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Fallacies and Non-Rational Persuasion. Appeal to Authority. a misdirected appeal to authority in which something is mentioned as a trusted source when, in fact, it is not reliable. Example of Appeal to Authority .

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appeal to authority
Appeal to Authority
  • a misdirected appeal to authority in which something is mentioned as a trusted source when, in fact, it is not reliable.
example of appeal to authority
Example of Appeal to Authority
  • “Barry Schweid of the Associated Press, in his efforts to criticize President Reagan's space-based defense against Soviet missiles, came up with a report from some Stanford University group that claimed to find little evidence of cheating by the Soviet Union on arms-control treaties.”
  • Middleton B. Freeman, Louisville, "Letters From Readers,"The Courier-Journal, April 1, 1987.)
  • The article mentions “some Stanford University group” as a source of information about missiles. The author points out that this group may not be correctly informed, and that just because the group is from a prestigious school does not mean it is a viable source.
appeal to common belief
Appeal to Common Belief
  • A fallacy that appeals to a wide-held general opinion and is inappropriate to use in most statements used to verify facts.
example of common belief
Example of Common Belief
  • “Alas, we have been long led away by ancient prejudices, and made large sacrifices to superstition. We have boasted the protection of Great-Britain, without considering, that her motive was interest not attachment; that she did not protect us from our enemies on our account, but from her enemies on her own account.”
  • Thomas Paine. Common Sense. 1776
  • Thomas Paine appeals to the belief that at the time of the American Revolution, Britain had no personal interest in the colonies, but, rather, cared only for what the colonies produced. He appeals to the common opinion of that time and does not take into consideration that perhaps this belief is not true
common practice
Common Practice
  • Misleading appeal to common practice in which an action is justified because “everyone else is doing it.”
example of common practice
Example of Common Practice
  • “We found a lot of agreement on the basic goals of reform. No one is content with the status quo. Most are open to new ideas. Everyone agrees at least that the problems are serious and action is urgently needed.”
  • Radio address by President Bush to the nation. 27 January 2001
  • Twice in this example, President Bush lumps all Americans into the pronouns “no one” and “everyone.” He says that no one is content with the status quo and that actions are need immediately. Although a majority of Americans might agree with Bush, he does not consider those who disagree with him.
two wrongs
Two Wrongs
  • Argument that it is acceptable to do something, not because people are doing it, but because others are doing things that are just as bad.
example of two wrongs
Example of Two Wrongs
  • “The operation cost just under $500, and no one was killed, or even hurt. In that same time the Pentagon spent tens of millions of dollars and dropped tens of thousands of pounds of explosives on Viet Nam. Because nothing justified their actions in our calculus, nothing could contradict the merit of ours.”
  • (Bill Ayers, “Fugitive Days,” quoted in Radical Chic Resurgent, by Timothy Ash.)
  • Although the first action mentioned was wrong, the author argued that it could not be wrong because another action used at the same time was also wrong. One action’s being more wrong than the other, does not give the first action any more merit.
indirect consequences
Indirect Consequences
  • Distantly possible, but usually negative effects are presented as the consequence of a course of action or belief with the idea that the negativity of those effects will ensure the rejection of that course of action or belief.
example of indirect consequence
Example of Indirect Consequence
  • "If today you can take a thing like evolution and make it a crime to teach it in the public schools, tomorrow you can make it a crime to teach it in the private schools, and next year you can make it a crime to teach it in the church. At the next session you can ban books and the newspapers.”
  • (Clarence Darrow, cited in Stephen Jay Gould's Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes, p. 278.)
  • The author states that if teaching evolution becomes a crime, the whole educational system will fall apart. Because the author believes that this will happen, he lists several negative consequences in order to make his point seem like the “right” idea.
wishful thinking
Wishful Thinking
  • Like Indirect Consequence, this fallacy uses remote facts. However, wishful thinking uses an extremely positive outcome so it distracts from the values of the case at hand.
example of wishful thinking
Example of Wishful Thinking
  • “I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character... we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children will be able to join hands and sing.”
  • Martin Luther King, Jr.“I Have a Dream”
  • King uses only positive and idealistic outcomes in his speech. Though these outcomes are nice to think about, they were seemingly impossible for the nation at that time.
appeal to fear
Appeal to Fear
  • A non-rational persuasion used to threaten the safety or happiness of ourselves or someone we love; the use of “scare tactics” in order to get one’s way.
example of appeal to fear
Example of Appeal to Fear
  • “There is no want of power in God to cast wicked men into hell at any moment. Men's hands cannot be strong when God rises up. The strongest have no power to resist him, nor can any deliver out of his hands. -- He is not only able to cast wicked men into hell, but he can most easily do it.”
  • excerpt from “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” by Jonathan Edwards
  • During the 1st Great Awakening, people thought that God was an unmerciful and harsh being. Edwards reaffirms this fact by telling the violent consequences of not obeying God and appeals to the fear that each human has of afterlife.
hasty generalization
Hasty Generalization
  • stating premises, or drawing conclusions, based on too little information, or generalizing from too few particulars that are probably not representative of an entire group
example of hasty generalization
Example of Hasty Generalization
  • "I hardly think that 58 is the right age at which to talk about a retirement home unless there are some serious health concerns. My 85-year-old mother power-walks two miles each day, drives her car climbs stairs, does crosswords, and could beat Slatalla at almost anything."(Nancy Edwards, "Letters to the Editor", Time, 6/26/00.)
  • The author assumes that since her mother, who is 85, is so active, that every other woman her age is just as active. She does not take into concern that her mother may be an exception.
appeal to pity
Appeal to Pity
  • Persuading the reader to agree with the preposition because of the pitiful state the author is in.
example of appeal to pity
Example of Appeal to Pity
  • “How many deaths were we talking about when abortion was illegal? In N.A.R.A.L. we generally emphasized the drama of the individual case, but when we spoke of the latter it was always "5,000 to 10,000 deaths a year." I confess that I knew the figures were totally false, I suppose the others did too if they stopped to think of it. But in the "morality" of the revolution, it was a useful figure, widely accepted, so why go out of our way to correct it with honest statistics. The overriding concern was to get the laws eliminated, and anything within reason which had to be done was permissible.”-Bernard Nathanson, M.D., Aborting America (New York: Doubleday, 1979), 193.


