List of Logical
Fallacies are fake or deceptive arguments, arguments
that prove nothing. Fallacies often seem superficially sound, and they far too
often retain immense persuasive power even after being clearly exposed as
false. Fallacies are not always deliberate, but a good scholar’s purpose is
always to identify and unmask fallacies in arguments. Note
that many of these definitions overlap, but the goal here is to identify
contemporary and classic fallacies as they are used in today's discourse.
Effort has been made to avoid mere word-games (e.g., "The Fallacist's
Fallacy), or the so-called "fallacies" of purely formal or symbolic logic.
No claim is made to "academic rigor" in this listing.
The A Priori Argument: Also, Rationalization; Proof
A corrupt argument from logos, starting with a
given, pre-set belief, dogma, doctrine, scripture verse, "fact" or conclusion and then searching for
any reasonable or reasonable-sounding argument to
rationalize, defend or justify it. Certain ideologues and religious fundamentalists are
proud to use this fallacy as their primary method of "reasoning" and
some are even honest enough
to say so. The opposite of this fallacy is the Taboo.
Actions have Consequences: The contemporary fallacy of
a person in power falsely describing an imposed punishment or penalty as a "consequence" of
negative act. E.g.," The consequences of your misbehavior could include
suspension or expulsion." A corrupt argument from ethos, arrogating to
oneself or to one's rules or laws an ethos of cosmic inevitability,
i.e., the ethos of God, Fate, Destiny or Reality Itself. Freezing to
death is a "consequence" of going out naked in subzero weather but
prison is a punishment for bank robbery, not a natural, inevitable
or unavoidable "consequence," of robbing a bank. Not to be confused
with the Argument from Consequences, which is quite different. An opposite
fallacy is that of Moral Licensing.
The Ad Hominem
Argument (also, "Personal attack," "Poisoning the well."): The fallacy of
attempting to refute an argument by attacking the
opposition’s personal character or reputation, using a
corrupted negative argument from ethos. E.g., "He's so
evil that you can't believe anything he says." See also
"Guilt by Association." The opposite
of this is the "Star Power" fallacy. Also applies to cases where
valid opposing evidence and arguments are brushed aside
without comment or consideration, as simply not worth
arguing about, solely because of the lack of power,
status or proper background of the person making the argument,
or because the opponent is not a member of an
"in-group," i.e., "You'd understand me if you were
Burmese but since you're not there's no way I can
explain it to you," or "Nobody but a nurse can know what
a nurse has to go through."
The Affective Fallacy (also
The Romantic Fallacy): A fallacy of Pathos, that one's
emotions, urges or "feelings" are in every case self-validating,
autonomous, and above any human intent or act of
will (one's own or others'), and are thus beyond challenge or critique. In this fallacy one
argues, "My feelings are valid, so
therefore you have no right to criticize what I say or
do, or how I
say it or do it." This latter is also a fallacy of stasis,
confusing reasoned response or refutation with personal
devaluation, disrespect, prejudice, bigotry, sexism,
homophobia or hostility. A grossly sexist form of the
Affective Fallacy is the well-known fallacy that a
phallus "Has No Conscience," i.e., since male sexuality
is self-validating and beyond voluntary control what one
does with it cannot be controlled and is not open to
criticism, an assertion eagerly embraced and extended
beyond the male gender in certain reifications of
"Desire" in contemporary academic theory.
See also, Playing on Emotion.
Alphabet Soup: A corrupt implicit
fallacy from ethos in which a person overuses acronyms,
abbreviations, form numbers and arcane insider "shop
talk" primarily to prove to an audience that s/he
"speaks their language" and is "one of them"
and to shut
out, confuse or impress outsiders. E.g., "It's not
at all uncommon for a K-12 with ASD to be both GT and LD."
"I had a twenty-minute DX Q-so on 15 with a
Zed-S1 and a couple of LU2's even though the QR-Nancy was 20 dB
over S9," or "I hope I'll
keep on drawing my BAQ until the day I get my DD214."
The Appeal to
Closure: The contemporary fallacy that an argument, standpoint, action
or conclusion no matter how questionable must be
accepted as final or else the
point will remain unsettled, which is unthinkable because those affected will be denied "closure."
This fallacy falsely reifies a specialized term from Gestalt Psychology (closure)
while refusing to recognize the undeniable truth that some points will indeed remain
unsettled, perhaps forever. E.g., "Society would be protected, crime would
be deterred and justice served if we sentence you to life without parole,
but we need to execute you in order to provide some closure." See also,
Argument from Ignorance, and Argument from Consequences.
The Appeal to
Heaven: (also, Argumentum ad Coelum, Deus Vult, Gott mit Uns, Manifest Destiny, American
Exceptionalism, the Special Covenant). An ancient, extremely dangerous fallacy
(a deluded argument from ethos) asserting that God (or
History, or a higher power) has ordered or annointed, supports or
approves of one's own standpoint or actions so no
further justification is required and no serious
challenge is possible. (E.g., "God ordered me to kill my
children," or "We need to take away your land, since God
[or Manifest Destiny, or Fate, or Heaven] has given it
to us as our own.") A private individual who seriously
asserts this fallacy risks ending up in a psychiatric
ward, but groups or nations who do it are far too often
taken seriously. This vicious fallacy has been the cause
of endless bloodshed over history. See also, Magical
Thinking. Also applies to deluded negative Appeals to
Heaven, e.g., "I know God wouldn't ever let that
happen!" The opposite of the Appeal to Heaven is the Job's
The Appeal to
Pity: (also "Argumentum ad Miserecordiam"). The fallacy of urging an
audience to “root for the underdog” regardless of the issues at hand. A
classic example is, “Those poor, cute little squeaky mice
are being gobbled up by mean, nasty cats
that are ten times their size!” A contemporary example might be
American popular support for the Arab Spring movement of
2010-2012 in which popular forces ("The underdogs") were seen to be
heroically overthrowing cruel dictatorships, a movement that has
resulted in retrospect in chaos, anarchy, mass
suffering, the rise of extremism, and the largest refugee crisis in Europe since
World War II. A corrupt argument from pathos. See also, Playing to
Emotions. The opposite of the Appeal to Pity is the Appeal to Rigor,
an argument (often based on machismo or on
manipulating an audience's fear) based on mercilessness.
E.g., "I'm a real man, not like those bleeding hearts,
and I'll be tough on [fill in the name of the enemy or bogeyman
of the hour.]" In academia this latter
fallacy applies to
politically-motivated or elitist calls for "Academic Rigor" and
against Open Admissions, "Dumbing Down" of courses and "Grade Inflation."
The Appeal to
Tradition: (also, Conservative Bias,"The Good Old Days"). The fallacy
that a standpoint, situation or action is right, proper
and correct simply because it has "always" been that way, because people have "always" thought that way, or because it
continues to serve one particular group very well. A corrupted argument from
ethos (that of past generations). (E.g., "In America, women have always been
paid less, so let's not mess with long-standing tradition."). See
also Argument from Inertia, and Default Bias. The
opposite of this is The Appeal to
Novelty (also, "Pro-Innovation bias," "Recency Bias,"
and "The Bad Old
Days"), e.g., "It's NEW, and [therefore it must be] improved!"
or "This is the very latest discovery--it has to be
The Argument from
Consequences (also, Outcome Bias) The major fallacy of arguing that
something cannot be true because if it were the
consequences or outcome would be unacceptable. (E.g.,
"Global climate change cannot be caused by human burning
of fossil fuels, because if it were, switching to
non-polluting energy sources would bankrupt American
industry," or "Doctor, that's wrong! I can't have
terminal cancer, because if I did that'd mean that I
won't live to see my kids get married!") Not to be confused with Actions have Consequences.
See also "A Priori Argument" and "Argumentum ex Silentio."
The Argument from Ignorance (also, Argumentum ad
The fallacy that since we don’t know (or can never know, or cannot prove) whether a claim is true or false, it must be false (or that it must be true). E.g., “Scientists
are never going to be able to positively prove their theory that humans evolved from other creatures,
because we weren't there to see it! So, that proves the Genesis six-day
creation account is literally true as written!” This fallacy includes
Attacking the Evidence, e.g. "Some
of your key evidence is missing, incomplete, or
even faked! That proves I'm
right!" This usually includes “Either-Or Reasoning:” E.g., “The
vet can't find any reasonable explanation for why my dog died. See! See! That proves
that you poisoned him! There’s no other
logical explanation!” A corrupted argument from logos. A fallacy commonly found in
American political, judicial
and forensic reasoning.
