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Appeal to False Authority

(also known as: appeal to unqualified authority, argument from false authority)

Description: Using an alleged 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. Also see the appeal to authority.

Logical Forms:

According to person 1 (who offers little or no expertise on Y being true), Y is true.

Therefore, Y is true.

 

According to person 1 (who offers little or no expertise on Y being true), Y is true.

Therefore, Y is more likely to be true.

Example #1:

My 5th-grade teacher once told me that girls would 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. In other words, the teacher's expertise is in dance, not on the psychology of attraction.

Example #2:

The Pope told me that priests could 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? 

Tip: Beware of your confirmation bias. You may want a person to be an authority on the topic, and this desire will result in your seeking out confirming information and ignoring conflicting information.

References:

Hume, D. (2004). An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. Courier Corporation.



Registered User Comments

Ying
Monday, September 03, 2018 - 07:32:05 AM
Is it an appeal to false authority fallacy if one is misusing his/her authority to do something?

For example:
Person A: I reject your proposal.
Person B: May I know the reason?
Person A: At my level of management I don't have the authority to approve anything important, but i do have the authority to reject things.

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Bo Bennett, PhD
Monday, September 03, 2018 - 07:35:02 AM
Not really the same thing. What person A is saying could just be factually true or factually incorrect.

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Ying
Monday, September 03, 2018 - 07:54:35 AM
@Bo Bennett, PhD: So is it not considered a type of fallacy?

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Bo Bennett, PhD
Monday, September 03, 2018 - 08:42:11 AM
@Ying: no

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