  • Explanation- The author describes how he was put under the impression that the death rate would be lower. He also used the argument of “morality” to tug at the emotions of the readers and to make evident the pitiful state of the situation.
appeal to prejudice
Appeal to Prejudice
  • Tendency to judge people, good or bad, even after the facts of a case indicate otherwise.
example of appeal to prejudice
Example of Appeal to Prejudice
  • “Authority” (as Professor Aitken reminded us last night in her splendid sermon at the Liturgy) is a slippery idea. In which connection, I incline to agree with Robert W. Jenson: questions such as, “What is the authority of Scripture?” are largely meaningless, if by them we intend to imply that there can possibly be discerned any one way in which the Bible relates to or regulates Christian discourse.[1]
  • The speaker is still doubting the authority of “authority”, even though the previous sermon supported the contrary well. This shows how even though there is evidence that authority is a good idea, the author still thinks that it is not reliable.
appeal to loyalty
Appeal to Loyalty

Appeal to the feeling of patriotism or loyalty to a certain group or belief, instead of appealing to logic


Example of Appeal to Loyalty

  • As a long and violent abuse of power, is generally the Means of calling the right of it in question and as the King of England hath undertaken in his OWN RIGHT, to support the Parliament in what he calls THEIRS, and as the good people of this country are grievously oppressed by the combination, they have an undoubted privilege to inquire into the pretensions of both, and equally to reject the usurpation of either.
  • -Thomas Paine, Common Sense