The Argument from Inertia (also “Stay the Course”). The fallacy that it
is necessary to continue on a mistaken course of action even after
discovering it is mistaken, because changing course would mean admitting
that one's decision (or one's leader, or one's faith) was wrong, and all one's
effort, expense and sacrifice was for nothing, and that's unthinkable. A
variety of the Argument from Consequences, E for Effort, or the Appeal to Tradition.
See also Moral
The Argument from Motives (also Questioning Motives). The fallacy of
declaring a standpoint or argument invalid solely because of the evil,
corrupt or questionable motives of the one making the claim. E.g., "Bin
Laden wanted us out of Afghanistan, so we have to keep up the fight!" Even
evil people with corrupt motives sometimes say the truth (and even those who
have the highest motives are often wrong or mistaken). A variety of the Ad
Hominem argument. The
counterpart of this is the fallacy of falsely justifying or excusing evil or
vicious actions because of the perpetrator's purity of motives or lack of
malice. (E.g., "He's a good Christian man; how could you
accuse him of doing something like that?")
Argumentum ad Baculum ("Argument from the Club." Also,
"Argument from Strength," "Muscular Leadership,"
"Non-negotiable Demands," Bullying,
Fascism, Resolution by Force of Arms.). The fallacy of "persuasion" or "Proving one is
right" by force, violence, or threats. E.g., "Gimmee your
wallet or I'll knock your head off!" or "We have the perfect right to take your land, since we have the guns and you don't." Also applies to indirect forms of threat. E.g., "Give
up your foolish pride, kneel down and accept our religion today if you don't want to
burn in hell forever and ever!"
Argumentum at Mysteriam ("Argument from
Mystery.") A darkened chamber, incense, chanting or
drumming, bowing and kneeling, special robes or
headgear, holy rituals and massed voices reciting sacred
mysteries in an unknown tongue have a
quasi-hypnotic effect and can often persuade more
strongly than any logical argument. The Protestant
Reformation was in large part a rejection of this
fallacy. When used knowingly and deliberately this
fallacy is particularly vicious and accounts for some of
the fearsome persuasive power of cults. An example
of an Argumentum ad Mysteriam is the "Long Ago and Far Away"
fallacy, that facts, evidence, practices or arguments from
ancient times, distant lands and/or "exotic"
cultures carry a special
gravitas or ethos simply because of their antiquity, language
e.g., chanting Holy Scriptures in their original
languages, the Greek, Latin or Assyrian Christian
Liturgies, using classic or made-up Latin names
for fallacies, or, for those who lack Asian roots, adopting Zen Buddhist practices and chanting Sanskrit Mantras.
See also, Esoteric Knowledge.
Argumentum ex Silentio (Argument from Silence). The fallacy that
if available sources remain silent or current knowledge and evidence can
prove nothing about a given
subject or question this fact in itself proves something about the truth of the matter. E.g., "Science can tell us nothing about
God. That proves God doesn't exist." Or "Science admits it can tell us nothing
about God, so you can't deny that God exists!" Often misused in the American justice
system, where, contrary to the 5th Amendment, remaining silent or "taking the Fifth" is
often falsely portrayed as proof of guilt. E.g., "Mr. Hixel has no
alibi for the evening of January 15th. This proves that he was in fact in room
331 at the Smuggler's Inn, murdering his wife with a hatchet!" In
today's America, choosing to remain silent in the face of a police officer's
questions can make one guilty enough to be arrested or even shot. See also,
Argument from Ignorance.
Availability Bias (also, Attention
Bias, Anchoring Bias): A fallacy of logos stemming from
the natural tendency to give undue attention and importance to
information that is immediately available at hand,
particularly the first or last information received, and to minimize or ignore broader data or wider
evidence that clearly exists but is not as easily
remembered or accessed. E.g., "We know from experience
that this doesn't work," when "experience" means
the most recent
local experience, ignoring multiple instances in other
places and times where it has worked and
Sometimes combined with the "Argumentum ad Baculum," e.g., "Like it or not,
it's time to choose sides: Are you going to get on board the bandwagon with
everyone else, or get crushed under the wheels as it goes by?" For the
opposite of this argument see the Romantic Rebel
The Bandwagon Fallacy (also, Argument from Common Sense, Argumentum ad Populum):
The fallacy of arguing that because "everyone"
supposedly thinks or does something, it must be right. E.g., "Everyone knows
that undocumented aliens ought to be kicked out!" Sometimes
also includes Lying with Statistics, e.g. “Surveys show that over 75% of Americans believe Senator Snith is not telling the truth. For anyone with
half a brain, that conclusively proves he’s a dirty liar!”
The Big Lie Technique (also "Staying on Message"): The contemporary fallacy of repeating a lie,
fallacy, slogan, talking-point, nonsense-statement or deceptive half-truth over and over in
different forms (particularly in the media) until it
becomes part of daily discourse and people believe it without further proof or evidence. E.g.,
"What about the Jewish Question?" Note that when this
particular phony debate was
going on there was no "Jewish Question," only a "Nazi
Question," but hardly anybody in power recognized or wanted to talk about that.
Writer Miles J Brewer expertly demolished The Big Lie
Technique in his (1930) story, "The Gostak and the
Doshes." However, more contemporary examples of the Big
Lie fallacy might be the completely
fictitious August 4, 1964 "Tonkin Gulf Incident" concocted
under Lyndon Johnson as a
justification for escalating the Vietnam War, or the
non-existent "Weapons of Mass Destruction" (conveniently
abbreviated "WMD's" in order to lend this
particular Big Lie a legitimizing, military-sounding
ethos) in Iraq, used in 2003 as a false
justification for invading that country. See also,
Alphabet Soup, and Propaganda.
Blind Loyalty (also Blind Obedience, Unthinking
Obedience, the "Team Player" appeal, the
Nuremberg Defense). The
dangerous fallacy that an argument or action is right simply and solely
because a respected leader or source (a President, expert, one’s parents,
one's own "side," team or country, one’s boss or commanding officers) says it
is right. This is over-reliance on authority, a corrupted argument from
ethos that puts loyalty above truth, above
one's own reason and above
conscience. In this case a person attempts to justify incorrect, stupid or
criminal behavior by whining "That's what I was told to do," or “I was just
following orders." See also,
"The Soldiers' Honor Fallacy." A not-uncommon but
extreme example of this fallacy is the Big
Brain/Little Brain Fallacy (also, the Fuhrerprinzip) in which a tyrannical cult-leader tells
followers "Don't think with your little brains (the
brain in your head), but with your BIG brain (the
leader's)." This last is sometimes expressed in positive
terms, i.e., "You don't have to worry and stress out about the
moral rightness of what you are doing since I, the leader.
am assuming all responsibility for your actions. I will defend you and
gladly accept all the consequences up to and including
eternal damnation if I'm wrong." See also, "Just Do It!"
Blood is Thicker than Water
(also Favoritism, Compadrismo, "For my friends, anything."). The reverse of the "Ad Hominem" fallacy, a corrupt argument from ethos where a
statement, argument or action is automatically regarded as true, correct and above challenge because one is related to, or knows and likes,
or is on the same team as the individual
involved. (E.g., "My brother-in-law says he saw you goofing off on the job.
You're a hard worker but who am I going to believe, you or him? You're fired!")
Brainwashing (also, Propaganda,
Cold War-era fantasy that an enemy can instantly
unsuspecting audience with their vile but somehow
unspeakably persuasive "propaganda," e.g., "Don't
look at that website! They're trying to brainwash you
with their propaganda!" Historically, this
more properly to the inhuman Argumentum ad Baculum of
"beating an argument into" a prisoner via pain, fear,
sensory or sleep deprivation, prolonged abuse and sophisticated
psychological manipulation (also, the "Stockholm
Syndrome."). Such "brainwashing" can also
be accomplished by pleasure ("Love Bombing,"),
e.g., "Did you like that? I know you did. Well, there's lots more
where that came from when you sign on with us!" (See
also, "Bribery.") An unspeakably sinister form of
persuasion by brainwashing involves deliberately
addicting a person to drugs and then providing or
withholding the substance depending on the addict's
Note: Only the "other side" brainwashes. "We" never
Bribery (also Material Persuasion, Material Incentive, Financial
Incentive). The fallacy of "persuasion" by bribery, gifts or favors, the reverse of the Argumentum ad
Baculum. As is well known, someone who is persuaded by bribery rarely "stays persuaded"
unless the bribes keep on coming in and increasing with time. Related to
this is the fallacy of Appeasement
(also, "The squeaky wheel gets the grease"), most often
popularly connected to the shameful pre-World War II appeasement
of Hitler but still commonly practiced in retail
business today, e.g. "The customer is always right,
even when they're wrong. Just give'em what they want so they'll shut up and go
away--it's cheaper than a lawsuit."
