The following terms are used throughout this list.
They are provided here and in context, like this. More information can be found at Examples of Ethos, Logos, and Pathos at yourdictionary.com. I included these definitions for the sake of understanding these terms; it is not original.
Ethos is an appeal to ethics, and it is a means of convincing someone of the character or credibility of the persuader.
You know me – I’ve taught Sunday School at your church for years, baby-sat your children, and served as a playground director for many summers.
Pathos is an appeal to emotion, and is a way of convincing an audience of an argument by creating an emotional response.
Don’t be the last person on the block to have your lawn treated – you don’t want to be the laughing stock of your community!
Logos is an appeal to logic, and is a way of persuading an audience by reason.
More than one hundred peer-reviewed studies have been conducted over the past decade, and none of them suggests that this is an effective treatment for hair loss.
Ethos, pathos, and logos are known as Aristotle’s “ingredients for persuasion”, otherwise known as appeals. They are all means of persuading others to take a particular point of view.
A corrupt argument from logos, starting with a given, pre-set belief, dogma, doctrine,
scripture verse, “fact” or conclusion and then searching for any reasonable
or reasonable-sounding argument to rationalize, defend or justify it.
Certain ideologues and religious fundamentalists are proud to use this
fallacy as their primary method of “reasoning” and some are even honest
enough to say so.
Actions Have Consequences
The contemporary fallacy of a person in power falsely describing an imposed punishment
or penalty as a “consequence” of another’s negative act:
The consequences of your misbehavior could include suspension or expulsion.
A corrupt argument from ethos, arrogating to oneself, or to one’s rules or laws,
an ethos of cosmic inevitability ─ i.e., the ethos of God, Fate, Destiny
or Reality Itself.
Freezing to death is a “consequence” of going out
naked in subzero weather but going to prison is a punishment for bank
robbery, not a natural, inevitable, or unavoidable “consequence”, of
robbing a bank.
Not to be confused with the Argument from Consequences,
which is quite different.
The fallacy of attempting to refute an argument by attacking the opposition’s personal
character or reputation, using a corrupted negative argument from ethos.
He’s so evil that you can’t believe anything he says.
Also applies to cases where valid opposing evidence and arguments are brushed aside
without comment or consideration, as simply not worth arguing about,
solely because of the lack of power or status of the person making the
A corrupt implicit fallacy from ethos in which a person overuses acronyms, abbreviations,
form numbers and arcane insider “shop talk” primarily to prove to an
audience that s/he ‘speaks their language’ and is ‘one of them’ and to
shut out, confuse, or impress outsiders.
It’s not uncommon for a K-12 with ASD to be both GT and LD.
I hope I’ll keep on drawing my BAQ until I get my DD214.
The contemporary fallacy that an argument, standpoint, action, or conclusion no matter
how questionable must be accepted as final or else the point will remain
unsettled, which is unthinkable, and those affected will be denied ‘closure’.
This fallacy falsely reifies a specialized term from
Gestalt Psychology (closure) while refusing
to recognize the undeniable truth that some points will indeed remain
unsettled, perhaps forever.
Society would be protected, crime would be deterred, and justice served
if we sentence you to life without parole, but we need to execute
you in order to provide some closure.
An extremely dangerous fallacy (a deluded argument from ethos) asserting that God
(or History, or a higher power) has ordered, supports or approves of
one’s own standpoint or actions so no further justification is required
and no serious challenge is possible.
God ordered me to kill my children.
We need to take away your land, since God [or Manifest Destiny, or Fate,
or Heaven] has given it to us as our own.
A private individual who seriously asserts this fallacy risks ending up in a psychiatric
ward, but groups or nations who do it are far too often taken seriously.
This vicious fallacy has been the cause of endless bloodshed over history.
Also applies to deluded, negative Appeals to Heaven.
God wouldn’t ever let that happen!
The fallacy of urging an audience to “root for the underdog” regardless of the issues
Those poor, cute, little, squeaky mice are being gobbled up by mean, nasty
cats that are ten times their size!
A corrupt argument from pathos.
The fallacy that a standpoint, situation or action is right, proper and correct simply
because it has always been that way, because people have always thought
that way, or because it continues to serve one particular group very
well. A corrupted argument from ethos (that of past generations).
In America, women have always been paid less, so let’s not mess with
The major fallacy of arguing that something cannot be true because if it were the
consequences would be unacceptable.
Global climate change cannot be caused by human burning of fossil fuels,
because if it were, switching to non-polluting energy sources would
bankrupt American industry
Doctor, that’s wrong! I can’t have terminal cancer, because if I did
that’d mean that I won’t live to see my kids get married!
Not to be confused with Actions Have Consequences.
The fallacy that since we don’t know (or can never know, or cannot prove) whether
a claim is true or false, it must be false (or that it must be true).
Scientists are never going to be able to positively prove their theory
that humans evolved from other creatures, because we weren’t there
to see it! So, that proves the Genesis six-day creation account is literally true as written!
This fallacy includes Attacking the Evidence.
Your evidence is missing, incomplete, or even faked! That proves I’m
This usually includes Either-Or Reasoning:
The vet can’t find any reasonable explanation for why my dog died. See!
