moran, because correlation is not causality!!! The power went off when there was a storm, but it had nothing to do with the lightning hitting and blowing up the big transformer, dillweed, because, correlation is not causality!!!

It’s pretty easy to see how dumb that is, when posed that way. “Correlation is not causality” needs to be on the scrap heap of idiotic sayings, and a refined message used in its place: Coincidence is not causality. But correlation does imply causality, which doesn’t mean it’s always a cause.

Named Fallacies

In this section, we’ll review some of the fallacies that are taught in formal classes of logic.

In the subsequent section, we’ll go over some new fallacies of our own which are not “officially named,” but nonetheless, are valid fallacies.

Appeal to Emotion

Emotion leaves no room for logical consideration. It is always a cheat. It’s a big one used in selling insurance, “Can you imagine your house burning down?” Meant to elicit a visualization in the victim which leads to triggering a strong emotional response.

“Remember how sad you were…”

“Consider the homeless puppies…”

That’s all fine, but you have to remember that the emotionally satisfying isn’t necessarily the sensible thing, which is why a person who uses this trick is basically admitting he doesn’t have an argument.

Weasels do this a tremendous amount with Africa, which they exploit with phony “charities” that bring in big bucks — for themselves. There’s a recent, sincere-looking bastich, a white guy, filming kids swimming in the African poo, since they poo right into the water they live above, in stilted shacks. And the bastich has some collaborator, a black guy, saying, “All we need is $100,000 for a school.” You’d think they’d want $100 for a toilet, but never mind.

First off, sorry to break it to you, but those donations never benefit who they say it will. Second, what an appeal to emotion. “Just a small donation to get those poor kids out of the poo!” Also, of course, a non sequitur. They were reveling in the poo. Why not $20 for a megaphone so the parents can be heard telling their kids, “Kids, get out of the poo!”

Slippery Slope

The implication that some measure will inevitably lead to an extreme consequence. Say someone suggests a chemical additive be banned, and an opponent might say that such action could lead to all additives being banned.

Yet we do know, from bitter experience, that things expressly do slide down the slippery slope to absurdity. Surely most everyone has heard the saying, or some variation, “Give him an inch, and he’ll take a mile.” As a prime example, just lately they’re trying to push euthanasia on the public, for everything from chronic illness, to someone being depressed, or someone costing the government money, after years of preparing the public mindset with talk of “assisted suicide,” and “quality of life,” and so on.

“Euthanasia,” a euphemism for murder, is an example of “the name game,” discussed below.

Slippery slope is a perfectly valid point, though not a complete argument, and it’s only fallacious in the sense that it isn’t necessarily a foregone conclusion, so, like, “correlation is not causality,” should it even be called a fallacy?

Someone could say, well, slippery slope doesn’t prove anything one way or the other, so it’s irrelevant to bring it up. But, it’s not irrelevant since things do “fall down the slippery slope,” into absurdity, all the time.

Straw Man

This mischaracterization of an opponent’s argument is an important ploy, or sneak tactic where you simply disingenuously state a false position on behalf of the opponent.

Some of the names for these fallacies are allusions, or metaphorical. “Straw man” references setting up something, like a scarecrow, a literal “straw man,” that is easy to knock down.

Straw man means restating or re-characterizing your opponents’ argument in a simplistic way, that is easy to refute.

Well, when you “restate” your opponent’s argument, that’s basically lying about what he said.

“Straw man” is a pretty good allusion, but not everyone immediately clues in to the idea of a scarecrow, and someone setting it up deliberately to knock down. Once you do get it, though, its easy to remember.

Confirmation Bias
“Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.”
– Saint Augustine

Augustine might well have changed his name to Confirmation Bias.

This fallacy is a form of circular reasoning, where the assertion is styled as proof of that same assertion. Seeing what you want to see, and believing what you want to believe. It is an expression of our common egregious zone of looking for elements to support our arguments or beliefs, while ignoring contrary evidence.

We’ve discussed how this hurts us when we play chess, back in Chess Cheats. It is particularly troubling, as it is difficult to work around. We do it unawares, looking for reassurance in everything that proceeds from our beliefs. We want to be right.

Being aware that its a sort of a background process is one way to fight it, if we remember to check ourselves and look for where the confirmation bias is situated in our own current argument or belief.

“Fallacies” aren’t just used to win arguments, they also work against us in our own thought process, where they are employed as an indulgence.

You have a huge advantage if you just know and apply the knowledge that you are, as a sort of “instinct,” looking for self-serving answers, not ultimate truths. Invaluable information to help us progress in our own path to fuller knowledge.

Guilt by Association

“Guilt by ass” for short — no, just joking. A “fallacy” that’s more of a tautology. Obviously, if someone hangs out with a certain group or person, it doesn’t make him guilty of a crime by that group or person. But, on the other hand, of course you have a right to be suspicious if there are other factors implicating the person as conspiring in a crime with the group or other person.

Ad Hominem (“Ad Hom”)

This is a verbal attack, like name-calling. It can be stunningly useful as a distraction, since it can fire emotions, making the opponent angry and less thoughtful and less potent in their arguments.

But it doesn’t matter how many examples and explanations; it’ll still work on you and me. It can get more sophisticated, just like other fallacies.

You’ll never be told this fact, though, if you study a typical logic course, which frames it as just something like cursing someone out.

For example, someone may give some health advice, and a naysayer may start to howl, “…he doesn’t even have a medical degree!”

Sophisticated ad hom works fantastically, and here’s how:

In an historical example, an American politician (politician Quayle), in a debate, alluded to John (“Jack”) F. Kennedy (JFK). His opponent, Bentson, responded, “I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. You, sir, are no Jack Kennedy!” This worked a miracle.

Breaking it down, a worthless statement, because of course, someone who isn’t Jack Kennedy is not Jack Kennedy. But the ad hom is sneaky here, because the statement implicitly assumes JFK is great, but that Quayle is not so great, especially by comparison. But it also allows the speaker to sneak in an aggrandizement of himself (a sort of humble-bragging) — he knew the great Jack Kennedy as a friend, so he probably is great, too, the flip side of guilt by association.

