Logical Fallacies

Logical Fallacies

Logical fallacies, which are simply described as "mistakes in reasoning," can be done on purpose or accidentally, but they are typically used when we "deceive ourselves that we are making a strong argument when we have actually lost our way, somehow." (Wheeler).

Upsetting as Readers and Viewers

It is upsetting as readers and viewers "to know in your heart that what you have just heard is nonsense but to be unable to identify why it is nonsense" (Gula 1). According to Dr. L. Kip Wheeler of Carson-Newman University, when "readers detect them, these logical fallacies backfire," the audience may conclude that the author is either stupid or dishonest. This paper will describe four of the many fallacies that we encounter in our everyday lives from business, political, and personal events. It will also explain why these fallacies are effective despite their erroneous content. Speaker, writer, and composer, are used interchangeably to mean the doer of the logical fallacy and listener, receiver, viewer, and reader to refer to the receiver of the act.

Jumping to Conclusions

“This fallacy is so common that it has become a cliché” (Connelly, et al. 38). People tend to jump into conclusions by grounding their arguments from a very few samples and results. Dr. Wheeler described this as “hasty generalization or converse accident”. At Express UK, Laura Hale Brockway says, “stereotypes are an example of hasty generalization”.

“Misleading statistics is one of the most common examples” of this fallacy states Wheeler. When too few samples are considered, let us say, in a subdivision homeowners’ meeting attended by ten out of fifty residents, six persons suggested to build a bigger swimming pool. It is misleading to say that 60% of the homeowners agreed to make their swimming pool bigger. This type of fallacy may be effective because not so many people would want to dig deeper when statistics are concerned. It is mostly used in promotional endeavors and commercial purposes.

Statistics without context, as Robert J. Gula calls it, means, “the propagandist may give you plenty of statistics, but he rarely gives you the background of those statistics. …You can get eighty percent of the people to support virtually anything if you ask the right five people” (28).

Another example is saying that “during a recession, more people go to the movies. People just want to sit in the dark and forget about their money problems” (Ellis 229). Although there is a lack of evidence to conclude that people want to forget about their money problems, this logical fallacy can be effective because of the first sentence, saying that more people go to the movies. People tend to believe the conclusion even without detailed information why it has been concluded, in the first place.

Attributing False Causes

False Causation, according to Connelly, et al., is assuming that something happened because of the result of an event that merely took place before it (36). Superstitions are the common example of this. Although there are no concrete pieces of evidence, people tend to believe that the reasons are true.

How many ‘trending’ posts made the news regarding global events and relating them to what Nostradamus has prophesized? A well-known 16th Century Prophet, “Michel de Nostradame has predicted many historical events including 9/11, the rise of Hitler, and Donald Trump’s presidential victory” (Express UK). With convincing accuracies, who will ever question the followers of Nostradamus? But to say that a particular event happened because Nostradamus predicted it, is attributing false causes and ignoring the real events that took place before it. This fallacy is effective because many people believe in predictions and forewarnings instead of

Another example of attributing false causes is explained by Paul Levesque in his book saying, “there is a false cause in the connection between the hepatitis B experiments, and the appearance of AIDS in young gay men just a year later” (11). This is an example of conspiracy theory, which is based on biased thinking. This is effective because conspiracy theorists “sometimes have biases that cause them to support this argument” (11) and many people seem to believe them.

Presenting a False Dilemma

When a speaker or writer introduces two options and ignoring other possibilities, he is presenting a false dilemma (Connelly, et al. 39). Dr. Wheeler describes this fallacy as “either/or fallacy” when there are actually several outcomes but the writer assumes that there are only two choices. This fallacy is a deception when the speaker is aware of the other possibilities but ignores these other options but can be effective if the receiver is not aware of the potential outcomes.

One example of this fallacy is published online in the Japan Times saying, “they fear that a choice has to be made between, on the one hand, tighter control of the UK’s borders against immigrants from the rest of Europe, and on the other, staying in the European Union’s (EU) single market” (Howel). The United Kingdom has been given two choices: to continue tightening their border control to the rest of the EU countries or to join the single market, meaning to loosen their immigration control so that all other EU members can have easy access to the UK. There must have been more options aside from the two choices given, and as David Howel said, “UK is facing false dilemmas”.

