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Argument Typesand Fallacies
Richard Weaver’s Argument Types
Definition– unchanging qualities or essences; platonic idealEx: The nature of justice, or beauty, or freedom(Lincoln: human nature)Analysis: How well are the qualities described?Similitude– analogy, metaphor, or causationEx (analogy): The US “addiction” to oilEx (causation): Increase in vaccination rates led to an increase in autism(common in law, ethics, and (sometimes) politics)Analysis: How accurate and relevant are similarities? or: Do these correlations prove causation?Circumstance– facts, evidence at handEx: X got them a good result; we should do the same(needle exchange programs, condoms in schools, state lotteries)Analysis: How credible is the evidence? How likely is the effect?Testimony/Authority– call on experts for “unknowable” mattersEx: Most climate experts agree humans have caused some global warmingAnalysis: How credible and relevant are the experts?
Weaver’s Ultimate Terms
Powerful symbols; unarguableReflect deep commonplaces, core elements of ideologyMust be honored + sacrificed for OR rejected + destroyed
devil termsTerroristPrejudiceObeseWasteIgnorance9/11HitlerBailoutBoring
Argumentative FallaciesProblems in reasoning(not merely mistaken facts)Here are some of them:
AdHominem (Argument To The Man)Affirming The ConsequentAmazing FamiliarityAmbiguous AssertionAppeal To Anonymous AuthorityAppeal To CoincidenceAppeal To ComplexityAppeal To False AuthorityAppeal To ForceAppeal To Widespread Belief (Bandwagon Argument, Peer Pressure, Appeal To Common Practice)Argument By DismissalArgument By Emotive Language (Appeal To The People)Argument By Fast TalkingArgument By GeneralizationArgument By Gibberish (Bafflement)Argument By Half Truth (Suppressed Evidence)Argument By Laziness (Argument By Uninformed Opinion)Argument By Personal CharmArgument By Pigheadedness (Doggedness)Argument By Repetition (Argument Ad Nauseam)Argument By Selective ObservationArgument By SloganArgument By VehemenceArgument From Adverse Consequences (Appeal To Fear, Scare Tactics)Argument From Age (Wisdom of the Ancients)Argument From AuthorityArgument From False AuthorityArgument From Personal AstonishmentArgument From Spurious SimilarityArgument Of The BeardBegging The Question (Assuming The Answer, Tautology)Burden Of ProofCausal Reductionism (Complex Cause)Contrarian ArgumentChanging The Subject (Digression, Red Herring, Misdirection, False Emphasis)ClicheThinkingCommon SenseComplex Question (Tying)Confusing Correlation And CausationDisproof ByFallacy
EquivocationError Of FactEuphemismException That Proves The RuleExcluded Middle (False Dichotomy, Faulty Dilemma, Bifurcation)Extended AnalogyFailure To StateFallacy Of CompositionFallacy Of DivisionFallacy Of The General RuleFallacy Of The Crucial ExperimentFalse CauseFalse CompromiseGenetic Fallacy (Fallacy of Origins, Fallacy of Virtue)Having Your Cake (Failure To Assert, or Diminished Claim)Hypothesis Contrary To FactInconsistencyInflation Of ConflictInternal ContradictionLeast Plausible HypothesisLiesMeaningless QuestionsMisunderstanding The Nature Of Statistics (Innumeracy)Moving The Goalposts (Raising The Bar, Argument By Demanding Impossible Perfection)NeedlingNon SequiturOutdated InformationPoisoning The WellsPsychogenetic FallacyReductioAd AbsurdumReductive Fallacy (Oversimplification)ReifyingShort Term Versus Long TermSlippery Slope Fallacy (Camel's Nose)Special Pleading (Stacking The Deck)Statement Of ConversionStolen ConceptStraw Man (Fallacy Of Extension)Two Wrongs Make A Right (TuQuoque, You Too)Weasel Wording
Fallacy Examples
Hasty Generalization– based on inadequate sample (too small or atypical)It’s only the first day, but I can tell this class is going to be boringThe cops in State College are pricks. My friend and I both got hassled and we weren’t even that drunk.
Slippery Slope– a series of increasingly serious (and often increasingly unlikely) events stemming from a small actionUsually based on risk-aversion
Fallacy Examples
Post hoc– correlation without causation(technically:post hoc, ergo propter hoc: “after this, therefore because of this”)Measure Mgot worse once President X came into office; president X can’t handleM(whereMis something like gas prices, the economy, international relations, unemployment, optimism ratings, etc.)
Fallacy Examples
False Dichotomy(the Either/Or Fallacy)America: love it or leave it.A real friend would cover for me.(Really? When you just shot someone? Variation of “you’re either for us or against us.”)Either we cut the Department of Defense, or else future retirees won’t get the Social Security benefits they need.
Fallacy Examples
Bandwagon Fallacy(Appeal to Popularity, Appeal to Consensus)Just because everyone agrees doesn’t make it right, true, or bestIt’s the most popular X on the market.Everyone else is selfish; you shouldn’t feel bad for seeking your own happiness when everyone else is, too.
Source: Andrew Schmidt /
Fallacy Examples
Begging the Question– Circular reasoning; requires acceptance of a conclusion identical to the premiseMurder is morally wrong; therefore, active euthanasia is morally wrong.ESP is real because I have had experiences that couldn’t be explained (unless ESP was real).Freedom of speech is important because it gives everyone a voice.Usually these are trickier to spot than the examples above, following a chain (A is true because B is true; B is true because C is true; C is true because A is true). Or they use synonyms:Free trade will be good for this country. The reason is patently clear. Isn't it obvious that unrestricted commercial relations will bestow on all sections of this nation the benefits which result when there is an unimpeded flow of goods between countries? (Quoted fromWith Good Reason, by S. Morris Engel)
Some resources on argumentative fallacies:UNC Writing CenterPurdue Online Writing LabThe Art of Conversational Terrorism





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