Imagine how silly he would look if he simply threw out the boast that he knew JFK, without that added sauce. It would look pompous, coming out of the blue.

Mustn’t forget, either, the power of the indignant voice of the people (described later).

A great, sneaky implicit snub. “How dare you mention his name?” Poor old Quayle came off as though he had mocked Jesus in the middle of mass or something.

Whenever someone chastises or challenges someone, it implies a dominant position, and puts the speaker on higher ground.

Even a simple ad hom: “You, sir, are an ass!” does this. Powerful, but also dangerous. For instance, if the opponent says, “I may be, but you, sir, are the smelly wart on my ass, living rent-free and liking the smell!” he has refuted the challenge, reversing the presumption of power.

This reminds me of an incident when a fellow got mad at his adversary, challenging him to “step outside.” His foe said, “Okay. Do I have to bend over, too?” which got quite a laugh from the spectators, and much “face,” even though he was actually side-stepping the potential fight.

What a subtle slight, too, implying, “I’m too tough to even bother fighting you, Bubba!”

Consider the dynamic: The initial tension and hushed anticipation among the observers is relieved by a flippant reply, and everyone laughs it off, except the challenger, who is neutralized by humiliation for the moment, but will later be steaming and even more furious.

Ad hom becomes startlingly effective when used repetitively, when you see message after message, demeaning and degrading someone else. It’s like catcalls in a theater or lecture, weakening that person.

Ad hom attempts to paint someone a “Hitler,” who therefore can’t be right. If you make them embarrassed and the subject of ridicule, also, they can’t be right… It’s hard to fathom, but it has to be explained to people that, yes, even Hitler can be right about something. If Hitler says two and two are four, he’s right.

Again, ad hom may be a fallacy, but it works.

Note that an ad hom is also a red herring — a distraction. We need to focus on the context and effect to find the purpose of someone’s ad hom. Is it distraction? Is it demeaning/character assassination? Because, sometimes, a person might not be arguing at all, merely trying to belittle or discredit someone. Is it meant as satire? Is it posturing, for someone to build himself up as a “tough guy?”

Red Herring

This one has a non-obvious connotation. It refers to distraction. One origin cited is that a red-colored (smoked) herring can be used as a distraction for hounds off a scent.

It is the “lookie there!” fallacy, a tangentially-related diversion pointing you in another direction in an attempt to distract you from the issue at hand.

“You say I passed a counterfeit, but did you know Lefty over there is selling crack?”

Red herring is a fallacy of relevance, which is to say, a red herring statement is not directly related to the original issue. As noted, ad hom is also a red herring, trying to divert the trail of the argument. Ad hom is also a fallacy of relevance, as it’s irrelevant to the quality of his argument, even if the opponent really does eat boogers.

It’s much easier to ask, “Is that relevant?” than try to fit it into “Is that a red herring? No, it’s ad hom. Wait, it’s post hoc, ergo propter hoc!” Even having something stupid like “post hoc, ergo propter hoc” to say “coincidence isn’t causation” is damned stupid. Maybe if we all still spoke Latin, it would make sense. These ivory tower goofs have to learn some restraint, with all their bunch of post plop ergo poop, trying to sound smart with this nonsense.

False Conclusion

“If you aren’t with us, you’re against us.”

“2 + 2 = 5”

“If all cats are felines, then all felines are cats.”

Non Sequitur

Non sequitur means “does not follow,” which is to say there is no logical connection between the statement and what has come before, meant as a distraction to drive attention away from the topic at hand, a usual response when a person gets angry.

Using the Global Warming example, you might hear, “Because everyone agrees that the planet is warming, we need to pay carbon taxes.” Besides begging the question, it’s a non sequitur, even if everyone agrees, that we need carbon taxes. Nor does the planet have to be warming, even if everyone agrees, so it is a false conclusion.

Ad hoc

These statements are often used to disrupt the discussion. It just means something spur-of-the-moment. As for example if someone quoted some made-up official statistic, extemporaneously. Usually a non sequitur.


References someone talking with their hands, which is to say, meaningless but distracting activity to gloss over a real question.

An answer to a question has to address all aspects of the question, or it is not an answer at all. There can be no logical mishaps at all, no exceptions, and no hand-waving.

It relies on the fact that people often don’t even care about a real answer, they just want an answer.

Here: let’s look at this actual “argument” about JFK’s apparent assassination:

Arguer 1: “There’s nothing suspicious in the death of JFK.”
Arguer 2: “Then why were all the records sealed?”
Arguer 1: “Because it was just a bunch of junk that wasn’t important and was too stupid to show!”

There’s a strategy to this whereby a person gets shrill or heated when they are offering the hand-waving argument. This is a sort of a posturing or signaling trick, called deimatic behavior or startle display, to put the opponent off, so he doesn’t refute or question anything to avoid a senseless argument or potential aggression.

We see the same thing in non sequitur, ad hom, and other tricks. When someone we’re arguing with gets all excited or huffy, we may back away just to avoid hurt feelings, or tell ourselves, “to hell with it, it’s not worth arguing over,” letting the aggressor “win.”

Hand-waving is closely related to begging the question, and ad hoc and often occurs when the person is fixated on something he or she wants to believe.

In fact, it is ad hoc, a spur of the moment invention.

Begging the Question

This is assuming the answer, like when someone says, “Because we all know A is bad, we must ban A.”

It is misdirection, glossing over the crucial point and assuming it as a “given,” when there is no justification to do so.

It usually starts with a “Because…” or “Since…” or “While…”

“Because everyone agrees that the planet is warming, we need to take action.”

“Because of the infallibility of the Pope, everything he says is to be obeyed without question.”

Begging the question is a non sequitur.

Category Error

No biggie, this. Plus, it’s hardly a “fallacy.” Miscategorizing something means, a misunderstanding or false generalization.

