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Read the lesson on virtues.

Which among the cardinal virtues do you consider to be most

developed in you? Explain why you say so. Which among the virtues do you think you
need to develop more? How are you foing to develop it?

I. Argumentum ad Ignorantiam: (appeal to ignorance) the fallacy that a proposition is true

simply on the basis that it has not been proved false or that it is false simply because it has not
been proved true. This error in reasoning is often expressed with influential rhetoric.
A. The informal structure has two basic patterns:

Statement p is unproved. Statement not-p is unproved.

Not-p is true. p is true.

B. If one argues that God or telepathy, ghosts, or UFO's do not exist because their existence
has not been proven beyond a shadow of doubt, then this fallacy occurs.
C. On the other hand, if one argues that God, telepathy, and so ondo exist because their non-
existence has not been proved, then one argues fallaciously as well.
II. Some typical ad ignorantiam fallacy examples follow.

In spite of all the talk, not a single flying saucer report has been authenticated. We may
assume, therefore, there are not such things as flying saucers.

No one has objected to Lander's parking policies during the last month of classes, so I
suppose those policies are very good.

Since the class has no questions concerning the topics discussed in class, the class is ready
for a test.

Biology professor to skittish students in lab: There is no evidence that frogs actually feel
pain; it is true they exhibit pain behavior, but as they have no consciousness, they feel no

Johnson: It is impractical to send more men to the moon because the money spent for that
project could be spent on helping the poor..Hanson: It is not impractical.

Johnson: Why?

Hanson: Just try to prove that I wrong.

(Hanson is defending his claim by an ad ignorantiam, i.e., his claim is true, if Johnson
cannot refute him.)
"The Soviet news agency Tass declared Saturday that the abominable snowman, thought by
some to stalk the Himalayan Mountains, does not exist.

Quoting arguments by Vadim Ranov, a man described as a well-known Soviet explorer,

Tass said that no remains--skull or individual bones--had ever been found.

Alleged yeti tracks spotted in the mountains are more likely to be those of other animals
distorted by bright sunrays, Tass said.

Accounts by 'eye witnesses' are the fruit of their imagination,' the official news agency
said." (New York Times)
(Be sure to note why this argument is not a case of the ad verecundiam fallacy.)

"Our universe, however, did begin with the primordial explosion, since we can obtain no
information about events that occurred before it. The age of the universe, therefore, is the
interval from the big bang to the present." (Scientific American)

III. The uses of the ad ignorantiam in rhetoric and persuasion are often similar to the
technique of "raising doubts." E.g., suppose you wanted to convince a police officer not to
give you a ticket by using this technique.
"I'm sure you know how unreliable radar detectors are. Why, I saw an a news program a
tree was timed at 50 mph, and Florida, at one time, threw out such evidence in court. I
certainly wasn't going that fast. Some other driver must have sent back that erroneous
signal. You probably timed the car passing me which looked like mine."
IV. Non-fallacious uses of the ad ignorantiam: in science, the law courts, and some specific
other situations, one must, for practical reasons, assume that something is false unless it is
proved true and vice-versa. E.g., "the assumption of innocence until proved guilty" is a
practical, not a logical, process. Obviously, someone can be legally innocent, but actually
guilty of a crime.
1 In many instances, if a decision must be made and we cannot prove something in spite
of serious attempts to do so, then we presuppose as a pragmatic consideration, without
deductive proof, that whatever that something is, is probably the case.

3 At one time scientists concluded that DNA would not crystallize because after
extensive testing, there was no proof that it would. This conclusion is not fallacious even
though now it is known that DNA will crystallize.

5 There is no fallacy in the following passage:

"Today we can be confident that a sample of uranium 238, no matter what its origin, will
gradually change into lead, and that this transmutation will occur at a rate such that half of
the uranium atoms will have become lead in 4.5 billion years. There is no reason to
believe that the nature of rate of this process was any different in the very remote past,
when the universe was new." Schramm, Scientific American (January, 1974), 67.

