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Fallacy Examples

A.  MISSING GROUNDS --  circularity:

1. "begging the question" (grounds = claim)  

Smith must be telling the truth because he wouldn't lie.    

2. circular definition  "a cat is a feline animal."  "synthesis is the act of synthesizing"



1.  evading the issue:

a. "red herring"   We should not support Greek Week because Greeks are hazers and sex abusers."  "Genetic testing is genocide against handicappers."


b. "straw man"    The students argued they should have the same parking rights as residents even though they don't pay property taxes."


 c.    slippery slope/extension    "If we allow the Brady Bill waiting periods for gun purchases, pretty soon guns will be outlawed entirely."


d.   tu quoque   "You did it too."


2. appeal to tradition (unchallengeable authority):  [religion, tradition, science, etc.]  "It's God's will."  "The Bible says so."  "We must support the president.  He's right and knows best."  "Einstein was a Zionist so it must be right."


3.  ad hominem (name calling, guilt by assoc, motive)    "commie, racist, bigot, sexist, fascist", character attacks,  motive attacks


4. ad populi (to the people)  "America is a Christian nation; therefore ..." 
                             "Everyone agrees."


5. emotion/compassion - pity/fear   "People are suffering in this recession therefore we should have a stimulus package."


6.  shifting grounds / shifting the burden of proof.  "They have offered no good reason not to adopt our policy."


7.  two wrongs.  "It's only fair that white males get short changed after they've done it to others so long."


8.  ignorance (of counter evidence)  "You don't see any elephants do you?"  "No one has ever been able to show it's not a good idea/true."



1.  hasty generalization:

a.  too few cases:  "After one semester here I can tell the faculty are unfriendly"


b.  unrepresentative cases:  "Having seen INTERIORS and THE FRONT I think Woody Allen movies are too grim."


2.  accident (applying a rule as if it MUST ALWAYS be used)  "We can't fund women's soccer because it's gender exclusive."



1.  False cause

a.  post hoc ergo propter hoc   "I got sick right after eating at the cafeteria.  It must be their food."

b.  Single cause  "Joining a fraternity CAUSES low grade points."


2.  false analogy    Roosevelt's garden hose.  [metaphors are especially risky -- "war on drugs."] "Students are our customers."


3.  poisoned well ("COMMON SENSE tells us ..." "INFORMED voters believe...")


4.  dilemma/dichotomy ("either ‑ or")   "Either you're for affirmative action quotas or you're opposed to equal rights for minorities."


5.  Composition / division - synechdoche - "Any Omega must be a heavy boozer."


E.   Language Fallacies

  1. Emotive (loaded) language -- "the foolish proposal"

  2. Equivocation / ambiguity --  different definitions of the same word during the course of an argument  "White Males hold all the power = All white males are powerful."  [ Switzerland is free, I am free, I am Switzerland.]


 Last updated 12/2/2008