If you haven’t noticed by now, I like to have fun with both writing and learning. I understand that by using humor that I will inevitably offend someone, which is unfortunate, but a fact of life.
While this book can function as a reference book, I hope you will read this like a novel—from cover to cover. I define what I feel may be unfamiliar terms to the reader as I progress through the fallacies in alphabetical order. Therefore, if you do read the fallacies in order, unfamiliar terms and concepts will be revealed to you as needed—I do this to keep the book interesting.
While it may seem like a crazy number of fallacies to read through, I have done my best to make it enjoyable and educational. The fallacies that are seldom ever seen or not quite fallacies, and not worthy of a complete entry in this book, are just listed in the back section of this book with brief descriptions.
There have been many attempts to categorize fallacies, some of which may make fallacies easier to understand. The previously mentioned book Elementary Lessons in Logic : Deductive and Inductive, uses an Aristotelian classification system for the fallacies which might have worked in 1872 when there were a handful of fallacies. Beyond the distinction between purely logical and semi-logical (now commonly referred to as deductive and information fallacies), it is no longer helpful, in my opinion. I have chosen to organize all fallacies, alphabetically by the names for which they are best known. I chose this method because:
Fallacy Name(s). Each fallacy begins with its most commonly used name, followed by the Latin name (if there is one). I then list all other known names for the fallacy. At times there might be slight differences in the fallacies that go by other names, but unless I feel the differences are worthy of their own entries, I will just list it as another name for the fallacy. Keep in mind that fallacies are named and referred to mostly by common usage. The point of listing every known alias is not so you can memorize them; it’s so that you might recognize them when referred to by these other names.
Description. My descriptions are all short and to the point, giving you the information you need to understand the fallacy, while sometimes adding in some extra commentary.
Logical Form. Most fallacies, especially formal ones, have what are called logical forms, which means that the general fallacy can be represented in symbolic language. I list the logical forms where they apply to help you better understand certain fallacies. With informal fallacies, I use a little artistic license to create a logical form -- but only when I feel it will help you to understand the fallacy better.
Example(s). I try to include realistic examples and, in fact, many examples are from actual debates of mine (real names protected). I feel that using realistic examples will help you to identify the fallacies when used in real situations—people aren’t as stupid as they are portrayed in many examples. If the fallacy requires it, I will use an extreme example to make the fallacy clear, then include a second or even third example that is more realistic.
Exception(s). Fallacious arguments and fallacious reasoning are more often probability-based then based on an objective fact. Take the following informal or inductive argument, that virtually everyone would consider fallacious:
“Don’t grow a mustache, because Hitler had a mustache; therefore, you will be like Hitler!”
Perhaps some psychologist has some data supporting the idea that sporting a mustache, especially a Hitleresque one, can make that individual more susceptible to genocide (I would really like to see the details of that study!) Therefore, one can argue that this argument is not fallacious -- the argument itself is strong and the reasoning that was used to construct this argument was sound. Showing this argument is fallacious can be an argument in itself, where it is all about providing stronger evidence and more sound reasoning to support your claim.
There are some arguments that use a formal or deductive structure and contain fallacies of form that are objective fallacies, that is, they are always fallacious in all situations. For example:
All humans are mortal.
Phil is mortal.
Therefore, Phil is a human.
Actually, Phil is a groundhog. This is an example of a syllogistic fallacy (a class of fallacies), and it always will be, in all situations. Even if Phil were human, the form of the argument would still commit the fallacy. In formal logic, the truth of the premises guarantees the truth of the conclusion. The bottom line: never insist that an informal argument is definitely fallacious, and be prepared to defend your arguments against claims of fallacy.
Tip: In 2004, I wrote the book, Year To Success. In that book, I explain that success is like a game of chance where you control the odds by continually replacing behaviors that pull you away from success with behaviors that bring you closer to success. When appropriate, I include a tip that is relevant to the fallacy, which will bring you closer to success—most of which are serious, but some... not so much (you will know the difference).
Let’s get started!