  • Thomas Paine appeals to the loyalty of the colonial citizens by giving them the message appealing to their feelings of rebellion. He stresses that the king has harmed the colonists by making his every action “HIS OWN RIGHT.” Therefore, he encourages the colonists to reject the king’s rules and become loyal to the new cause, the revolution.
appeal to vanity
Appeal to Vanity
  • creating a tendency toward agreement by complimenting
example of appeal to vanity
Example of Appeal to Vanity

Idols define good and evil in ways contrary to God's definitions. They establish a locus of control that is earth-bound: either in objects (e.g., lust for money), other people ("I need to please my critical father"), or myself (e.g., self-trusting pursuit of my personal agenda). Such false gods create false laws, false definitions of success and failure, of value and stigma. Idols promise blessing and warn of curses for those who succeed or fail against the law: "If you get a large enough IRA, you will be secure. If I can get certain people to like and respect me, then my life is valid." There are numerous idolatrous values which influenced Wally and continue to pressure him: beguiling him, frightening him, controlling him, constraining him, enslaving him. 


This example shows how idols appeal to vanity, by giving the “victim” what they want, or telling them what they want to hear, or appealing to them by complementing them, thus leading them down a path of falsehood and lies.

appeal to spite
Appeal to Spite
  • spite is replaced with evidence when an argument is made against a claim
example of appeal to spite
Example of Appeal to Spite
  • True salvation revolves around three focal points. These are the Word of God, the work of Christ and the witness of the Spirit. Cain found a substitute for all three and founded a false religion. In Genesis 4:1-3 he substitutes his own religion for the Word of God. While he did not have the written record we have today, he had the witness of his parents as well as direct communication with the Lord (Genesis 4:9). There can be no doubt from the Scriptures that blood must be shed for an acceptable sacrifice (Exodus 12:3, I John 1:7, I Peter 1:18-19).

This example describes how in the bible, the act of Cain killing his brother was out of pure spite. Therefore, he tries to justify his religious choice.

argument from silence
Argument from Silence
  • Instead of using evidence to support a generalization, all the audience hears is silence.
example of argument from silence
Example of Argument from Silence
  • “No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”
  • 1 John 4:12
  • No one knows God or if he loves us, but the Bible states that we should believe in him even though there is a lack of evidence. This example asks the reader to believe in something without knowing the facts or background information.

Ad Hominem

  • The argument is not directed at the conclusion one wishes to deny, but at the person who supports or doesn’t support the conclusion.
  • There are two forms of Ad Hominem:
  • Abusive-attacking the character the one assessing the argument
  • Circumstantial: the irrelevant connection between the beliefs held and the circumstances of those holding the beliefs

Example of Ad Hominem

  • “Kenneth Robinson, when he was Great Britain’s minister of health, told Parliament that Scientology was “potentially harmful” and “a potential menace.” Elliott, the local minister of the Church of Scientology, was asked to comment on those criticisms. Of the remarks made before Parliament, he said: “I am afraid Mr.. Robinson has since suffered two demotions and was just in the last few weeks quietly released from the Wilson Administration altogether.”
  • Honolulu Advisor, November 22, 1969 p.6


  • This is an abusive example of ad hominem. Elliott attacks Kenneth Robinson’s character with information of his job situation. Robinson attacks the Church of Scientology with phrases such as “potentially harmful” because the only reason Robinson holds these beliefs is because he thinks the Church of Scientology to be morally wrong based on his own personal religious beliefs. Robinson holds little or no basis for his accusations against the Church of Scientology except for the fact that they go in direct opposition to his own beliefs.

