Lecture Seven: Fallacies
November 2, 2011
What is a Fallacy?
Definition - A problem which arises in certain arguments, which makes a deductive
argument invalid and an inductive argument weak.
Fallacies must meet the two following conditions
- The argument must follow a pattern of reasoning
- There must be fundamentally wrong with that pattern of reasoning
Steps to Correcting Fallacies
1. Map the argument
2. Identify a fallacy in the argument (by finding the faults with the given pattern of
argumentation that it follows)
3. Justify the selection of the fallacy (show how the pattern violates one or more of the
constitutional rules or argumentation, or show that this pattern doesn't necessarily
prove the truth of the conclusion)
4. Identify the premise/premises that is/are a fallacy and logically deduce what the
premise should state to justify the conclusion.
Family of Relevance - the premise or premises are not relevant to it or their
Modes of Reasoning
Necessity - “must” “has to”
Impossibility - “cannot”
Actuality - “is” “are”
Possibility - “may” “might” “could”
Normatively - “ought” “should”
Fallacy One: Appeal to Force or Threats
Force/Threats - coercion of a physical, psychological (such as persuasion) or verbal
nature to influence a person into accepting your conclusion. The threat or negative incentive is in place of where a reason, or premise, should be in
the argument. There is no actual proof of reasoning provided for the conclusion, just a
threat of some sort.
- The argument tries to prove its conclusion by issuing a threat
- Other than the threat, there is no actual justification for the conclusion
“I don’t think it would be wise to run a story about my son’s driving escapades. After all,
my firm does donate thousands of dollars of advertising business with your paper”
Conclusion: It would not be wise to run the story about my son’s driving escapades.
Premise: My firm donates thousands of dollars of advertising business with your paper
- This premise is a threat
- The threat is that should the story be run, the arguer will stop giving the paper
This is a fallacious argument because it is committing the fallacy of appealing to a
force or a threat. There is no relevant reason given as to why the story should not be
Fallacy Two: Appeal to Emotion
Definition - This argument does not provide reasons for its conclusion, but appeals
specifically to emotions, especially those of pity or fear.
Pity - an emotion either for oneself or others such that you or they are in an unfortunate
position for you or they are not responsible.
Fear - an emotion felt for oneself or for others such that you or they are in a situation
where your or their well being is endangered, and you or they may not be able to
remove the danger.
“I know that I am six months behind on my rent. It is because I just lost my job, and my
wife has just left me. You have to let me stay until I get back onto my feet”
Conclusion - “You have to let me stay until I get back onto my feet”
Premises to prove this conclusion
- “I just lost my job” - “My wife just let me”
These premises are appealing to the emotions of pity to prove the conclusion, however
they logically do not prove the conclusion.
Examples of premises that would prove the point without appealing to emotions
- “I will repay you with interest what I owe you until I am able to pay”
- “I will provide you with collateral should you let me stay”
- “I have done much unpaid work f