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Rhetorical Fallacies

An Exploration of Ethical, Emotional, & Logical Fallacies

Heather Somervail

on 20 January 2016

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Transcript of Rhetorical Fallacies

Rhetorical Fallacies
Rhetorical appeals of ethos, pathos, & logos CAN contribute to effective, forthright arguments if used correctly.
Unfairly using emotions to distort or ignore logic.
Often in political propaganda and advertising.

Sentimental Appeals:
Uses emotions to draw audience away from facts.

"Millions of cats and dogs undergo cruel, invasive surgery each year to reduce the population. This horrific treatment of spaying and neutering should not be practiced."
Logical fallacies depend on faulty logic.

Hasty Generalization:

Conclusion drawn from insufficient evidence. Uses faulty reasoning , establishing a conclusion from just a few examples.
Fallacy = using an appeal incorrectly or unethically, whether by accident or intent.
In rhetoric, a fallacy results in a misleading or unsound argument.

3 types of appeals (ethos, pathos, logos) &

3 types of fallacy (ethical, emotional, logical).
Ethical Fallacies
Unfair or unreasonable advance of author's character/credibility.
False Authority:
Puts forth claims based on testimony by author or another who does not have authority in the area of argument.

"Michael Jordan drinks Gatorade, so electrolytes must be good for you."

"He's today's greatest NASCAR driver - and he banks at National Mutual!"

Using Authority Instead of Evidence:

Asks audience to believe him or her without proof. (1st person narratives produced as if irrefutable.)

Guilt by Association:

Writer questions opponent's character by pointing out person's friends or associates & linking that person with a person/activity the audience considers bad, suspicious, or untrustworthy.

"John must be a snob. He's on the debating team, which is full of snobs."

"She does not deserve reelection; her husband had a gambling addiction."
Shuts down debate by insisting author's views are only acceptable ones.

"Well, I believe nuclear energy is clean, and that's that."

"Because I said so."
Equates minor issue to major moral crisis.
'Smoking cigarettes is nothing short of suicide - the smoker is willingly killing himself.'

Anti-smoking campaigns avoid moral argument because public views smoking as a personal choice that does not impact one's morality.
Ad Hominem: "To the man."

Personal attack rather than focusing on issue.
To avoid dealing with issue, attacks opponent personally.

Often appears in mudslinging attack ads during political campaigns.

Lifestyle of candidate addressed in the press, rather than ideas & issues.
The "You, too!" Fallacy:

Abuse of ethos that sets up a new moral standard. Points to someone else breaking the rule.

"Somebody else did it, so it is okay for me to do it, too."

Either contradicts earlier position on the issue or arguer's words and actions do not match.

The "Who Says So?" Fallacy:
(A kind of Ad Hominem attack.)

The ethical problem relates to WHO says something more than WHAT the person says.

The very source of the argument is given by opponent as reason not to believe it.

"Look who's talking. You say I shouldn't become an alcoholic because it will hurt me and my family, yet you yourself are an alcoholic. So your argument can't be worth listening to."
Straw Man:

Misrepresents opposition by pretending opponents agree with something few reasonable people would support.

By setting up "straw man," or false opponent, author misrepresents opponent's claims.

Writer appears to defeat opponent, but really only defeating an inaccurate version of the opponent's argument.

"My opponent believes that we should offer therapy to the terrorists. I disagree."

Emotional Fallacies
Red Herring:

Distracts audience from real argument.

Scare Tactics:

Attempts to convince that if his/her plan is not adopted, something dire will happen.

Slippery Slope:

Mom: "Those look like bags under your eyes. Are you getting enough sleep?"

Jeff: "I had a test and stayed up late studying."

Mom: "You didn't take any drugs, did you?"

Jeff: "Just caffeine in my coffee, like I always do."

Mom: "Jeff! You know what happens when people take drugs! Pretty soon the caffeine won't be strong enough. Then you will take something stronger, maybe someone's diet pill or an energy drink. Then, you will try something stronger. Eventually, you will be doing methamphetamines. Then you will be a cocain addict! So, don't drink that coffee."
Bandwagon Appeals:

Plays on the need for belonging and affiliation. "Jump on the bandwagon" means going along with what others are doing.

"Everyone who's anyone has tattoos. If you don't have a tattoo, how will you fit in with the cool people?"
Either/Or Choices
(False Dilemma):

Reduces complex issue to only two choices, when there are several other possibilities. All complex issues have a number of varying perspectives.

"We can either stop using cars or destroy the earth."
False Frame:

Plays upon desires by creating a need and then promising to fill it.

"You must have the latest in smart phones. You deserve the best; people will think of you as someone who is tech savvy."
Logical Fallacies

"I couldn't understand the lecture today, so I'm sure this course will be impossible."

"I will never shop at that store again. The customer service is terrible. Once, one of the clerks rolled her eyes at me when I asked a question."

"Even though it's the first day, I can tell this is going to be a boring course."
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Just because one thing happens after another does not mean 1st event caused 2nd.

"We should not rebuild the town docks because every time we do, a big hurricane comes along and damages them."

"I drank bottled water and now I am sick, so the water must have made me sick."
Cum Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc:
(With this, therefore because of this)

This fallacy assumes causation where none may exist. Just because two things coincide does not mean one causes the other.

"He sometimes behaves violently when I am around him. I don't know what it is that I am doing to make him become so violent."
Non Sequitur:
(It does not follow)


Obscures whole truth by revealing partial truth.

Court oath "to tell the truth, the whole truth, & nothing but the truth" designed to subvert use of this.

Ambiguous language is an example.

"Brad is a nobody, but since nobody is perfect, Brad must be perfect too."
Begging the Question:

Restating claim in a different way, appearing

Ever looked up a word & definition has the word in it?
It's a similar phenomenon -- the circular definition or "tautology."

"'Women have rights,' said the Bullfighters Association president. 'But women shouldn't fight bulls because a bullfighter is and should be a man.' That is to say that women shouldn't fight bulls because women shouldn't fight bulls."

"Barak Obama is a good communicator, because he speaks effectively."

Dinosaur Comic
False Analogy:

Draws analogy between 2 things that are not comparable.
(Comparing apples to oranges.)

"Clogged arteries require surgery to clear them; our clogged highways require equally drastic measures."

"The volleyball team's sudden descent in the rankings resembled the sinking of the Titanic."
Stacked Evidence:

Frames argument so writer's points are the only ones discussed and no counterarguments are discussed.

"TV is beneficial because it offers PBS, The History Channel, and the news. (There is no mention of sex, violence, or the Kardashians.)"
You will discover that fallacies of all three kinds - ethical, emotional, logical - are common in arguments.

As a rational and critical thinker, you must think about and analyze every bit of data that comes your way.
"Believe me; no one could have won in an election against such an opponent."
Moral Equivalence:
"Who cares what that fat loudmouth says about the health care system?"
One thing will lead to another, with calamitous results.
"The level of mercury in seafood may be unsafe, but what will fishers do to support their families?"
Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc:
(After this, therefore because of this)
Making a statement not logically related to what came before it. May omit important link in the chain of logic. That is, the conclusion only supported byweak or irrelevant reasons.
"Nuclear disarmament is a risk, but everything in life involves a risk. Every time you drive in a car you are taking a risk. If you're willing to drive in a car, you should be willing to have disarmament."
"If we can send a spaceship to Mars, then we can discover a cure for cancer."
to make an argument.
Comes from fox hunting, where servants dragged dried herring (fish that has red color when dried) across the fox's trail to hide the scent from the hounds.
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