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Chapter 3

Fallacious Reasoning
Fallacious reasoning occurs
1. Accepting premises that should be
2. Neglecting relevant evidence.
3. Drawing conclusions not sufficiently
supported by evidence.
Fallacy #1 - Appeal to Authority
 One of the most serious errors in
reasoning is to accept the word of an
authority that is not reliable.
Appeal to Authority
Three questions to ask:
1. Is the source likely to have the
information or good judgment we need?
2. If so, can we trust the authority to tell it
to us straight?
3. Do we have the time, desire, and ability
to reason the matter out for ourselves?
Appeal to Authority.
 Authorities and experts are not all the
 Every profession has those who are less
than completely ethical.
 It is possible for the personal interests of
experts to conflict with their duties to
 We must make judgments about
Appeal to Authority.
Authorities in one field aren’t necessarily experts in

 Sport athletes are not guaranteed to

know more on other topics than anyone
 Many consumers are gullible to the claims
of stars.
Appeal to authority
 Choose experts in particular professions
who are reliable.
 Pick their brains for their expertise.
 Resist the temptation to be intimidated
by jargon or aura.
 Experts have different levels of knowledge
and integrity
 We cannot always expect definitive
answers to our questions
Appeal to Authority

 As authorities disagree on topic, we need

to become our own experts on the
 We turn to authorities for evidence,
reasons, and arguments, but NOT
 There is always an “expert” on the other
side of an idea (trials)
 Examples?
Fallacy #2 – Inconsistency
 Inconsistency occurs when there are self-
contradictory statements or statements
that contradict each other.
 “I like to study but I hate reading the
textbook”. (self-contradictory)
 Politicians who say one thing to one
group of voters and the opposite to
another group, or take one position when
they are campaigning and another one
when they are elected.(contradictory
 Inconsistency can occur when arguing one
way at one given time and another way at
another time. Ex: John McCain (page 55)
 Inconsistency can occur when you say one
thing and do another (Al Gore p 56)
 Organizational inconsistency occurs when
one representative says one thing and
another representative says something to
contradict that.
 Organizational inconsistency occurs when
company policy is ignored to help the
Fallacy #3 – Straw Man
 Misrepresenting an opponent’s position
 Misrepresenting a competitor’s product
 Going after a weaker opponent while
ignoring a stronger one
 Origin: Straw dummies used in military
Straw man - examples
 Senator Jones says that we should not
fund the attack submarine program. I
disagree entirely. I can't understand why
he wants to leave us defenseless like
 Jill: We should clean out the closets. They
are getting a bit messy."
Bill: "Why, we just went through those
closets last year. Do we have to clean
them out everyday?"
Fallacy # 4.1– False dilemma
 A dilemma is an argument that presents
only two mutually exclusive alternatives –
both claimed to be bad for someone or
some position.
 The form of a dilemma is:
Either P or Q.
If P then R.
If Q then S.
Therefore, either R or S.
False dilemma
 Examples:
◦ Robber: “Your money or your life”
◦ I’m not good at math – I’m either going to fail
or get a D.
◦ If I eat this dessert , I’m either going to get
sick or get fat.
Fallacy #4.2 - Either-Or Fallacy
 An either-or fallacy (black-or-white
fallacy) fails to acknowledge other
 Form of Either-or:
Either P or Q
Not P
Therefore Q
 Examples:
◦ Either you are with me or against me.
◦ America: Love it or leave it
◦ Sink or Swim
Fallacy #5 – Begging the Question
 To beg means to avoid.
 It is a form of circular reasoning
 We beg the question when we assume as
a premise some form of the argument we
are trying to prove.
 A premise may state a conclusion in
different but equivalent words so that the
conclusion is not so obviously derived
from the premise
Begging the Question-Examples
 Kerosene is combustible, therefore it burns.
 Running is good for your health. If you want
to be healthy you should run.
 Taxing inheritances is justified because
people should pay a tax on money they
have been given by their families.
 The reason that the store is so crowded is
because everyone likes to shop there.
 Similar to a tautology
Begging the Question (second form)
Evading the issue
 One way to beg the question is to avoid it
 Politicians are masters at this.
 In response to questions, they can skirt
the subject to address what they think is
relevant or to put their own spin on the
Evading the issue - example
 Reporter to politician: “What should
we do to reduce the national debt?”
 Politician: “We should reduce spending”
 Reporter: “What spending should we
 Politician: “We should look at every
Fallacy #6–Questionable premise
 Statements should be questioned that we
do not think are true
 When evidence is lacking, reason requires
reserving judgment.
 Example:
People who do well in Critical Thinking become
Study hard in this course
Then you will become wealthy.
Fallacy #7 – Suppressed or
Overlooked Evidence
 Relevant evidence needs to be brought to
an argument.
 Suppressed evidence can be done
inadvertently – this is overlooked or
slighted evidence.
 Self interest can be a powerful motivator
or deliberate shady reasoning that leaves
out vital evidence.
 P62 – Drug companies – Trial results
Fallacy #8 - Tokenism
 Tokenism is mistaking a token gesture for
the real thing.
 Tokenism is accepting a token gesture in
lieu of something more concrete.
 Tokenism is behaving or speaking one way
when the heat is on and another when it
is not.
 Example on page 64 – Gas prices
Exercise 3.1
 Pages 66-70

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