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What Is A Fallacy?

Fallacies are mostly created unintentionally, but people sometimes use them on purpose to get their way in an argument and to gain persuasiveness without real legitimacy.

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A fallacy is a type of error people make when they engage in discussions with others. Fallacies are mostly created unintentionally, but people sometimes use them on purpose to get their way in an argument and to gain persuasiveness without real legitimacy. 

The term fallacy can often be used in a much broader sense of the word, and it usually suggests any kind of false belief. However, in this case, we are going to take a look at some of the most common fallacies people make when they are in the middle of a (heated) argument. 

Ad Hominem

When translated from Latin, this means ‘’against the man.’’ This kind of fallacy happens when the participants of the discussion use rhetoric that attacks someone on a personal level. This is not a rational way of having a debate, and ad hominem fallacies replace logical arguments with personal attacks. This is a highly stressful situation for the person that is under that kind of attack because the arguments that are proposed have nothing to do with the discussion itself. 

Someone that uses the ad hominem fallacy deliberately dismisses another person’s opinion, and the discussion heads in the direction of talking about their personal characteristics, physical appearance, or any other individual markers that have nothing to do with the argument at all. This kind of behavior is nothing but a verbal attack of the person committing the logical crime of ad hominem fallacy. If the person redirects the argument in this manner, the conclusion he or she draws does not have any real value, and can not be identified as true or false. Using ad hominem as a method is most definitely an unethical way to have a proper discussion. 

Argumentum Ad Verecundiam

If you do not speak Latin, this fallacy can be translated as ‘’appeal to authority.’’ This kind of fallacy occurs when people do not have any other way to gain an advantage in an argument. That is why appeal to authority is born - people call upon authorities and experts, often of poor legitimacy, to stray away from the point of the argument other people are making. 

The biggest problem with this particular fallacy is that the person using it thinks that the authorities are always right when it comes to the issue at hand. What is even worse is when people misuse the authorities that are the real experts in their field of interest. Imagine someone using the arguments of a psychologist when you are discussing the most common causes of neck pain. This way, a person that endorses the appeal to authority methods in a discussion moves the focus to an irrelevant subject. Highly frustrating!

Argumentum Ad Ignorantiam

This fallacy means that you appeal to ignorance when you engage in a serious debate. People can and sometimes wish to be ignorant because the world around them is full of things we can not understand on a more profound and meaningful level. However, appealing to ignorance is wrong, and it does not contribute to an argument. 

When people appeal to ignorance, they are usually good at proving one thing - that they do not know something. For example, two people are talking about aliens. After one point, one of them says: ‘’nobody has ever proved that aliens exist, therefore they are not real.’’ This is a prime example of how a potentially good discussion can be ruined because the other party can respond with: ‘’nobody has ever proved that aliens do not exist, therefore they must be real’’. Neither claim proves anything. 

What is an ''appeal to authority'' fallacy?

This kind of fallacy occurs when people do not have any other way to gain an advantage in an argument. That is why appeal to authority is born - people call upon authorities and experts, often of poor legitimacy, to stray away from the point of the argument other people are making. 

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