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Top 10 Logical Fallacies in Debates and Arguments

While full self-sufficiency and off the grid living would be a great solution to any SHTF scenario, we cannot deny that humans are social creatures. So if we have to interact with them, lets at least know how to talk to them.

But not all talks are good. Often times you’ll find yourself arguing with someone. And all too often, people succumb to fallacies. Illogical statements that encourage a position while not actually supporting it. These are especially common in political debates.

Here are ten of the most common fallacies so that you know what not to fall for.

1 – Ad Hominem

This is Latin for “against the man.” This fallacy is when a person attacks someone’s character instead of the argument they are making. For example: John is an alcoholic. John is arguing with Bob about something. Bob says that because John is an alcoholic, his opinion about this is wrong, even though John is actually the one in the right.

2 – The Strawman

What’s easier to attack, a human or a straw man? The straw man is. They’re soft and weak and don’t fight back. This is the basis of the straw man fallacy. This is where someone will focus on a certain aspect of someone’s argument and attack it specifically to delegitimize the whole argument, often exaggerating the points. For example: John believes that shifting government funding away from the government would help lower tax rates on citizens. Bob uses the straw man argument, saying that John wants to run our troops into homelessness.

3 – Appeal to Ignorance

Debating and arguing are all based on information. At its core, it’s a presentation of facts and opinions, determining which is the correct answer. The Appeal to Ignorance fallacy is when someone supports their argument by the lack of facts instead. This is often done by connecting an idea to the lack of information and assuming that the listener will believe that connection to be accurate, even when it isn’t. For example: John believes in vaccinations for his children. Bob does not. Bob argues that vaccines cause autism because that’s what someone told him. Bob doesn’t have any factual evidence toward this claim, though. But when Bob talks to folks online, they appeal to his ignorance, saying that because autistic children exist, it’s because they were vaccinated.

4 – The False Dilemma

Generally speaking, the world isn’t black and white. There are grey areas in just about all aspects of debate. The False Dilemma is when someone presents an argument as if their position is the only solution compared to a much worse solution. This oversimplifies the argument at hand as a “this or that” situation, when that may not be the case. For example: John wants to raise the average salary of school teachers. Bob doesn’t. So Bob says that it’s either higher wages for teachers or lower taxes for citizens, implying there is no other alternative.

5 – The Slippery Slope

Everything leads to something else. That’s the nature of life. It’s tremendously hard to predict, however. The slippery slope argument is when someone implies that the point they are arguing will lead to a much worse outcome down the line, often assuming the worst. For example: John wants to install benches and covers for the local bus stops. Bob doesn’t. Bob argues that building these small shelters will encourage homeless folk to take up shelter in these bus stops, where they will ruin the area and harass your children.

6 – Circular Arguments

Whenever someone makes an argument, they need to have evidence that supports that argument. A circular argument is when their supporting facts lead back to their initial argument, looping into a circle. These, in essence, don’t actually have support. For example: Bob says underage drinking is bad because it’s illegal. When asked why it’s illegal, Bob says it’s because it’s bad. John says it’s bad because of how it can harm a growing body.

7 – The Tu Quoquo argument

That’s Latin for “You Too.” This fallacy is when someone points toward their opponent’s past actions as a reason to disregard their opinion. For example: John tells bob that doing drugs is bad for him. Bob says that John has no right to tell him that because John did drugs in college. John’s past experience with drugs is why he knows they’re bad, but Bob is using this information to invalidate John’s warning.

8 – The Sunken Costs

This is common in both debatings and in personal motivation. When someone invests a lot of time, money, or effort in a task, they are compelled to follow through with the idea, even if it’s no longer a good idea. For example: John is recommending that Bob divorce with his wife. They are no longer happy together and the lost love has been a growing strain on their mental state. Bob doesn’t want to split up because they already have a house and a child together. Bob had already invested a great deal in his marriage and uses that as a reason to stay, even if he is no longer happy with his wife.

9 – Equivocation

Equivocation is, in a way, the opposite of the straw man argument. Instead of focusing on a specific idea, the person arguing is intentionally vague or ambiguous with their words, allowing them to manipulate the meaning. For example: John asks that Bob does not touch the shrub in his yard. Bob agrees but wants it gone. Bob hires someone else to tear up the shrub. When confronted by John, Bob says that he did nothing wrong since he didn’t touch the shrub, the man he hired did.

10 – Bandwagoning

Bandwagoning, or hopping on the bandwagon, is when someone goes through when an idea simply because it’s what a majority of people do. This is most common with kids in social situations. A common phrase muttered by parents is “if everyone else was jumping off a bridge, would you?” For example: John recycles plastic whenever he can. Bob often is found littering, because a lot of people do it anyway.

Keep an Eye Out

Once you become aware of them, these logical fallacies can be seen all of society, from political debates to children’s playgrounds. Once you can recognize them, you’ll know not to fall for them.

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