See! That proves that you poisoned him! There’s no other logical explanation!
A corrupted argument from logos. A fallacy commonly found in American political,
judicial and forensic reasoning.
The fallacy that it is necessary to continue on a mistaken course of action even
after discovering it is mistaken, because changing course would mean
admitting that one’s decision (or one’s leader, or one’s faith) was wrong,
and all one’s effort, expense and sacrifice was for nothing ─ and that’s
The fallacy of declaring a standpoint or argument invalid solely because of the evil,
corrupt or questionable motives of the one making the claim.
Bin Laden wanted us out of Afghanistan, so we have to keep up the fight!
Even evil people with corrupt motives sometimes say the
truth (and even those who have the highest motives are often wrong or
mistaken). A variety of the Ad Hominem argument. The
counterpart of this is the fallacy of falsely justifying or excusing
evil or vicious actions because of the perpetrator’s purity of motives
or lack of malice.
He’s a good Christian man; how could you accuse him of doing something
The fallacy of “persuasion” or “proving one is right” by force, violence,
Gimmee your wallet or I’ll knock your head off!
We have the perfect right to take your land, since we have the guns and
Also applies to indirect forms of threat.
Give up your foolish pride, kneel down and accept our religion today
if you don’t want to burn in hell forever and ever!
The fallacy that if available sources remain silent or current knowledge and evidence
can prove nothing about a given subject or question this fact in itself
proves something about the truth of the matter.
Science can tell us nothing about God. That proves God doesn’t exist.
Science admits it can tell us nothing about God, so you can’t deny that
Often misused in the American justice system, where, contrary to the 5th Amendment, remaining silent or “taking the Fifth” is often falsely portrayed as proof of guilt.
Mr. Hixel has no alibi for the evening of January 15th. This proves that
he was in fact in room 331 at the Smuggler's Inn, murdering his wife
with a hatchet!
In today’s America, choosing to remain silent in the face of a police officer’s questions can make one guilty enough to be arrested or even shot.
A fallacy of logos stemming from the natural tendency to give undue importance to information that is immediately available at hand, particularly the first
or last information received, and to minimize or ignore broader data or wider evidence that clearly exists but is not as easily remembered or accessed.
E.g.: “We know from experience that this doesn’t work”
when “experience” means the most recent, local experience, ignoring multiple
instances in other places and times where it has worked and does work.
The fallacy of arguing that because “everyone” supposedly thinks or does something,
it must be right.
Everyone knows that undocumented aliens ought to be kicked out!
Sometimes also includes Lying with Statistics
Surveys show that over 75% of Americans believe Senator Snith is not
telling the truth. For anyone with half a brain, that conclusively
proves he’s a dirty liar!
Sometimes combined with the Argumentum ad Baculam:
Like it or not, it’s time to choose sides: Are you going to get on board
the bandwagon with everyone else, or get crushed under the wheels
as it goes by?
The contemporary fallacy of repeating a lie, fallacy, slogan, talking-point or deceptive
half-truth over and over in different forms (particularly in the media)
until people believe it without further proof or evidence.
What about the Jewish Question?
Note that when this particular phony debate was going on there was no “Jewish Question”, only a “Nazi Question”, but hardly anybody in power recognized or wanted
to talk about that.
The dangerous fallacy that an argument or action is right simply and solely because
a respected leader or source (a President, expert, one’s parents, one’s
own “side”, team or country, one’s boss or commanding officers) say it
is right. This is over-reliance on authority, a corrupted argument from
ethos that puts loyalty above truth, above one’s own reason and above
conscience. In this case a person attempts to justify incorrect, stupid
or criminal behavior by whining,
That’s what I was told to do.
I was just following orders.
A not-uncommon, but extreme, example of this fallacy is the Big Brain/Little Brain Fallacy (also, the Fuhrerprinzip)
in which a tyrannical cult-leader tells followers:
Don’t think with your little brains (the brain in your head) but with
your BIG brain (the leader’s).
This last fallacy is sometimes expressed in positive terms:
You don’t have to stress out about the moral rightness or wrongness of
your acts since I, the leader, am taking all responsibility. I will
defend you and gladly accept all the consequences up to and including
going to hell if I’m wrong.
The reverse of the Ad Hominem fallacy, a corrupt
argument from ethos where a statement, argument or action is automatically
regarded as true, correct and above challenge because one is related
to, or knows and likes, or is on the same team as the individual involved.
My brother-in-law says he saw you goofing off on the job. You're a hard
worker but who am I going to believe, you or him? You’re fired!
The Cold War-era fantasy that an enemy can instantly convince an unsuspecting audience
with their vile but somehow unspeakably persuasive “propaganda”:
Don’t look at that website! They’re trying to brainwash you with terrorist
Historically, this fallacy refers more properly to the inhuman
Argumentum ad Baculam of “beating an argument
into” a prisoner via pain, fear, sensory deprivation, prolonged abuse
and sophisticated psychological manipulation (also, the Stockholm Syndrome).
Such ‘brainwashing’ can also be accomplished by pleasure (“Love Bombing”):
Did you like that? I know you did. Well, there’s lots more where that came
from when you sign on with us!
An unspeakably sinister form of persuasion by brainwashing involves deliberately
addicting a person to drugs and then providing or withholding the substance
depending on the addict’s compliance.
