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16.4.1: Fallacies

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    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): Top 10 Logical Fallacies. Source: Mometrix Academy (

    Persuasive speakers must be careful to avoid using fallacies in their reasoning. Fallacies are errors in reasoning that occur when a speaker fails to use appropriate or applicable evidence for their argument. There are a wide variety of fallacies, and it is not possible to list them all here. However, speakers should watch for four common categories of fallacies: “fallacies of faulty assumption,” which occur when the speaker reasons based on a problematic assumption; “fallacies directed to the person,” which occur when the speaker focuses on the attributes of an individual opponent rather than the relevant arguments; “fallacies of case presentation,” which occur when the speaker mischaracterizes the issue; and “fallacies of suggestion,” which occur when the speaker implies or suggests an argument without fully developing it.

    There are some positive steps you can take to avoid these pitfalls of persuasive speaking and ensure that you are presenting your message in the most ethical manner. We have already discussed some of these, such as offering credible evidence for your arguments and showing concern for the audience’s well-being. However, you should also offer a transparent goal for your speech. Even with a hostile audience, where you may wait until later in the speech to provide the specific purpose statement, you should be forthcoming about your specific purpose. In fact, be truthful with your audience throughout the speech.

    Table \(\PageIndex{2}\) Examples of Fallacies
    Fallacies of Faulty Assumption
    False Cause

    This fallacy occurs when one assumes that two events that happened in chronological order are connected (Post hoc, ergo propter hoc)

    It is cloudy outside, and I feel sick. Cloudy days make me sick.

    The school board voted to buy new picnic tables for the lunchroom. Many students were out sick the following day. The students must be upset about the picnic tables.

    Bandwagon This fallacy occurs when one assumes that the popular opinion is the correct path or the truth.

    Everyone takes out a loan to buy a car, so you should too.

    None of the cool kids wear helmets when they ride bikes. You should take yours off.

    Begging the Question This fallacy occurs when one declares the conclusion inside the premise of their argument, i.e. a type of circular argument.

    Lion King is an excellent film because it has excellent animation.

    Marijuana is good for you because it is natural.

    Hasty Generalization This fallacy occurs when one declares a conclusion without sufficient evidence. College dropouts always make excellent business leaders. Just look at Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs. They all dropped out and went on to create powerful companies.
    Slippery Slope This fallacy occurs when one assumes extreme consequences and an unalterable conclusion without sufficient evidence. NYC wants to legislate the Sugary Drinks Portion Cap Rule, limiting drinks to less than 24 oz for health reasons. Where will the denial of our freedom of choice end? Meat servings? Imposing curfews? Mandatory mask-wearing?
    Straw Man This fallacy occurs when one argues against a false or distorted version of the opposition's claim.

    Parent: Your curfew is at 10 pm tonight.

    Teenager: But the party doesn't even start until 9:00.

    Parent: It's a school night, so you need to be home by 10:00.

    Teenager: You just want me to be unpopular! You don't care about my happiness!

    Fallacies Directed to the Person
    Ad Hominem This fallacy occurs when one attacks the opposition itself versus the claims or argument at hand. 

    We should reject President Obama’s health care legislation because it is socialism.

    We should ignore Donald Trump’s opposition to tax hikes because he’s just rich and selfish.

    Poisoning the Well This fallacy occurs when one attacks the opposition or its claims before the opposition is allowed to speak.

    Before the defense makes their closing statement, keep in mind that their client has not said one truthful word throughout the trial.

    My opponent is going to try to manipulate you into thinking her plan is better for the city.

    Appeal to Flattery This fallacy occurs when one attempts to use compliments in order for one to side with them.

    First, I wanted to tell you that this is my favorite class. I tell all my friends how much I love it. I just think I deserve a better grade on my exam.

    You are such a generous person, I know you’ll want to donate to this cause.

    Fallacies of Case Presentation
    Non Sequitur This fallacy occurs when one's argument does not follow or connect logically to its given premise (i.e. not sequential).

    I don’t plan to vote today because I am moving next week.

    You should clean your room because I am going to do the laundry.

    Red Herring This fallacy occurs when one distracts or attempts to mislead the audience from the argument at hand.

    I should not be fined for parking in a red zone when there are so many people out there committing real crimes like robbery and murder.

    War is wrong, but in times of crisis, we should support the president.

    Appeal to Misplaced Authority This fallacy occurs when one uses testimony from an authority who is not an authority on the subject at hand.

    This diet is the best one for people with my health condition, Oprah said so.

    I want to visit the Museum of Modern Art. My English professor says they have the best collection anywhere!

    Fallacies of Suggestion
    Paralepsis This fallacy occurs when one claims to omit something or say they will not dwell on something, but because they bring it up, they are emphasizing it.

    I’m not saying he cheated; he just did uncharacteristically well on that exam.

    If she wants to work for a crook, that’s her business.

    Either-Or This fallacy occurs when one provides only two options from which to choose, and the options are mutually exclusive, and in fact, many compromises exist. (i.e. false dilemma)

    Either you’re with us or against us.

    Love it or leave it.

    Arrangement This fallacy occurs when one creates a false impression by ordering, associating, or grouping items of evidence in a misleading way.

    I have so much to do today. I have to get my car fixed, finish a paper, take a nap, and pick my mom up from the airport.

    So many highly respected musicians will be there: Paul McCartney, Elton John, LMFAO, Billy Joel . . .

    It is appropriate to use fictional scenarios to demonstrate your point but tell the audience that is what you are doing. You can accomplish this by introducing fictional examples with the phrase, “hypothetically,” or “imagine,” to signal that you are making it up (Beebe & Beebe, 2003). Additionally, be sure to offer a mix of logical and emotional appeals. Blending these strategies ensures that you have evidence to back up emotional claims and that you are sensitive to the audiences’ emotional reactions to your logical claims. Attending to both aspects will help you be more ethical and more persuasive.

    The most important persuasion tool you have in your entire arsenal is integrity. ~ Zig Ziglar

    16.4.1: Fallacies is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Lisa Coleman, Thomas King, & William Turner.

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