The Argumentative Fallacies

The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress.

According to wikipedia, “In reasoning to argue a claim, a fallacy is reasoning that is evaluated as logically incorrect and that vitiates the logical vitality of the argument and permits its recognition as unsound.”

In other words, fallacies are statements that might sound reasonable or superficially true but are actually flawed or dishonest. Based on the structure of argument made and appeal pleased by the audiences, fallacies can be classified into multiple categories. Following are some of the very common ones :

  1. Argumentum ad populum

In argumentation theory, an argumentum ad populum(Latin for “argument to the people”) is a fallacious argument that concludes that a proposition is true because many or most people believe it: “If many believe so, it is so.”

2. Appeal to Authority

Appeal to authority is a form of defeasible argument in which a claimed authority’s support is used as evidence for an argument’s conclusion. It is well known as a fallacy, though it is used in a cogent form when all sides of a discussion agree on the reliability of the authority in the given context.

3. Redutio ad absurdum

In logic, reductio ad absurdum (Latin for “reduction to absurdity”) is a form of argument which attempts either to disprove a statement by showing that it inevitably leads to a ridiculous, absurd, or impractical conclusion, or to prove one by showing that if it were not true, the result would be absurd or impossible.

4. Straw man

A straw man is a common form of informal fallacy based on giving the impression of refuting an opponent’s argument, while refuting an argument that was not presented by that opponent. One who engages in this fallacy is said to be “attacking a straw man”. The typical straw man argument creates the illusion of having completely refuted or defeated an opponent’s proposition through the covert replacement of it with a different proposition (i.e., “stand up a straw man”) and the subsequent refutation of that false argument (“knock down a straw man”) instead of the opponent’s proposition.

If detected by audiences, these logical fallacies backfire by making the audience think the presenter is (a) unintelligent or (b) deceptive. Thus, it is important to avoid them in your own arguments, and it is also important to be able to spot them in others’ arguments so a false line of reasoning won’t fool you.