Young European leaders

Project aims to develop active leadership in young generation and develop all skills necessary to reach this goal (communication, diplomacy, teamwork, agenda of major geopolitical organizations). A wide range of activities is used to offer innovative and effective approach.

APRIL 2016 skill - FALLACIES

Dear friends,

After the previous topics - Argumentation and Debate, Refutation, Relevance of information, Public speaking, and Resolution writing - now something really important and interesting! After the start we have now the ADVANCED stuff for your clubs. This part makes your arguments much more professional and shows you if your arguments are good or not.

What is a FALLACY?

fallacy is the use of invalid or otherwise faulty reasoning, or "wrong moves" in the construction of an argument. A fallacious argument may be deceptive by appearing to be better than it really is. (Harry J. GenslerThe A to Z of Logic (2010:p74). Rowman & Littlefield, ISBN 9780810875968)

A FALLACY is actually a flaw in your arguments, whinch makes it WRONG, MISLEADING and NOT TRUE. We can create a FALLACY by mistake or intentionally. Be carreful! INTENTIONAL use of a fallacy is regarded moraly UNACCEPTABLE, since you want to mislead and trick your debate partners to gain some advantage in a debate. DO NOT DO IT :)



One of the best online sources is the book - An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments (Ali Almossawi, Alejandro Giraldo) - click to read

(click on the picture to read)


There are many types of fallacies. We will present you the most frequently used ones and giveyou examples of them :)


  1. FORMAL (A formal fallacy is an error in logic that can be seen in the argument's form - Bunnin & Yu 2004"formal fallacy")
  2. INFORMAL (Informal fallacies – arguments that are fallacious for reasons other than structural (formal) flaws and usually require examination of the argument's content - Bunnin & Yu 2004"informal fallacy")
  3. CONDITIONAL (these may or maynot become fallacies but based on the particular condition when we use them)


1. AD HOMINEM - you attack the opponent instead of his argument

You attacked your opponent's character or personal traits in an attempt to undermine their argument.

Ad hominem attacks can take the form of overtly attacking somebody, or more subtly casting doubt on their character or personal attributes as a way to discredit their argument. The result of an ad hom attack can be to undermine someone's case without actually having to engage with it.

Example: After Sally presents an eloquent and compelling case for a more equitable taxation system, Sam asks the audience whether we should believe anything from a woman who isn't married, was once arrested, and smells a bit weird.


2. APPEAL TO AUTHORITY - you use an authority (expert) instead of explanation, or a false authority

You said that because an authority thinks something, it must therefore be true.

It's important to note that this fallacy should not be used to dismiss the claims of experts, or scientific consensus. Appeals to authority are not valid arguments, but nor is it reasonable to disregard the claims of experts who have a demonstrated depth of knowledge unless one has a similar level of understanding and/or access to empirical evidence. However it is, entirely possible that the opinion of a person or institution of authority is wrong; therefore the authority that such a person or institution holds does not have any intrinsic bearing upon whether their claims are true or not.

Example: Not able to defend his position that evolution 'isn't true' Bob says that he knows a scientist who also questions evolution (and presumably isn't a primate).


3. TU QUOQUE (APPEAL TO HYPOCRISY) - you attack your opponent when your idea is attacked

You avoided having to engage with criticism by turning it back on the accuser - you answered criticism with criticism.

Pronounced too-kwo-kwee. Literally translating as 'you too' this fallacy is also known as the appeal to hypocrisy. It is commonly employed as an effective red herring because it takes the heat off someone having to defend their argument, and instead shifts the focus back on to the person making the criticism.

Example: Nicole identified that Hannah had committed a logical fallacy, but instead of addressing the substance of her claim, Hannah accused Nicole of committing a fallacy earlier on in the conversation.

4. THE STRAWMAN - you change or misinterpret opponets argument to make it weaker and than attack it

You misrepresented someone's argument to make it easier to attack.

By exaggerating, misrepresenting, or just completely fabricating someone's argument, it's much easier to present your own position as being reasonable, but this kind of dishonesty serves to undermine honest rational debate.

Example: After Will said that we should put more money into health and education, Warren responded by saying that he was surprised that Will hates our country so much that he wants to leave it defenceless by cutting military spending.


5. BLACK or WHITE/FALSE DILEMMA - you pretend that there are only 2 possibilities when there are more - to make your argument looking stronger

You presented two alternative states as the only possibilities, when in fact more possibilities exist.

Also known as the false dilemma, this insidious tactic has the appearance of forming a logical argument, but under closer scrutiny it becomes evident that there are more possibilities than the either/or choice that is presented. Binary, black-or-white thinking doesn't allow for the many different variables, conditions, and contexts in which there would exist more than just the two possibilities put forth. It frames the argument misleadingly and obscures rational, honest debate.

Example: Whilst rallying support for his plan to fundamentally undermine citizens' rights, the Supreme Leader told the people they were either on his side, or they were on the side of the enemy.


6. BANDWAGOON/POPULAR BELIEF - you say that something is true because many people say its true (but it is not a logical proof that it is true)

You appealed to popularity or the fact that many people do something as an attempted form of validation.

The flaw in this argument is that the popularity of an idea has absolutely no bearing on its validity.
If it did, then the Earth would have made itself flat for most of history to accommodate this popular belief.

Example: Shamus pointed a drunken finger at Sean and asked him to explain how so many people could believe in leprechauns if they're only a silly old superstition. Sean, however, had had a few too many Guinness himself and fell off his chair.


7. SLIPPERY SLOPE - if A can lead to B and B is bad, we should not do A (but A doesn´t have to lead to B, only maybe CAN)

You said that if we allow A to happen, then Z will eventually happen too, therefore A should not happen.

The problem with this reasoning is that it avoids engaging with the issue at hand, and instead shifts attention to extreme hypotheticals. Because no proof is presented to show that such extreme hypotheticals will in fact occur, this fallacy has the form of an appeal to emotion fallacy by leveraging fear. In effect the argument at hand is unfairly tainted by unsubstantiated conjecture.

Example: Colin Closet asserts that if we allow same-sex couples to marry, then the next thing we know we'll be allowing people to marry their parents, their cars and even monkeys.



You presented a circular argument in which the conclusion was included in the premise.

This logically incoherent argument often arises in situations where people have an assumption that is very ingrained, and therefore taken in their minds as a given. Circular reasoning is bad mostly because it's not very good.

Example: The word of Zorbo the Great is flawless and perfect. We know this because it says so in The Great and Infallible Book of Zorbo's Best and Most Truest Things that are Definitely True and Should Not Ever Be Questioned.


There are much more fallacies that are commonly used (e.g. Texas Sharpshooter, Not True Scotsman, The FALLACY FALLACY). Please check these links for further research:



Author: Imrich Milo
Last editor: Imrich Milo