Note: Only the “other side” brainwashes. We never brainwash.
The fallacy of “persuasion” by bribery, gifts or favors, the reverse of the
Argumentum ad Baculam. As is well known, someone who is persuaded
by bribery rarely “stays persuaded” unless the bribes keep on coming
in and increasing with time.
A fallacy of logos where A is because of B, and B is because of A:
You can’t get a job because you have no experience, and you have no experience
because you can’t get a job.
Also refers to falsely arguing that something is true by repeating the same statement
in different words.
The witchcraft problem is the most urgent spiritual crisis in the world
today. Why? Because witches threaten our immortal souls.
A corrupt argument from logos.
The fallacy of demanding a direct answer to a question that cannot be answered without
first analyzing or challenging the basis of the question itself.
Just answer me ‘yes’ or ‘no’: Did you think you could get away with plagiarism
and not suffer the consequences?
Why did you rob that bank?
Also applies to situations where one is forced to either accept or reject complex standpoints or propositions
containing both acceptable and unacceptable parts. A corruption of the
argument from logos.
A fallacy of logos, recognizing the fact that one always tends to see, select and share evidence that confirms one’s own standpoint and beliefs, as opposed
to contrary evidence. This fallacy is how “Fortune Tellers” work ―
If I am told I will meet a “tall, dark stranger” I will be on the lookout
for a tall, dark stranger, and when I meet someone even marginally meeting
that description I will marvel at the correctness of the “psychic’s”
Alternate Terms: If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It · Acquiescence · Making One’s Peace with the Situation ·
Get Used to It · Whatever Is, is Right · Let It Be, Let It Be ·
Better the Devil You Know than the Devil You Don’t Know
The logical fallacy of automatically favoring or accepting a situation simply because
it exists right now, and arguing that any other alternative is mad, unthinkable,
impossible, or at least would take too much effort, stress and risk to
A fallacy of ethos (one’s own), in which after one has taken a given decision, commitment
or course of action, one automatically tends to defend that decision
and to irrationally dismiss opposing options, even when one’s decision
later on proves to be shaky or wrong.
Yeah, I voted for Snith. Sure, he turned out to be a crook and a liar
and he got us into war, but I still say that he was better than the
The common contemporary fallacy of applying a specialized judicial concept (that
criminal punishment should be less if one’s judgment was impaired) to
reality in general.
You can’t count me absent on Monday ─ I was hung over and couldn’t
come to class so it’s not my fault.
Yeah, I was speeding on the freeway and killed a guy, but I was buzzed
out of my mind and didn’t know what I was doing so it didn’t matter
In reality the death does matter very much to the victim, to his family and friends
and to society in general. Whether the perpetrator was high or not does
not matter at all since the material results are the same. This fallacy
is rooted in the confusion of “consequences” with “punishment”.
A very common contemporary scholarly fallacy of ethos (that of one’s discipline or
field), automatically disregarding, discounting, or ignoring a priori
otherwise-relevant arguments and evidence that come from outside one’s
own professional discipline, discourse community or academic area of
That may be true or may be false, but it’s so not what we’re doing in
our field right now.
The common contemporary fallacy that something must be right, true, valuable, or
worthy of respect and honor simply because someone has put so much sincere
good-faith effort or even sacrifice and bloodshed into it.
A fallacy that falsely offers only two possible options even though a broad range
of possible alternatives are always readily available.
Either you are 100% Simon Straightarrow or you are queer as a three dollar
bill ─ it’s as simple as that and there’s no middle ground!
Either you’re in with us all the way or you’re a hostile and must be
destroyed! What’s it gonna be?
Also applies to falsely contrasting one option or case to another that is not really
opposed, e.g., falsely countering “Black Lives Matter” with “Blue Lives
Matter” when in fact not a few police officers are themselves African-American, and African-Americans and police are not (or ought not to be!)
The fallacy of deliberately failing to define one’s terms, or knowingly and deliberately
using words in a different sense than the one the audience will understand.
Bill Clinton stating that he did not have sexual relations with “that woman”,
meaning no sexual penetration, knowing full well that the audience will
understand his statement as “I had no sexual contact of any sort with
This is a corruption of the argument from logos, and a tactic often used in American jurisprudence.
A fallacy from logos and ethos, that there is some knowledge reserved only for the
‘Wise’ or the ‘Enlightened’, things that the
masses cannot understand and do not deserve to know, at least not until
they become more "spiritually advanced".
The counterpart of this fallacy is that of
Obscurantism (Alt: Obscurationism, Willful Ignorance) ─ that, almost always said in a basso profundo voice: “There are some things that mere mortals must never seek
Scientific research on human sexuality is morally wrong! There are some
things that humans are simply not meant to know!
A fallacy that proposes a person or thing “is what it is and that’s all that it is”,
and at its core will always be the way it is right now.
All terrorists are monsters, and will still be terrorist monsters even if they live to be 100
‘The poor you will always have with you’ ─ so any effort to eliminate poverty is pointless.
Also refers to the fallacy of arguing that something is a certain way “by nature”, an empty claim that no amount of proof can refute.
Americans are cold and greedy by nature.
