FALLACIES OF RELEVANCE
1. Appeal to Force
If you suppose that terrorizing your opponent is giving him a reason for believing that you are correct, then you are using a scare tactic and reasoning fallaciously. Example:
David: My father owns the department store that gives your newspaper fifteen percent of all its advertising revenue, so I’m sure you won’t want to publish any story of my arrest for spray painting the college. Newspaper editor: Yes, David, I see your point. The story really isn’t newsworthy. David has given the editor a financial reason not to publish, but he has not given a relevant reason why the story is not newsworthy. David’s tactics are scaring the editor, but it’s the editor who commits the scare tactic fallacy, not David. David has merely used a scare tactic. This fallacy’s name emphasizes the cause of the fallacy rather than the error itself.
2. Appeal to Pity
You commit the fallacy of appeal to emotions when someone’s appeal to you to accept their claim is accepted merely because the appeal arouses your feelings of anger, fear, grief, love, outrage, pity, pride, sexuality, sympathy, relief, and so forth. Example of appeal to relief from grief: [The speaker knows he is talking to an aggrieved person whose house is worth much more than $100,000.] You had a great job and didn’t deserve to lose it. I wish I could help somehow. I do have one idea. Now your family needs financial security even more. You need cash. I can help you. Here is a check for $100,000. Just sign this standard sales agreement, and we can skip the realtors and all the headaches they would create at this critical time in your life. There is nothing wrong with using emotions when you argue, but it’s a mistake to use emotions as the key premises or as tools to downplay relevant information. Regarding the fallacy of appeal to pity, it is proper to pity people who have had misfortunes, but if as the person’s history instructor you accept Max’s claim that he earned an A on the history quiz because he broke his wrist while playing in your college’s last basketball game, then you’ve committed the fallacy of appeal to pity.
*Appeal to Snobbery
3. Ad Hominem
You commit this fallacy if you make an irrelevant attack on the arguer and suggest that this attack undermines the argument itself. It is a form of the Genetic Fallacy. Example:
What she says about Johannes Kepler’s astronomy of the 1600′s must be just so much garbage. Do you realize she’s only fourteen years old? This attack may undermine the arguer’s credibility as a scientific authority, but it does not undermine her reasoning. That reasoning should stand or fall on the scientific evidence, not on the arguer’s age or anything else about her personally. If the fallacious reasoner points out irrelevant circumstances that the reasoner is in, the fallacy is a circumstantial ad hominem. Tu Quoque and Two Wrongs Make a Right are other types of the ad hominem fallacy. The major difficulty with labeling a piece of reasoning as an ad hominem fallacy is deciding whether the personal attack is relevant. For example, attacks on a person for their actually immoral sexual conduct are irrelevant to the quality of their mathematical reasoning, but they are relevant to arguments promoting the person for a leadership position in the church. Unfortunately, many attacks are not so easy to classify, such as an attack pointing out that the candidate for church leadership, while in the tenth grade, intentionally tripped a fellow student and broke his collar bone.
*Ad Hominem Circumstantial
Guilt by association is a version of the ad hominem fallacy in which a person is said to be guilty of error because of the group he or she associates with. The fallacy occurs when we unfairly try to change the issue to be about the speaker’s circumstances rather than about the speaker’s actual argument. Also called “Ad Hominem, Circumstantial.” Example:
Secretary of State Dean Acheson is too...
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