Circular Reasoning (The Vicious Circle;
Catch 22, Begging the Question, Circulus
A fallacy of logos where A is because of B, and B is
because of A, e.g., "You can't get a job because you
have no experience, and you have no experience because
you can't get a job." Also refers to falsely arguing
that something is true by repeating the same statement
in different words. E.g., “The witchcraft problem is the
most urgent spiritual crisis in the world today. Why?
Because witches threaten our immortal souls.” A corrupt
argument from logos. See also the "Big Lie technique."
Question: The contemporary fallacy of demanding a direct answer to a question that cannot be answered without first analyzing or challenging the basis of the question itself. E.g., "Just
me 'yes' or 'no': Did you think you could get away with plagiarism and not
suffer the consequences?" Or, "Why did you rob that bank?" Also applies to situations where one is forced to either accept or reject complex standpoints or propositions containing both acceptable and unacceptable parts. A corruption of the argument from logos.
A counterpart of Either/Or Reasoning.
Confirmation Bias: A fallacy of logos,
recognizing the fact that one always tends to see, select and share
evidence that confirms one's own standpoint and beliefs,
as opposed to contrary evidence. This fallacy is how
"Fortune Tellers" work--If I am told I will meet a
"tall, dark stranger" I will be on the lookout for a
tall, dark stranger, and when I meet someone even
marginally meeting that description I will marvel at the
correctness of the "psychic's" prediction. See also,
"Half Truth," and "Defensiveness."
Default Bias: (also, "If it ain't
broke, don't fix it;" Acquiescence; "Making one's
peace with the situation;" "Get used to it;"
"Whatever is, is right;" "Let it be, let it be;" "Better the devil you
know than the devil you don't know."). The logical fallacy of
automatically favoring or accepting a situation simply because it
exists right now, and arguing that any other alternative is mad,
unthinkable, impossible, or at least would take too much effort,
stress and risk to
change. The opposite of this fallacy is
Nihilism ("Tear it all down!"),
blindly rejecting what exists in favor of what could be,
the infantile disorder of romanticizing anarchy, chaos,
"permanent revolution," or
change for change's sake.
Defensiveness (also, Choice-support
Bias): A fallacy of ethos (one's own), in which
after one has taken a given decision,
commitment or course of action, one automatically tends
to defend that decision and to irrationally dismiss opposing options,
even when one's decision later on proves to be shaky or wrong. "Yeah, I
voted for Snith. Sure, he turned out to be a crook and a liar
and he got us into war, but I still say that he was better than
the available alternatives!" See also "Argument from
Inertia" and "Confirmation Bias."
Diminished Responsibility: The common
contemporary fallacy of applying a specialized judicial
concept (that criminal punishment should be less if
one's judgment was impaired) to reality in general.
E.g., "You can't count me absent on Monday--I was hung
over and couldn't come to class so it's not my fault."
Or, "Yeah, I was speeding on the freeway and killed a
guy, but I was buzzed out of my mind and didn't know
what I was doing so it didn't matter that much." In
reality the death does matter very much to the victim,
to his family and friends and to society in general.
Whether the perpetrator was high or not does not matter
at all since the material results are the same. This
also includes the fallacy of Panic, a
very common contemporary fallacy that one's actions, no
matter how damaging or evil, somehow don't "count"
because "I panicked!" This fallacy is rooted in the
confusion of "consequences" with "punishment."
Disciplinary Blinders: A very common
contemporary scholarly fallacy of ethos (that of one's discipline
or field), automatically disregarding, discounting
or ignoring a priori otherwise-relevant
arguments and evidence that come from outside one's own
professional discipline, discourse community or academic
area of study. E.g., "That may be true or may be false,
but it's so not what we're doing in
our field right now," See also, "Star Power."
E" for Effort. (also Noble Effort) The
common contemporary fallacy that something
must be right, true, valuable, or worthy of respect and honor simply because someone has put so much sincere good-faith effort or
even sacrifice and bloodshed into it. (See also Appeal to Pity; Argument from Inertia;
Heroes All; or Sob Story.).
Reasoning: (also False Dilemma, False Dichotomy, Black/White Fallacy,
False Binary Logic). A fallacy that
falsely offers only two possible options even though a broad range of possible alternatives are
always readily available. E.g., "Either you are 100% Simon Straightarrow or you are queer
as a three dollar bill--it's as simple as that and there's no middle ground!" Or, “Either you’re
us all the way or you’re a hostile and must be destroyed! What's it gonna be?"
Also applies to falsely contrasting one option or case to
another that is not really opposed, e.g., falsely countering
"Black Lives Matter" with "Blue Lives Matter" when in
fact not a few police officers are themselves African
American, and African Americans and police are not (or
ought not to be!) natural enemies. See also, Overgeneralization.
Equivocation: The fallacy of deliberately failing to define one's terms, or
knowingly and deliberately using words
in a different sense than the one the audience will understand. (E.g., Bill
Clinton stating that he did not have sexual relations with "that woman," meaning no sexual
penetration, knowing full well that the audience will understand his
statement as "I had no sexual contact of any sort with that woman.") This is
a corruption of the argument from logos, and a tactic often used in
Esoteric Knowledge (Esoteric Wisdom,
Gnosticism, Inner Truth): A
fallacy from logos and ethos, that there is some
knowledge reserved only for the Wise or the Enlightened,
things that the masses cannot understand and do not
deserve to know, at least not until they become more
"spiritually advanced." The counterpart of this
fallacy is that of Obscurantism
(Obscurationism; Willful Ignorance), that (almost always said in a basso profundo
voice) "There are some things that mere mortals must
never seek to discover!" E.g., "Scientific research on
human sexuality is morally wrong! There are some
things that humans are simply not meant to know!" For
the opposite of this latter, see the "Plain Truth
Fallacy" below. See also, Argumentum ad Mysteriam.
Essentializing: A fallacy that proposes a person
or thing “is what it is and that’s all that it is,” and
at its core will always be the way it is right now
(E.g., "All terrorists are monsters, and will still be
terrorist monsters even if they live to be 100," or "'The
poor you will always have with you,' so any effort to
eliminate poverty is pointless."). Also refers to the
fallacy of arguing that something is a certain way "by
nature," an empty claim that no amount of proof can
refute. (E.g., "Americans are cold and greedy by
nature," or "Women are naturally better cooks than
men.") See also "Default Bias." The opposite of
this is the fallacy of Relativizing,
blithely dismissing any and all arguments against one's
standpoint by shrugging one's shoulders and responding that "Everything's relative,"
or falsely invoking Einstein, Heisenberg's Uncertainty
Principle or Quantum Weirdness to confuse, mystify or
opponent. See also, "Red Herring."
The Excluded Middle: A corrupted argument from logos that
proposes that since a little of something is good, more must be better (or
that if less of something is good, none at all is even better). E.g., "If
eating an apple a day is good for you, eating an all-apple diet is even
better!" or "If a low fat diet prolongs your life, a zero-fat diet should
make you live forever!" An opposite of this fallacy is that of
Excluded Outliers, where one
arbitrarily dismisses examples or results that disprove
one's standpoint by simply describing them as "Weird," "Outliers," or
"Atypical." Also opposite is the fallacy
of the Middle Path, where one
demonstrates the "reasonableness" of one's own
standpoint (no matter how extreme) not on its own
merits, but by presenting
it as the "moderate" path between two obviously
unacceptable alternatives. E.g. Lenin
successfully argued for Bolshevism as the "moderate"
middle path between bomb-throwing Nihilist terrorists on the
ultraleft and a corrupt and hated Czarist autocracy on
The opposite of
this fallacy is the Sui Generis Fallacy,
a postmodern stance that rejects the validity of analogy
and of inductive reasoning altogether because any given person,
or idea under consideration is "sui generis" i.e., unique, in a
class unto itself.