Women are naturally better cooks than men.
A corrupted argument from logos that proposes that since a little of something is good, more must be better (or that if less of something is good, none
at all is even better).
If eating an apple a day is good for you, eating an all-apple diet is even
If a low-fat diet prolongs your life, a zero-fat diet should make you live
The fallacy of incorrectly comparing one thing to another in order to draw a false
Just like an alley cat needs to prowl, a normal adult can’t be tied down
to one single lover.
The dangerous contemporary fallacy that an action or standpoint (or the continuation
of the action or standpoint) may not be questioned or discussed because
there is “a job to be done,” falsely assuming all “jobs” are meaningless
but never to be questioned. Sometimes those involved internalize (“buy
into”) the “job” and make the task a part of their own ethos.
Ours is not to reason why / Ours is but to do or die
The fallacy of trying to refute or condemn someone’s standpoint, arguments or actions
by evoking the negative ethos of those with whom one is identified or
of a group, party, religion or race to which he or she belongs or once
associated with. A form of
Ad Hominem Argument.
Don’t listen to her. She’s a Republican - you can’t trust anything she
A corrupt argument from logos, the fallacy of consciously selecting, collecting and
sharing only that evidence that supports one’s own standpoint,
telling the strict truth but deliberately minimizing or omitting important
key details in order to falsify the larger picture and support a false
The truth is that Ciudad Juárez, Mexico is one of the world’s fastest growing
cities and can boast of a young, ambitious and hard-working population,
mild winters, a dry and sunny climate, low cost medical and dental care,
a multitude of churches and places of worship, a delicious, spicy local
cuisine and a swinging nightclub scene. Taken together, all these facts
clearly prove that Juárez is one of the world’s most desirable places
for young families to live, work and raise a family.
Fallacy under which nothing and nobody in this world is perfect, since there
are not and have never been any heroes:
Washington and Jefferson held slaves. Lincoln was a racist. Karl Marx had
a kid by the housemaid. Martin Luther King Jr. had an eye for women too.
Lenin condemned feminism. The Mahatma drank his own urine (ugh!). The
Pope is wrong on same-sex marriage and women’s ordination. Mother Teresa
loved suffering and was wrong on just about everything else too. Etc...etc....
Also applies to the now near-universal political tactic of ransacking everything
an opponent has ever said, written, or done since childhood in order to
find something to misinterpret or condemn (and we all have something!).
An early example of this latter is deftly described in Robert Penn Warren’s classic novel, “All the King’s Men”.
A contemporary fallacy that everyone is above average or
extraordinary. A corrupted argument from pathos (not wanting anyone to
lose or to feel bad). Thus, every member of the Armed Services, past
or present, who served honorably is a national hero, every student who
competes in the Science Fair wins a ribbon or trophy, and every racer
is awarded a winner’s jersey.
This corruption of the argument from pathos, much ridiculed by American
comedian Garrison Keeler, ignores the fact that if everybody
wins nobody wins, and if everyone’s a hero no one’s a hero. The logical result of this fallacy is that, as author Alice Childress writes, “A hero ain’t nothing but a sandwich”.
I Wish I Had a Magic Wand
The fallacy of regretfully (and falsely) proclaiming oneself powerless to
change a bad or objectionable situation.
What can we do about gas prices? As Secretary of Energy I wish I had a magic
wand, but I don’t. [Shrug]
No, you can’t quit piano lessons. I wish I had a magic wand and could teach
you piano overnight, but I don’t, so like it or not, you have to keep
The parent, of course, ignores the possibility that the child may not want
or need to learn piano
Job’s Comforter Fallacy
Find A Way, I Don’t Care, Accomplish the Mission, By Any Means Necessary
The fallacy that since there is no such thing as chance and we (
‘I’, ‘my group’, or ‘my country’) are under special
protection of heaven, any misfortune or random natural disaster that
we suffer must be due to someone’s secret sin or open wickedness.
This corrupt modern argument from ethos argues to a less-educated or rural
audience that the one arguing is ‘just plain folks’ who ‘speaks plainly’
and thinks like the audience, and is thus worthy of belief, unlike some
‘double-domed professor’, ‘Washington bureaucrat’,
‘tree-hugger’ or other despised outsider who ‘doesn’t
think like we do’ or ‘doesn’t share our old-fashioned
values’. This is a counterpart to the Ad Hominem Fallacy and occasionally carries a distinct flavor of xenophobia or racism as
well. This also includes the fallacy that:
We’re just plain folks so we need to keep our heads down and not
get involved in the big things of this world, like politics, demonstrations
A pure, abusive Argumentum ad Baculam,
in which someone in power arbitrarily waves aside or overrules the objections
of subordinates and orders them to accomplish a goal by any means required,
fair or foul. The clear implication is that unethical or immoral methods
should be used.
You say there’s no way you can finish the dig because there’s
an old unmarked graveyard under the excavation site? Well, find a
way! I don’t want to know
how you do it, just do it! This is a million dollar
contract and we need it done by Tuesday.
In this very dangerous, archly pessimistic postmodern fallacy the bogus
Law of Unintended Consequences, once a semi-humorous
satirical corollary of “Murphy’s Law”, is elevated
to the status of an iron law of history.