It is closely related to “the name game,” we’ll discuss later.

But category error is more a combination of confusion/misunderstanding and non sequitur. Ryle, who came up with the term, “category error” or “category mistake,” gave the example of someone being given a tour of the university and the guide pointing out the library, the students, the stadium, etc., and the tourist saying, “I see all of those, but I don’t see any university,” not realizing that “university” was an abstract term that applied to the whole, encompassing all the buildings, the faculty, students, etc.

Appeal to Consequences

Because something happened, some assumption must be true.

“Because the flowers are so pretty and so complex, God must have created them,” is an example of this logical fallacy.

And here we see the nonsense of putting too much emphasis on the topic of logical fallacies. First off, it’s a mere “non sequitur,” (does not follow). No one rational is swayed by such rhetoric — which is, notably, also begging the question and confirmation bias.

Appeal to Popularity

“Everyone is doing it…” which is something children might use a lot in trying to justify something like getting piercings or tattoos or something. Just because people agree on something doesn’t make it true.

Also known as popular sentiments, and appeal to majority, this may be described as believing in something simply because it is a widely-held belief.

The point of the appeal to majority/popularity fallacy is that “majority” doesn’t mean right. It describes a flawed and cowardly philosophy: majority rule, “go along to get along,” “the greater good,” “don’t rock the boat.”

Mothers typically had a snap answer to such an appeal, “If everyone jumped off the bridge, would you do that too?”

Appeal to Authority

“Most experts agree…” which you might see in an advertisement, for example, exemplifies this fallacy.

Note that begging the question and appeal to popularity, appeal to authority, and appeal to consequences are hand-waving arguments, or examples of glossing over the real question. Appeal to popularity, authority and consequences are examples of begging the question, too.

So these types of tricks are interrelated. They aren’t hard to understand, just cons or scams or misdirection, but in the classroom they will be painted in a way that makes them seem “hard.”

To get to the gist of this fallacy, it means that all authority is suspect. No one is an absolute “authority,” on anything, because we all can be wrong. We still have to get down to work, on our own, at all times, weighing the facts and evidence, to get to a sensible conclusion.

The British program, Downton Abbey provided a good example: Two doctors argued over her treatment, and now poor young Sybil is dead, from eclampsia, due to the family following the snooty but wrong, “expert” doctor’s advice.

The flip side of this is that a “non-expert,” or non-credentialed person, can be an authority. Downton Abbey provides this example as well, via Dowager Countess Violet Crawley. Violet, a layman, was able to readily identify the source of, and solution to, a workman’s rash. Which makes her a true expert authority on that particular matter, though not a doctor.

Fictional examples, but reflected in real life. Perhaps the writers on Downton Abbey are familiar with logical fallacies.

In any court case with a prosecution and defense attorney, one wins, one loses, so lawyers are failures, on average, half the time! Returning to doctors, take a gander at this quote:

…by 2013, the estimate ranged from 210,000 to 440,000 deaths per year. This landed medical errors as the third leading cause of death trailing heart disease and cancer.

This hits a little harder when considered as over two million deaths every 10 years by medical errors, just in the US — as high as 4.4 million, in fact. A big city or two. That’s not “error,” it’s a disaster.

But if you look up references to this fallacy, you may find, via some sources, that now it’s been re-imagined as “Appeal to False Authority.” Lordy, these bastiches are scum. It’s just “appeal to authority,” no “false” included. The whole point of calling it a fallacy is that “authority” has little significance as to whether a person is right or wrong in itself.

An “authority” may have some credibility, but is not infallible. There isn’t and never was a need to call it a “fallacy,” if you’re just talking about any slob representing himself as an expert. Most everyone knows what to do about that: “You’re talking out of your ass, Jack.”

The whole point of noting it as a named fallacy is to counter against using authority as license. In fact, we just saw appeal to authority at work in our discussion of the Monty Hall problem (Not a Rational World 1), where numerous “expert authorities” made fools of themselves when improperly analyzing a statistics problem.

Do they even want to teach logic? Do they even care if they’ll be embarrassed? Certainly not, as it appears they’re trying to corrupt your thinking. In fact, the term, “appeal to false authority,” itself is a fallacy. If you understand that, you’ve grasped the gist of this topic.

They’re simply using the “throw the kitchen sink at it and see what sticks,” by having many lying sites all at the top of search results. That way, you can fool a vast audience. What can you do, sue them?

Obviously, it would be better to call the “appeal to authority” fallacy, “appeal to any authority,” to avoid confusion.

Respect Mah Authoritah!

Satire of the “appeal to authority” fallacy, made famous by Cartman on South Park, whose new badge of officialdom went to his head.

Argument from Inertia (Stay the Course)

This may be applied in an argument to urge that we continue the same bad activities as before, because otherwise, we’d have to admit we’d been wrong. Or that we’d “wasted all that prior effort/time/money.”

A comedian had a joke about how, often someone will win a million in the lottery and not be willing to quit his job.

“Tomorrow, I’ll be right back shoveling shit as usual!” he’ll say.

That could be used an example of stay the course. Also false pride and stubbornness, which is part of that inertia.

Those who stay the course, have never heard of cut your losses.

The opposite take here is that sometimes tradition is good and we “do it that way,” because it is a proven method. For some reason, people often need to make the same mistakes as in the past, to learn for themselves, so tradition can be wrongfully cast aside.

Package Dealing

Trying to sell some argument with questionable aspects as part of a whole or “package.”

That is, if you agree to one part of some argument, you are intrinsically assumed to have accepted the “baggage” – other parts supposedly linked to that argument.

We see something similar in “bills” passed by the US Congress. The “Farm Bill” may have something inside it that deals with something completely unrelated to “farms.” But they have to take the bill as a package and reject or approve it as one unit.

In argument, of course, it is assumption of tacit approval of a person’s entire suite of beliefs, when you may only approve of a portion, one of the facets of the argument.