Post Hoc

  • The use of the proposition as an example of a fallacy arguing from a sentence to a cause and effect relationship

Example of Post Hoc

  • “When Rodger Babson, whose prediction of the great stock market crash brought him renown, became ill with tuberculosis, he returned to his home in Massachusetts rather than follow his doctor’s advice to remain in the West. During the freezing winter he wore a coat with a heating pad in the back, and had his secretary wear mittens and hit the typewriter keys with rubberhammers. Babson got well he attributed the cure to fresh air. Air from pine woods, according to Babson, has chemical or electrical qualities (or both) of great medicinal value.”
  • -Martin Gardner, Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science


  • Gardner employs a post hoc fallacy through his dissection of Babson’s illness and how Babson acted throughout his illness as well as Babson’s final outcome from his illness and Babson’s explanation for becoming well. Gardner shows the cause and effect relationship, linking Babson’s prediction of the stock market crash to his illness and Babson’s illness to his form of recovery, even though each of the events did not actually directly deal with one another.

Sweeping Generalization

  • When the conclusion drawn exceeds what the evidence given supports

Example of Sweeping Generalization

  • Example:"Does a gun in the home make you safer? No. Despite claims by the National Rifle Association (NRA) that you need a gun in your home to protect you and your family from possible home invasion, public health research demonstrates that the most person likely to shoot you or a family member with a gun already has the keys to your house. Simply put: Guns kept in the home for self-protection are more oftentimes[sic] used to kill somebody you know than to kill in self-defense; 22 times more likely, according to a 1998 study by the New England Journal of Medicine.” -Sarah Brady, A Good Fight


  • The statistics used in Sarah Brady’s reasoning make this argument a sweeping generalization. Also, how Brady makes this statement apply not to the general readership as a whole, but instead to the individual who may or may not be pro-gun. Brady makes this statement through the usage of statistics. Brady makes the reader feel as though each individual possesses a gun and will eventually be harmed as a result of owning that gun.

Part for the Whole

  • The fallacy of composition: the whole is more of less than the sum of it’s parts-the fallacious reasoning is from attributes to the individual elements or members of a collection to attributes of the collection or totality of those elements.

Example of Part for the Whole

  • “Seeing that eye and hand and foot and every one of our members has some obvious function, must we not believe that in like manner a human being has a function over and above these particular functions?” -Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics


  • Aristotle demonstrates the part for the whole fallacy through his explanation of different body parts and how they related to the body and the functions of the body as a whole. Aristotle explains functions of body parts and speaks of how these body parts relate to the body as a whole, and how the parts all work together to make up the body as a whole.

Whole for the Parts

  • The fallacy of division: arguing fallaciously that what is true of a whole must also be true of it’s parts or when one argues from the attributes of a collection of elements to the attributes of the elements themselves.

Example of Whole for the Parts

  • Thomas Carlyle said of Walt Whitman that he thinks he is a big poet because he comes from a big country.”.-Alfred Kazin, “The Haunted Chamber”, The New Republic, June 23, 1986, p.39


  • The author does not commit the fallacy, but he claims that Whitman did commit the fallacy in thinking about himself. The claim is that Walt Whitman is a large poet therefore, he must be from a large country because if one part of something is large then the whole must be large itself.

Straw Man

  • Creating a false image of someone else’s ideas, feelings, or beliefs

Example of Straw Man

  • We all want our families, our soldiers, our unions, our sport teams to be united toward clear, common goals. But is it not dangerous for a democratic populace weighing if and how to wage war to value unit above all else? It's all too easy to mandate patriotism, as the New York Board of Education did last week, bringing back the pledge of allegiance to classrooms as if that will stop the Osama bin Ladens of the world. -Robert Sheer (10-23-01 LA Times)