This fallacy arbitrarily proclaims a priori that
since we can never know everything or foresee anything, sooner or later
in today‘s “complex world” unforeseeable adverse consequences
and negative side-effects, (so-called “unknown unknowns”), will always
end up blindsiding and overwhelming, defeating and vitiating any and all “do-gooder”
efforts to improve our world.
Instead, we must always expect defeat and be ready to roll with the punches
by developing ‘grit’ or ‘resilience’ as a primary
survival skill. This nihilist fallacy is a practical negation of the
possibility of any argument from logos.
The contemporary fallacy of using true figures and numbers to “prove”
College tuition costs have actually never been lower. When expressed as
a percentage of the national debt, the cost of getting a college education
is actually far lower today than it was in 1965!
A corrupted argument from logos.
This includes the Tiny Percentage Fallacy, that an expense
that is quite significant in itself somehow becomes insignificant simply
because it’s a tiny percentage of something larger.
Example: A consumer who would choke at spending a dollar extra for two cans
of peas will typically ignore $50 extra on the price of a car, or $1000
extra on the price of a house, simply because these differences are “only”
a tiny percentage of the much larger amount being spent.
Historically, sales taxes or value-added taxes have successfully gained
public acceptance and remain ‘under the radar’ because of
this latter fallacy.
An ancient but deluded fallacy of logos, that when it comes to ‘crunch
time’ provided one has enough faith, prays hard enough, does the
right rituals, or ‘claims the promise’, God will always work
a miracle at the request of the ‘True Believer’. In practice
this nihilist fallacy denies the existence of a rational or predictable universe and
thus the possibility of any argument from logic.
Using an argument that the arguer himself or herself knows is not valid.
An unbeliever attacking believers by throwing verses from their own Holy
Scriptures at them, or a lawyer arguing for the innocence of someone
whom s/he knows fully well to be guilty.
This latter example is a common practice in American jurisprudence, and
is sometimes portrayed as the worst face of “Sophism”.
The contemporary ethical fallacy that one’s consistently moral life, good
behavior or recent especially-significant sacrifice earns him/her the
right to commit an immoral act without repercussions, consequences or
I’ve been good all year, so one bad won’t matter.
After what I went through, God knows I need this.
Mind Your Own Business, You’re Not the Boss of Me,
So What?, The Appeal to Privacy
The contemporary fallacy of arbitrarily terminating any discussion of one’s
own standpoints or behavior, no matter how absurd, dangerous, evil or
offensive, by drawing a phony curtain of privacy around oneself and one’s
actions. A corrupt argument from ethos (your own).
Sure, I was doing eighty and weaving between lanes on Mesa Street ─
what’s it to you? You’re not a cop, you’re not my nanny.
It’s my business to speed, and your business to get the hell out
of my way. Mind your own business!
Yeah, I killed my baby. So what? Butt out! It’s none of your business!
Rational discussion is cut off because “It is none of your business!”
A variety of the Ad Hominem argument.
The dangerous fallacy that, simply because of who one is, any and all
arguments, disagreements or objections against one’s standpoint
or actions are automatically racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, bigoted, discriminatory
My stand on abortion is the only correct one. To disagree with me, argue
with me or question my judgment in any way would only show what a pig
you really are.
Also applies to refuting an argument by simply calling it a “fallacy”,
or declaring it invalid without proving why it is invalid, or summarily
dismissing arguments or opponents by labeling them ‘racist’,
‘communist’, ‘fascist’, or some other negative
name without further explanation.
A pure Argumentum ad Baculam that
rejects reasoned dialogue, offering either instant, unconditional compliance/surrender
or death as the only two options for settling even minor differences.
Get down on the ground, now!
We don’t talk to terrorists.
This deadly fallacy falsely paints real or potential ‘hostiles’
as monsters devoid of all reason, and far too often contains a very
strong element of “machismo” as well.
A real, muscular leader never resorts to pantywaist pleading, apologies,
fancy talk, or argument. That’s for lawyers, liars, and pansies,
and is nothing but a delaying-tactic. A real man stands tall, talks
straight, draws fast, and shoots to kill.
Actor John Wayne
frequently portrayed this fallacy in his movie roles .
A deluded fallacy in which one deliberately chooses not to publicly ‘recognize’
grounded truth, usually on the theory that this would somehow reward
evil-doers if we recognized their deeds as real. Often the underlying
theory is that the current situation is ‘temporary’ and will
soon be reversed.
Example: In the decades from 1949 until Richard Nixon’s time the United
States officially refused to recognize the existence of the most populous
nation on earth, the People’s Republic of China, because America
supported the Republic of China government on Taiwan instead and hoped
they might return to power on the mainland. More than half a century
after the Korean War, the U.S. still refuses to pronounce the name of
or recognize a nuclear-armed DPRK (North Korea).
An individual who does this risks institutionalization:
I refuse to recognize Mom’s murder, ‘cuz that would give
the victory to the murderer! I refuse to watch you bury her! Stop!
Tragically, such behavior is common in international relations.
The fallacy of offering reasons or conclusions that have no logical connection
to the argument at hand.
The reason I flunked your course is because the government is printing purple
five-dollar bills! Purple!