Argumentum ad Verecundiam: (argument from authority) the fallacy of

appealing to the testimony of an authority outside his special field. Anyone can
give opinions or advice; the fallacy only occurs when the reason for assenting
to the conclusion is based on following the recommendation or advice of an
improper authority.

A. Occasionally, this argument is called the "argument from prestige" and is

based on the belief that prestigious people cannot be wrong. In these cases,
the fallacy is probably best termed the "snob appeal" variety of the ad
populum ᄃ.

B. Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish between the ad verecundiam and

the ad populum ᄃ when the authority cited is a group with high status.

This example from a popular logic text can be identified as either an ad

verecundiam or an ad populum:

"Those who say that astrology is not reliable are mistaken. The wisest men
of history have all been interested in astrology, and kings and queens of all
ages have guided the affairs of nations by it."1

C. The informal structure generally has the basic pattern:

Authority on subject x, L says accept statement p.

p is outside the scope of or not germane to the subject x.

p is true.

C. For example:

Linus Pauling as the only person ever to win two unshared Nobel prizes,
one for chemistry, the other for peace stated his taking of Vitamin C delayed
the onset of cancer by twenty years.

(Winning a Nobel Prize in chemistry and for peace does not imply expertise
in the medical science of the diagnosis and treatment of malignant
E. Many advertising campaigns are built on this fallacy. Popular sports
figures, musicians, or actors endorse products of which they have no special
expertise and, in this context, this fact is offered as a mistaken reason we
should use those products.

Even so, occasionally a movie star, for example, might also be an appropriate
authority in another subject. For example, Ronald Regan can be relevantly
quoted as a political authority or Paul Newman can be quoted as a race car
driver. Their reasoning in those respective fields would not ordinarily be open
to the charge of an ad verecundiam fallacy.

F. Note also that an ad verecundiam inductive ᄃ argument (i.e., an argument

whose conclusion is claimed to follow not with certainty but with probability)
is not necessarily a fallacy even if the relevant or appropriate authority in the
field is mistaken.

For example, in 1948, readers of Science News were invited to buy a fluffy
dish towel made from 80 percent cotton and 20 percent asbestos from
"Things of Science," an experiment of the month program provided by
Science Service.1 Concluding that the towel would be safe and useful
would not have been an ad verecundiam fallacy even though the authority in
this case, the Science News program, was being relied upon. The authority
was relevant but simply mistaken.

II. Examples of the ad verecundiam fallacy:

A. The brilliant William Jenkins, the recent Nobel Prize winner in physics,
states uncategorically that the flu virus will be controlled in essentially all of
its forms in the next two decades. The opinion of such a noted scientist
cannot be disregarded.

B. The United States policy toward mainland China in the 1980's was surely
mistaken because Shirley McLaine, the well-known actress, emphasized at
the time she had grave misgivings about it.

III. Uses of the ad verecundiam.

A. Proper experts and authorities render valuable opinions in their fields and,
ceteris paribus, should have direct bearing on the argument at hand—
especially if we have no better evidence to base a conclusion securer grounds.

B. To qualify as an authority, the individual must be generally recognized by

peers in the same field by peers who either hold a similar view or recognize
the cogency of the point of view being expresses. (Examine, for yourself,
why this condition of citing what many authorities in a field believe is not an
instance of thead populum fallacy.)

IV. Non-fallacious examples of the ad verecundiam.

A. Former President Bush said that America would be much stronger if the
people would return to traditional American values, and indeed he argues that
we should.

B. Although the following passages are considered fallacies by a popular

logic textbook, note why they are not fallacious.

1. "But can you doubt that air has weight when you have the clear testimony
of Aristotle affirming that all the elements have weight including air, and
excepting only fire?"

(Galileo Galilei, Dialogues Concerning Two New Sciences)3

2. "In that melancholy book The Future of an Illusion, Dr. Freud, himself
one of the last great theorists of the European capitalist class, has stated
with simple clarity the impossibility of religious belief for the educated man
of today."

(John Strachey, The Coming Struggle for Power)4

1 Argumentum ad Hominem (abusive and circumstantial): the fallacy of
attacking the character or circumstances of an individual who is advancing a
statement or an argument instead of trying to disprove the truth of the
statement or the soundness of the argument. Often the argument is
characterized simply as a personal attack.

