Welcome to Logic 101.
Continuing in my obsession with lists (I blame Ali for this obsession), I have created, for your education, enjoyment, and intellectual prowess, a list of my favorite logical fallacies. These are my favorites for a couple of reasons; 1. They’re very obvious and 2. They’re the most commonly abused, misused, or ignored by politicians, teachers, and public speakers, as well as by a majority of the ‘common folk’.
- Ipse Dixit. This is the fallacy of ‘he said it himself’. This fallacy is created when people back up arguments by saying ridiculous things like ‘Well, he said it, so it must be true,’ or even better ‘that’s just how it is’ to justify arguments. A common example of this is information we get from the internet. (raise your hand if you’re guilty of this ^raises hand^). We find something cool online, tell a friend about it, and when they tell us ‘that’s not a thing’, we say, ‘yeah-huh, this super famous blogger said it was true!’
Brief aside: Whether or not information is actually true is irrelevant to these fallacies. You may get totally valid and true information and then use a fallacy to justify your use of the information or explain its validity to someone.
- Post hoc ergo propter hoc. This fallacy means ‘after this, therefore because of this.’ Basically, you decide causality when really the only concrete information you have is correlation. Saying ‘He always gets sick after eating at McDonald’s, so he must be allergic to hamburgers here,’ may be a true statement but you could also be missing information or be jumping to conclusions. You’re basing an argument on something you don’t have concrete proof of. This fallacy is actually used a lot by those who refer t deductive reasoning (I’m looking to you, Sherlock). You may come to correct conclusion but you may also be jumping to hasty conclusions.
- Circular reasoning or begging the question. This fallacy is used to often it makes me a little sick. It can even be used in job hunts; you have to have two years of experience to get a job, but you have to have a job for two years to get experience. It cycles on and on. Alternately, you can talk about political moves in circles; ‘The government is going to help pay college tuitions, which we will be able to do by providing jobs for college students, which are provided by schools who admit students based on merit, who pay for college with money they earn from their jobs; this tuition revenue will enable us to pay for college tuition.’ (that example is loosely based on an actual speech I heard…it was sad). People like to use this in great big speeches in order to confuse people by quite literally talking circles around them. You have to be very aware of a speaker’s points to catch this fallacy, but when you do, you’ll see right through their amazing diction and sentence structure.
- Either/or. This fallacy is basically giving someone two options when there should be at least one more. Often this fallacy is structured as a question, like ‘have you stopped beating your wife?’ If you answer yes to the question, people will ask how long you beat your wife before you stopped. If you answer no, people will ask why you haven’t stopped beating her. Using the either/or fallacy is another way to close any ‘outs’ a person may have been able to use. It’s caging them in and limiting options where they should be plentiful.
I hope you find these basic fallacies useful. Avoid them, along with the bandwagon fallacy (I hope you already know what that is), and be smart about what you say and how you say it.
People who use logical fallacies make me sad. Don’t be the one to make me sad.