Occasionally involves the breathtaking arrogance of claiming to have special
knowledge of why God, fate or the Universe is doing certain things.
This week’s earthquake was obviously meant to punish those people
for their great wickedness.
Fairly rare in contemporary discourse, this deeply cynical fallacy, a corruption
of the argument from logos, falsely proposes that there is not and has never
been any real novelty in this world. Any argument that there are truly “new”
ideas or phenomena is judged a priori to be unworthy of serious discussion and dismissed with a sigh and a wave
of the hand as “the same old same old”.
[Le sigh...] Idiots! Don’t you see that the current influx of refugees
from the Mideast is just the same old Muslim invasion of Europe that’s
been going on for 1,500 years?
Libertarianism is nothing but anarchism, which, in turn, is nothing but
the ancient Antinomian Heresy. Like I told you before, there’s nothing
new under the sun!
A broad generalization that is agreed to be true is offered as overriding
all particular cases, particularly special cases requiring immediate
Doctor, you say this time of year a flu vaccination is essential, but
I would point out that ALL vaccinations are essential
...implying that I’m not going to give special attention to getting the flu shot.
Or, attempting to refute “Black Lives Matter” by replying, “All
Lives Matter”, the latter undeniably true but still a fallacious
overgeneralization in that specific and urgent context.
Also includes the Pars pro Toto Fallacy, the stupid, but
common, fallacy of incorrectly applying one or two true examples to all
Some college student was tailgating me all the way up North Main Street
last night. This proves that all college students are lousy drivers
and that we should pull their driver’s licenses until they either
grow up, learn to drive, or graduate!
A postmodern fallacy that since all data is never in, any conclusion is always
provisional, no legitimate decision can ever be made and any action should
always be delayed until forced by circumstances. A corruption of the argument
The Passive Voice Fallacy
A fallacy from ethos, concealing agency behind the curtain of the grammatical
passive voice, e.g., “It has been decided that you will be let go” arrogating an ethos of cosmic inevitability to a very fallible decision made by identifiable
and fallible human beings.
A fallacy of logos favoring familiar or easily comprehensible data, examples and evidence over that which is more complex and unfamiliar but much closer to the truth.
Ooooh, that has equations and formulas in it! Just boil it down for me.
I don’t want your damned philosophy lesson! Just tell me why this is happening!
A more sophisticated version of this fallacy arbitrarily proposes, as did
Scottish rhetorician John Campbell, that the Truth is always simple by
nature and only enemies of the Truth would seek to make it complicated.
A vicious fallacy of ethos under which someone in power forces those under his or her control to do some questionable or evil act and to then falsely
assume or conceal responsibility for that act in order to protect the ethos of the one in command.
Make sure he meets with a fatal accident and that it doesn’t get back to me! And be sure that I know nothing about it!
The classic fallacy of pure argument from pathos, ignoring facts and calling
on emotion alone.
If you don’t agree that witchcraft is a major problem just shut up,
close your eyes for a moment and picture in your mind all those poor
moms crying bitter tears for their innocent tiny children whose cozy
little beds and happy tricycles lie all cold and abandoned, just because
of those wicked old witches! Let’s string ‘em all up!
Political Correctness or PC
A postmodern fallacy, a counterpart of the “Name Calling” fallacy,
supposing that the nature of a thing or situation can be changed by simply
changing its name.
Today we strike a blow for animal rights and against cruelty to animals
by changing the name of ‘pets’ to ‘animal companions.’
Never, ever play the ‘victim’ card, because it’s so manipulative
and sounds so negative, helpless and despairing. Instead of saying ’victims,’
we are ’survivors.’
(Of course, when ‘victims’ disappear then perpetrators conveniently
vanish as well!)
Also applies to other forms of political “Language Control”
─ e.g., being careful never to refer to North Korea or ISIS/ISIL
by their rather pompous proper names (“Democratic People’s
Republic of Korea” and “Islamic State”, respectively).
Positive Thinking Fallacy
An immensely popular but deluded modern fallacy of logos, that because we
are ‘thinking positively’ that in itself somehow biases external,
objective reality in our favor even before we lift a finger to act.
Note that this particular fallacy is often part of a much wider closed-minded, sometimes
cultish ideology where the practitioner is warned against paying attention
to or even acknowledging the existence of “negative” evidence or counter-arguments
against his/her standpoints. In the latter case, rational argument or
refutation is most often futile.
An Argumentum ad Baculam that arbitrarily rejects
or gives up on dialogue before it is concluded. The most benign nonviolent
form of this fallacy is found in passive-aggressive tactics such as slowdowns,
boycotts, sitdowns and strikes. The United States recently ended a half-century
long, political Pout with Cuba.
The classic paranoiac fallacy of distinguishing nonexistent patterns in
random coincidences, concluding that just because something happens close
to, at the same time or just after something else, the first thing is
caused by the second.
AIDS first emerged as a problem back in the very same era when Disco music
was becoming popular ─ that’s too much of a coincidence: it proves
that Disco caused AIDS!
An irrelevant distraction, attempting to mislead an audience by bringing up
an unrelated but usually emotionally loaded issue.
In regard to my bankruptcies and recent indictment for corruption let’s
be straight about what’s really important: Terrorism! Vote for me and I’ll fight those terrorists anywhere in the world!