The personal attack is also often termed an "ad personemargument": the

statement or argument at issue is dropped from consideration or is ignored,
and the locutor's character or circumstances are used to influence opinion.

2 The fallacy draws its appeal from the technique of "getting personal." The
assumption is that what the locutor is saying is entirely or partially dictated by
his character or special circumstances and so should be disregarded.

3 The "tu quoque" or charging the locutor with "being just like the person"
the locutor speaking about, is a narrower variety of this fallacy. In other
words, rather than trying to disprove a remark about someone's character or
circumstances, one accuses the locutor of having the same character or

In cross examination or in debate, the point is often expressed as "My point

might be bad, but yours is worse."
4 If the subject includes an assessment of behavior, the point can be put "So
I do x [some specific action], but you do too."

Since the circumstantial variety of the ad hominem can be regarded as

a special case of the abusive, the distinction between the abusive and
the circumstantial is often ignored.

Informal Structure of ad Hominem

Person L says argument A.
Person L's circumstance or character is not satisfactory.Argument A is
not a good argument.

 Examples of the ad hominem:

A prosecutor asks the judge to not admit the testimony of a burglar because
burglars are not trustworthy.

 Francis Bacon's philosophy should be dismissed since Bacon was removed

from his chancellorship for dishonesty.

 Prof. Smith says to Prof. White, "You are much too hard on your
students," and Prof. White replies, "But certainly you are not the one to say so.
Just last week I heard several of your students complaining."

 I can't see that we should listen to Governor Smith's proposal to increase

the sales tax on automobiles. He has spent the last twenty years in state
government and is hardly an unbiased source.

5 Uses of ad hominem considerations:

When examining literary or philosophical works, looking at the author's

character or circumstances can sometimes provide insight into that person's
ideas. In other words, ad hominem considerations can show motives and can
sometimes provide explanation. However, these considerations do not
demonstrate the truth or falsity of the ideas.

6 The character of a person is often relevant in consideration of the sincerity

of views being offered and so is often relevant to pragmatic decision-making.

7 Self-reference and ad hominem:

If a philosopher presents a "naturalistic view of knowledge," arguing that all

knowledge is a function of the adjustment of an organism to its environment
and at the same time pleads that his own knowledge is an exception to this
generalization, then the ad hominemfallacy would occur.
8 If William James were to claim that all philosophers were either tender-
minded or tough-minded except for him with respect to his own variety of
pragmatism, then an ad hominem appeal should not be ruled inadmissible
against James..

Argumentum ad Populum (popular appeal or appeal to the majority):

The fallacy of attempting to win popular assent to a conclusion by
arousing the feeling and enthusiasms of the multitude. There are
several variations of this fallacy, but we will emphasize two forms.

"Snob Appeal": the fallacy of attempting to prove a conclusion by

appealing to what an elite or a select few (but not necessarily an
authority) in a society thinks or believes.

(There are many non-fallacious appeals in style, fashion, and politics--

since in these areas the appeal is not irrelevant.)

Person L says statement p or argument A.

Person L is in the elite.Statement p is true or argument A is good.

"Bandwagon": the fallacy of attempting to prove a conclusion on the

grounds that all or most people think or believe it is true.

Most, many, or all persons believe statement p is true.Statement p is

"appeal to emotion": the fallacy of using expressive andemotively
laden language ᄃ to arouse emotion in support of a conclusion.

Emotions such as enthusiasm, pride, anger, or disgust are used to

express evidence for statement p
Statement p is true.

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9 Many advertising slogans are based on this fallacy: Strictly speaking, one
statement considered by itself cannot be a fallacy because it's not an argument
ᄃ. Nevertheless, the import of these "catch-phrases" seems to be in some
cases by conversational implicature an implicit argument. I.e., the statement
can easily be reconstructed from its context into an implicit argument.

§ "Coffee is the think drink."

