This is a list of the “tricks” an author or speaker might use while trying to persuade you. These are the most common fallacies (and have all been taken from your textbook). More complete lists, if you find yourself interested in learning about fallacies, are available on the websites listed in your textbook on page 85.
1. Ad Hominem – An attack, or an insult, on the person, rather than directly addressing the person’s reasons. “Obama is stupid if he thinks raising taxes will help fix the economy.”
2. Slippery Slope – Making the assumption that a proposed step will set off an uncontrollable chain of undesirable events, when procedures exist to prevent such an event. “If we provide condoms in our schools, then the number of teenage pregnancies will increase, along with the number of abortions.”
3. Searching for Perfect Solution – Falsely assuming that because part of a problem would remaing after a solution is tried, the solution should not be adopted. “Since cap and trade legislation won’t deal with our current energy problems, then we should try something else.”
4. Equivocation – A key word or phrase is used with two or more meanings in an argument such that the argument fails to make sense once the shifts in meaning are recognized.
5. Appeal to Popularity (Ad Populum) – An attempt to justify a claim by appealing to sentiments that large groups of people having in common; falsely assumes that anything favored by large groups is desirable. “We must pass more stringent anti-immigration laws because most people agree that we should.”
6. Appeal to Questionable Authority – Supporting a conclusion by citing an authority who lacks special expertise on the issue at hand. “NORML reports that smoking marijuana is not as harmful to the lungs as cigarettes.”
7. Appeals to Emotion – The use of emotionally charged language to distract readers and listeners from relevant reasons and evidence. Common emotions appealed to are fear, hope, patriotism, pity, and sympathy. “If the Israelis do not stop building settlements in the West Bank, the Palestinians will resume their missile attacks on Israel.”
8. Straw Person – Distorting our opponents view so that it is easy to attack; thus we attack a point of view that does not truly exist. “Obama wants to raise taxes on the middle-class and small businesses, and you should never do this during a recession” (when in actuality, the only taxes to be “raised” are those for the top 2% of the income ladder).
9. Either/Or (the false dilemma) – Assuming only two alternatives, when there are more than two. “Person A: I wish we weren’t in a war in Afghanistan. Person B: Oh, so you don’t support the troops?”
10. Wishful Thinking – Making the assumption that because we wish X were true or false, then X is indeed true or false. “If I weren’t so fat, I could eat as much Lucky Charms as I want!”
11. Explaining by naming – Falsely assuming that because you have provided a name for some event or behavior, you have also adequately explained the event. “Why did some individuals fly planes into the WTC on 9/11? Because they are terrorists.”
12. Glittering Generality – The use of vague emotionally appealing virtue words that dispose us to approve something without closely examining the reasons. “Your professor is the smarted, kindest, nicest person you will ever meet.”
13. Red Herring – An irrelevant topic is presented to divert attention from the original issue and help to “win” an argument by shifting