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Fallacies of Argument

SYLLOGISM Refers to an argument that is composed of three assertions:

All Sony gaming gadgets have memory cards. premises All PSPs are Sony gaming gadgets Therefore, all PSPs have memory cards. conclusion

Each assertion is represented by a term:

middle term major term

All Sony gaming gadgets have memory cards.

minor term middle term

All PSPs are Sony gaming gadgets

subject predicate

Therefore, all PSPs have memory cards.

The Nature of Argument

Aristotle identified 13 typologies of fallacies. De Sophisticis Elenchis (Sophistical Refutations)

Origin of Word
The word fallacy may derive from the Latin word fallo meaning, to deceive, to trip, to lead into error or to trick.


What is Fallacy? Refers to the incorrect form of reasoning Defined as deceptive arguments.

About Fallacies
Fallacies tend to exploit common psychological aspects of our mind: many people think that they are good arguments. One reason why there are so many fallacies is that many people use arguments to persuade other people, and to win debates, rather than to find the truth. As someone said: Arguments are to people as what lampposts are for drunks: they are used for support rather than illumination.

More about Fallacies

There is probably a good evolutionary reason for why people want to persuade, rather than find the truth: it is much easier to persuade, and there are immediate payoffs to persuading others, while finding the truth is hard, and even if you find it, there may not be an immediate pay-off.

Still More About Fallacies

Since we are doing philosophy in this course, our goal of arguments is to find the truth, not to win or persuade. Accordingly, in this course a good argument is understood as an argument that gets us closer to the truth, i.e. an argument that is sound.

Beware of the Fallacy

Of course, lawyers, politicians, car sales people, and basically everyone else (!) defines a good argument as one that is persuasive, sound or not.

Formally Valid Arguments

Fallacies of Ambiguity

Formally Invalid Arguments

Fallacies of Presumption Fallacies of Relevance

Formal Fallacy
A classification that focuses on the logical structure and form of an argument. It concentrates on the usual arrangement of a typical and valid syllogism.

Formally Valid Arguments

True and Valid

All STI students have a sense of nationalism. Michelle is an STI student. Therefore, Michelle has a sense of nationalism.

Formally Valid Arguments

True and Valid

All politicians are wealthy. Juan Ponce Enrile is a politician. Therefore, Juan Ponce Enrile is wealthy.

Formally Valid Arguments False and Valid

All Filipinos can fly. Erap is a Filipino. Therefore, Erap can fly.

Formally Valid Arguments

False and Valid

All Nintendo DS Lite are red. Mario has a Nintendo DS Lite. Therefore, Mario is red.

Formally Invalid Arguments

False and Invalid

Some men are black. Plato is a man. Therefore, Plato is black.

Formally Invalid Arguments

True and Invalid

Some men are mortal. Plato is a man. Therefore, Plato is mortal.

Informal Fallacy

Involves the logic of the meaning of language. 1. Fallacies of Ambiguity 2. Fallacies of Relevance 3. Fallacies of Presumption


Man or Woman?


How many legs does this elephant have?


Which officer is the tallest?


Is this wave moving?


Fallacy of Ambiguity

Involves the meaning of a term in a particular premise. The fallacies of ambiguity are collectively known as


It occurs when a particular term or word is used in an argument with two or three meanings.

A beast is not rational. But a rapist is a beast. Therefore, a rapist is not rational.


Everything that runs has feet. The river runs. Therefore, the river has feet.

Greek word ampho which means both sides or doubles. This fallacy occurs when a sentence used in an argument has a double meaning.

The vendor jumps off the train with the basket. To be repaired: the rocking chair of an old man with two legs.

This occurs when an accent of a term is altered thereby changing the meaning of the said word.

I resent the letter. We should not speak ill of our friends.

This kind of fallacy argues from

whole to parts. A living cell is organic material, so the chemical making up the cell must also be organic material.


Zobel is a wealthy family. Therefore, members of the Zobel family, from th degree first up to the 10 are wealthy.

What is true of the parts must be true of the whole.

