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Logical Fallacies

Fallacies of Relevance
A mistake in reasoning
Formal fallacies
A formal fallacy involves the explicit use of an
invalid form
Affirming the consequent (If A, then B; B; so A)
If 2,523 is divisible by 9, then its divisible by 3. 2,523
is divisible by 3. So, its divisible by 9.
Denying the antecedent (If A, then B; not A; so,
not B)
If good intentions make good sermons, then Hasan is a
good preacher. Unfortunately, they dont; so, hes not.
Informal fallacies
An informal fallacy is an error in
reasoning that does not involve the
explicit use of an invalid form
By describing and labelling the more
tempting ones, we increase our ability to
resist their allure
The patterns of these fallacies are almost
always fallacious, but they are sometimes
Fallacies of Relevance

Logical irrelevance of premises to the

conclusion renders the argument fallacious
They may seem to be relevant for
psychological reasons
A statements relevance to another could be
either positive or negative
Truth value and relevance are different
Context usually plays a role in determining
Argument against the Person (Ad
Hominem Fallacy)
Involves attacking the person who advances an
argument (or asserts a statement) as opposed to
providing a rational critique of the argument (or
statement) itself
Abusive ad hominem
Jones argues for vegetarianism. He says it is wrong to kill animals
unless you really need them for food, and that, as a matter of
fact, nearly everyone can get enough food without eating meat.
But Jones is just a nerdy intellectual. So, we can safely conclude
that vegetarianism remains what it has always beennonsense.
William Buckley has argued in favour of legalizing drugs such as
cocaine and heroin. But Buckley is just another one of those
upper-crust intellectuals who is out of touch with real America. No
sensible person should listen to his pseudo-solutions.
Circumstantial Ad Hominem
(Attacking the Motive)
Ad hominem arguments need not employ outright
verbal abuse
There are subtle forms (Of course Mr. X argues this
way; just look at the circumstances that affect him.)
Circumstantial ad hominem (Attacking the motive)
Ms. Fitch argues in favour of equal pay for equal work. She says it
doesnt make sense to pay a person more for doing the same job
just because he is male or Caucasian. But since Ms. Fitch is a
woman, its to her personal advantage to favour equal pay for equal
work. After all, she would get an immediate raise if her boss
accepted her argument! Therefore, her argument is worthless.
The Dalai Lama argues that China has no business in Tibet and that
the West should do something about it. But the Dalai Lama just
wants the Chinese to leave so he can return as leader. Naturally he
argues this way. Therefore, we should reject his arguments.
Look Whos Talking
An attempt to suggest that the opponent is hypocritical
How dare you argue that I should stop doing X; why,
you do (or have done) X yourself.
Child to parent: Your argument that I should stop stealing
candy from the corner store is no good. You told me yourself
just a week ago that you, too, stole candy when you were a
Dad tells me I shouldnt lie. He says lying is wrong because it
makes people stop trusting one another. But Ive heard my
Dad lie. Sometimes he calls in sick to work when he isnt
really sick. So, lying isnt actually wrongDad just doesnt like
it when I lie.
The fact that some people violate a given moral rule
does not show that the rule is incorrect
Two Wrongs Make a Right
An attempt to justify a wrong act by
claiming that some other act is
wrong too
Cheating on exams
Two Wrongs Make a Right?
Jedediah Smith murdered three
people in cold blood. Therefore,
Jedediah Smith should be put to