Please Don’t Take My Word For It

  • Ad Hominem: This is one of the most common fallacies out there. It is a favorite of our former president Trump, and it is one of the easiest to employ.
  • The name is ad hominem is Latin and translates to “against the man,” but it is understood more commonly as a personal attack. When this fallacy is used, whether consciously or unconsciously, people start to question the opponent or his or her personal associations, rather than evaluating the soundness and validity of the argument that he or she presents. Trump calling opponents by names like “Crooked Hillary” and “Sleepy Joe” are recent, well-known examples of this. (Excerpts from https://literarydevices.net/ad-hominem/)
  • Appeals to Authority: This is where you rely on an “expert” source to form the basis of your argument. Mentioning an academic tends to imply authority and expertise, and that your argument is backed up by rigorous research. The effect is even stronger when you use a real name.
  • But name-dropping alone is not enough to “prove” your case. Even if the academic is real, and their research is genuine, it may not necessarily support your argument — it may be misquoted, misunderstood, taken out of context, or contain important caveats that undermine the point you are trying to make.
  • Try not to rely too heavily on a single expert’s authority, or on a single source of data.
  • False Inductions. A false induction is often called a “non sequitur,” which translates from Latin as “it does not follow.” This fallacy gets you to infer a causal relationship where none is evident. Just because something happened before something else, or just because two trends are correlated, does not mean that there is a logical, causal link between the two.
  • Slippery Slope: The slippery slope argument relies on making you think that the worst that can happen will actually happen if you take a particular course of action. Of course, this is not necessarily the case.
  • Here’s an example: “If we allow Karen to leave early, soon we’ll be giving everyone Friday afternoon off.”
  • This kind of argument crops up often. But, on closer inspection of the example, you can see that it’s illogical to conclude that you will have to give absolutely everyone an afternoon off, every single week, just by allowing one employee to leave early one time.
  • Bandwagon Fallacy: Here, you are led to believe in an idea or proposition simply because it’s popular or has lots of support. But the fact that lots of people agree with something doesn’t make it true or right. At the same time, keep in mind that just because lots of people believe in something doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Always try to think critically and don’t be led by forceful arguments.
  • The “appeal to tradition” fallacy is similar to the bandwagon fallacy. Here the argument centers on something that has “always” been done, or that is a widely accepted practice.
  • False Dichotomy: The false dichotomy fallacy depends on an “either-or” argument: you provide only two options and force people to choose between them. In fact, neither choice may be the best, and there may be many other options available. But the argument makes it look like the suggested option is the only feasible one.
  • Straw Man Fallacy: The straw man fallacy involves creating a false argument and then refuting it. The counterargument is then believed to be true. By misrepresenting an opposing position (and then knocking it down) your own preferred position appears stronger.
  • No True Scotsman Fallacy: Sometimes called an “appeal to purity,” this is a way to dismiss flaws in an argument or criticisms of it.
  • No matter how compelling the counterargument may be, the person committing this fallacy “moves the goalposts,” and shifts the terms of the argument so that the contradictory evidence does not apply. Calling things “UnAmerican” is a common example of this one.
  • Observational Selection: This means that you draw attention to the positive aspects of an idea and ignore the negatives. You are trying to make your argument more persuasive by providing only half the story.
  • It’s easy to slip into observational selection if you become attached to an idea, especially if you were involved in generating it. The “statistics of small numbers” fallacy is a similar concept. Here, you take one observation and use it to draw a general conclusion.

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Brian is the Founder of Elbay Endeavors a consulting company which helps individuals & entrepreneurs expand their wealth & businesses. Apple alum. USC Trojan.

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Brian Bloch

Brian Bloch

Brian is the Founder of Elbay Endeavors a consulting company which helps individuals & entrepreneurs expand their wealth & businesses. Apple alum. USC Trojan.

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