Popularity Contest

An excuse to favor and fawn over the “favorite” person or thing. Also called Hero Worship, or Cult of Personality.

Selective Pleading

“Picking and choosing,” or only pleading/arguing parts of a theory or argument that you like, make sense to you, or you can defend.

Special Pleading

“Pleading” a “special” case or exemption to a rule, without justification. “Well, in this case, there’s an exception.” Exceptions, of course, do exist, but they must always be justified to be acceptable.

Moving Goalpost

Also called “No True Scotsman,” it describes the situation that we have all experienced where there is “no pleasing” a person.

Some people seem to be never satisfied, no matter what you do for them. It is the same in argument, where no matter how many points you have in your favor, the person never accepts you are correct.

“No true Scotsman wears undies!”
“McTavish wears knickers ‛neath his kilt, and he’s a Scotsman!”
“Aye, Laddie, but he’s no true Scotsman!”

“Moving goalpost” is a more clear and descriptive term. Or “I won’t back down.” Which reminds me of:

True Story

Out of nowhere, at work, a salesman blurted, “Minto’s a damn good builder!”
I bit, “A Minto-built parking garage just collapsed, crushing several cars.”
Salesman (getting in my face): “Nobody was killed, were they?!

Don’t know what his ties to Minto were, but his ties to reason were pretty shaky.


This could also be called babbling, nonsense talk, or insubstantial talk. It comes from the way people may tend to start waving their hands around, trying to reinforce a weak argument that they can’t really verbally substantiate.

Fallacy of Conformity

Going along to get along may be expedient, but it isn’t always sensible.

In truth it is, as described, mindless conformity.

Circular Reasoning

This tactic is just stating a proposition as the conclusion, in a slightly different way. It is a non sequitur.

“That can’t be explained therefore it is unexplainable.”

Circular reasoning is a form of tautology.

Carrots Don’t Care/Fallacy of Equivocation

This fallacy involves misrepresenting two disparate things as equivalent.

What a cavalcade of nonsense our “educators” provide sometimes. For proof, look at one of their “explanations” of the fallacy of equivocation.

I have the right to watch “The Real World.”  Therefore it’s right for me to watch the show.  So, I think I’ll watch this “Real World” marathon tonight instead of studying for my exam.

No one would seriously say something like that, or they’d soon learn to STFU, from peer pressure and the howls of laughter.

Cringe-worthy ignorance on display here. It’s not clear but it looks like this goof is trying to make a tepid “point” that the same word can have more than one meaning, as for your “human right,” and “right” used in the sense of “correct.” This is more of a rationalization or non sequitur, not equivocation.

It is admittedly difficult to come up with good examples. It takes a bit of effort and intelligence, something that this Industry of Swine can’t provide, while they occupy themselves pretending to be experts, while lying or just publishing the easiest, non-informative bullshit.

There was another “authoritative source” that tried to mock someone confusing a dog’s barking meaning a dog is a tree because a tree has bark or something, not recognizing that there are things called bad jokes, and, again, no one would seriously make that mistake.

Miley Cyrus is a star. A star is a flaming ball of gas. Leave Miley alone!

If you’re itching to use the word, “jejune,” juvenile, there’s an epic target.

Remember, this is academia at work, sourced from an official college website.

The fact that no one in the world ever genuinely makes such errors is lost on these academics.

Obviously, the author doesn’t understand metaphor. No one that’s not a puffed-up academician comes up with this. What is the point of “college” and “higher education” if it can’t be trusted in such fundamental areas?

No one says Miley is a ball of gas unless she had burritos last night. The example is moot, not a proper example of a fallacy.

Granted, it is a case showing how difficult it is to come up with pithy and meaningful examples for these fallacies, but someone needs to do the work. Fortunately in this case we need only look to our old friend, the car manufacturer.

Equivocation, as an actual fallacy, is where you have, say, Chevys branded as Toyotas, in some misconceived deal between GM and Toyota. From 1995-2000 Toyota sold the 3rd-generation Chevrolet Cavalier as the Toyota Cavalier in Japan. The consumer isn’t going to get a car of the quality of Toyota when he buys it, natch. But he’s likely to be fooled by the false equivocation to think he is. The word doesn’t make the car, then.

It’s a little disturbing to go to these “educational” sites, only to be fed a load of hooey. But, of course, that’s part of the intent, and it’s called, poisoning the well, keeping the dumb sheep down. But we can see that, more generally, nonsense and blather that fools no one is not ever a “fallacy,” since a fallacy generally refers to something with at least a little bit of finesse.

New Fallacies

There are many fallacies that aren’t generally recognized as such or don’t make the “official” lists. We’ll do that list on our own, here and now. Some are existing informal fallacies, and there’s no reason we can’t identify and name the remainder.

Echo Chamber

This is a manifestation of the “appeal to authority” and “appeal to majority” fallacies. It occurs when you have a group or swarm that cultivate and defend their one-sided opinion.

In that vein, we find a young woman with one of those suddenly, inexplicably popular YouTube channels. A scientist or self-styled scientist, her shtick is “crackpots” videos. Who knows who the hell she is, and what she has done for science? We cannot accept just anyone claiming to be a “scientist,” and certainly no one without complete immersion in, and understanding of, logical principles.

The channel is used as a platform to attack “crackpot theories,” without the author comprehending that all new ideas are “crackpot.” “Science” is not in a position to criticize. (This is a difficult concept to teach people, due to brainwashing that makes people falsely consider any scientist as an authority.) The misguided and malicious claim or imply that science is “consensus science.” That is, the beliefs of the majority rule and become the “accepted science.”

Unfortunately, “consensus science” is the opposite of science. We know that we don’t know everything about science. At least most of the “scientists” admit to that (though some ridiculously do claim we know almost everything). Only if we did know everything could anyone start trumpeting that they have the “truth.” So, can you imagine the arrogance, to strut about, call yourself a scientist, and point fingers at others’ “crackpot ideas?”

