Fallacies of Relevance
Refers to a personal attack on an arguer’s reputation or character rather than the argument itself.
Usually seen in political debates
Example: Teddy Roosevelt’s attacks on William Howard Taft’s obesity.
Attacking the Motive
Refers to focusing on an attack against an arguer’s supposed motivation or bias rather than focusing on the argument itself.
Usually points to how the arguer would benefit from his own argument. Example: Flower companies stand to make millions this Valentine’s Day, so they are lying when they say roses have always been a ubiquitous symbol of love.
Look Who’s Talking (Tu Quoque)
Refers to the rejection of an argument or claim based on the arguer’s inability to follow his/her own advice.
Usually points to the arguer’s inability to practice what he preaches and rejects that helpful advice.
Example: My doctor told me to stop smoking, but since he smokes I can still smoke; I should be okay.
Two Wrongs Make a Right
Refers to the improper justification of an act simply because a similar act is just as bad or worse.
Usually related to Tu Quoque
Mom: Jack, stop hitting your sister
Jack: Well, she kicked me!
It doesn’t matter that Cuba is run by a dictator. We should lift the embargo on Cuba because we have trade relations with other dictators in China and the middle east.
Refers to the threat of violence or other detriment in order to emotionally manipulate the audience.
Usually sound like threatening statements; related to pathos Example:
Politician A: We both agree that I am in charge of the bill and what can go in it; it would be so unfortunate if I withheld my vote from your next project to prove so. We should not vote in favor of Obamacare because it would implement death panels.
Appeal to Pity (Pathos)
Refers to the way an arguer develops a claim with emotional baggage that has no bearing on the argument.
Usually used by students seeking a grade bump.
Student A: Professor, because I attended every class on time, tried my best on every assignment, and studied more than usual, I hope you can give me an A instead of a B. If I don’t get an A, my dad would be so upset! I only need 0.5 points!
Refers to an arguer’s manipulation of the audience by appealing to the popularity or value of an aspect of a claim.
Usually manipulates the audience’s desire to be “with the crowd” and not alone.
Example: Some of the most famous musicians in history produced great music on drugs; therefore, you should use them too if you want to write good songs.
Straw Man Fallacy
Refers to the way an arguer distorts an opponent’s claim to make it easier to attack.
Usually uses different (tricky) words when falsely summarizing an opponent’s claim.
Example: John claims that the Seahawks are a better football team than the 49ers, but San Francisco isn’t a bad team like the Jaguars; after all, they made it to a championship game when many others did not.
Refers to the use of an irrelevant issue that is irrelevant to the main argument at hand in order to distract the audience.
Usually used first to lead the audience astray then secondly to settle the original dispute when it is convenient for the arguer.
Example: Many people accuse George Bush of invading Iraq when it was not necessary; but Bush was a great president who made Americans feel safe.
Begging the Question
Refers to the adoption of a conclusion that is really the premise of an argument.
Usually circular in nature and simply restates the essential question of the argument or claim; it is quite redundant and offers nothing new.
Bungee–jumping is dangerous because it is unsafe.
Batman is cool because he is awesome.
Mr. Adams should take that specific course because it is required.
Exercises: Spot the...
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