Since every part of a certain machine is light in weight, we may conclude that the overall weight of the machine is light.


Atoms are colorless. Ducks are made of atoms. Therefore, ducks are colorless.

What is presumption?

Occurs when someone is asked a question that contains the presumption of truth.

Have you stopped taking illegal drugs? Where did Estrada hide his illgotten wealth?

Post hoc or Ergo propter hoc
The existence of something is brought about by the existence of another thing.

Money makes people evil. A black cat crossed Edehls path yesterday, and he was injured last night from the bad luck.

Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc

"I wore my lucky shoes yesterday and didnt drown when the boat went down. Therefore the shoes caused me not to drown. "

Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc

Women were allowed to vote in the early 1900s and then we had two world wars. Clearly giving them the vote was a bad idea.

BEGGING the QUESTION Petitio Principil Occurs when the arguer already asserts the truth in the premises rather than in the conclusion.


Since Im not crying, it follows that Im smiling. Divina said, Of course I know that the operation was successful.. How do you know that? Paul asked. The doctor told me so, and he would not have told me that, if it was not successful.

Accident and Converse Accident ACCDIENT-Occurs when one wrongly applied a general rule to a particular condition or situation. Birds normally can fly. Oscar the ostrich is a bird. Therefore, Oscar can fly.

Accident and Converse Accident

Converse ACCDIENT-Occurs when one believes that what is true in a particular situation is true of the great run of cases. One should not shout while inside the church to show respect to the holiness of the place. But there is a fire in the altar. Should one quietly walk to the sacristy whispering.

the fallacy of applying a general rule to a particular case whose special circumstances render the rule inapplicable. E.g., "Thou shalt not kill; therefore, you should not try to control termites in your home or fight for your country."

Accident eg.
Allowing football players to hit each other on the field is wrong as we have a school rule that states that students hitting other students is wrong. Therefore football should be banned.

Converse Accident
This argument goes in the opposite direction of the fallacy of accident. In this case, specific situation or example is used to undermine a general rule while overlooking atypical features of the situation.

Converse Accident Eg.

Football players are allowed to hit each other, so the school rule that prohibits students from hitting each other should be banned.

What is Relevance?

Argument from Ignorance

Argumentum Ad Ignorantiam Occurs when the arguer assumes that the conclusion of a proposition is true because it has not been proved false, or vice versa.

Argument from Ignorance

In spite of all the investigation that the Philippine senators did during the NBN-ZTE scandal, no one has found any hard evidence showing that GMA pressured ex-NEDA Chairman Romulo Neri to approve the contract between the Phil. Govt and the Peoples Rep. Of China. So she didnt.

Argument from Ignorance Of course aliens do not exist. Nobody has shown any proof that they are real. Mary said that she is more efficient than Joey, but she didnt prove it, so it must be false.

Appeal to Inappropriate Authority (Argumentum Ad Verecundiam)

Occurs in reasoning where the argument is based on the opinion of a person who has no authority to deliver such opinion or claim. Appeal to reverence

Appeal to Inappropriate Authority (Argumentum Ad Verecundiam) Having a college degree is just a waste of money and time. Why, many of the successful men in the Philippines, like Lucio Tan, Joseph Estrada, and Lito Lapid, are college drop-outs.

Appeal to Inappropriate Authority (Argumentum Ad Verecundiam)

Tiger Woods gives a testimonial for a brand of womens underwear. Surely, his expertise is in golf, not in lingerie.

Appeal to Inappropriate Authority (Argumentum Ad Verecundiam) The most celebrated Filipino boxing champion Manny Pacquiao recommends that you buy Alaxan for the relief of mild to moderately severe pain of musculoskeletal origin such as arthritis, rheumatism, sprain, etc.

5 criteria The authority in question has an above-average expertise in the subject matter. The issue in question should be included in the persons areas of expertise.

5 criteria
There is an adequate degree of agreement among the other experts in the subject in question. The authority in question should deliver impartial and objective opinion. The authority in question must be identified.