Also applies to raising unrelated issues as falsely opposing the issue at hand, when
the two are in no way opposed, only competing for attention.
You say ‘Black Lives Matter’, but I say ’Zika Matters’!
The fallacy of deceiving an audience by giving simple answers or bumper-sticker
slogans in response to complex questions, especially when appealing to less
educated or unsophisticated audiences.
If the glove doesn’t fit, you must vote to acquit.
Vote for Snith. He’s tough on terrorism!
The fallacy of treating imaginary categories as actual, material ‘things’.
The ‘War Against Terror’ is a fight to the death between Freedom
The contemporary fallacy of claiming truth or validity for one’s standpoint solely
or primarily because one is heroically standing up to prevailing “orthodoxy”,
the current Standard Model, conventional wisdom, or whatever may be the
Bandwagon of the moment; a corrupt argument
Back in the day the scientific establishment thought that the world was
flat, that was until Columbus proved them wrong! Now scientific orthodoxy
has us believing that ordinary water is nothing but H²O. Are you
going to believe what they say? They’re frantically trying to suppress
the truth that raw drinking-water actually has nitrogen in it and causes
A variety of Playing on Emotions, a raw appeal
to fear. A corrupted argument from pathos. E.g.,
If you don’t shut up and do what I say we’re all gonna die! In this moment
of crisis we can’t afford the luxury of criticizing or trying to second-guess
my decisions. Our very lives and freedom are in peril! We need to be
united as one!
Sending the Wrong Message
A dangerous fallacy of logos that attacks a given statement, argument or action,
no matter how true or necessary, because it will “send the wrong message”.
In effect, those who use this fallacy are openly confessing to fraud and
admitting that the truth will destroy the fragile web of illusion that has
been created by their lies.
Actually, we’re losing the war against drugs hands down, but if we publicly
admit it we’ll be sending the wrong message.
A fallacy of logos that challenges an opponent to disprove a controversial claim rather than asking the person making the claim to defend his/her own argument.
Space-aliens are everywhere among us masquerading as true humans, even right
here on campus! I dare you prove it isn’t so! See? You can’t! That
means what I say has to be true.
The common fallacy that “one thing inevitably leads to another”. E.g.,
If you two go and drink coffee together one thing will lead to another and
soon enough you’ll be pregnant and end up spending your life on welfare
living in the Projects.
If we close Gitmo one thing will lead to another and before you know it
armed terrorists will be strolling through our church doors with explosive
The fallacy of “proving” a claim by overwhelming an audience with mountains
of irrelevant facts, numbers, documents, graphs and statistics that look
extremely impressive but which they cannot be expected to understand or
evaluate. This is a corrupted argument from logos.
The ancient fallacy that all who wore a uniform, fought hard and followed orders
are worthy of some special honor or glory or are even “heroes”, whether
they fought for freedom or fought to defend slavery, marched under Grant
or Lee, Hitler, Stalin or McArthur, fought to defend their homes, fought
for oil or to spread empire, or even fought against and killed U.S. soldiers.
In academia, a corrupt argument from ethos in which arguments, standpoints
and subjects of academic discourse are granted unquestioned validity or
condemned to obscurity solely by whoever the reigning "stars" of the discipline
are at the moment:
“Network Theory” has been thoroughly criticized and is so last-week!
This week everyone’s into “Shannon Information Theory” and
Pierce’s “Theory of Microaggressions”. Get with the program.
At the popular level this also refers to a corrupt argument from ethos in which popular
support for a standpoint or product is established by a well-known or respected
figure (e.g. a star athlete or entertainer) who is not an expert and who
may have been well paid to make the endorsement.
Olympic gold-medal, pole-vaulter Fulano de Tal uses Quick Flush Internet
─ shouldn’t you?
My favorite rock star warns that vaccinations spread rickets, so I’m not
vaccinating my kids!
Includes other false, meaningless or paid means of associating oneself or one’s product
or standpoint with the ethos of a famous person or event:
Try ‘Salsa Cabria’, the official taco sauce of the Winter Olympics!
The fallacy of setting up a phony, weak or ridiculous parody of an opponent’s argument
and then proceeding to knock it down with a wave of the hand.
Vegetarians say animals have feelings like you and me. Ever seen a cow laugh
at a Shakespeare comedy? Vegetarianism is nonsense!
Pro-choicers hate babies!
Pro-lifers hate women and want them to spend their lives barefoot, pregnant
and chained to the kitchen stove!
This fallacy is only too common in American politics and popular discourse.
The fallacy of unilaterally declaring certain arguments, standpoints or actions
‘sacrosanct’ and not open to discussion, or arbitrarily taking
some standpoints or options ‘off the table’ beforehand.
Don’t bring my drinking into this.
Before we start, you need to know I won’t allow you to play the race
card or to attack my arguments by claiming “That’s just what
Hitler would say!”
Also applies to discounting or rejecting certain arguments and evidence out of hand
because they are ‘against the Bible’ or other sacred doctrine.
The fallacy of refusing to get involved in public politics because all politicians
and politics are allegedly corrupt ─ ignoring the fact that, if this is so,
it is precisely because “decent” people (like you and me) refuse to get involved,
leaving the field open to the “crooks” by default.