They’re constantly touting “breakthroughs” in science (some real, some hype or imaginary), so obviously, the new is something they didn’t know before, and likely a correction to some prior error. So they’re admittedly wrong a lot of the time.

But the comments for the “crackpot” videos have the same old personality types, gloating about how stupid the “crackpots” are. They’re an embarrassment to themselves, but of course can’t realize that from within their echo chamber.

But perhaps the main giveaway that reveals the scam and dishonesty behind this type of operation: There are lots of not-so-smart people who think they have good “theories,” and so, lots of bad ideas. (In fact lots of smart people have lots of bad theories, too.) Would you make a video about everyone that did something “out there?” Do you have to pick on every little thing that isn’t absolutely correct? It’s senseless isn’t it? Bad ideas fall on their own.

Now, on the other hand, there’d be a lot of motivation to pick on “crackpots,” if you have something to hide.

The Name Game

An unsung but powerful fallacy, this is exceptional. It’s essential to know. The name game or the labeling fallacy, is where giving something a specific name seems to impart it with particular, special qualities, or when something that doesn’t even exist is given a name and therefore an existence, if only in people’s minds. This “unofficial” fallacy is one of the most wretched of all.

For example, scientists claim there are these “black holes in space,” without compelling evidence. In fact, what is compelling is the evidence against such manifestations. Why make them up? To cover up their faulty math and analyses, and draw attention and possible funding. Then the movie studios and science fiction writers can run with it and it takes hold of the popular imagination, which solidifies it as “real” in the minds of most everyone.

Regardless, even if such things could exist, they’re of no concern to us to merit one single penny of expenditure.

The name game applies in that brazen misrepresentation, where governments fallaciously label young Chicago hoodlums and gang-bangers as “youths,” for their stats, and then while these “youths” are popping each other off and dropping like flies, government can cry crocodile tears about the “toll of that terrible violence on our youth,” “the youths are dying!” “Save our precious babies!” Then it imposes unconstitutional restrictions, taxation and other infringements of liberty on the long-suffering citizens.

The name game or labeling fallacy is without doubt one of the most significant.

You can also label someone as a “criminal,” unjustifiably, to target them, and turn others against them. Calling people “terrorists” is a government ploy to demonize people.

Giving a name to a mystery disease or syndrome is another example of how wrong this type of thing can be. It makes the medic seem “smarter,” even when he can’t do anything about it! It doesn’t make the doctor any more effective, or the problem go away, but it seems to satisfy some weird, perplexing need in people.

Recognizing the labeling fallacy is recognizing the warning that, “Just saying it doesn’t make it so.”

This tactic of calling the gang-bangers “youth” has another name, guile, and is something else: It is also referred to as appeal to emotion.

Distraction and Obfuscation

Distraction is simply a form of concealment or misdirection.

Obfuscation is described by the term, “baffling with bullshit,” and of course is simply a type of distraction.

These tricks are meant to throw you off your own argument, or send you off on a tangent. They provide a good reminder to know the point of your own argument, and stick to it.

Platitudes & Sayings
  • Just because something is true, doesn’t mean you have to believe it.
  • It works for me.
  • You can’t keep a good man down.
  • Truth will out.
  • I was wrong.

Something like non sequiturs, platitudes are simple nonsense that can often throw off someone. They can derail rational thought.

“I was wrong” is a gimmick recently used by some guy who used to give advice in the “manosphere,” telling guys how to score with women. Now he’s pulling a u-ie and is saying he was wrong to do that, he’s found religion, so he’s pulling his hustle as a repentant sinner, asking for donations, perhaps going where he perceives the money is these days.

Saying you were wrong before doesn’t imply you’re right, now, no matter how ardent your pronouncements and refutations are. Interestingly enough, it doesn’t even mean you had to be wrong, before. The person may have changed his leopard’s spots for convenience or political gain. Clever trick though.

Non-Answers/Out of the Blue/From Power

A subcategory of the sayings, we have:

“Just Don’t!” — Using shaming, aggression, intolerance, dominance.

“Because I say so!” — As above.

“Just Say No!” — Almost intimidation, it’s an appeal to self-authority/from power. Old crone Nancy Reagan was famous for this, which made more kids use drugs than helped, tempting them to rebel/backlash against “out of touch old people” that don’t understand the peer pressures youth faced.

“They Wouldn’t Do That!” — Incredulity, naivety.

“What Seems Fair.” — The person doling out and controlling the favors resorts to this one. Most of the time in a conflict, “what seems fair” to one person is the exact opposite of what seems fair to the opponent.

These sayings may be an appeal to authority, usually self-authority, or just plain overt or implied aggression, and are unsung fallacies themselves, a little stronger than plain platitudes. They often rely on overt or covert intimidation.

Parents, will often go the, “Because I say so!” route, which can be somewhat demeaning, but it’s often justified, especially when a child is being recalcitrant, and because people simply can’t explain every little thing at all times.

Except for teachers of very young children, teachers, professors and “authority figures,” should avoid relying on intimidation or assertion of privilege, which only demonstrates that they don’t have a good argument/explanation. Instead, temptation to stray into that behavior should be motivation for them to review and update their own knowledge so as to have a good answer the next time.

Social Justice Warring: Political Correcting

You’ve probably noticed this one a lot. Whenever you bring up a topic that isn’t “politically correct” (PC), and you have the “wrong” viewpoint, some dork is quick to step in to “straighten you out.” To set you back on the right track, to the societal-approved “truth.”

The purpose of “political correctness,” of course, is to stifle debate, to turn the whole nation into a nation of spies and tattle-tales, lurking around, hoping to “catch” someone not “toeing the line.”

And it makes any progress or sensible discussion over important issues impossible, which is just the way controllers and politicians like it, of course.

