The Meaning of Fallacy:
Simply put, a fallacy can be described as ‘a mistake in reasoning’. Fallacies appear to have a logical argument, but on close examination, we see that the argument does not hold up to logical reasoning. Fallacies have found their place in our society and culture through erroneous beliefs, false and exaggerated advertising, and even social acceptance.
Logical fallacies can broadly be classified into two groups: fallacies of relevance and fallacies of insufficient evidence. Fallacies of relevance occur because the premises on which they are based are irrelevant to the conclusion. In contrast, fallacies of insufficient evidence are not based on faulty premises, but are fallacies because they do not have sufficient evidence to support the conclusion.
Taking the example of fallacies of relevance, we cite three examples below:
Example 1: Fallacy of an Appeal to Pity
‘Bill Baxter deserves to be promoted to Vice President. He has three small children, and last week his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer.’
This is an example of the fallacy of an appeal to pity. The fallacy of an appeal to pity occurs when the presenter of the argument attempts to evoke feelings of pity or compassion, when such feelings, however understandable, are not relevant to the arguer’s conclusion. In the example cited, the promotion of Bill Baxter to Vice President should have nothing to do with his family situation-the fact that he has three small children, and that his wife has been diagnosed with breast cancer. His promotion should only be considered based upon his skills and ability on the job. Therefore if he is promoted on the grounds of pity i.e. his family situation, it would be a glaring error of judgement.
Example from A Real Life Situation:
While this is an example of bad decision making, in everyday life there are many such situations we are faced with. For example, some interviewers view married men to be more responsible than unmarried men. This is because of the presumption (not necessarily correct) that men become more stable and responsible after marriage. The act of marriage imbues them so to say, with a greater sense of responsibility. Having to be the breadwinner for a wife and kids presumes that he has become more stable, and will take greater responsibility and work with greater ardor. Thus some interviewers are inclined to favor married men over unmarried, in positions of responsibility. This argument may not hold true however, because its premise is not necessarily valid. The act of marriage does not always and automatically make a man more responsible and stable. In fact, there are many cases of unmarried men rising to great heights in a profession, because of the fact that they have not been bogged down by the pressures of marriage. If anything, the interviewer should not be biased on this account, but should view the hiring decision based upon the interviewee’s past performance and levels of responsibility that he has assumed in past jobs.
Example 2: Look Who’s Talking Fallacy:
‘My driving instructor, Mr. Peterson, told me that it’s dangerous to drive without a seatbelt. But why should I listen to him? Last week, I saw him driving without a seatbelt.’
This is an example of the look who’s talking fallacy. The fallacy of look who’s talking is committed when the arguer rejects another person’s argument or claim because that person fails to practice what he or she preaches. Whilst the most relevant examples that spring to mind relate to the differences between what professionals advise us compared to what they do themselves e.g the driving instructor telling others to use a seatbelt, when he himself does not (at least on the occasion he was seen by his student), or a priest admonishing us to live a virtuous life when he himself is involved in a sex scandal. The look who’s talking fallacy can relate to any situation in which a leading or authority figure does not practice what he/she preaches, therefore our respect and acceptance of what he/she says becomes circumspect.
Example from A Real Life Situation:
A good example of this situation would be if Bill Clinton were to lecture on the virtues of monogamous marriage (because he himself was involved in an extramarital affair). At most his audience would view him with amusement, and notwithstanding the virtues of monogamous marriage, would fail to see him as a good spokesman on the issue.
Example 3: The Bandwagon Argument
Beef Industry Slogan: Beef: Real food for real people.
This is an example