Lecture Nine: Fallacies Part Three
November 16, 2011
Fallacy Eleven: Appeal to Authority
Definition: This fallacy is committed when there is an appeal to an illegitimate authority.
When an appeal to authority does not meet the following conditions, it is considered to
be a faulty appeal to authority and therefore is a fallacy.
- There must be an identifiable field of knowledge
- The person appealed to must be an authority in that particular field
- The person appealed to must have current knowledge of information in that field
- There must be a general consensus among other experts in that field about the given
- The authority must be specifically stated
- The authority must not be in a conflict of interest
“Linus Pauling, a double Nobel prize winning chemist has argued that mega doses of
Vitamin C will increase a person’s lifespan. Surely if such a noted scientist like this
makes that claim then it must be true”
This is a fallacious argument because it violates more than one of the required criteria
for a successful appeal to authority.
- The person appealed to is not an authority in the field, which is medicine
- Therefore this person may not be up to date on all medical discoveries (although it is
possible that they are)
- There is no indication that there is a general consensus about this argument
In some cases, all the requirements may be met but not explicitly stated. This is a
difficult fallacy to detect because you have to determine what the implicit claims are as
well to determine whether or not the argument is fallacious.
Fallacy Twelve: Hasty Generalization
Definition: This fallacy is committed when a claim is made by not following the
appropriate guidelines for a valid generalization. Usually this occurs when a claim is
based on too small of a sample, a sample that is not representative of the population, or
when a generalization is made beyond the limits of the population.
Example “Last night on my walk, I saw three swans. All of them were white. Therefore all swans
must be white”
This is a hasty generalization because there were only three swans observed as the
entire sample group. Also, only one area was surveyed (it is possible that in other
places the swans are differently colored). It also did not specify at what stage of life,
although we can assume implicitly that the arguer is talking about fully grown swans.
To fix this, you need to find a larger sample group. The larger the sample, the more
accurate the information you derive from these observations.
Fallacy Thirteen: False Cause
Definition: This fallacy is committed when a person fails to establish all the condi