Analogy: The fallacy of incorrectly comparing one thing to another in order to draw a false conclusion. E.g., "Just
like an alley cat needs to prowl, a
normal adult can’t be tied down to one single lover."
Finish the Job: The dangerous contemporary fallacy that an action or standpoint (or the continuation of the action or standpoint) may not be questioned or discussed because there is "a job to be
done," falsely assuming all "jobs" are meaningless but never to be
questioned. Sometimes those
involved internalize ("buy into") the "job" and make the
task a part of their own ethos. (E.g., "Ours is not to reason why / Ours is but to do or die.")
Related to this is the "Just a Job" fallacy. (E.g.,
"How can torturers stand to look at themselves in the mirror?
But, I guess it's OK because for them it's just a job.") (See also "Blind Loyalty,"
"The Soldiers' Honor Fallacy" and "Argument from Inertia.")
The Free Speech Fallacy: The infantile
fallacy of defending one's statements by whining, "It's
a free country, isn't it? I can say anything I
want to!" A recent extreme case of this is the "Safe
Space," where it is not allowed to refute,
challenge or even discuss another's beliefs because
that might be too uncomfortable or "triggery" for emotionally fragile
Gaslighting: A vicious fallacy of
logic, deliberately changing or distorting facts, memories, scenes, events
and evidence in order to disorient and to make a vulnerable
opponent doubt his/her sanity. This fallacy is named after
British playwright Patrick Hamilton's 1938 stage play "Gas Light," also known as "Angel
Guilt by Association:
The fallacy of trying to refute or condemn someone's standpoint, arguments or actions by evoking the negative ethos of those
with whom one is identified or
of a group, party, religion or race to which he or she belongs or once
associated with. A form of Ad Hominem Argument,. e.g.,
"Don't listen to her. She's a Republican so you can't trust anything she says,"
or "Are you or have you ever been a member of the
An extreme instance of this is the "For my
enemies, nothing" Fallacy, where perceived
"enemies" are always wrong and must be conceded
nothing, not even the time of day, e.g., "He's a
Republican, so even if he said the sky is blue
I wouldn't believe him."
The Half Truth (also Card Stacking, Stacking the
Deck, Incomplete Information). A
corrupt argument from logos, the fallacy of consciously selecting,
collecting and sharing only that evidence that supports
one's own standpoint, telling the strict truth
but deliberately minimizing or omitting important key details in order to falsify the larger picture and support a false conclusion.(e.g. “The truth is that Ciudad Juárez,
Mexico is one of the world's fastest growing cities and can boast of a young, ambitious and hard-working population, mild winters, a dry and sunny climate, low cost medical and dental care, a multitude of churches and places of worship,
spicy local cuisine and a swinging nightclub scene. Taken together, all these facts clearly prove that Juárez
is one of the world’s most desirable places for young
families to live, work and raise a family.”) See also, Confirmation Bias.
Hero-Busting (also, "The Perfect is the
Enemy of the Good") under which, since nothing and
nobody in this world is perfect there are not and have
never been any heroes: Washington and Jefferson held
slaves, Lincoln was (by our contemporary standards) a racist, Karl Marx had a kid by the
housemaid, Martin Luther King Jr. had an eye for women
too, Lenin condemned feminism, the Mahatma drank his own
urine (ugh!), the Pope is wrong on capitalism, same-sex marriage
women's ordination, Mother Teresa loved suffering and
was wrong on just about everything else too, etc., etc
Also applies to the now nearly-universal political tactic of
ransacking everything an opponent has said, written or done
since infancy in order to find something to
misinterpret or condemn
we all have something!). An early
example of this latter is deftly described in Robert
Penn Warren's classic novel, All the King's Men.
This is the opposite of the "Heroes All" fallacy.
Heroes All (also Everybody's a Winner). A contemporary fallacy
that everyone is above average or extraordinary. A corrupted argument from
pathos (not wanting anyone to lose or to feel bad). Thus, every member of the
Armed Services, past or present, who served honorably is a national hero, every student who
competes in the Science Fair wins a ribbon or trophy, and every racer is
awarded a winner's yellow jersey. This corruption of the argument from pathos,
much ridiculed by American comedian Garrison Keeler, ignores the fact that
if everybody wins nobody wins, and if everyone's a hero no one's
a hero. The logical result of this fallacy is that, as author Alice Childress writes, "a hero ain't
nothing but a sandwich." See also the "Soldiers' Honor
Or, "No, you can't quit piano
lessons. I wish I had a magic wand and could teach you
piano overnight, but I don't, so like it or not, you
have to keep on practicing." The parent, of course,
ignores the possibility that the child may not want or
need to learn piano. See also, TINA.
I Wish I Had a Magic Wand:
The fallacy of regretfully (and
falsely) proclaiming oneself powerless to change a bad or objectionable
situation. E.g., "What can
we do about gas prices? As Secretary of Energy I wish I had a magic
wand, but I don't" [shrug] .
The Job's Comforter Fallacy (also,
"Karma is a b***h;" "What goes around comes
around."): The fallacy
that since there is no such thing as random chance and we (I,
my group, or my country) are under special protection of
heaven, any misfortune or natural disaster that
we suffer must be a punishment for our own or someone
else's secret sin or open
wickedness. The opposite of the Appeal to Heaven, this
is the fallacy employed by the Westboro Baptist Church
members who protest fallen service members' funerals all
around the United States. See also, Magical Thinking.
Just Do it. (also, "Find a way;" "I don't
care;" "Accomplish the mission;" "By Any Means Necessary." ) A pure, abusive Argumentum ad
(argument from force), in
which someone in power arbitrarily waves aside or overrules the moral objections of subordinates
and orders them to accomplish a goal by any means required, fair or foul The clear implication is that unethical or immoral methods should be
used. E.g., "You say there's no way you can finish the dig on schedule because there's
an old unmarked graveyard under the excavation site? Well, find a way! I
don't want to know how you do it, just
do it! This is a million dollar contract and we need it done by
Tuesday." See also, Plausible Deniability.
Just Plain Folks (also,
"Values"): This corrupt modern
argument from ethos argues to a less-educated or rural
audience that the one arguing is "just plain folks" who
"speaks plainly" and
thinks like the audience, and is thus worthy of belief, unlike some "double-domed professor," "Washington bureaucrat," "tree-hugger" or other despised
outsider who "doesn't think like we do" or
"doesn't share our values." This is a
counterpart to the Ad Hominem Fallacy and occasionally
carries a distinct flavor of xenophobia or racism as
This also includes the fallacy that "We're just plain
folks so we need to keep our heads down and not get involved
in the big things of this world, like politics,
demonstrations or protests." See also the Plain
The Law of Unintended Consequences (also,
"Every Revolution Ends up Eating its own
Young"): In this very dangerous,
archly pessimistic postmodern fallacy the bogus "Law of Unintended
Consequences," once a
semi-humorous satirical corollary of "Murphy's Law," is elevated to to the status of an
iron law of history. This fallacy
arbitrarily proclaims a priori that since we can never know everything or foresee
anything, sooner or later in today's "complex world" unforeseeable
adverse consequences and negative side effects (so-called "unknown unknowns") will
always end up blindsiding and overwhelming, defeating
and vitiating any and all "do-gooder" efforts to improve
our world. Instead, we must always
expect defeat and be ready to roll with the punches
by developing "grit" or
"resilience" as a primary survival skill. This nihilist fallacy is a
practical negation of the the possibility of any argument from logos. See also, TINA.
Statistics: The contemporary fallacy of using true figures and numbers to “prove” unrelated claims.
(e.g. "College tuition costs have actually never been lower. When
expressed as a
percentage of the national debt, the cost of getting a college education is actually far
lower today than it was in 1965!"). A corrupted argument from logos, often
preying on the public's perceived or actual mathematical
This includes the Tiny Percentage Fallacy,
that an expense that is quite significant
in and of itself somehow becomes insignificant simply because it's a tiny
percentage of something much larger. E.g., a consumer
who would choke on spending an extra dollar for two cans
of peas will typically ignore $50 extra on the price of
a car or $1000 extra on the price of a house simply
because these differences are "only" a tiny percentage
of the much larger amount being spent.
