We often come across various types of logical fallacies when engaging in an argument or debate. These can slip into our reasoning when trying to argue a claim. Perhaps this is due to building a poor argument, for deliberate aims or simply through laziness.
However, what is meant by types of logical fallacies? For instance, we need to know what logical fallacies are before we can scrutinise some of the many forms they take.
What Is a Logical Fallacy?
A logical fallacy is a flaw in reasoning. It is a point that is made that’s logically false. This renders the argument defective due to the plausible validity of it being undermined.
Sometimes they are easy to spot and sometimes they are much more subtle. This can depend on how they arise is an argument. As mentioned, someone may just have constructed a weak argument. As a result, these logical inconsistencies may begin to appear.
On the other hand, a seasoned rhetorician may use them in a more tactical way. They will purposely use them to dupe the audience to their way of thinking.
In whatever situation they may appear in, you should know and recognise the many types of logical fallacies in the most basic sense. Then you can benefit greatly in various different aspects of your life.
Notably, it will help you become more adept in your own reasoning. In addition, it can also equip you with means to deconstruct an opponent’s argument effectively.
In this article, we will explore many common types of logical fallacies that can crop up in a debate. We will discuss how you can spot them and recognise how they can manipulate debate and distort your thinking.
8 Types of Logical Fallacies and How to Spot Them
Logical fallacies come in many different types and forms. Here is a list of 8 of the most common that you may come across. Each one comes with an explanation so that you may be able to see them at work for yourself.
Ad Hominem Fallacy
An ad hominem is a personal attack. One would use a personal attack on their counterpart rather than using sound reasoning to advance their argument. This is usually done when someone is criticising or disagreeing with another person’s view.
However, they show this criticism and disagreement through personal insults. Moreover, these insults are not connected or applicable to the subject at hand.
Verbal attacks replace logical thinking. It proves nothing except a poorly built argument. Indeed, it does nothing to develop the debate.
Look out if someone starts to personally insult you in some way when engaging in an argument. Identifying the ad hominem will allow you to expose it. In turn, this might strengthen your position in the debate.
The strawman fallacy is a poor ploy to try and make your own position stronger. You achieve this by criticising a position that the opponent never held. You would not deal with the actual matter at hand. Instead, you would respond to a genuine stance that your opponent has taken.
For example, one would manipulate this position and attack a superficial stance that you have created for them. This position may seem similar to what they have argued but it is ultimately false and unequal.
Hence, you end up criticising a position that your opponent never wanted to argue for in the first place. The strawman fallacy cheaply manipulates the discourse to strengthen a position. Listen carefully for this. Scrutinising this immediately will allow you to uncover this weakness.
Appeal to Authority
Sometimes citing an authoritative figure or organisation to back up your argument can be an effective way of strengthening it. However, relying on this can make your position weak. Not to mention, it can steer the debate away from the real issues at hand.
The appeal to authority fallacy occurs when you wrongly apply authority to your argument. This is done to provide proof of what you are trying to say.
Appealing to authority can initially seem like a persuasive tool. However, often it needs additional support to really be effective. Otherwise, it can be just a cheap way of falsely making an argument look stronger.
Appealing to authority can be relatively easy to spot. What important is to evaluate it in the context of the subject of the debate. Only then can you see whether it is relevant or appropriate.
The bandwagon fallacy is another addition to this list of types of logical fallacies. It is also perhaps one of the easiest to deduce. Most people will be familiar with the phrase ‘jumping on the bandwagon’. The bandwagon fallacy is essentially this but using it as a means of gaining support and credibility.
This fallacy is judging something to be true just because many others believe it to be. Or, taking up a position, without any prior belief in it, because many others support it. To put it another way, deceitfully gaining support for a position and bolstering in the process.
Slippery Slope Fallacy
The slippery slope fallacy occurs with a reasonable proposition and then spirals into fanciful and extreme suggestions or consequences.
Someone may begin their reasonable proposition, then suggest something will happen as a consequence, and this relates to a chain of linked events. However, as the proposition unfolds it eventually ends in a highly improbable outcome.
This can be easy to spot. The ridiculous or inconceivable outcome has little to no evidence to suggest that it may actually come about.
A hasty generalisation is exactly as it sounds. Someone may hastily generalise their argument. Then they will reach their conclusion swiftly without any substantial evidence to back it up. This could be for several reasons:
- Rushing to a conclusion
- Making a sweeping assumption
- Making a wild exaggeration without any sort of credible proof
It is essentially jumping to a conclusion erratically without much thought and without enough evidence to support that conclusion. It can occur through a poorly structured argument.
If an opponent in a debate seems to have reached their conclusion quite quickly and without much evidence, then it’s probably a hasty generalisation.
A circular argument is when someone arrives at a conclusion in which they just repeat what has already been established or assumed.
It is a type of logical fallacy doesn’t really prove anything new. Actually, all it does is repeat previous arguments in the same way. However, it insinuates a new conclusion is reached.
An example of this would be “the bible is true, therefore, you should accept the word of god”. We have no new conclusion after the original premise of assuming the bible is true. All we have is a conclusion that resembles the original premise.
Tu Quoque Fallacy
‘Tu Quoque’ is Latin for “you too”. This logical fallacy diverts attention from the argument at hand and the attention on yourself. Rather, it seeks to expose the hypocrisy in your opponent.
It works by taking away the criticism of yourself by throwing it back at your opponent. It does this effectively by either making a similar or the same accusation.
Imagine you are watching a political debate and ‘politician A’ accuses ‘politician B’ of lying to the electorate about a particular policy. A tu quoque fallacy would occur if politician B would just retaliate by pointing out that politician A has also lied in the past. They would make no attempt of defending that accusation put against them.
Focusing on an opponent’s hypocrisy is a false attempt to discredit them. This is because it does not further the argument in any way – it just answers criticism with criticism.
How Do These Types of Logical Fallacies Distort Your Thinking?
These types of logical fallacies have the potential to distort our thought process in a debate. This is due to the illogical and irrelevant stance that they may take. They can often throw us off course if confronted with them.
At the same time, they can divert the argument into another direction or weaken your own argument if you do not know how to recognise or expose these logical fallacies.
The first step to overcoming this and strengthening your debating and reasoning skills will be learning what these logical fallacies are and how to spot them. Once you understand what they are you can credibly present your argument.
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