Social Justice Warring: “It’s Their Country”

This era of “PC” has the Social Justice Warriors (SJWs) suddenly alert for any imagined infraction. Now you can’t even talk about another culture or country, in a slightly unfavorable way, or if they imagine you are. They will say something like, “Well, it’s their country!” Or, “it’s the way they do things, their policy, their tradition…” If they’re immigrants behaving badly, then it’s turned on its head: “They have the right to their traditions and their beliefs!”

The net result, again, is a stifling of discussion, or sharing of information.

The SJWs, and those of their ilk, twist things around, to “set you straight,” and “correct your inappropriate behavior.” In their psychoses, SJWs can be dangerous, and can blindside you with their irrational attacks. You can also imagine how readily they will run around, poisoning your relations with others.

Social Justice Warring: Voice of the People

“Voice of the people” is actually an “official” fallacy. The dogmatic SJW monitors gain power from it – in fact the less self-assured the person is, the more powerful he will feel in the instance where he speaks with the “voice of the people” backing him up. A surge of righteous indignation and newfound assertiveness from the adrenaline surge of shouting “truth to power.”

You’ll see this type of thing in the support for socialist programs. The trending one now is, “a living wage,” in demands for a higher minimum wage, or more welfare benefits, or even “guaranteed income.”

The vicarious power the nerds, misfits, drones, cucks and “betas,” feel under this circumstance, is irresistible. An intoxicating outlet, to howl in righteous indignation and moral outrage.

It’s a form of appeal to authority, though it is the “authority” of the mob, or “might makes right.”

The “No Other Option”/”False Dilemma”/Black and White Fallacy

Here, Evolution gives us an example. It is implied that that theory is the be-all and end-all, and there can be no other choices; that it is the only conceivable scientific possibility.

Surely the great “scientists” should be able to come up with some novel theories of their own. Especially since Evolution has no way to explain how the first life formed out of inert matter, before there was anything to “evolve.” But that embarrassing factoid is “swept under the rug,” and “explained” with hand-waving or arrogant anger.

Anyway, the “no other option” absurdity refuses to look at anything else but the “pet theory.” It is an example of “putting all your eggs in one basket.”

Again, there is a reason for why inadequate theories are propagated. At the scholarly level, there are no grants offered for alternative theories. At the root, Evolution is cherished because it reinforces the flawed notion that we as people have no inherent worth, are merely more flotsam ‘n jetsam in an impersonal universe. It is meant to drag our self-esteem down, to make us susceptible to the “born to be a slave” meme that is implicit in the way society is organized. It is used to make us feel useless and thus easily manipulable. It keeps the worker bees under control, and docile.

The “Smoking Causes Cancer” Meme and Fallacy

Not everyone who smokes develops cancer. Better would be, “Smoking is probably one of the things that causes cancer.” Or, “Smoking possibly contributes to cancer.”

But, really, we need to look a little deeper. Smoking is a pretty filthy habit in any case, but could it be additives/contaminants in the tobacco? It may be, as one resource says, anything that can cause damage can potentially induce cancer.

In any case, there is more investigation needed before jumping to conclusions.

Assumption of Authority

This is that presumptuousness that particularly characterizes doctors, though it is evident in other professions too. Is it just the pompous authoritarians that gravitate to that profession, or does the profession change people?

This is something that occurs when people don’t understand appeal to authority, and start to act officious and arrogant because of their title and position. One can only guess that this demeanor affects other people’s reasoning at some atavistic level, to create the desired intimidation and deferral to the “expert.” It works by exploiting a common egregious zone of human beings, the one exposed in the story, The Emperor’s New Clothes.

It is quite possible that patients expect that kind of overweening condescension and arrogance from doctors. It may make them feel secure and confident in the doctor. Personally, I prefer the “old country doctor” style.

It can work for almost anyone who puts on a uniform, wears a really serious expression, and looks like they’re going to get mad at the drop of a hat. Or does get mad at the slightest provocation, trying to make it look like they have an inherent right to boss others around.

“Boy, he must be authoritative if he can afford to be so aggressive.”

The “After Long Consideration” Fallacy

An assertion, this refers to the concept that because someone spent a long time thinking about something, his conclusion is solid.

Of course, the length of time spent mulling over something has no relation to whether the reasoning is sound.

Reductio ad Hitlerum

Also known as “playing the Nazi card,” this fallacy is something resorted to by your typical goon who doesn’t want to play fair. The idea is to compare someone to a “Nazi,” and since Nazis are characterized as the most repellent beings imaginable, it will shut down all further discussion.

It is an example of ad hominem, and guilt by (implied) association, of course.

A good rule has been proposed by people aware of this particular nonsense: If you bring up Hitler or Nazis, you automatically lose the argument.

Barrage of Bullshit/Goons from all Angles

We see this a lot on the Internet: A flurry of confusing and contradictory information.

Lawyers thrive on this stuff. Unnecessary complication both hides truth and provides fodder for a parasitic class of lawyers, politicians and more.

“Goons from all angles” refers to a bullshit barrage that is directed for consensus creation. A large group of “stakeholders” will parrot the same nonsense (like Evolution or Climate Change), and, everywhere you go, you’ll see it reinforced, until finally the general public picks up on it and starts parroting it as well.

It’s hard to say whether this type of thing occurs deliberately, by a coherent group, or just by the spectrum of random fools who jump on bandwagons to run their mouths. Hard to say, until we found out that there are brigades of these numb-nuts dogging Internet comment sections and chat rooms, etc. What a non-surprise!

I ran across one of the worst of these goons on the comments section of a blog. A buffoon was ragging on someone, chastising him to, “Use the correct term: ‛Climate Change,’ not ‛Global Warming.’”

The “Saying It Even Makes It Happen” Fallacy

Kate Bush said, “Just saying it might even make it happen,” not that it would really happen.

“We shall put a man on the moon before the end of this decade,” is a great example of this fallacy.

In the early 1960s, JFK made that claim.

Surely, Kennedy didn’t say this without some kind of prior technical briefing, but still…

If he’d known it was physically impossible, and he’d known people knew it was physically impossible, given the technology of the day, he certainly would never have made the claim.