Historically, sales taxes or value-added taxes have
successfully gained public acceptance and remain "under
the radar" because of this latter fallacy. See also
Half-truth, Snow Job, and Red Herring.
Magical Thinking (also, the Sin of Presumption)::
An ancient but deluded fallacy of logos, that when it comes to
"crunch time," provided one has enough faith, prays hard enough,
does the right rituals, or "claims the promise," God
will always work a miracle at the request of the True
Believer. In practice this nihilist fallacy denies the
existence of a rational or predictable universe and thus the possibility
of any valid argument from logic. See also, Positive Thinking,
the Appeal to Heaven, and the Job's Comforter fallacy. .
Mala Fides (Arguing in Bad Faith;
also Sophism): Using an argument that the arguer himself or
herself knows is not valid. E.g., An unbeliever attacking believers by
throwing verses from their own Holy Scriptures at them , or
a lawyer arguing for the innocence of someone whom s/he knows full well to be guilty. This latter
is a common practice in American jurisprudence, and is sometimes portrayed as the worst face of "Sophism."
[Special thanks to
Bradley Steffens for pointing out
Included under this fallacy is the fallacy of
Motivational Truth (also,
Demagogy), deliberately lying
to "the people" to motivate them toward some
action one perceives to be desirable (using evil discursive means toward a good
material end). A particularly bizarre and corrupt
form of this latter fallacy is Self Deception
(also, Whistling by the Graveyard).
in which one deliberately and knowingly deludes oneself
in order to achieve a goal, or perhaps simply in order
to suppress anxiety and maintain one's energy level,
enthusiasm, morale, peace of mind or sanity.
Measurability: A corrupt argument from
logos and ethos (that of science and mathematics),
the modern Fallacy of Measurability proposes that if
something cannot be measured and quantified it does not
exist, is "nothing but touchy-feely stuff" unworthy of
serious consideration, or is mere anecdotal gossip or subjective opinion.
Moral Licensing: The contemporary ethical fallacy that
one's consistently moral life, good behavior or recent extreme suffering or sacrifice earns him/her the right to commit an immoral act without repercussions, consequences
or punishment. E.g., "I've been good
all year, so one bad won't matter," or "After what I went
through, God knows I need this." The fallacy of Moral Licensing
is also sometimes applied to nations, e.g., "Those who
criticize repression and the Gulag in the former USSR
forget what extraordinary suffering the Russians went
through in World War II and the millions upon millions
who died.": See also Argument from Motives.
The opposite of this fallacy is the (excessively rare in
our times) ethical fallacy of Scruples,
in which one obsesses to pathological excess
about one's accidental, forgotten, unconfessed or
sins and because of them, the seemingly inevitable prospect of eternal damnation.
Moving the Goalpost: A fallacy of
logos, demanding a certain degree of proof or evidence
and then when this is offered, demanding even more, different
or better evidence in order to validate an argument or
establish a fact.
MYOB (Mind Your Own
Business; You're Not the Boss of Me; "So What?", The Appeal to Privacy), The contemporary fallacy of arbitrarily
terminating any discussion of one's own standpoints or
behavior, no matter how absurd, dangerous, evil or offensive, by drawing a
phony curtain of privacy around oneself and one's actions. A corrupt argument from ethos (your own). (E.g., "Sure,
I was doing eighty and weaving between lanes on Mesa Street--what's it to you?
You're not a cop, you're not my nanny. It's my business to speed, and your
business to get the hell out of my way. Mind your own business!" Or, "Yeah, I killed my baby. So what? Butt out! It's none of your business!") Rational discussion is cut off because "it is none of your
business!" See also, "Taboo." The counterpart of this is "Nobody Will
Ever Know," (also "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas;"
"I think we're alone now," or the
Heart of Darkness Syndrome) the fallacy that just because nobody
important is looking
(or because one is on vacation, or away in college, or
overseas) one may freely commit
immoral, selfish, negative or evil acts at will without expecting any of the normal consequences
or punishment .
Author Joseph Conrad graphically describes this sort of
moral degradation in the character of Kurtz in his classic novel, The Heart of
Name-Calling: A variety of the "Ad Hominem" argument.
dangerous fallacy that, simply because of who one is, any and all arguments,
disagreements or objections against one's standpoint
or actions are automatically racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, bigoted,
discriminatory or hateful. E.g., "My stand on abortion is the only correct
one. To disagree with me, argue with me or question my judgment in any way would only show what a pig you
really are." Also applies to refuting an argument by simply
calling it a "fallacy," or declaring it invalid without proving why it is invalid,
or summarily dismissing arguments or opponents by labeling them
"racist," "communist," "fascist," or some other negative name without
further explanation . A subset of this is the Newspeak
fallacy, creating identification with
a certain kind of audience by inventing racist or
offensive, sometimes military-sounding nicknames for
common enemies, e.g., "The damned DINO's are even worse than
the Repugs and the Neocons." Or, "In the Big One it
took us only five years
to beat both the J*ps and the Jerries, so a decade and a half
after niner-eleven why is it so hard
for us to
beat a raggedy bunch of Hajjis and Towel-heads?"
See also, "Reductionism," "Ad Hominem Argument," and "Alphabet
No Discussion (also No Negotiation, the
Control Voice, Peace through Strength, Muscular Policy, Fascism): A pure Argumentum ad
Baculum that rejects
reasoned dialogue, offering either instant, unconditional
compliance/surrender or defeat/death as the only two options for settling even
minor differences. E.g., "Get down on the ground, now!"
or "We don't talk to terrorists." This deadly fallacy falsely paints real or
potential "hostiles" as monsters devoid of all reason, and far too often
contains a very strong element of "machismo" as well. I.e. "A real, muscular leader never resorts to pantywaist pleading,
apologies, fancy talk or argument. That's for lawyers, liars and pansies
and is nothing but a delaying-tactic. A real man stands tall, talks
straight, draws fast and shoots to kill." The late actor John Wayne frequently
portrayed this fallacy in his movie roles. See also, The Pout.
Non-recognition: A deluded fallacy in
which one deliberately chooses not to publicly
"recognize" ground truth, usually on the theory that this
would somehow reward evil-doers if we
recognize their deeds as real. Often the underlying
theory is that the situation is "temporary" and will
soon be reversed. E.g., In the
decades from 1949 until Richard Nixon's time the United
States officially refused to recognize the existence of
the most populous nation on earth, the People's Republic
of China because America supported the Republic of China
government on Taiwan instead and hoped they might return
to power on the mainland. More than half a century after the
Korean War the U.S. still refuses to pronounce the name of
or recognize a
nuclear-armed DPRK (North Korea). An individual who does
this risks institutionalization (e.g., "I refuse to
recognize Mom's murder, 'cuz that would give the
victory to the murderer! I refuse to watch you bury her! Stop!
Stop!") but tragically,
such behavior is only too common in international relations. See
also the State Actor Fallacy, Political Correctness, and The Pout.
Occasionally involves the
breathtaking arrogance of claiming to have special knowledge of why God,
fate or the Universe is doing certain things.
E.g., "This week's earthquake was obviously meant to punish those people for
their great wickedness."
Sequitur: The fallacy of offering reasons or conclusions that have no logical connection to the argument at hand (e.g. “The reason
I flunked your course is because the government is now printing purple
five-dollar bills! Purple!”). (See also Red Herring.)
Nothing New Under the Sun
it all before,” "Surprise, surprise," "Plus ça change, plus c'est la
même chose.") Fairly
rare in contemporary discourse, this deeply cynical fallacy, a corruption of
the argument from logos, falsely proposes
that there is not and has never been any real novelty in this world,. Any
argument that there are truly “new” ideas or phenomena is judged a priori
to be unworthy of serious discussion and dismissed with a sigh
and a wave of the hand as "the same old same old."
E.g., “[Sigh!] Idiots! Don't you see
that the current influx of refugees from the Mideast is just the same old Muslim invasion of Europe that’s been going on for
1,400 years?” Or,
“Libertarianism is nothing but re-warmed anarchism, which, in turn, is nothing but the
ancient Antinomian Heresy. Like I told you before,
there's nothing new under the sun!”
(also, "The Nose Knows"): A vicious, animal-level
fallacy of pathos in which opponents are dismissed or
dehumanized primarily based on their imagined odor, lack
of personal cleanliness, or
filth. E. g., "Those demonstrators are demanding
something, but I'll only talk to them if first they go
home and take a bath!" Or, "Those filthy ****'s stink!"
