Appeal to Authority

argumentum ad verecundiam

(also known as: argument from authority, appeal to false authority, argument from false authority, ipse dixit, testimonials [form of])

Definition: Using an authority as evidence in your argument when the authority is not really an authority on the facts relevant to the argument.  As the audience, allowing an irrelevant authority to add credibility to the claim being made.

Logical Form:

According to person 1, Y is true.

Therefore, Y is true.

Example #1:

My 5th grade teacher once told me that girls will go crazy for boys if they learn how to dance.  Therefore, if you want to make the ladies go crazy for you, learn to dance.

Explanation: Even if the 5th grade teacher were an expert on relationships, her belief about what makes girls “go crazy” for boys is speculative, or perhaps circumstantial, at best.

Example #2:

The Pope told me that priests can turn bread and wine into Jesus’ body and blood.  The Pope is not a liar.  Therefore, priests really can do this.

Explanation: The Pope may believe what he says, and perhaps the Pope is not a liar, but the Pope is not an authority on the fact that the bread and wine are actually transformed into Jesus’ body and blood.  After all, how much flesh and blood does this guy Jesus actually have to give?

Exception: Appealing to authority is valid when the authority is actually a legitimate (debatable) authority on the facts of the argument.  In the above example, if Jesus testified that this was actually happening, I guess we’d have to believe him.  The above example demonstrates the kind of subtle difference in being an authority on the idea of transubstantiation vs. the actual effectiveness of transubstantiation.

Tip: Question authority -- or become the authority that people look to for answers.

Variation: Testimonials are statements from, “authorities”, in the sense that they are said to know about what they are testifying to.  In business, vendor-provided testimonials should not be taken too seriously as they can easily be exceptions to the norm or just made up -- as in, “John G. from Ohio says...”


-2 #1 Samba 2012-11-18 17:41
Interestingly,m y experience as an adolescent was that girls went crazy for me cause I could dance. At the first jr. high school dance I literally had em standing in in line waiting for a turn. Subsequently I did grad work on the traditions of dance music in various cultures around the world,and spent more than 20 years as a professional dance accompanist,wit h an emphasis on African traditions. Dancing has been fundamental to the mating phase human societies,and the evidence that this is an evolutionary development is quite strong. The term mating dance to describe related animal behaviors in a variety of species is not just anecdotal.
+3 #2 Bo Bennett 2012-11-19 07:17
Dear Samba meister, I am sure you are a sexy dancer and one heck of stud. I also agree that some mammalian mating rituals include "dances" of sorts that have evolutionary purposes. But I would not be so quick to make the universal statement that "girls go crazy for boys who dance". To make a universal statement such as that is a fallacy in itself. It would be like saying that girls go crazy for tall men—while height is certainly a factor in attractiveness, it is fallacious to universalize this to "all girls" and exaggerate the claim by saying they go "crazy".
-4 #3 Samba 2012-11-19 11:13
I didn't make such statement - and probably wouldn't , I try to avoid absolutes,and assumptions.I think it is also potentially fallacious to reject the teacher's assertion based on the assumption that he or she is not an authority on the subject,unless the writer has tested the assertion,or can cite research on the subject. If the purpose of logic is to derive truth,categoric ally rejecting data can also be a way to go astray.
-4 #4 A Passerby 2013-09-20 12:13
Just wanted to point out that Mr Bennett here might be committing 'ad hominem' fallacy here. it was pretty funny but there was no need to make such 'attack'.
+1 #5 Bob B. 2014-02-19 14:04
There is no 'ad hominem' in Mr. Bennett's statement. Ad hominem tries to invalidate an argument by discrediting the author. He made no comment to discredit Samba, he simply disagreed.

Beyond that, Samba's initial comment is not even discussing fallacies. It is discussing the validity of the fallacious statement. Example #1 is still a fallacy, regardless of who is correct in the resulting argument. This subsequent scenario has nothing to do with the topic of the article. I believe this throws up a couple more fallacies, no?

You have no rights to post comments