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The Informal Fallacies

16 Jan 2017Other Essays


In this paper, fallacy is a misconception resulting from incorrect reasoning. It is usually a part of an argument, it demonstrates to be flaws in it logic and form and this renders the argument invalid. It is a fault in an argument, and this misleads the mind. The flaws may be intentional or unintentional. If the flaw is intentional, we sometimes call it a sophism (A deliberately invalid argument displaying ingenuity in reasoning in the hope of deceiving someone). One’s understanding of fallacies might be use for good — in order to avoid or expose error or it may be for evil — in order to subtly deceive people. Sometimes it indicates false belief. There are two forms of fallacies: informal or formal fallacies

Informal fallacy

Informal fallacy can simply be defined a misconception of reasoning that depends on the meaning of the words and sentences involved in arguments. Correct reasoning involves expression, which must be clear and valid. Hence, informal fallacy has an incorrect reasoning with unclear expression. Informal fallacies are group into the following: fallacies of relevance or verbal fallacies. Fallacy of relevance can also be pided into the following categories; fallacies of causal reasoning, and fallacies resulting from ambiguities, fallacies of accident, converser fallacies of argument, irrelevant conclusion, affirming the consequent, denying the antecedent, begging the question, call to perfection, fallacy of false cause, fallacy of many question.

Verbal fallacies are as follows; equivocation, connotation fallacy, fallacies of composition, amphibology, pision, proof by verbosity.

Difference between formal and informal fallacies Formal fallacies have invalid form while the informal fallacies have incorrect reasoning with unclear expression. Informal fallacy can be a counterfeit argument, i.e., a type of argument that may seem to be correct, but which proves on examination to be false. Informal fallacies, unlike formal fallacies, are not fallacies of form. Extra logical or emotional appeals usually constitute one of the sources of persuasion in informal fallacies. Formal fallacies usually have fault in the form, arrangement or technical organization of an argument.

It is also deals with the logic of the technical structure, while informal fallacies deal with the logic of the meaning of language. Formal fallacies focus mainly on the structure of the words while the informal fallacies focus mainly on the meaning or the argument. Informal fallacies involve things like the misuse of language such as words or grammar, wrong facts statement, wrong opinion, or plain illogical sequences of thought. Formal fallacies can be reduced to symbolic formulas while we cannot reduce informal fallacies to symbolic formulas.

Informal fallacies are illusory awful English or error due to ambiguity or vagueness of a term or phrase, or an entire sentence. The source of the fallacy is usually the pretense that the statement is logically relevant. In formal fallacy, the concluding statement can be objectively true but this truth does not depend on or follow from the other statements. If the real term used within the argument is change this can actually affects the overall value of truth of the argument but this change in term will not affect the validity of the argument. Formally valid argument can be, e.g. all cats are mammals, all lion are cats; hence all lions are mammals….the statement is said to be true and valid. The second example is saying that; “some men are black”, “Clinton is a man” hence “Clinton is black.” The statement is false but valid.

Examples of formally invalid arguments are:

Some men are green,

Socrates is a man hence

Socrates is green.

From the arguments above the ending statement does not follow that proceeds it and it may actually be true, but taking into consideration the meaning of the first statement it is easy to identify that the statement is not valid because it only say something about some men and not all men.

Reason for us to commit informal fallacies frequently

  • Academic, this can occur for instance, when we just listen to both side of arguments and we then refused to take a decision saying, “I've heard speeches from both candidates and probably they would both be okay. So, I'm going to stay home and not vote for either.”
  • Black or white fallacy - an argument presents two alternatives as if no other alternative is possible e.g. From a TV ad: If you do not use Dettol antiseptic solution, your skin rashes will embarrass you.
  • Rationalization –to make excuses that are not the real reasons something happened (such as saying he failed the test because the teacher hates him.)
  • Political positions: Some people believe the old conservative ways are the best; others believe the new ways are better; or that the truth always lies somewhere in between.
  • Informal fallacies can also be seen is some situations when we want to convince someone such as parents; But all my friends’ parents are letting them go to the concert.
  • Wishful thinking: believing something to be true because it is desirable to be true (I worked so hard on my science fair project that I have to win first place.)

Examples of fallacies, their description and their category

  1. Accident, applying a general rules to a particular case whose characteristics render the rule inapplicable. "What you bought yesterday, you eat today; you bought raw meat yesterday; therefore you eat raw meat today." This is fallacy of accident and it falls into the category of fallacy of relevance. In this case, the subject matter differs from that which concludes it.
  2. Argumentum ad Ignorant am, argument from ignorance, something must be true because it cannot be disproved, or be false because it cannot be proven. I.e. Intelligent design argument against Darwinism theory this also falls under the category of fallacy of relevance and it of argument ad ignorant Ian type.
  3. Argumentum ad populum “All women who want both career and marriage seem to feel very happy about doing both! That is what all successful women say. This also falls under the category of fallacy of irrelevance.
  4. Equivocation. The end of a thing is its perfection; death is the end of life, therefore, death is the perfection of life." This is a type of Fallacy of ambiguity. This occurs when the same word is use in two or more senses.

Steps in avoiding informal fallacies

  • Do not ignore the context in determining when to label something as informal fallacy.
  • Identify counterfeit argument by labeling is correctly.
  • Define all ambiguous or vague terms clearly and properly.
  • Construct a counter example, analogous in every respect with the informal fallacy in which the premises are obviously true and the conclusion is obviously false.
  • Sometimes it might be necessary to direct complex questions to another in some situations such saying, “Where did you hide the body?”


Elihu, Carranza. (1999). Informal fallacies. Logic study 6. Retrieved July 9, 2008. From www.sjsu.com

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