Also applies to demeaning other cultures or
nationalities based on their differing cuisines, e.g.,
"I don't care what they say, their breath always stinks
of garlic. And have you ever smelled their kitchens?"
See also, "They're Not Like Us."
fallacy of logos stemming from the paradox that beyond a
certain point, more verbal explanation, instructions or
discussion inevitably results in less, not more, understanding.
Contemporary urban mythology holds that this fallacy is
typically male ("Mansplaining"), while barely half a
century ago the prevailing myth was that it was men who were
non-verbal while women would typically overexplain (e.g.,
the 1960 hit song by Joe Jones, "You Talk Too
Much"). "Mansplaining" is, according to
Danelle Pecht, "the infuriating tendency of many men to
always have to be the smartest person in the room,
regardless of the topic of discussion and how much they
actually know!" See also "Plain Truth."
Overgeneralization (also Hasty Generalization, Totus pro Partes Fallacy) where a
broad generalization that is agreed to be true is
offered as overriding all particular cases, particularly
special cases requiring immediate attention. E.g.,
"Doctor, you say that this time of year a flu
vaccination is essential. but I would counter that ALL
vaccinations are essential" (implying that I'm not going
to give special attention to getting the flu shot).
Or, attempting to refute "Black Lives Matter" by replying, 'All Lives Matter," the latter
undeniably true but still a fallacious
overgeneralization in that specific and urgent context.
"Overgeneralization" also includes the the Pars pro Toto
Fallacy,. the stupid but common fallacy of incorrectly applying one or two
true examples to all cases.
E.g. “Some college student was tailgating me
all the way up North Main Street last night.
This proves that all college students are lousy drivers and that we should pull their driver’s licenses until they
either grow up, learn to drive or graduate!”
(See also "Law of Unintended
The Paralysis of Analysis (also, Procrastination,
the Nirvana Fallacy): A postmodern fallacy that since
all data is
never in, any conclusion is always provisional, no legitimate decision can
ever be made and any action should
always be delayed until forced by circumstances. A corruption of the
argument from logos.
The Passive Voice Fallacy (also, the
Bureaucratic Passive): A
fallacy from ethos, concealing agency behind the curtain
of the grammatical passive voice, e.g., "It has been
decided that you will be let go," arrogating an ethos of
cosmic inevitability to a very fallible decision made by
identifiable and fallible human beings.
Paternalism: A fallacy of ethos,
arbitrarily tut-tutting, dismissing or ignoring another's arguments
as "childish" or "immature;" taking a condescending
attitude of superiority toward opposing arguments or
toward opponents themselves. E.g., "Your argument
against war is so infantile. Try approaching the issue
like an adult for a change," "I don't argue with
children," or "Somebody has to be the grownup in
the room, and it might as well be me. Here's why you're
wrong..." Also refers to the sexist
fallacy of dismissing a woman's argument because she is
a woman, e.g., "Oh, it must be that time of the month,
eh?" See also "Ad Hominem Argument."
The Plain Truth Fallacy; (also, the
Simple Truth fallacy, Salience Bias,
the KISS Principle [Keep it Short and Simple], the
Executive Summary): A
fallacy of logos favoring familiar or easily
comprehensible data, examples and evidence over that
which is more complex and unfamiliar but
much closer to the truth. E.g, "Ooooh, look at all
equations and formulas! Just boil it down
to the Simple Truth," or "I don't want your damned
philosophy lesson! Just tell me the Plain Truth
about why this is happening."
A more sophisticated version of this fallacy arbitrarily
proposes, as did 18th century Scottish rhetorician John Campbell,
that the Truth is always simple by nature and only
malicious enemies of the Truth would ever seek to make it
complicated. (See also, The Snow Job, and Overexplanation.) The opposite of
this is the postmodern fallacy of
Ineffability or Complexity,
arbitrarily declaring that today's world is so complex that there
is no truth, or
that Truth (capital-T), if indeed such a thing exists, is unknowable except by God
and is thus forever
irrelevant to us mere finite mortals, making argument
from logos impossible. See also the
Paralysis of Analysis, and Overexplanation.
Plausible Deniability: A vicious
fallacy of ethos under which someone in power forces
those under his or her control to do some questionable
or evil act and to then falsely assume or conceal
responsibility for that act in order to protect the
ethos of the one in command. E.g., "Arrange a fatal accident
but make sure I know nothing about it!"
Also associated with the Pathetic Fallacy is the fallacy of
Refinement ("Real Feelings"),
where certain classes of living beings such as plants
and animals, infants, babies and minor children, slaves,
deep-sea sailors, farmworkers, criminals and convicts, refugees,
addicts, terrorists, foreigners, the poor, or "the lower classes"
in general are deemed incapable of experiencing
real pain like we do, or of having any "real
feelings" at all, only brutish appetites, filthy lusts,
instincts, drives, cravings and automatic tropisms. See also, They're Not
Playing on Emotion (also, the Sob Story; the
Pathetic Fallacy; the "Bleeding Heart" fallacy):
The classic fallacy of pure argument from pathos, ignoring facts and calling on emotion alone. E.g., “If you don’t agree
that witchcraft is a major problem just shut up, close your eyes
for a moment and picture in your mind all those poor moms crying
bitter tears for their innocent tiny
children whose cozy little beds and happy tricycles lie all cold and abandoned,
just because of those
wicked old witches! Let's string’em all up!”
The opposite of this is the archly cynical Apathetic
Fallacy, where any and all
legitimate arguments from pathos are brushed aside
because, in the words of country music singer Jo Dee
Messina, "My give a damn is busted."
applies to other forms of political "Language
Control," e.g., being careful never
to refer to North Korea or ISIS/ISIL by their rather
pompous proper names ("the Democratic People's Republic
of Korea" and "the Islamic State," respectively)
or to the Syrian government as the "Syrian government,"
(It's always the "Regime" or the
"Dictatorship."). See also, Non-recognition.
("PC"): A postmodern fallacy, a counterpart of the "Name
Calling" fallacy, supposing that the nature of a thing or situation can
be changed by simply changing its name. E.g., "Today we strike a blow
for animal rights and against cruelty to animals by changing the name of
‘pets’ to ‘animal companions.’" Or "Never, ever play the 'victim' card,
because it's so manipulative and sounds so negative, helpless and
despairing. Instead of saying 'victims,' we are 'survivors.'" (Of course, when "victims"
disappear then perpetrators conveniently vanish as well!)
The Positive Thinking Fallacy: An immensely popular
but deluded modern fallacy of logos, that because we are
"thinking positively" that in itself somehow biases
external, objective reality in our favor even before we lift a
finger to act. See also, Magical Thinking. Note that
this particular fallacy is often part of a much wider
closed-minded, sometimes cultish ideology where the
practitioner is warned against paying attention
to to or even acknowledging the existence of "negative"
evidence or counter-arguments against his/her
standpoints. In the latter case rational argument or refutation is
most often futile.
The Post Hoc Argument: (also, "Post Hoc Propter Hoc;"
"Too much of a coincidence," the "Clustering Illusion"):
The classic paranoiac fallacy of attributing imaginary
causality to random coincidences, concluding that just
because something happens close to, at the same time as, or
just after something else, the first thing is caused by
the second. E.g., "AIDS first emerged as a problem back
in the very same era when Disco music was becoming
popular--that's too much of a coincidence: It proves
that Disco caused AIDS!"
The Pout (also The Silent Treatment, Noncooperation):. An Argumentum ad
arbitrarily rejects or gives up on dialogue before it is
concluded. The most
benign nonviolent form of this fallacy is found in passive-aggressive
tactics such as slowdowns, boycotts, lockouts, sitdowns and strikes. The United States recently ended
a half-century long political Pout with Cuba. See also "No Discussion"
Herring: An irrelevant distraction, attempting to mislead an audience by
bringing up an unrelated but usually emotionally loaded issue. E.g., "In
regard to my several bankruptcies and recent indictment for corruption let’s be straight
up about what’s
really important: Terrorism! Vote for me and I'll fight those
terrorists anywhere in the world!" Also
applies to raising unrelated issues as falsely opposing
the issue at hand, e.g., "You say 'Black Lives Matter,"
but I say 'Zika Matters!'" when the two contentions are in no way
opposed, only competing for attention. See also
Reductio ad Hitlerum (or ad Hitleram):
A highly problematic contemporary historical-revisionist
contention that the argument "That's just what Hitler
said (or would have said)" is a fallacy, an instance of
the Ad Hominem argument and/or Guilt by Association.