("London (AP) The coffee industry says it will try to convince youngsters that
coffee is the ‘think drink’. … ‘We want to capture the youth market.’"
[The Fredericksburg Virginia Free Lance-Star "Industry Promoting Coffee as
‘Think Drink’" (December 10, 1966), 82 No. 390, 10.])

§ "Join the Pepsi People Feelin' Free" (slogan early 1970s,)

§ "Join the Pepsi generation" (slogan mid-1980s)

§ "Sony. Ask anyone." (Sony trademark, 1970s)

Occasionally, it is difficult to make a distinction between the ad verecundiam

ᄃ (appeal to authority) and the ad populum (appeal to the elite) fallacies.

10 The basis of the ad populum appeal is the assumption that large numbers
of persons are more likely to be right than a given individual is likely to be
right. Also, in light of peer pressure, many persons feel it's better to be normal
than to go against the crowd. Moreover, our social desire to be approved by
others often results in our joining the "bandwagon" of the probable winning
side in a political contest.

9 The main problem with this fallacy is the mere fact that many people agree on
something often does not imply that what they agree on is true; nevertheless, the fact
that many people agree, can be relevant evidence for the truth in some instances, as
shown below. The distinction is based on the nature of therelevance of the premisses
to the conclusion.
 Examples of the ad populum:

"But officer, I don't deserve a ticket; everyone goes this speed. If I went any
slower, I wouldn't be going with the stream of traffic."

 ᄃ
 It is well recognized by most persons that the present technological
revolution has affected the ethical basis of the nation's institution of education.
Since this belief is so widely held, there can be little doubt of its accuracy.

 ᄃ


 "Man could alleviate his misery by marriage. This close companionship

enhances the joys of one and mitigated the sorrow of the other, and anyone
knew God always provided for married people."

[Lee Emily Pearson, Elizabethans at Home, (London: Oxford University

Press, 1957), 289.]

 ᄃ

 "Shell was charged with misleading advertising in its Platformate

advertisements. A Shell spokesman said: 'The same comment could be made
about most good advertising of most products.'"

[Samm Sinclair Baker, The Permissible Lie (Cleveland: World Publishing

Company, 1968), 39.]

 ᄃ

 "To his dying day, Governor Marvin Mandel will never understand what
was wrong in accepting more that $350,000 worth of gifts from wealthy
friends who happened to engage in business ventures that benefited from his
gubernatorial influence. The governor has lots of company … And to a man
they have cried in bewilderment that ‘everybody does it,’ that politics survives
on back scratching."

[Martha Angle and Robert Walters, "In Washington: The Public Isn't Buying"
Bowling Green Daily News(September 6, 1977), 123 No. 212, 16.]
 ᄃ

 St. Augustine wrote, "For such is the power of true Godhead that it cannot
be altogether and utterly hidden from the rational creature, once it makes use
of its reason. For with the exception of a few in whom nature is excessively
depraved, the whole human race confesses God to be author of the world."

[Erich Przywara, An Augustine Synthesis (New York: Harper & Brothers,

1958), 122.]

Note, as well, the ad hominem ᄃ implications of this argument.

11 Non-fallacious examples of the ad populum: the appeal is not irrelevant

when what most persons believe or what the select few believe does in fact
determine what is true. Conventional truth such as the definitions of words,
standard use of symbols, and clothing styles, or voting in juries, meetings, or
political elections are typical examples where the appeal to the majority , the
experts, or the people-in-the-know would be relevant and so would not be

Many logic sources associate the ad populum fallacy with the presence of
emotion alone in expressions of rhetorical passages, patriotic speeches,
diatribes, or cheerful accolades. However, it's important to understand that no
fallacy occurs unless the literal significance of the emotionally expressed
evidence is irrelevant to the purported conclusion. The presence of emotively
laden language alone does not constitute a fallacy unless an argument is being

12 If an elite group of people are in a position to know of what they speak,

their authority is relevant and should not automatically be discounted. E.g., Is
is a legitimate appeal and no fallacy to argue that most physicians believe that
a high fat diet is unhealthy, and therefore a high fat diet is unhealthy.

