61 Fallacies Defined
John Spacey, March 26, 2016 updated on March 20, 2021
A fallacy is an argument that can be shown to have errors. They are an important component of logic as its often easier to find an error in an argument than to prove that it's logically correct. In other words, if you can't find a fallacy in an argument, it might be correct even if you can't prove it. The following are common fallacies:
Affirming The ConsequentAssuming that the converse of a true statement is also true.
Anecdotal FallacyAn argument based on a statistically insignificant example in the form of a story or personal experience.
Appeal To AccomplishmentUsing the opinion of an accomplished individual as proof or inferring that someone has no right to talk about a topic due to a lack of accomplishment. For example, "if you know so much about acting, why aren't you a famous movie star?"
Appeal To AuthorityImplying that those with power must know best. For example, "Who are you to question the Prime Minister, you work at a coffee shop."
Appeal To ConsequencesSuggesting that consequences are impossible when they are not. For example, "If robots could really think then they might take over the planet someday. Clearly this is impossible."
Appeal To EmotionArguments that prey on emotions such as fear, hope and anger.
Appeal To NoveltyOverstating the benefits of new or innovative things out of a sense of excitement.
Appeal To PossibilitySuggesting that because something is possible, that it will necessarily happen.
Appeal To RidiculeActing as if someone's argument is obviously ridiculous when it isn't.
Appeal To TraditionClaiming that something is right because it has been that way for some time.
Argument From IgnoranceAsserting that something is true because it hasn't been proven false or vice versa.
Argument From SilenceArguments based on the absence of evidence.
Argument To ModerationSuggesting that the middle between two extremes is necessarily correct.
Argumentum Ad HominemAttacking the person instead of their argument.
Argumentum Ad NauseamLiterally "arguing to the point of nausea", meaning a long, repetitive argument that causes an opponent to concede out of boredom and despair.
Association FallacyArguing that things are the same merely because they are associated. Also known as Guilt By Association or Honor By Association.
Bandwagon ArgumentAn argument that something is true because many people believe it.
Base Rate FallacyA tendency to focus on specific information over general probabilities. Often results in dramatic errors of math.
Begging The QuestionA type of circular reasoning that assumes the conclusion of an argument. Often takes the form of proving something using a word that's a synonym. For example, America is rich because it has great wealth.
Broken Window FallacyAn argument that ignores opportunity costs. Associated with economics and the false idea that damage such as wars and natural disasters are good for the economy.
Cherry PickingChoosing evidence that supports a theory and ignoring evidence that contradicts it.
Circular ReasoningAn argument that refers to itself as proof.
Conjunction FallacyFalsely assuming that specific information is more likely than general.
Conspiracy FallacyAssuming that theoretical conspiracies are real and concrete.
Correlation Proves CausationIncorrectly assuming that one thing causes another simply because the two are correlated.
Destroying The ExceptionA rule of thumb that is mostly true with the exception of minor or obscure special cases. Such arguments may have value as a rule of thumb despite being a fallacy.
EquivocationMisuse of a word that has multiple meanings.
Fallacy FallacyAssuming a conclusion is wrong simply because an argument for it contains errors.
Fallacy Of CompositionInferring that something has the same properties as its parts.
Fallacy Of DivisionAssuming that parts have the same properties as the whole.
False AnalogyA misleading analogy.
False DichotomyThe incorrect assertion that two things are opposites.
False EquivalenceAsserting that things are the same that are clearly different.
Gambler's FallacyThe belief that a random event becomes less likely after it has just occurred.
Hasty GeneralizationEasily seeing patterns in things that are statistically insignificant.
Historians FallacyEvaluating the past as if people had access to the same information we do now. Also applies to imposing modern values on the past.
If-By-WhiskeyAn argument that strongly takes both sides of a controversial issue. Named for a remarkable 1952 speech.
Irrelevant ConclusionA solid argument that fails to support the conclusion. For example, arguing that America is great when asked about a controversial topic.
Kettle LogicA series of valid arguments that contradict each other.
Ludic FallacyThe overuse of games to model more complex real life scenarios.
Masked Man FallacyFalsely assuming that two things aren't identical because they don't share a property. The term is an analogy to the assumption that someone is a different person because they are wearing a mask.
Misleading VividnessThe tendency for an extremely detailed example to be convincing despite being statistically insignificant.
Moralistic FallacyThe argument that something can't be true because its result is morally objectionable. For example, "war can't be in human nature, because then we're all doomed."
Nirvana FallacyAsserting that a practical approach is invalid because it contains minor flaws or isn't ideal. In many cases, the ideal approach is unfeasible or impossible to achieve.
Overwhelming ExceptionAn large exception that makes a statement meaningless. For example, "we are always fair except when it's not in our best interests."
Proof By ExampleAn attempt to prove something based on a statistically insignificant example.
Proof By VerbosityA long, boring and convoluted argument that wins because it is too much work to debunk it.
Prosecutor's FallacyA valid statistic that is interpreted incorrectly such as a base rate fallacy.
Proving Too MuchAn overly broad argument that suggests absurd things.
Psychologists FallacyAn ability to see the fallacies and cognitive biases of others but being blind to your own.
Red HerringAn argument designed to distract.
Regression FallacyAn argument that ignores the impact of regression toward the mean.
ReificationTreating an abstraction as a concrete thing.
Retrospective DeterminismViewing past events if they were predestined when in fact they could have worked out differently. For example, "once the industrial revolution started pollution was bound to damage the Great Barrier Reef." The statement presupposes that no other options were available.
Slippery SlopeA dramatic argument that one small action leads to greater actions in the same direction until some tragedy ensures.
Straw Man FallacyRefuting an argument that your opponent didn't make.
Survivorship BiasOnly considering the survivors or winners in a particular situation, typically resulting in an overly optimistic analysis or argument.
Texas Sharpshooter FallacyChanging your target as you go. Often results in a clustering illusion whereby you find patterns that are random.
Thought-Terminating ClicheUse of a catch-phase or slogan in place of rational thought.
Traitorous Critic FallacyAttacking a person's group membership as opposed to their argument. For example, "you're only saying that because you're a conservative."
Wrong DirectionConfusing cause and effect.
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