Whether the Reductio ad Hitlerum can be considered an
actual fallacy or not seems to fundamentally depend on
one's personal view of Hitler and his crimes.
Reductionism: (also, Oversimplifying, Sloganeering): The fallacy of deceiving an audience by giving simple answers or
bumper-sticker slogans in response to complex questions,
especially when appealing to less educated or unsophisticated audiences. E.g., "If the glove doesn’t fit, you must vote to acquit."
Or, "Vote for Snith. He's tough on terrorism!"
Reifying: The fallacy of treating imaginary categories as actual,
material "things." (E.g., "The War against Terror is a fight to the death
between Freedom and Absolute Evil!") Sometimes also referred to as "Essentializing"
The Romantic Rebel (also, the Truthout
the Brave Heretic; the Iconoclastic Fallacy):
The contemporary fallacy of claiming truth or
validity for one's standpoint solely or primarily
because one is heroically standing up to prevailing "orthodoxy,"
the current Standard Model, conventional wisdom, or
whatever may be the Bandwagon of the moment; a
corrupt argument from ethos. E.g., "Back in the day the
scientific establishment thought that the world was flat,
proved them wrong! Now scientific orthodoxy has us
believing that ordinary water is nothing but H2,O.
Are you going to believe them? They're frantically
trying to suppress the truth that our drinking-water
actually has nitrogen in it and causes congenital
vampirism! And what about Area 51? Don't you care? Or
are you just a kiss-up for the corrupt system?" The opposite of the
Scapegoating (also, Blamecasting): The
ancient fallacy that whenever something goes wrong
there's always someone other than oneself to
blame. Sometimes this fallacy is a practical denial of
randomness or chance itself , sometimes a mere
insurance-driven business decision ("I don't care if it
accident! Somebody with deep pockets is gonna pay for this!"), though
often scapegoating is cynically used to shield those
truly responsible from blame. A particularly corrupt
and cynical example of this is Blaming the Victim,
in which one falsely casts the blame for one's own evil
or questionable actions on those affected, e.g., "If you
so much as move an eyelash I'll have to kill you and
you'll be to blame!" or "You dressed immodestly and
made me rape you! Now you snitched on me and
I'm going to prison, and it's all your fault!" See
also, the Affective Fallacy.
The Scare Tactic (also Paranoia): A variety of Playing on
Emotions, a raw appeal to fear. A corrupted argument from pathos.(E.g., "If
you don't shut up and do what I say we're all gonna die! In this moment of crisis
can't afford the luxury of criticizing or trying to second-guess my decisions
when our very lives and freedom are in peril!
Instead, we need to be united as one!")
See also, "We Have to do Something!."
Sending the Wrong Message: A dangerous fallacy of
logos that attacks a given statement, argument or
action, no matter how true or necessary, because it will
"send the wrong message." In effect, those who use this
fallacy are openly confessing to fraud and admitting
that the truth will destroy the fragile web of illusion
that has been created by their lies. E.g., "Actually,
we're losing the war against drugs hands down, but if we
publicly admit it we'll be sending the wrong message."
See also, "Mala Fides."
Shifting the Burden of
Proof. A classic fallacy of logos that challenges an opponent to disprove
a controversial claim rather than asking the person making the claim to defend his/her
own argument. E.g., "Space-aliens are
everywhere among us masquerading as true humans, even right here on campus! I dare you prove it isn't so!
See? You can't! You admit it! That means what I say has to be true." See
also, Argument from Ignorance.
Slope (also, the Domino Theory): The common fallacy that "one thing inevitably leads to another." E.g.,
"If you two go and drink coffee together one thing will lead to
another and soon enough you'll be pregnant and end up spending your
life on welfare living in the Projects," or "If we close Gitmo one
thing will lead to another and before you know it armed terrorists will be
our church doors on Sunday morning with suicide belts!"
The opposite of this fallacy is the Plain Truth Fallacy.
Job (also Information Bias):The fallacy of “proving” a claim by overwhelming an audience with mountains of
irrelevant facts, numbers, documents, graphs and statistics that look
extremely impressive but which they cannot be expected to understand
or evaluate. This is a corrupted argument from logos.
See also, "Lying with Statistics."
The Soldiers' Honor Fallacy. The ancient fallacy that all who wore a
uniform, fought hard and followed orders are worthy of some special honor or
glory or are even "heroes," whether they fought for freedom or fought to
defend slavery, marched under Grant or Lee, Hitler, Stalin or McArthur,
fought to defend their homes, fought for oil or to spread empire, or
even fought against and killed U.S. soldiers!. A corrupt argument
from ethos (that of a soldier), closely related to the "Finish the Job"
fallacy ("Sure, he died for a lie, but he deserves honor because he followed orders and did his job to
the end!"). See also "Heroes All." This fallacy was recognized and
at the Nuremburg Trials after World War II but remains powerful to this day
nonetheless. See also "Blind Loyalty." Related is the State Actor Fallacy, that those who
fight and die for a country (America, Russia, Iran, the Third Reich, etc.)
are worthy of honor or at least pardonable while those who fight for a
non-state actor (abolitionists, guerrillas, freedom-fighters, jihadis) are
not and remain "terrorists" no matter how noble or vile their cause,
until or unless
they are adopted by a state after the fact.
Star Power (also Testimonial, Questionable Authority, Faulty Use of Authority):
In academia, a corrupt argument from ethos in which arguments,
standpoints and themes of academic discourse are
granted validity or condemned to obscurity
solely by whoever the reigning "stars" of the discipline
are at the moment, e.g., "Network Theory has been
thoroughly criticized and is so last-week!. This week
everyone's into Safe Spaces, Trigger Warnings, and Pierce's
Theory of Microaggressions. Get with the program."
(See also, the Bandwagon.) At the
popular level this also refers to
corrupt argument from ethos in which popular support for a standpoint or product is
established by a well-known or respected figure (e.g. a star athlete or entertainer) who is not an
expert and who may have been well paid to make the endorsement (e.g., “Olympic gold-medal pole-vaulter Fulano de Tal uses Quick Flush Internet-shouldn’t you?"
Or, "My favorite rock star warns that vaccinations spread
rickets, so I'm not vaccinating my kids!" ).
Includes other false, meaningless or paid means of associating oneself or one’s product
or standpoint with the ethos of a famous person or event (e.g., “Try Salsa Cabria,
the official taco sauce of the Winter Olympics!”).
Man (also "The Straw Person" ""The Straw Figure"): The fallacy of setting up a phony,
weak, extreme or
ridiculous parody of an opponent's argument and
then proceeding to knock it down with a wave of the hand. E.g., "Vegetarians say animals
have feelings like you and me. Ever seen a cow laugh at a Shakespeare comedy? Vegetarianism is nonsense!"
Or, "Pro-choicers hate babies!" Or, "Pro-lifers hate women
and want them to spend their lives barefoot,
pregnant and chained to the kitchen stove!" This fallacy is only too
common in American politics and popular discourse.
The Taboo: The fallacy of unilaterally declaring certain arguments, standpoints or actions "sacrosanct"
and not open to discussion,
arbitrarily taking some tones, standpoints or options "off the table" beforehand. (E.g.,
"I won't talk to you until you calm down," "No,
discuss my sexuality," "Don't bring my drinking into this," or "Before we start,
you need to know I won't allow you to play the race card or to attack my arguments by claiming 'That's just what Hitler would say!'")
Also applies to discounting or rejecting certain
arguments and evidence out of hand because they are
"against the Bible" or other sacred doctrine (See also the A Priori
Argument). This fallacy occasionally degenerates into a
separate, distracting argument over who gets to define
the parameters, tone and taboos of the main argument,
though at this point reasoned discourse most often
breaks down and the entire affair becomes a naked Argumentun ad
Baculum. See also, Tone Policing.
They're all Crooks. The contemporary fallacy of
refusing to get involved in public politics because all
politicians and politics are allegedly corrupt, ignoring
the fact that if this is so it is precisely because "decent" people like
you and I refuse to get involved, leaving the field open
to the "crooks" by default. An example of Circular Reasoning.