  • This creates the fallacy of the straw man through Sheer’s portrayal of the New York Board of Education.Sheer takes their act of mandating the Pledge of Allegiance in every classroom not as an act of instilling patriotism in the young citizens of America, but instead he states his opinion that this will not result in increased patriotism and will not help prevent against terrorism. This, does not attack the beliefs of the New York Board towards the country as a whole, but rather just towards a particular group.
burden of proof
Burden of Proof
  • In an argument one asserts that the opposition must prove his or her side of the case in order to find your argument invalid.
  • Common example: You are innocent until proven guilty
burden of proof example
Burden of Proof Example
  • On the Senate Floor in 1950 Joe McCarthy announces that he had penetrated “Truman’s iron curtain of secrecy”. He had 81 cases histories of persons whom he considered to be communist in the state department. Of Case 40, he said, “ I do not have much information on this except that general statement of the agency that here is nothing in the files to disprove his communist connections”
  • -Richard H. Rovere, Senator Joe McCarthy
  • By proving that there is no evidence against his case, McCarthy uses the empty files as support for his side of the case.
circular reasoning
Circular Reasoning
  • Deductive reasoning is used to prove or assert a fact when actually it is based on an assumption or a single premise. Usually used with parts that are irrelevant to one another.
example of circular reasoning
Example of Circular Reasoning
  • “If the man who turnips cries
  • Cry not when his father dies,
  • ‘Tis a proof that he had rather
  • Have a turnip than his father.”
    • -Mrs. Piozzi Anedotes of Samual Johnson
  • The author draws together two irrelevant facts to attempt to achieve an absurd realization. He tries to place turnips and the man’s father’s death on the same level.
  • The author draws together two irrelevant facts to attempt to achieve an absurd realization. He tries to place turnips and the man’s father’s death on the same level.
loaded question
Loaded Question
  • A question that involves many terms that would seem to be disagreeing and contradictory if answered. Usually people tend to want to give a simple yes or no answer, yet people end up saying things that they usually would not assert.
example of loaded question
Example of Loaded Question
  • Why should merely cracking down on terrorism help to stop it, when that method hasn't worked in any other country? Why are we so hated in the Muslim world? What did our government do there to bring this horror home to all those innocent Americans? And why don't we learn anything, from our free press, about the gross ineptitude of our state agencies? about what's really happening in Afghanistan? about the pertinence of Central Asia's huge reserves of oil and natural gas? About the links between the Bush and the bin Laden families?"
  • (Mark Crispin Miller, "Brain Drain")
  • The is no real simple answer that the reader is willing to give to this question.
  • The is no real simple answer that the reader is willing to give to this question.
false dilemma
False Dilemma
  • Presenting two options as if they were contradictions or contraries, when in fact they are not. It creates a dilemma due to the fact that two hard choices are presented and false because there are actually more that the two presented choices.
example of false dilemma
Example of False Dilemma
  • "'Which is better -- to be a pack of painted Indians like you are, or to be sensible like Ralph is....Which is better -- to have laws and agree, or to hunt and kill?'"
  • Lord of The Flies, William Golding
  • Provides no real simple answer to the question.
false compromise
False Compromise
  • This occurs when the audience usually doesn’t care enough or is uninterested in the topic enough to make an accurate decision. Therefore usually the audience simply splits the difference and make a decision rather than educate themselves.
example of false compromise
Example of False Compromise
  • There shall be a firm and universal peace between His Britannic Majesty and the United States, and between their respective countries, territories, cities, towns, and people, of every degree, without exception of places or persons. All hostilities, both by sea and land, shall cease as soon as this treaty shall have been ratified by both parties, as hereinafter mentioned.
  • The Treaty of Ghent 1814
  • Both sides of the argument evenly split the difference and returned pre-war status.
false equity
False Equity
  • Sometimes the several different meanings of a word or phrase can come confused, either intentionally or accidentally, in such case the word becomes used equivocally.
example of false equity
Example of False Equity
  • “‘Who did you pass on the road?’ the king went on, holding his hand out to the messenger for some hay.
  • ‘Nobody’ said the messenger.
  • ‘Quite right,’ said the king ‘this young lady say him too. So of course Nobody walks slower than you.’”
  • Through The Looking Glass Lewis Carol
  • The first use of the nobody, meaning no person, is replaced by it’s second uses as a name, Nobody.