13 The number of persons who believe a claim can be probable evidence for
the truth of the conclusion. But without further information about the case in
point, the number of persons cannot be directly related to the truth of the

14 Other examples of where an ad populum appeal would not be fallacious

include the "the wisdom of crowds,"ᄃ "swarm intelligence,"ᄃ and "crowd
sourcing"ᄃ because these instruments are often more reliable than other
inductive methods.
 Non-fallacious examples of the ad populum argument:

"We believe in a generous America, in a compassionate America, in a tolerant

America, open to the dreams of an immigrant's daughter who studies in our
schools and pledges to our flag. To the young boy on the south side of
Chicago who sees a life beyond the nearest street corner. To the funiture
worker's child in North Carolona who wants to become a doctor or a scientist,
an engineer or an entrepreneur, a diplomat ore even a president—that's the
future we hope for. That's the vision we share. That's where we need to go—
forward. That's where we need to go." ["Transcript of President Obama's
Election Night Speech." New York Times (November 7, 2012) quoted in
Donna Brazile, "Forward," Index-Journal 94 No. 194 (November 12, 2012),

These statements do not constitute an argument and so no fallacy is present in

this passage.

 "Why are so many people attracted to the Pontiac Grand Prix? It could be
that so many people are attracted to the Grand Prix because—so many people
are attracted to the Grand Prix!"
[A ABC-TV 1992 advertisement quoted in Irving M. Copi and Carl Cohen,
Introduction to Logic New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1994),

Undoubtedly, Copi and Cohen are assuming that there is an elliptical

conclusion being implied, but the passage as it stands is the fallacy of petition
principii ᄃ

Argumentum ad Misericordiam (argument from pity or misery) the fallacy committed

when pity or a related emotion such as sympathy or compassion is appealed to for the
sake of getting a conclusion accepted.

11 Hence, assent or dissent to a statement or an argument is sought on the basis of an

irrelevant appeal to pity. In other words, pity, or the related emotion is not the subject
or the conclusion of the argument.

13 The informal structure of the ad misericordiam usually is something like this:

Person L argues statement p or argument A.L deserves pity because of

circumstance y.Circumstance y is irrelevant to p or A.Statement p is
true or argument A is good.
II. Some typical ad misericordiam fallacy examples follow.

Georgia Banker Bert Lance should be excused from conflict of interest divestiture
problems, former President Jimmy Carter asserted, because Lance's promise to sell his
stock so that he can serve his government has depressed its market value.

Oh, Officer, There's no reason to give me a traffic ticket for going too fast because I was
just on my way to the hospital to see my wife who is in serious condition to tell her I just
lost my job and the car will be repossessed.

Members of Congress can surely see in their hearts that they need to vote in favor of
passage of the Gun Bill allowing concealed weapons because their constituents who
lobby for liberalizing firearms will be greatly saddened if they do not do so.

Public Schools, K through 12, need to have much easier exams for students because
teachers don't fully realize the extent of the emotional repercussions of the sorrow and
depression of the many students who could score much better on easier exams.

Richard P. Feynman, the Nobel Prize winning physicist, has been misunderstood almost
all of his life. Since World War II, he came close twice to having a mental breakdown--
first with the death of his wife and second with the explosion of the atomic bomb. I think
that the Journal of Science should publish some of his later theoretical work out of our
kind regard for his memory and from the interest of human concern for his difficult life.

III. Related emotions include sympathy, love, regard, mercy, condolence, and
compassion. Occasionally, an occurrence of a fallacy can be correctly analyzed as either
the ad populum or the ad misericordiam fallacy since these fallacies overlap in their

IV. Non-fallacious uses of the ad misericordiam include arguments where the appeal to
pity or a related emotion is the subject of the argument or is a pertinent or germane reason
for acceptance of the conclusion.

14 Relief arguments are relevant to the problems raised by a disaster caused by a

tidal wave and cholera outbreak in India.
16 If we have the choice of buying a newspaper from a blind news vendor, ad
misericordiam considerations are not necessarily irrelevant. The essential question is
whether the pity or compassion is relevant to the situation at hand and is being
appealed to exclusively or excessively for the acceptance of the conclusion.