For the Apollo missions did not and could not put a man on the moon – they were a blatant scam, and the proof of that is all over the Web.

Anyway, just because some “authority figure” says something, waves his magic wand, doesn’t make it so. That’s why we have to be careful about everything the “authorities” say.

This is very closely related to the labeling fallacy. Just as giving a name to something doesn’t make it exist – like the way “ghosts,” don’t exist just because they are named, for example. Just saying you’re going to do something doesn’t mean you can or will.

The following fallacies all form a related group, notable for making proof very difficult since they make claims outside the range of everyday observation.

The “Million-Billion Miles Away” or the “Far-away” Fallacy

They pull this stunt with those hated “black holes.”

“There’s these things that violate the laws of physics and do all kind of weird things like you can travel through them and go back and forth in time and do warp drives and things! And you can’t see them because they’re a million-billion miles away!”

People know the word, “gullibility,” but they don’t really understand it.

If you say it’s a million-billion miles away, it means you can’t prove it, not that it must be so!

Oh, and for the budding junior and senior scientists out there, don’t say that these “black holes” are “proven” by astronomical measurements of perturbations in orbits, etc. There are other explanations for perturbations in orbits (dwarf stars and measurement error for example).

NASA, caught in many lies and nonsense over the years, may have its main purpose the perpetuation and reinforcement of nonsense. It should strike everyone as suspicious that they’ve made all these space voyages and all of the predictions of distances, properties of space, and so on, panned out without correction or error. They have, so far as I know, never had to reassess or rewrite any books, technical manuals or physics tables from knowledge gleaned from the travels. This is not just suspicious, it is impossible. It is a gigantic neon sign with flashing red arrow pointing to fraud.

There would be no point in expensive space initiatives of any kind with the omniscience they display. We could simply explore space from the easy confines of chalkboard and computer! Ridiculous.

The “Long Ago” Fallacy

Because something happened “long ago,” it is more plausible and feasible. Like the Bible, and all of its “miracles.” No one stops to question that if there were “miracles” going on “back then,” there is just as much likelihood of “miracles” going on today.

This is used in reverse, too. In conversation, you might bring up some old scam from the past that also applies to some current scam. But, almost inevitably, some annoying bastich will go, “Aw, that was a long time ago!”

Ha-ha: How quickly these things are forgotten when they pass their “best by” date. You know, for a good solid ten years or so, there was hype that “the world would end in December 2012,” because that’s what the “Mayan Calendar” said. Of course, now we never hear any more about the “Mayan Calendar.”

The Future Fallacy

Mustn’t forget this one, just like the “long ago” fallacy. In 1999, the world was filled with fear that in 2000, the world would blow up because the entry for “years” in dates stored in computers had only two digits, instead of four, (so “99” instead of “1999”), so somehow this would screw up things irrevocably, as various crucial systems hooked up to computers went berserk and started destroying themselves and everything else.

No one seemed to understand that computer software is screwing up all the time anyway, especially back then, and change is part of life with computers. Hell, people are always in demand to tweak and patch old software going back many years or decades.

The future, being what it is, unpredictable in many ways, is great fodder for fear-mongers. One thing that never seems to grow tired is that “a comet is going to hit the earth.”

Seems that those who say this are peddling a lot of BS.

If the planets are circling the sun in stable orbits, wouldn’t the comets also? Making collisions unlikely. Also, there’s a lot more room for comets to buzz around in than just the relatively small space the earth occupies, therefore little chance of intersection of comet and planet locations.

You know, the future fallacy appeals to the fear of the unknown we all share. What could be more unknown than what the future holds? Therefore, it is quite an effective trick to influence the masses.

The “Super-” Fallacies

There is a whole host of “super” fallacies: There’s a “super-fast” fallacy, a “super-big” fallacy, a “super-smart” fallacy, a “super-numerous” fallacy…

They love to pull this one out of their asses. An example is when they screwed up something with a so-called “space shuttle” (remember, these things only go 100 miles up, not into “space,” if they even go that far, which is apparently doubtful too).

Anyway, rather than accept blame, they made up some cockamamie story about foam, going “super-fast,” puncturing a hole in the space shuttle and making it blow up.

Why, then, don’t they make bullets out of foam? Would be a hell of a lot cheaper, and better for the environment.

Lost in the illogic is that anything that acts to accelerate foam so fast would probably destroy the foam in the process.

Even if foam goes “super-fast,” it’s still foam. That is to say, it is no harder than non-super-foam. It will still disintegrate against something harder, just that it will disintegrate faster.

The really funny part is how they talked about the “bullet-like speeds” this “loose foam” “smashed” the shuttle with, while showing a video of the typical leisurely rocket take-off. You’ll recall that old familiar recycled “blast-off” scene on TV where the rocket tube crawls its way up-screen within a cloud of billowing white smoke.

They’re coming out now and admitting that those pieces of straw they found, embedded in a fence post or similar, in the aftermath of a tornado was really just the straw embedding in a fracture in the post, when the post was bent under tension during the strong winds. The post sprung back and trapped the straw. It wasn’t that the straw was “super-strong” and punctured the wood because it was moving “super-fast” from the wind.

Another example, is a case where someone was explaining, breathlessly, how he thought these new, “compressed air cars” work.

He described how, once they got up to speed, the air coming into vents in the car would fill up the compressed air tanks, and the car could run forever.

It’s hard to tell how anyone could get this notion in their heads, but it is a good example of how most people don’t really reason that well at all in unfamiliar territory.

This is the same reasoning as taking an electric car up to the top of a hill and attaching a generator to make electricity on the way down, to charge a battery, and get “free energy.” Then, whenever your charge is low, just find a hill, go to the top, then go down it and recharge for free and never have to plug in!

It will always take more energy to put the car on top of the hill than you can recover by sending it down the hill. It’s recognized as a “natural law” of mechanical systems that you can just take for granted. There are no exceptions, but that never has stopped people from trying to get around it.

