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Logical Fallacies

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Written by
Dr. Simon Robbins
  • Icon Calendar 16 May 2024
  • Icon Page 1449 words
  • Icon Clock 7 min read

Logical fallacies are major traps in academic writing as the writer must always be credible and clear in their reasoning. Therefore, it is significant to acknowledge logical fallacies, such as undistributed middle, straw man, two negative premises, false dilemma, illicit processes, slippery slope, post hoc ergo propter hoc, hasty generalization, genetic fallacy, circular argument, beginning the claim, ad populum, ad hominem, moral equivalence, and red herring, to be able to avoid them in every academic paper.

Undistributed Middle Fallacy

When it comes to rhetorical analysis, one should never encounter a situation of falling into logical fallacies. As a fact, various instances of misunderstanding the major arguments of the paper are based solely on the logical fallacies, the undistributed middle being one of them. So, the undistributed middle fallacy is all about misunderstanding the concept of distribution. For example:

  • All A is Z
  • All S is Z
  • Therefore, all S is A.

The misconception here is easy to understand. For example, we have a room filled with seeds. It is said that purple bags are in the room and they contain corn while green bags are also in the room and they contain rice. While both of these aspects are distributed inside the room, they are not equal. Hence, that is the easiest way to understand why such fallacy does not work. Also, the same works for the more obvious cases of misdistribution:

  • All A is Z
  • Some S is A
  • Therefore, all S is Z.

Using the same concept, if all rice bags are in the room while some rice bags have bugs in them, it does not mean that the whole room has bags with bugs in them.

Straw Man Fallacy

One of the simplest logical fallacies is called the straw person. As a fact, straw person fallacy is based on you taking some simplified and overgeneralized viewpoint of the author and try to attack it. For example:

  • If you like meat, you hate vegetarians.

That is simply unjustified as loving meat does not mean that you do not understand those who chose not to consume it. Hence, such logical fallacy is all about going too far in your claims.

Two Negative Premises

For example, you say that people cannot see the future while birds are not people. The two negative premises in such case means that out of those two assumptions you say that birds can see future as birds are not people. The affirmative conclusion in such a case is a logical fallacy.

False Dilemma Fallacy

This type of logical fallacies is based on the assumption that there are only two choices for any person while there is clearly a third one. For example, you claim that others must “love school or leave it” when there is clearly a third option. Considering the fact that people might still go to school to get the education needed, it is unnecessary to assume that they must love it to do that. In similar cases, there are no black and white options as there are shades of grey in the middle.

Illicit Processes

This type of logical fallacies is divided in two: illicit minor and major. What it means is that for the illicit major you assume that if all babies are crying while no adult is a baby that means that no adult cries. On the other hand, illicit minor reflects the problem where one says that “slaves are humans” and “slaves are suffering,” you are led to the conclusion that all humans are suffering. In both cases, the conclusion is not true because it does not work like this in the majority of cases.

Slippery Slope Fallacy

For this fallacy, one assumes that if something happens, there will be additional small events that will lead to a specific outcome while we should not do the first step to avoid such a possible consequence. For example, one says that if a person starts doing football, he or she will eventually get a concussion at some point, which will lead to a further complication with health, early retirement, huge bills for healthcare, poverty, and death under the bridge so that the one should not play football. Hence, that is not how it works. First of all, the outcome can be prevented on any stage of small steps, and one can play football carefully and not even get a concussion.

Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc

The common application of such fallacy happens when people in the wrong direction. For example, when the person gets sick on the next day after partying, they say that it is probably because of outdated food, not because of the alcohol, which is simply not true in the majority of cases. So, the generalization here is that if they got sick after eating questionable food that means that the food is responsible for that, which might not be true.

Hasty Generalization

Even from the name of the fallacy, it is clear that the problem with argumentation, in this case, would be the conclusion that is based on the lack of evidence as the narrator was fast on closing the query. For example, one sees actors who play in the movie and says that the movie will be bad without seeing it. Hence, stating that the movie will be bad is a hasty generalization in such case.

Genetic Fallacy

When it comes to the conclusion based on the origin of something, one will most definitely face the genetic fallacy. For example, her girlfriend is evil because she is German and that is where Hitler was born. Hence, there is no way that is true because the minor connection based on the origin of something is never a reason to conclude on the patterns in the present, concerning anyone or anything.

Circular Argument

Another fallacy is to restate something you just mentioned as your argument without actually proving it. For example, he is good at this game because he is a good gamer. Also, failing to prove your points just saying the same thing over and over again is not logical and credible writing. Therefore, such an aspect is prohibited in academic writing as people must prove their viewpoints.

Beginning the Claim

Moreover, the problem with some arguments is that they already have the answer to something that has to be explained or confirmed. For example, one says that unhealthy food consumption is bad for our health. Firstly, the sentence repeats the same claim, basically, and it also states the outcome of the act without proving it, at the beginning of the claim.

Ad Populum

This appeal is usually linked to instances where one tries to appeal to the majority or a common aspect for a group of people when it comes to reasoning. For example, one says that if you were a left-alone woman, you would support abortions. While such a question is much deeper than the simple emotions of people, appealing to a specific group of those who can consider such an option is not a good way to protect the argument.

Ad Hominem

This fallacy is observed in cases when people attack the opponent rather than the arguments. For example, saying that I lost a job because they just wanted to get rid of me is probably not true as there would be other reasons why people get fired and maybe the narrator is responsible for such decision made by the authorities. However, appealing to subjective matters is never logical reasoning.

Moral Equivalence

Despite other logical fallacies mentioned, this one is based on the assumption that specific moral values are equal in their immorality. For example, the one should put the doings of Hitler on the same scale with the behavior of the ex-boyfriend, saying that he is as bad. While emotional context led to the conclusion that major fight with the ex-boyfriend made a person think that they are equally immoral with Hitler, it is simply not true.

Red Herring

This fallacy is mostly seen in politics, major governmental speeches, apologies of big organizations and more. In the bad cases, when the problem is unquestionable, the speaker might try to take the topic out of its frame to justify the reasoning with something that is not directly connected to the main problem. For example, the oil spill is clearly the worst thing that can happen to the ocean while the speaker might talk about those thousands of people who earn for living working on the company and that is a risk that we all have to face to get thousands of people some work. Hence, it is simply untrue as the catastrophe could be prevented without people losing their jobs.

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