Argumentum ad Hominem
Literally means against the man Attacking the arguer instead of their argument.

Argumentum ad Hominem (Abusive)

This attack involves the opponents physical appearance and personal qualities. No doubt that hairstylist does not know anything about hairstyles. Just look at his hair.

Argumentum ad Hominem
We must dismiss the conclusion of Ms. Smiths argument because it is clear to me at this point that Ms. Smith is a liar and a thief! Einstein couldn't have been right about Relativity, for just look at the way he combs his hair.

Ad Hominem His statement that the traffic problem is caused by ignorance of traffic laws is certainly erroneous, for he himself cannot pass the examination.

ad Hominem (Circumstantial)
Sometimes begin with the phrase Of course, that is what you would expect him to say The attack is directed to the individiuals occupation, practices, education, religion, race or status. Also known as Tu quoque (You too)

ad Hominem (Circumstantial)

You say I should consult a doctor, but you have not been visiting your personal physician for more than a year. A politician to the nun on the ZTENBN Deal Scandal: You are a nun, arent you? So you cannot meddle in this case because this is a political issue.

Appeal to Emotion (Argumentum Ad Populum)

Occurs when the arguer tends to justify his claim through the general sentiment of the majority.

Flag Waving
The arguers reasoning is directed towards the nationalistic sentiments of his audience.

Snob Appeal
It is a form of tactic in which the arguer plays to be a little superior to, or better, than others.


It appeals to our feeling of wanting to belong to the crowd.

Appeal to Emotion
Super Wristwatch gives you the power you need. It is a gadget that combines a personal computer and a wristwatch, in one package! If you purchase one, people will envy your power. They will look up to you and wish they were like you.

Appeal to Emotion I need to buy an Ipad. Besides, everybody else in our school has one.

Appeal to Emotion

AXE cologne for men... You will stand out in the crowd. AXE cologne, made for a man, stimulating the sense of a woman.

Appeal to Emotion

A billion Americans cant be wrong!

Appeal to Pity (Argumentum ad Misericordiam)

Verbal Crying Uses emotion for the arguer tends to affect the sentiments of his or her listener through their sympathy.

Appeal to Pity (Argumentum ad Misericordiam) Joey applying for a clerical position in DFA: I am certain that my credentials will meet your offices requirements. I really need the job since my wife is sick.

Appeal to Pity (Argumentum ad Misericordiam) Paul to his thesis adviser: I hope you like my proposal. It took me three months and sleepless nights to write it and I dont know what I would do if you reject it.

Appeal to Force (Argumentum Ad Baculum)

Attacks the opponent through force or threat Might makes it right If you dont want to take up law next school year, I will disinherit you. I will also throw you out of this house, stop your schooling, and not talk to you again.

Argumentum ad Baculum
Also called an Appeal to force The Latin term "argumentum ad baculum" literally means "argument to the stick" - this fallacy makes an implicit or explicit threat of physical or psychological violence against others if they refuse to accept the conclusions offered.

Appeal to Force (Argumentum Ad Baculum) Former DOJ secretary Raul Gonzalez to Cabinet members who will join the Mass for the Truth Rally organized by former president Aquino: Go on, attend La Salle mass and be fired.

Argumentum ad Baculum
Person L says accept argument A or event x will happen. Event x is bad, dangerous or threatening.. Therefore, argument A is a good argument.

Argumentum ad Baculum
Dear Professor Duboise, when considering my grade in your class please keep in mind that my father is the Dean (your boss).