18 In Voltaire's Candide, examples of misery are used time and time again to falsify
Leibniz's (Pangloss') assertion that this is the best of all possible worlds. The evidence
would be relevant to the argument being adduced.

Argumentum ad Baculum (fear of force): the fallacy committed when one appeals to
force or the threat of force to bring about the acceptance of a conclusion.

19 The ad baculum derives its strength from an appeal to human timidity or fear and
is a fallacy when the appeal is not logically related to the claim being made. In other
words, the emotion resulting from a threat rather than a pertinent reason is used to
cause agreement with the purported conclusion of the argument.

20 The ad baculum contains implicitly or explicitly a threat. Behind this threat is

often the idea that in the end, "Might makes right." Threats, per se, however, are not
fallacies because they involve behavior, not arguments.

21 Often the informal structure of argumentum ad baculum is as follows.

If statement p is accepted or action a is done, then logically irrelevant

event x will happen.
Event x is bad, dangerous, or threatening.
Therefore, statement p is true or action a should be rejected.

II. Examples of ad baculum fallacies:

Chairman of the Board: "All those opposed to my arguments for the opening of a new
department, signify by saying, ‘I resign.’"

The Department of Transportation needs to reconsider the speed limit proposals on

interstate highways for the simple reason that if they do not, their departmental budget for
Department of Transportation will be cut by 25%.

I'm sure you can support the proposal to diversify into the fast food industry because if I
receive any opposition on this initiative, I will personally see that you are transferred to
the janitorial division of this corporation..

The basis of an ad baculum concerns the fate of medieval philosopher and astronomer
Giordano Bruno. Bruno (1548-1600) envisioned a multitude of solar systems in limitless
space and believed in the astronomical hypothesis of Copernicus. The Medieval
Inquissition threatened his life unless he changed his views. Bruno refused to accept the
conclusion of the ad baculumas so was burned at the stake.

"On October 10, 1971, Secretary of State William P. Rogers cautioned foreign ministers
that Congress might force the United States reduce its financial contributions to the
United Nations if Nationalist China is expelled."

As a logical argument, Rogers' caution is fallacious; as a political maneuver no argument

is being adduced.

III. Since many threats involve emotional responses, they can overlap with the emotional
appeal of the ad populum ᄃ fallacy. The appeal to the fear of not being accepted as part of
a group can often be analyzed as either the ad baculum or the ad populum.

IV. Non-fallacious examples of the ad baculum: the appeal is relevant when the threat or
the force is directly or causally related to the conclusion.

22 Greenpeace argued that the large underground nuclear tests at Amchitka Island off
Alaska in the early 1970's had the possible results of earthquakes, tsunamis, and
radiation. Hence, these environmentalists opposed testing. The threat is logically
connected with the argument because of the probability of these consequences is not
decisional (or prescriptive) but causal—hence, no fallacy occurs.

For example, when environemtal groups object to the use of thermonuclear weapons
for in situ recovery of oil from tar sands[1]ᄃ or use against ground troops, excavation
of a new Panama canal or harbor in Australia [2]ᄃ on the grounds of the dangers of
radioactive contamination, the implied threat is relevant and causally connected to the
proposed nuclear explosions. Consequently, such arguments would not commit the ad
baculum fallacy.

24 Physical or emotional threats in the nature of directive discourse or commands are
not arguments and so are not fallacies. E.g.,"Study hard or your grades will fall"
would not be fallacious for two reasons: (1) no argument is present, and (2) the
connection between the two statements of the disjunction suggest a causal relation of
relevancy. It is unfortunate that many logic sources identify a fallacy occurring in
disjunctive statements like ths.

26 Undecideable Cases: In some controversies the relevancy of the threat cannot be
directly determined from the context of the argument, and so the agrument cannot be
reliably assessed without background research and contextual analysis in order to
determine the facts.

E.g., Consider the following argument:

(1) Publication of research for the creation of avian A/H5N1 influenza viruses with
the capacity for airborne transmission between mammals without recombination in an
intermediate host constitutes a risk for human pandemic influenza.
(2) Human pandemic influenza signifies the death of millions.
(Conclusion) Research for the creation of avian A/H5N1 influenza viruses with the
capacity for airborne transmission between mammals without recombination in an
intermediate host should not be published.

