Back To Course10th Grade English: Credit Recovery
17 chapters | 164 lessons
As a member, you'll also get unlimited access to over 75,000 lessons in math, English, science, history, and more. Plus, get practice tests, quizzes, and personalized coaching to help you succeed.Try it risk-free
Francesca M. Marinaro has a PhD in English from the University of Florida and has been teaching English composition and Literature since 2007.
You've probably heard of Aristotle, the Greek philosopher and scientist, known as the father of logic. Among his vast contributions to the body of knowledge were in reasoning and fallacies: rhetoric, the study of argument and persuasive strategies, and logical fallacy refers to faulty reasoning or a breakdown in the logic of an argument. As writers, we try to avoid fallacies to prove our arguments; as readers, it's important to be able to identify fallacies to discover whether or not we are being misled or if we cannot trust the information we're receiving. While logical fallacies in arguments are often unintentional, writers can sometimes use them intentionally to mislead or manipulate an audience.
There are various classifications of fallacies. A structural fallacy refers to a fault in the structure of the premises of an argument. A verbal fallacy is a fault or problem in the way the arguer is speaking or writing; for instance, a politician who is a powerful and emotional public speaker has the ability to captivate an audience with his or her energy and distract the audience from focusing on the actual words and meaning of the argument. And a material fallacy is a fault in the argument itself; for instance, using the example of one broken iPhone to claim that all iPhones are manufactured poorly is known as a hasty generalization. The rest of this lesson will focus on examples of material fallacies.
The best way to avoid logical fallacies in your writing and to avoid being misguided by them in your reading is to learn how to spot them in an argument. Here are some common material fallacies. It can be helpful to try to spot them in TV advertisements and billboards, especially political campaign ads.
1. Hasty Generalization: A general conclusion that a certain condition is always true based on one instance or observation. For example, John's iPhone broke after two weeks, so there must be something faulty in the general manufacture of iPhones.
2. Ad Hominem (Latin for 'To the man'): Attacking perceived faults of the person rather than his or her argument, resorting to name-calling and labeling. People generally resort to this tactic when they don't have a logical counter-argument. For example, you can't believe that President Smith is going to lower taxes. He's a pathological liar!
3. Appeal to Ignorance: Supporting a claim merely because there is no proof that it's wrong. For example, there's no concrete evidence that pigs can't fly, so they must be able to fly.
4. Appeal to Faith Relying on faith without solid evidence to support a claim. For example, Narnia is a real place because I really believe it exists, even though I've never seen it. I just have faith that it's real!
5. Appeal to Tradition: Pointing to traditional practices or what's always been done in the past to support a claim. For example, pointing to American slavery to justify racial discrimination. (This is similar to the 'two wrongs make a right' fallacy, which we'll talk about shortly).
6. False Authority: Relying on the evidence of a so-called expert. This is a popular tactic in advertising with celebrity endorsements because we look up to and trust the judgment of celebrities, often assuming that because they're wealthy, they have the best of everything. For example, David Beckham signs autographs with Sharpies, so obviously Sharpie is the most reliable pen on the market.
7. Argumentum Ad Baculum: The appeal to fear or a threat. Think email chain letters here. For example, if you don't send this to ten people right now, aliens are going to rob your bank account!
8. Bandwagon Fallacy: The belief that an argument is valid because a majority of people accept it. For example, everyone I know is voting for John Smoot, so he's obviously the best choice for president.
9. Slippery Slope: The belief that a change in procedure will have drastic, adverse consequences. For example, if students are given ten minutes rather than five minutes between classes, they'll just start skipping classes altogether.
10. Two Wrongs Make a Right: Justifying your actions by accusing someone else of doing the same thing. For example, missing curfew and justifying it with the argument that your sister does it all the time.
11. The Straw-Man Fallacy: Attacking an argument that doesn't exist. Think of the straw-man fallacy as kind of like a rhetorical scarecrow, set up to distract. This is a common tactic in debates, with opponents trying to disprove another's claims by attempting to refute them with more complicated and elaborate claims. For example:
Person A- Medical marijuana is very effective in relieving pain in cancer patients.
Person B- Legalizing marijuana is just going to continue to lead to a lazy and degenerate society.
The problem is that person A isn't talking about generally legalizing marijuana, only about its medical properties. Person B is raising the broader issue of the general legalization of marijuana as a distraction from the main issue at hand: access to medical marijuana. Rather than disproving person As claim, person B tries to make the audience focus on a bigger issue and forget about listening to person A.
A logical fallacy is an argument that appears on the surface to be reasonable but in reality is weak or faulty and misleading. There are a few subcategories of fallacies: the structural fallacy, the verbal fallacy and the material fallacy (the last of which was the focus of this lesson). Logical fallacies are most often accidental or unintentional, based on a misinterpretation of information or the need for more evidence. Sometimes, however, logical fallacies are used cleverly to mislead or manipulate an audience - a common tactic in advertising and politics.
Common material fallacies include the hasty generalization, the straw-man fallacy, the bandwagon fallacy and the two wrongs make a right fallacy. Note: It's important to remember that these categories are used generally to organize argumentative fallacies. Some fallacies might fall into more than one category. For example, if you decide that Sharpies are the best pen on the market because David Beckham uses them, this is both a false reliance on an authority figure and a hasty generalization because you're basing your conclusion on one example.
When you are finished, you should be able to:
To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account
Already a member? Log InBack
Did you know… We have over 160 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.
To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page
Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.
Back To Course10th Grade English: Credit Recovery
17 chapters | 164 lessons