Fallacy Review
"You know, Professor Smith, I really need to get an A in this class. I'd like to stop by during your office hours later to discuss my grade. I'll be in your building anyway, visiting my father. He's your dean, by the way. I'll see you later." Name that fallacy

Ad Baculum

Fallacy Review
Jill: "He'd be a terrible coach for the team." Bill: "He had his heart set on the job, and it would break if he didn't get it." Jill: "I guess he'll do an adequate job." Name that Fallacy

Appeal to Pity

Fallacy Review
Most people approve of X (have favorable emotions towards X). Therefore X is true. Name that Fallacy

Ad Populum

Fallacy Review
Person A makes claim X. Person B asserts that A makes claim X because it is in A's interest to claim X. Therefore claim X is false. Name that Fallacy Ad Hominem (Circumstantial)

Fallacy Review
I had been doing pretty poorly this season. Then my girlfriend gave me this neon laces for my spikes and I won my next three races. Those laces must be good luck...if I keep on wearing them I can't help but win! Name that Fallacy False Cause or Post Hoc Ergo

Fallacy Review
"Where did you hide the money you stole?" Name that Fallacy

Complex Question

Fallacy Review
Jill is horrified by the way the state uses capital punishment. Bill says that capital punishment is fine, since those the state kill don't have any qualms about killing others. Name that Fallacy

Ad Hominem (Circumstantial)

Fallacy Review
Chinas policy toward Tibet was surely mistaken because Bono, vocalist of the U2 band, said that he had misgivings about it. Name that Fallacy

Appeal to Inappropriate Authority

Fallacy Review
I believe logic is an extremely importat and useful subject, said ernie. Bert replied, That is because you are an idiot, Ernie Name that Fallacy

Ad Hominem (Abusive)

Fallacy Review
Dont you have any compassion for these children? Is there no pity in your heart? If there is, can you donate something for them? Name that Fallacy

Appeal to Pity (Argumentum Ad Misericordiam)

Fallacy Review
MTV VJ on promoting Neyos newest album: Neyos Go on Girl has been on American Billboards list for 36 straight weeks! Name that Fallacy

Appeal to Emotion (Ad Populum)

Other Fallacies

Dicto Simpliciter
Make a sweeping statement and subsequently expecting it to be true of every specific case.

Dicto Simpliciter
Exercise is good. Therefore, everybody should exercise.

Dicto Simpliciter
Women are on average not as strong as men and less able to carry a gun. Therefore, women cant pull their weight in a military unit.

Hasty Generalization
It is done by drawing a conclusion about a population based on a sample that is not large enough to represent the view or opinion of the majority.

Hasty Generalization You cant speak French. I cant speak French. Petey Bellows cant speak French. I must therefore conclude that nobody at the university of Minnesota can speak French.

Hasty Generalization
Large scale polls were taken in Metro Manila and it was found that an average of 55% of those polled spent at least 365 days a year near the Manila Bay. So, it can be safely concluded that 55% of Manilenos spend at least 365 days near the Manila Bay each year.

Contradictory Premises

This fallacy occurs when the premises contradict each other.

Contradictory Premises

Into what shape of hole would a round square fit?

Contradictory Premises

If an object is all black and white at the same time, what color is it?

False Analogy
Since A has property P, so also B must have property P. An analogy fails when two objects, A and B are different in a way which affects whether they both have property P.

False Analogy
Students should be allowed to look their textbooks during examinations. After all, surgeons have X-ray to guide them during a trial, and carpenters have blueprints to guide them when they are building a house. Why, then, shouldnt students be allowed to look at their textbooks during an examination?

False Analogy
Employees are like nail. Just as nails must be hit in the head in order to make them work, so must employees.

Hypothesis contrary to the Fact

Spain did not colonize the Philippines. Ninoy Aquino was not assassinated. The majority of the Philippines senators decided to open the brown envelope during the impeachment trial of Joseph Estrada.

Hypothesis contrary to the Fact

This fallacy is consisted of poorly supported claims about what might have happened in the past, future, or even hypothetical situations as they were fact.

Hypothesis contrary to the Fact

If you had only tasted the fried frog, you would have loved them.

Hypothesis contrary to the Fact

If I had not goofed around my first year in collage, I would have been accepted at medical school.

Poisoning the Well

Attacking the opponents personality

Any Questions?

Group Activity
Grab a partner and construct five (5) fallacious arguments. Each pair can choose any of the fallacies discussed, but must construct at least one fallacious argument of each classification: Fallacies of Ambiguity, Relevance, Presumption, and others. The constructed fallacious arguments must be written in a paper.