A badly corrupted, discriminatory argument from ethos where facts, arguments, experiences or objections are arbitrarily disregarded, ignored or put down
without serious consideration because those involved ‘are not like
us’, or ‘don’t think like us’.
It’s OK for Mexicans to earn a buck an hour in the
If it happened here I’d call it brutal exploitation and daylight
robbery but south of the border, down Mexico way they’re different
You claim that life must be really terrible over there for terrorists to
ever think of blowing themselves up with suicide vests just to make a
point, but remember that they’re different from us. In their religion
they don’t think about life and death the same way we do.
A sophisticated Argumentum ad Baculam
in which free and open discussion and “brainstorming” is temporarily
allowed and encouraged not in order to hear and consider opposing views,
but rather to “smoke out”, identify, and later punish or liquidate
dissenters. The name comes from the Hundred Flowers Campaign in Chinese history
when Communist leader, Chairman Mao Tse-tung applied this policy with deadly effect.
The full quotation, taken from a speech of Mao's in Peking in February 1957, is: “Letting a hundred flowers blossom and a hundred schools of thought contend is the policy for promoting progress in the arts and the sciences and a flourishing socialist culture in our land.”
* After research, I've learned that the “The ‘Thousand Flowers’ Fallacy” is based on a misquote, hence the inclusion of the full quote.
A very common contemporary extension of the either/or fallacy in which someone
in power quashes critical thought by announcing that there is no realistic
alternative to a given standpoint, status or action, arbitrarily ruling
any and all other options out of bounds, or announcing that a decision has
been made and any further discussion is insubordination, disloyalty, disobedience
or simply a waste of precious time when there’s a job to be done.
A corrupt argument from ethos, falsely associating a famous person, place or thing with an unrelated standpoint.
Example: Putting a picture of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on an advertisement
for mattresses, using Genghis Khan - a Mongol who hated Chinese - as
the name of a Chinese restaurant, or using the Texas flag to sell cars
or pickups that were made in Detroit, Kansas City, or Kyoto.
This fallacy is common in contemporary academia in the form of using a profusion
of scholarly-looking citations from respected scholars to lend a false
gravitas to otherwise specious ideas or text.
A corrupt argument from ethos, the fallacy of defending a shaky or false standpoint or excusing one’s own bad action by pointing out that
one’s opponent’s acts, ideology or personal character are
also open to question, or are perhaps even worse than one’s own.
Sure, we may have tortured prisoners and killed kids with drones, but
we don’t cut off heads off like they do!
You can’t stand there and accuse me of corruption! You guys are
all into politics and you know what you have to do to get reelected!
The dangerous contemporary fallacy that when ‘People are scared / People are angry / People are fed up’ it becomes necessary to do something, anything, at once even if it is an
overreaction, is a completely ineffective, inert placebo, or actually makes
the situation worse, rather than “just sitting there doing nothing”.
Banning air passengers from carrying ham sandwiches onto the plane and making
parents take off their newborn infants’ little pink baby-shoes
probably does nothing to deter potential hijackers, but people are scared
and we have to do something to respond to this crisis!
This is a badly corrupted argument from pathos (fear).
The dangerous fallacy of drawing a snap conclusion and/or taking action without
My neighbor Jaminder Singh wears a long beard and a turban and speaks a
funny language. Where there’s smoke there’s fire. That’s
all the evidence we need that he’s a terrorist! Let’s burn
his store down!
A very common contemporary fallacy that individuals may be wrong but ‘the
crowd’ or ‘the market’ is infallible, ignoring historic
examples like witch-burning, lynching, and the market crash of 2008. This
fallacy is why most colleges and universities ban students from using Wikipedia
as a serious reference work.
The logical fallacy that a bad situation stops being bad because it could be
far worse, or because someone, somewhere has it even worse than you.
I cried because I had no shoes, until I saw someone with no feet
You’re protesting because you earn only $7.25 an hour? Well,
I happen to know there are people in Uttar Pradesh who are doing the
very same work you’re doing for one-tenth of what you’re
making, and they’re grateful just to have a job! You need to shut
up, put down that picket sign, go back to work and thank heaven every
day for what little you’ve got!
A pessimistic fallacy by which one’s reasoning is based on an improbable,
far-fetched or even completely imaginary worst-case scenario rather than
on reality. This plays on pathos (fear) rather than reason.
What if armed terrorists were to attack your county grain elevator tomorrow
morning at dawn? Are you ready to fight back? Better stock up on assault
rifles and ammunition today, just in case!
The contemporary fallacy of declaring an ‘emergency’ and promising
to devote unlimited resources to stamp out a limited or even nonexistent
I just read about an actual case of cannibalism somewhere in this country.
That’s disgusting, and even one case is way, way too many!
We need a Federal Taskforce against Cannibalism with a million-dollar
budget and offices in every state, a national SCAN program in all the
grade schools (“Stop Cannibalism in America Now!”),
and an automatic double death penalty for cannibals; in other words,
zero tolerance for cannibalism in this country!
This is a corrupt and cynical argument from pathos (fear), almost always politically
driven, a particularly sinister variety of the ‘We Have to do Something!’ fallacy.