One of the disputable issues of logic is fallacy. One of the difficulties in considering fallacies is the complicated nature and difficulty in identifying it, since it is not always clear “which particular fallacy has been committed” (Hughes & Lavery, 2004, p.108). It is generally accepted that a fallacy is regarded as an attempt to move the reader’s / listener’s focus from the true fact (Moore & Parker, 2006, p. 53). Below this definition will be exemplified.
John’s objections to capital punishment carry no weight since he is a convicted felon.
This example reveals the fallacy in the diminishing of the weight of individual’s point of view, which condemn capital punishment. The speaker tries to shift the readers’ attention from the actual objections against capital punishment, stressing that the speaker is convicted, though this fact has nothing in common with John’s reasonable arguments.
All men are rats! Just look at the louse that I married.
I think that fallacy in this case lies in the desire to calumniate all men, for even though that particular man is “louse”, the rest of men are not like him. And the woman uses very emotional and negative words to convince the listeners, to distracting their attention by using these evocative words from the essence of the statement.
If the Republicans win the election, then we will lose our benefits and probably end up homeless in the streets!
Ad Hominem/Genetic Fallacy
To my mind this transparent fallacy is aimed to evoke negative feelings about the Republicans, since being homeless is very negative and people, of course, stick to these words building connections between Republicans and misfortune, though, in fact, there can be no evidence in such consequence. The fallacy is based on the rejection of political opponents’ point of view.
Of course Nixon was guilty in Watergate. Everybody knows that.
The fallacy in this case is based on the pressure of majority. The speaker doesn’t provide some fact proving the statement; he tries to convince that the statement is true since it is known to everybody, as he puts it.
Mary joined our class and the next week we all did poorly on the quiz. It must be her fault.
This example shows that students draw the connection between Mary joining the class and poor results, though there is no connection. Students accuse the girl, instead of analyzing their own study; moreover, students were to gain their knowledge far before that week to show good results.
I don’t know what colleges are teaching these days! I have just received a letter of application from a young man who graduated from the state university last June. It was a wretched letter – badly written, with elementary errors in spelling, punctuation, and grammar. The state university does not deserve the tax support that it is getting.
Here the speaker accuses colleges in spending states money instead of providing good teaching, stating that a graduate made some mistakes. But, of course, this cannot be the good grounding for such statement; it is more personal drawbacks and lack of literacy or even attentiveness than the guilt of colleges which are not supposed to teach students spelling and grammar of their native language. Still this quite emotional speech is aimed to deride or rather slander colleges, because of some speaker’s personal reasons.
He went to college and came back a pot-head; college corrupted him.
Like in example with Mary and quiz the speaker puts his/her own guilt on some other circumstances which have no connection with the result. It is obvious that it is not colleges which “corrupt” an individual, but his/her friends and lack of parents’ and/or close friends’ attention.
Many people say that engineers need more practice in writing, but I would like to remind them how difficult it is to master all the math and drawing skills that an engineer requires.
In this example the speaker wants to distract attention of the listener by stressing the difficulties of mastering math, instead of admitting the necessity to improve one’s skills in spelling. The speaker wants to make the listener accept that math and professional skills are more complicated and more important than language.
Those who favor gun-control legislation just want to take all guns away from responsible citizens and put them into the hands of the criminals.
Ad Hominem/Genetic Fallacy or Scare Tactics
This fallacy is aimed to shifting the listeners’ attention from the positive impact of gun-legislation control to the nonexistent threat of providing bad guys with guns, though bad guys already have their guns and legislation control will only contribute to decreasing of the amount of gun. Here the same fallacy is used as in case with Republicans.
After a taste of the morning coffee that his wife had made, Paul asks, “Did you do something different with the coffee this morning? It tastes a little bit different.” “Look,” snaps his wife, “if you don’t like the taste of my coffee, you can just make it yourself!”
In this case fallacy lies in the reaction of the wife, who misinterprets husband’s words and reacts in a negative way. The husband didn’t say he didn’t like the coffee, may be, on the contrary he wanted to praise it, but the wife took it for criticism and launched a conflict. The reaction of the wife may be conditioned by the repeated negative reaction of her husband towards her food.
Thus, these examples show that fallacy is a kind of mistake or fabrication, aimed at forming the necessary opinion of the readers or listeners.
Moore, B. N., Parker, R. (2006). Critical Thinking (Custom 8th ed.). New York : McGraw-Hill.
Hughes, W., Lavery, J. (2004).Critical thinking: an introduction to the basic skills. Peterborough, Ont.: Broadview Press.