Logical fallacies

In your quest to make others take your stance on issues seriously, it’s very easy to fall into the pitfalls known as logical fallacies, errors in logic that stand only to weaken your argument. The term ‘logical fallacy’ indicates a contradiction: while it may seem logical upon first hearing, after close examination it is anything but.

Instead of offering valid reasons to support your viewpoints, fallacies are evidence of unclear, incomplete and over-simplistic thinking. Although often unintentional, sometimes fallacies are used on purpose as a way to deceive people. Many advertisements, commercials, and politicians are renowned for using this tactic. For example, “miracle weight loss” programmes and products use logical fallacies in their marketing when they consistently link weight loss with beauty, popularity and wealth.

In his famous “Checkers Speech”, the late President Richard Nixon argued (or at least, tried to argue) that he did not accept illegal campaign contributions by announcing that he was a family man, that his wife wore a plain cloth coat (as opposed to an expensive fur coat), and he and his whole family loved his dog, Checkers.

These are many types of fallacies, so here are some examples to keep you on your toes:

Loose generalization
“Blondes have more fun”.

Hasty generalization
“Asian students are the best at mathematics”.

“Ours is not a wealthy neighbourhood, therefore all of its residents are hard-working people”.

False authority
“President Bush says that cruises are wonderful, so they must be”.

Bandwagon thinking
“Because everyone I’ve talked to has enjoyed holidaying in America, I’ll like it too”.

Appeal to emotions
“Because I was an orphan who was later adopted by a dysfunctional, abusive family, I’m sure you will give me a scholarship”.

Trivial objections
“Oscar would be a poor choice as a company president: he dresses poorly and has a funny sounding first name”.