23 Logical Fallacies

Straw Man - misrepresenting someone’s argument to make it easier to attack

  • By exaggerating, misrepresenting, or just completely fabricating someone's argument, it's much easier to present your own position as being reasonable, but this kind of dishonesty serves to undermine honest rational debate.
  • Example: After Will said that we should put more money into health and education, Warren responded by saying that he was surprised that Will hates our country so much that he wants to leave it defenseless by cutting military spending.
  • Example from the News:  After football players knelt during the national anthem to protest racial injustice, conservatives responded by saying they were appalled that football players would disrespect the flag, people in the armed services, and veterans.  After all, it is easier to beat up on people kneeling when it is about disrespecting symbols of our country than it is when it is about social injustice,


False Cause - presuming that a real or perceived relationship between things means that one is the cause of the other

  • Many people confuse correlation (things happening together or in sequence) for causation (that one thing actually causes the other to happen). Sometimes correlation is coincidental, or it may be attributable to a common cause.
  • Example: Pointing to a fancy chart, Roger shows how temperatures have been rising over the past few centuries, whilst at the same time the numbers of pirates have been decreasing; thus pirates cool the world and global warming is a hoax.

Appeal to Emotion - manipulating an emotional response in place of a valid or compelling argument

  • Appeals to emotion include appeals to fear, envy, hatred, pity, pride, and more. It's important to note that sometimes a logically coherent argument may inspire emotion or have an emotional aspect, but the problem and fallacy occurs when emotion is used instead of a logical argument, or to obscure the fact that no compelling rational reason exists for one's position. Everyone, bar sociopaths, is affected by emotion, and so appeals to emotion are a very common and effective argument tactic, but they're ultimately flawed, dishonest, and tend to make one's opponents justifiably emotional.
  • Example: Luke didn't want to eat his sheep's brains with chopped liver and brussel sprouts, but his father told him to think about the poor, starving children in a third world country who weren't fortunate enough to have any food at all.

 Fallacy Fallacy - presuming that because a claim has been poorly argued, or a fallacy has been made, that the claim itself must be wrong

  • It is entirely possible to make a claim that is false yet argue with logical coherency for that claim, just as it is possible to make a claim that is true and justify it with various fallacies and poor arguments.
  • Example: Recognising that Amanda had committed a fallacy in arguing that we should eat healthy food because a nutritionist said it was popular, Alyse said we should therefore eat bacon double cheeseburgers every day.

Slippery Slope - saying  that if we allow A to happen, then Z will eventually happen too, therefore A should not happen

  • The problem with this reasoning is that it avoids engaging with the issue at hand, and instead shifts attention to extreme hypotheticals. Because no proof is presented to show that such extreme hypotheticals will in fact occur, this fallacy has the form of an appeal to emotion fallacy by leveraging fear. In effect the argument at hand is unfairly tainted by unsubstantiated conjecture.
  • Example: Colin Closet asserts that if we allow same-sex couples to marry, then the next thing we know we'll be allowing people to marry their parents, their cars and even monkeys.