Analysis: In the summer of 2011 Dutch researchers from the Erasmus Medical Center
created an airborne H5N1 avian flu virus and estimated the virus could kill 59% of
the people it infects. [3]ᄃ The U.S. National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity
recommended that the Research should not tbe published with experimental details
because of the "unusually high magnitude of risk" of someone transforming the virus
causing "a pandemic of significant proportions."[4]ᄃ But many scientists thought the
potential threat from terrorists creating a deadly H5N1 virus was greatly exaggerated
because the virus could not be easily transmitted among people. So in this case the
potential benefit for public health outweighed concerns of terrorists unleashing a
pandemic and the paper was published.

Ignoratio Elenchi (irrelevant conclusion): the fallacy of proving a conclusion not

pertinent and quite different from that which was intended or required.

27 The ignoratio elenchi is usually considered slightly narrower in focus than the non
sequitur. Strictly speaking, any time a conclusion does not follow from its premisses,
the non sequiturfallacy occurs. Other similar fallacies include diversion, red herring,
subject changing, and ignoring the issue. In law, such a response given to a question
can be called "nonresponsive."

28 Ignoratio elenchi is a name used for arguments whose premisses have no direct
relation on the claim at issue. In this sense of the term, almost any fallacy could be
considered an instance ofignoratio elenchi.
29 In general, the ignoratio elenchi occurs when an argument purporting to establish
a specific conclusion is directed, instead, to proving a different conclusion. This
version is often termed the red herring fallacy—an irrelevant subject is interjected
into the conversation to divert attention away from the main issue.
At least, this seems to be the way Aristotle, to some extent, described the fallacy. He
writes, "Those that depend upon whether something is said in a certain respect only or
said absolutely, are clear cases of ignoratio elenchi because the affirmation and the denial
are not concerned with the same point.… Those that depend upon the assumption of the
original point and upon stating as the cause what is not the cause, are clearly shown to be
cases of ignoratio elenchi through the definition thereof.." (Aristotle, On Sophistical
Refutations (Kessinger Publishing, 2004) 11.) Literally, ignoratio elenchi is "ignorance
of the nature of how something is refuted."

More recently, ignoratio elenchi is described less broadly as an argument, whether valid
or invalid, not relevant to or a digression from the point at issue. Douglas Walton points
out, "It may not come as such a big surprise to find subsequently that the treatment of the
ignoratio elenchi fallacy in the twentieth-century logic textbooks can be described as a
conceptual disarray, mixing several fallacies together in ways that makes it hard to
separate them. (Douglas N. Walton, Relevance in Argumentation (Lawrence Erlbaum
Associates, 2004) 44.)

II. Ignoratio elenchi will be used in a special sense in these notes as a "catch-all"
classification for fallacies of irrelevance which do not clearly fit into the other fallacies
outlined here. As such, few examples of this fallacy are provided in these notes and in the
exercises and tests.

30 The ignoratio elenchi is most effective in political contexts where oral arguments
are being given. Many listeners in such a context are easily distracted.

32 Often this fallacy can be effective as a persuasive technique when coupled with
the ad populum fallacy. The emotional situation in crowd can often be distracting and
sometimes leads to overlooking the logical import of what is said.

III. The key in evaluating argument is determining whether or not the appeal used in the
argument is relevant to the conclusion or not.Relevance is established by either logical or
evidential connection.

34 One quick way to establish relevance is to ask yourself if the premisses were
false, would that fact imply that the conclusion is false also? It it would not, then the
premisses can be considered irrelevant to the conclusion.

15 Consider the following example:

"The 52 former hostages are seen as national heroes. I consider them

survivors. A hero is one who is admired for his achievements and qualities.
Therefore, the true heroes are those servicemen who volunteered for the failed
rescue mission."

Irene Coyne, "Letters" Time (Vol 117, No. 7), 4.