This is a very sensitive matter and yet, the EU has made this false dichotomy very effective by convincing the majority of European countries join the EU.

Another example is an excerpt of an article published online in the La Crosse Tribune saying, “But the leader of the protesters was undeterred: “There is no other issue” she insisted; “either you are pro-life or you are anti-life.” (Kyte).

‘Pro and anti’ scenario cases are overrated and yet effective because people tend to believe that when these terms are used, they have to be on either one side or the other side and forgetting that there might have been some other choices in between, thus creating false dilemmas.

Sliding down the Slippery Slope

As defined by Connelly et al., this logical fallacy an undesirable second step is unavoidable if the first step is taken (40). Dr. Wheeler said that it is also called the ‘Camel’s Nose Fallacy’ because of the idea of a sheik who was afraid that if he would let his camel stick its nose in the tent, it would eventually stick its whole body inside the tent (Wheeler).

“Politicians commonly use the slippery slope argument to justify severe legal, social, and military actions on grounds that ‘failure to do so will lead to something far worse’” (Cournoyer 65).

An example of this logical fallacy is given by Emily Ryall saying, “if we allow one foreign player in the game…soon our national team would have to be drawn from those in the lower leagues and we’d be a laughing stock on the international stage” (97). This logical fallacy can be effective because “it plays on the emotion of fear and, as such, can generally appear to be quite persuasive” (Ryall 97).

Another example is saying, “if we put limitations on the sale of semi-automatic guns, it won’t be long until shotguns are illegal, then steak knives” (Mauk and Metz 42). Like the first example of the fallacy of sliding down the slippery slope, the limitations on the sale of semi-automatic guns are being argued by the speaker, thus attacking the receivers with their emotion, suggesting that it would be inevitable that steak knives would be restricted for sale, too. Again, this logical fallacy can be effective because it attacks the emotion of the listeners or the readers, which make them less likely to think logically.


From the literature and examples cited above, I conclude that logical fallacies can affect our everyday lives and that finding out the real meaning out of every written works or speeches that we witness is our duty to protect us from deception. I also conclude that despite receiving logical fallacies whether intentional or not from its sources, people tend to believe them right away. A critical thinking is required to make intelligent decisions because of the occurrences of these logical fallacies in the media, and even into our personal lives.

Works Cited

Brockway, Laura H. “11 Logical Fallacies to Avoid.” Ragan’s PR Daily, 10 Feb 2017. www.prdaily.com/mediarelations/Articles/22181.aspx. Accessed 05 Mar 2017.

Connelly, et al. Current Arguments Two. Cengage Learning, 2012.

Cournoyer, Barry R. The Social Work Skills Workbook, seventh edition. Cengage Learning, 2014.

Ellis, Dave. From Master Student to Master Employee 3rd edition. Cengage Learning, 2011.

Express UK. “Nostradamus Predictions for 2017: Terrifying forewarnings of 16th Century Prophet Revealed.” Express UK, Jan. 2017. www.express.co.uk/news/weird/740011/nostradamus-predictions-2017-prophecies. Accessed 5 Mar 2017.

Gula, Robert J. Nonsense: Red Herrings, Straw Men and Sacred Cows: How we Abuse Logic in Our Everyday Language. Axios Press, 2007.

Howel, David. “The U.K.’s False Dilemmas.” The Japan Times, 24 Oct. 2016. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2016/10/24/commentary/world-commentary/u-k-s-false-dilemmas/#.WLz-dRKGNXQ. Accessed 5 Mar 2017.

Kyte, Richard. “Richard Kyte: Despite Turmoil, Democracy is Still King.” La Crosse Tribune, 5 March 2017. www.lacrossetribune.com/news/opinion/editorial/columnists/richard-kyte-despite-turmoil-democracy-is-still-king/article_3454d82b-4fbc-522d-a613-48baaa2d86ad.html. Accessed 5 Mar 2017.

Levesque, Paul. The Stupidest Government Conspiracy Theories Volume 2- Get Your Tinfoil Hat. Paul Levesque, 2017.

Ryall, Emily. Critical Thinking for Sports Students. Learning Matters, 2010.

Wheeler, L. Kip. Carson-Newman University Web, 2016. web.cn.edu/kwheeler/fallacies_list.html. Accessed 5 Mar 2017.

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