But it does highlight that this concept isn’t explained well in school.

Still, people should be able to reason these things out for themselves. They’ve heard of “friction.” And, after all, there is general stability in the world. It’s better that way, or else things would be blowing up left and right, another term for instability.

Note: There is “free energy” though, discovered back in the 1800’s when people were stringing telegraph wires and discovered voltage potentials between various areas – they’re pretty quiet about this, and we don’t know if they’ve exploited it secretly, but it is reported to exist. Presumably, it needs special equipment to harness. Of course the energy isn’t really “free” in the sense of coming from nowhere, but is part of the natural processes of earth and sun.

Note that modern electric cars do take advantage of partial energy recovery, something pure gasoline cars would never be able to do.

By using “regenerative braking,” they recover energy that would be lost in the brakes as heat during braking, by instead activating a generator to recharge the batteries. The generator when producing electricity, also acts as a brake on the car, of course.

But we all know that doesn’t mean people never have to recharge, because that only recovers a fraction of the energy, just as the similar action of turning the vanes of an air pump would do, though compressing air is much less energy efficient.

Physics can be a somewhat “foreign” concept, and difficult, because it isn’t made familiar in a day-to-day way.

Basically the same thing as the super-fast fallacy is the super-big/super-quantities fallacy.

Oil comes from dinosaurs because dinosaurs were really big! And there were lots of them!

Note that they don’t mention the Blue Whale, the largest animal that’s ever lived; by their logic, Earth should be creating much more oil these days.

Remember, to be effective, a scam always seeks to capture the imagination.

It’s very important to note that this is a similar tactic memory enhancement strategies use – they coach you to picture some vivid image in your mind to associate to what you want to remember.

It’s also the same tactic the global warming alarmists use, urging you to a mental picture of “the oceans boiling” or other such nonsense.

Dodging the Question
Cadillac CT4-V Engine Whine Is Normal, Says GM.

So, normal for that engine? Perhaps it’s “normal” for all their engines to fall apart prematurely. Dodging the question is a fallacy of deflection, or, lawyer-speak.

Appeal to Imagination

“Change,” touted by Obama. Not one person or analyst commented that “change” can mean for good… or bad. This fallacy is also an example of hand-waving, nonsense with no substance or concrete meaning.

It allows the speaker to simply exploit the naivety of the masses, and rather than make empty promises, just rely on imagination to “fill in the blanks.”

Day-to-Day Fallacies
  • Hands are somehow contaminated, but putting plastic gloves on them can sterilize them and the gloves cannot themselves be contaminated.
  • Anti-virus software protects you, because they say, “anti-virus.”
  • Because we don’t think of or consider some threat or peril, we are proof against it (protection by ignorance).

Summarizing the Fallacies

We reviewed how sometimes a fallacy, isn’t, as in “guilt by association,” or “slippery slope,” which is sometimes perfectly justifiable.

We also saw ways that this proliferation of named fallacies can get to be BS in itself. As one guy said, there are over 200 fallacies, because, “people are always trying to come up with new ways to cheat…”

We found that while it is good to review all the major fallacies, and many of the lesser ones, it is also needless make-work to try to remember them all. Much better to know the general categories that logic errors fall into.

Misdirection and False Assumptions

The key to all logical fallacies is that they are forms of misrepresentation and obfuscation. We don’t need to have tags/names for every possibility of that.

From the sheer number of them – and the above listing was not comprehensive — most people will despair of trying to remember them all.

Truly, it’s a waste of time to try, except for a few of them that seem to come up all the time.

So, can we simplify the fallacies, making them easier to remember?

One approach is to group fallacies of ambiguity, rooted in ambiguous or vague language, fallacies of presumption, which involve false or unjustified premises, and fallacies of relevance, where premises are not relevant to the conclusion despite appearances.

A start, but we need more to summarize or “package” the fallacies in a way that makes them more accessible. On careful examination, they can also be categorized as follows:

  • False assumptions and Assertions: Post hoc, Begging the Question, False Dichotomy and False Continuum, False Conclusion, After Long Consideration, Appeal to Authority, dogmatism/“Because I Say So!”
  • Deceptions/Misdirection/Intent to Confuse: Red Herring, Straw Man, Ad Hominem, Ad Ignorantium, Non sequitur, Circular Reasoning (Tautology), False Analogy
  • Reductions/Extrapolations: Reductio ad Hitlerium, Slippery Slope, The “Super” Fallacies

False assumptions cover cases where someone just asserts they are right, as in begging the question, which goes something like, “Because we all agree…”

False dichotomy is insidious in “boxing in” thought to two options. Because the two options appear as opposites, our egregious zones do the rest. We often tend to think that if two opposites are represented, there are no other options, a dangerous and erroneous conclusion.

Deception covers a wide range of lies. “I have an uncle that was there and saw the whole thing!” for example – a direct challenge to this claim is awkward, because you’d be “calling them a liar,” but of course you aren’t likely to seek out the uncle to confirm the claim. It’s an “easy win” for whoever makes the claim, if you don’t “nip it in the bud.”

That fallacy, call it “Challenge by Authoritative Source,” is well-used on blogs’ comment sections.

It is an easy tactic for trolls and lurkers and bots, trying to protect a lie.

This is a tactic by companies and governments that employ on-line trolls to mold public opinion.

Reductions and extrapolations are all assertions of false conclusions, posed as “following something to its logical conclusion,” when it isn’t a logical conclusion. That is, it is unjustified interpolation or extrapolation.

There can, as always, be some mixing among these categories.

Deceptions prey on lack of understanding, especially of science or logic, like the idea that “foam” suddenly turns into depleted uranium, when the space shuttle hits it.

The idea, the magician’s tactic, of misdirection should be kept in mind. All of the fallacies are basically misdirection.

Studying those groupings listed and staying alert for when they are used, gives a good handle on much of the trickery employed in arguments. We’ll carry on with a discussion of argument, next.

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