Ms. Coyne is arguing that the servicemen who failed to rescue the hostages
are heroes for the reason that heroes are admired for their achievements and
qualities. For this premiss to be relevant to the conclusion, we must assume
that the servicemen who failed are admired for their achievements and
qualities. If this assumption were to be supported by further reasons, the
ignoratio elenchi need not have occurred.

17 In other words, in order to determine relevance, we would ask Ms. Coyne,

"Would those servicemen be true heroes if they had not volunteered, and if
they would haverescued the hostages?" Doubtless, she would agree that they
still would be considered heroes; hence, the fallacy of ignoratio elenchi
occurs. (Note how this ignoratio elenchi is coupled with ad populum

36 Is the following example the fallacy of ignoratio elenchi?

"We request your help in compiling a book which recalls memories from our parents'
first 50 years of marriage. On the enclosed sheet, we ask that you write one memory
or event that you have shared with them, and return it to us by April 25. We believe
that loving memories they have shared with you, their friends, would be the most
treasured gift they could receive; therefore, we request that no other gift be sent."

"Dear Abby," The Index Journal (02.02.80), 14.


Summary of the Informal Fallacies

Key to the Argument Structures

L = Locutor, the person talking
p, s = statements
x, y = events, circumstances

1. Ad ignorantiam ᄃ (argument from ignorance)

p is unproved Not p is unproved.

————— OR ———————
Not p is true p is true.
E.g., There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that you won’t do well in logic; therefore,
we may conclude that you will do well.


E.g., There of no evidence to suggest that you will do well in logic; therefore we may
safely conclude that you will not do well.

2. Ad verecundiam ᄃ (argument from authority)

Authority on x, L, says accept p.

p is outside the scope of subject x.
p is true.

E.g., H. L. A. Jenkins, the noted international rose expert, has publicly stated that logic is
essential to a life of excellence; consequently, it must be so.

3. Complex Question ᄃ

How (or why) is p true?

p is true.

E.g., When are you going to stop fooling around and begin to take you college education
seriously? You will only benefit yourself if you start studying effectively.

4. Ad hominem ᄃ (argument against the person)

L says p.
L is a bad (good) person.
p is false (true).

E.g., You can’t believe what Professor Smith says about teacher’s salaries, because as a
teacher himself, naturally he would be in favor of more money.

5. Accident ᄃ

Rule or general statement p is true in circumstances x.

p is true in circumstance y.

E.g., Logic fulfills the Social Science Elective at Tennessee State, so a Logic course must
be a social science.
6. Converse Accident ᄃ (hasty generalization)

p is true in circumstance x.
p is true in more general circumstance y.

E.g., Not one person spoke to me on the way to the Library; Lander University is not as
friendly as I was led to believe.

7. False Cause ᄃ

x is related to (or is followed by) y

x caused y.

E.g., Since Jack sat in the back of the class and made an A on the last test, maybe I should
sit there too.


E.g., Napoleon became a great emperor since he was so short.

8. Petitio principii ᄃ (circular argument)

p is true.
p is true.
q is true.
r is true. OR
It is not the case that not p is
p is true

E.g., Logic is an essential course because it is required at many colleges. It is required

because the ability to reason is vital, and it is vital because logic is essential.

9. Ad populum ᄃ (argument from popular appeal)

Snob Appeal:
L says p.
The majority believep.
L is in the elite. OR
p is true.
p is true.

E.g., Snob Appeal: You have chosen the good life and a life of distinction, so now you
need Four Roses Furniture to show that you have arrived.

E.g., Bandwagon: This logic course must be a good course because most people believe it

10. Ad misericordiam ᄃ (argument from pity or misery)

L says p.
L deserves pity because of x.
p is true.

E.g., Mary will be broken hearted if she does not get an A in logic; therefore, she ought to
get one.

11. Ignoratio elenchi ᄃ (irrelevant conclusion)

More often, ignoratio elenchi is called a non sequitur. Since fallacies of relevance are
informal, there is no complete standard classification of the ways people can make
mistakes in arguments. This category of informal fallacy is often considered a "catch all"
type. For the purposes of our class, if a fallacy of relevance does not clearly fit into one of
the common fallacies described above, it should be identified as this fallacy.