They're Not Like Us (also, Stereotyping,
Xenophobia. Ethnic Prejudice): A badly corrupted, discriminatory argument from ethos where
arguments, experiences or objections are arbitrarily disregarded, ignored or put down
without serious consideration because those involved "are not like us," or "don't
think like us." E.g., "It's OK for Mexicans to earn a buck an
hour in the maquiladoras. If it happened here I'd call it brutal
exploitation and daylight robbery but south of the border,
down Mexico way they're different from us."
Or, "You claim that life must be really terrible over
there for terrorists to ever think of
blowing themselves up with suicide vests just to make a
point, but always remember that they're different from us.
They don't think
about life and death the
same way we do." A variety of
the Ad Hominem Fallacy, most often applied to non-white or
non-Christian populations. A variation of this fallacy
is the "Speakee" Fallacy ("You speakee
English?"), in which an opponent is mocked, ridiculed or
dismissed solely because of her/his alleged or real
accent, dialect, or lack of fluency in standard English,
e.g., "He told me 'Vee vorkers need to form a union!'
but I told him to come back when he learns to speak
English." An extreme example of
"They're Not Like Us" is Dehumanization, where
opponents are dismissed as mere cockroaches, lice, apes,
monkeys, or bloodsucking parasites who can and probably should be
"squashed like bugs." This fallacy is the "logic" of
genocide and of gas ovens. See also "Name Calling"
and "Olfactory Rhetoric."
The "Thousand Flowers" Fallacy
"Take names and kick butt."): A sophisticated "Argumentum
ad Baculum" in which free and open discussion and
"brainstorming" is temporarily allowed and encouraged
not in order to hear and consider opposing views, but
rather to "smoke out," identify and later punish or
liquidate dissenters. The name comes from the Thousand
Flowers Period in Chinese history when Communist leader
Chairman Mao Tse Tung applied this policy with deadly
TINA (There Is No
Alternative. Also "That's an order," "Get over it,"
"Suck it up," "It
is what it is," or the "Fait Accompli"). A very common contemporary extension of the either/or fallacy
in which someone in power quashes critical thought by announcing
that there is no realistic alternative to a given standpoint, status or action,
arbitrarily ruling any and all other options out of bounds, or announcing that a decision has been made
and any further discussion is
insubordination, disloyalty, disobedience or simply a waste of precious time when
there's a job to be done. (See also, "Taboo;" "Finish the Job.")
Often a variety of the Argumentum ad Baculum.
Tone Policing. A corrupt argument from
pathos, the fallacy of judging the
validity of an argument primarily by its emotional tone of
delivery. I.e., a valid argument remains valid whether
it is offered calmly and deliberatively or in a "shrill"
or even "hysterical" tone, whether calmly stated in
professional, academic language or screamed out through a
bull-horn and peppered with vulgarity. Conversely, a
highly urgent, emotional matter is still urgent even if
argued coldly and rationally. This fallacy creates
a false dichotomy between reason and emotion and thus
implicitly favors those who are not personally involved
or emotionally invested in an argument, e.g., "I know
you're upset, but I won't discuss it until you calm
down," or "I'd believe what you write were it not
for your adolescent use of exclamation points throughout
the text." Or alternately, "You seem to be
strangely calm about the murder of your
spouse. You're under arrest. You have the right to
remain silent..." Tone Policing is frequent in
contemporary discourse of power, particularly in response to
discourse of protest.
also "Star Power.")
Transfer: (also, Name Dropping) A corrupt argument from ethos,
falsely associating a famous person, place or thing with an unrelated standpoint (e.g. putting a picture of
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on an advertisement for mattresses, using Genghis Khan, a Mongol
who hated Chinese, as the name of a Chinese restaurant, or using the Texas flag to sell cars or pickups that were made in Detroit, Kansas City or Kyoto).
This fallacy is common in contemporary academia in the
form of using a profusion of scholarly-looking citations
from respected scholars to lend a false gravitas to
otherwise specious ideas or text.
Tu Quoque ("You Do it Too!"; also, Two Wrongs Make a
Right): A corrupt argument from ethos, the fallacy of defending a shaky or false standpoint
or excusing one's own bad action by pointing out that one's opponent's acts,
ideology or personal character
are also open to question, or are perhaps even worse than one's own. E.g., "Sure, we
may have tortured prisoners
and killed kids with drones, but
we don't cut off heads off like they do!" Or, "You can't stand
there and accuse me of
corruption! You guys are all into politics and you know what you have to do to get
reelected!" Related to the Red Herring and to the Ad Hominem Argument.
Venting (also, Letting off Steam):
In the Venting Fallacy a person argues that her/his
words are or ought to be exempt from criticism because s/he
was "only venting," even though this very admission
implies that the one "venting" was, at long
last, freely expressing
his/her true, heartfelt and uncensored opinion about the matter in question.
See also, the Affective Fallacy.
We Have to
Do Something: (also, the Placebo Effect, "Security Theater"). The dangerous contemporary fallacy that when
"People are scared / People are angry / People are fed up" it becomes necessary to do something,
at once even if it is an overreaction, is a completely ineffective, inert
placebo, or actually makes the situation
than "just sitting there doing nothing." (E.g., "Banning air passengers from carrying
ham sandwiches onto the plane and making parents take off their newborn infants'
does nothing to deter potential hijackers, but people are scared and we have to do
to respond to this crisis!") This is a badly corrupted argument from pathos. (See
also "Scare Tactic.")
The opposite of this fallacy is the "Paralysis of Analysis."
Where there’s Smoke, there’s Fire (also Hasty
Conclusion, Jumping to a Conclusion). The dangerous
fallacy of drawing a snap conclusion and/or taking
action without sufficient evidence. E.g., “Captain! The
guy sitting next to me in coach has dark skin and is
writing in some funny language all full of symbols like
ñ and ¿. It must be Arabic! That’s all the evidence we need that he's
a terrorist! Get him off the plane before he blows us all to kingdom come!” A variety of the “Just in Case” fallacy.
The Wisdom of the Crowd (also, The Magic of
the Market; the Wikipedia Fallacy). A very common contemporary fallacy that
individuals may be wrong but "the crowd" or "the market"
is infallible, ignoring historic examples like
witch-burning, lynching, and the market crash of 2008.
This fallacy is why most colleges and universities ban
students from using Wikipedia as a serious reference
The Worst Negates the Bad (also, Be Grateful
for What You've Got): The logical fallacy that a bad
situation stops being bad because it could be far worse, or
someone, somewhere has it even worse than you. E.g., "I cried
because I had no shoes, until I saw someone who had no
feet." Or, "You're protesting because you earn only
$7.25 an hour? You could be on the street! I happen to know there are people
in Uttar Pradesh who are doing the very same work you're
doing for one tenth of what you're making, and they're
just to have work at all. You need to shut up, put down
that picket sign, get back to work and thank heavens
each and every day that you have a job!"
The Worst-Case Fallacy (also, "Just in
case."): A pessimistic fallacy by which one’s reasoning is based on an
improbable, far-fetched or
even completely imaginary worst-case scenario rather than on reality. This plays
on pathos (fear) rather than reason. E.g., "What if armed terrorists were to
attack your county grain elevator tomorrow morning at dawn? Are you ready to
fight back? Better stock up on assault rifles and ammunition today,
just in case!"
The opposite of this is the Positive
- Zero Tolerance (also, Zero Risk Bias, Disproportionate Response, Even One is Too Many, Judenrein). The contemporary fallacy of
declaring an "emergency" and promising to devote unlimited
resources to stamp out a limited
or even nonexistent problem. E.g., "I just read about an actual case of
cannibalism somewhere in this country. That's disgusting, and even one case is way, way too many!
We need a Federal Taskforce against Cannibalism with a million-dollar budget
and offices in every state, a national
SCAN program in
all the grade schools (Stop Cannibalism in America Now!), and an automatic
penalty for cannibals; in other words, zero tolerance for cannibalism in
this country!" This is a corrupt and cynical argument from pathos,
politically driven, a particularly sinister variety of the "We Have to do
Something" fallacy. See also, "Playing on Emotions," "Red Herring," and
also the "Big Lie Technique."
7/06 with thanks to the late Susan Spence. Latest revision 5/16, with special thanks to
Business Insider, to
to Danelle M. Pecht, and to all
other readers who suggested
corrections, additions and clarifications. This is
a living document, so any suggestions or critiques are
welcome. Please copy and share freely.