HOW TO STOP ARGUING – Common fallacies that we use in our arguments.
Are you interested in learning HOW TO STOP ARGUING? If so, you’re in
the right place! Knowing how to stop arguing isn’t purely intuitive.
In this case, recognizing the flaws in our reasoning will be what helps
us understand how to stop arguing (or at least, why it isn’t productive).
Often, our arguments are not factually sound. I have compiled a list
of the most common ways our arguments are flawed. These flaws are called
Fallacies. As you read through this list of fallacies, try
to see if you ever find yourself using them, or being persuaded
by others who use them.
I believe that by studying these fallacies, we will begin
to see some of the major problems that exist – not only in our arguments,
but in the very act of arguing itself. If we understand this,
we’ll be quicker to catch ourselves when we ourselves are
manipulating the truth in order to win.
Ad hominem –
This fallacy usually involves attacking the character of
the person making the argument. It draws attention to some
undesirable aspect of a person, rather than actually refuting that
person’s logic or reasoning. For example, someone could say,
“How can you agree with that politician’s immigration views?
He’s just a womanizer and a liar!” Do you see? Instead of
attacking the substance of the argument, one attempts to dismiss
the argument overall by attacking the person who gave it.
Appeal to Authority –
This fallacy, also known as “ad verecundiam”, tries to
give credence to a thought or idea by stating that a person or
group of people of high status (or in high-position) support that
same thought or idea. This would be like saying, “You should
be a Cubs fan. A lot of geniuses are cubs fans too! You don’t
want to disagree with geniuses, do you?” As you see, the flaw in
this argument is that an idea cannot be justified simply because a
person or a group of people adopts it. And yet, many of us use
this to try and convince one another of our opinions.
Appeal to emotion –
An appeal to emotion relies on strong feelings to serve
as evidence for a certain claim. For example, somebody could
say, “Automobiles should be outlawed. I can say this because
I’ve lost someone in a car accident. And, unless you’ve looked
into the eyes of a dying car accident victim, held his hand, and
watched him breathe his last agonizing breaths, then your vote
on the matter should not count.”
This fallacy manipulates an opponent by creating a
heartfelt case, rather than using reason. In this case, the
argument didn’t actually offer any logic or evidence for why all
cars should be outlawed, except for the fact that a person has
experienced deep, personal loss.
Appeal to Ignorance –
This fallacy tries to make a claim simply on the grounds
that there is no evidence to the contrary. In other words, it says
“since you can’t prove me wrong, I must be correct”.
A man may say to his wife, “Hey, it’s a good thing we
re-shingled the house. We haven’t had a single leak since ”. The
problem is that the lack of leaks doesn’t necessarily prove that a
new roof was needed. The house may not have leaked to begin
with. Or, it may not be leaking now simply because it hasn’t
been raining. For a plethora of different reasons, we cannot
assume that something is true simply due to a lack of evidence to
Appeal to the Crowd –
This fallacy is similar to “Appeal to Authority”, only it
uses the sheer size of a group to validate the support or
opposition of an idea. A man could use this fallacy when he
makes the claim, “Of course we should buy some shares of that
stock. Everybody is buying it right now!”
While it’s true that everybody may be doing this, we
learned at a young age (usually from our parents and teachers)
that it’s not a good idea to do something just because everybody
else is doing it. In fact, we learned that there is often valid
evidence to support why we shouldn’t do something that
everybody else is doing. The statement we were often told as
children was “if everybody else was walking off of a bridge,
would you do it?”
When we appeal to the crowd, we prove nothing, except
for the fact that many people are either right or wrong. It says
nothing about whether or not we should be a part of that crowd.
Appeal to Tradition –
This fallacy stems from the concept which is voiced in
the saying, “don’t rock the boat”. Basically, one argues that
things should continue to be done as they have been, simply
because that’s how they’ve always been done.
A man may say to his wife, “Honey, we should try out
that new church on Main Street”. His wife may reply, “I
disagree. We’ve been going to our church for years!”
Appeal to Extremes –
This fallacy attempts to validate a claim by opposing the
extreme opposite of that claim. For example, in a marriage,
a woman might say, “I think we should live closer to the city”. When her
husband asks why, she replies “Because, I don’t want to live like
farmers, cut off from all of civilization”.
Her response implies that anyone who opposes her idea
must be in support of living like a farmer, or cut off from
civilization. Of course, this isn’t true. There are plenty of
people who don’t want to live near the city who aren’t farmers,
and who aren’t cut off from civilization. Her appeal to extremes
does not give any validity or support to her idea.
Begging the Question –
This fallacy uses an assumed (or unproven) truth to form
a conclusion. For example, one might say, “Women should not
be in politics, because positions of power shouldn’t be given to
emotionally unstable people.” The point being made is
dependent upon an untrue premise. It begs the question… what
evidence do you have for your supporting statement?
Here is a fallacy that uses a certain word in an invalid
context to create an argument. For example, one could say, “All
men are created with equal rights. Yet, no woman is a man.
Therefore, no women are created with equal rights.” Here, the
word “man” has multiple meanings. It can mean man, as in “a
male person”. Or, it can mean man, as in “mankind”.
Or, someone could say: “paper is not heavy, but light.
Light is the opposite of dark. Therefore, paper cannot be dark.”
Do you see how an invalid statement can easily be made by a
word that has two meanings?
False Dilemma –
This fallacy implies that only two outcomes are possible,
and that both are negative. For example, a man who doesn’t
want to vote could argue, “What’s the point? Either you can
vote republican and have all your civil liberties taken away, or
you can vote democrat and say goodbye to the second
Faulty Analogy –
This fallacy assumes that since two things are similar in
one aspect, they must be similar in other aspects as well. For
example, one could say, “Gym classes should not be coed,
because oil and water simply do not mix”. While it’s true that
oil and water don’t mix, this metaphor isn’t helpful when
speaking about the genders of human beings, and the
inconsistency makes for an invalid argument.
Faulty Cause –
This fallacy, also known as the “Post Hoc” fallacy,
mistakenly links an unrelated cause and effect. For example,
somebody might say, “It’s a good thing we passed the Patriot
Act. Our economy has been slowly rising ever since”.
Or, one might say, “Schools should not have metal
detectors. Ever since they’ve been implemented, suicide rates
have been on the rise”. While these two factors may both be
true, there is no evidence to say that one is actually caused by the
Hasty Generalization –
This fallacy forms a false conclusion based on a sample
that is unlikely to represent the whole. For example, somebody
could say, “Golden retrievers are a vicious breed. There’s one in
my neighborhood that’s bitten two people.”
Hypothesis Contrary to Fact –
This fallacy proposes that a certain outcome would have
happened if circumstances had been other than what they were.
For example, “If my brother hadn’t sprained his ankle in the
third quarter of that game, the team would have gone to the State
championships and won first place.”
This fallacy makes a claim that is self-contradictory. For
example, one might say, “I am opposed to violence of all forms,
and I am willing to fight anybody who opposes me in this.” Or,
“It is unethical to steal. I learned that in a movie that I illegally
Red Herring –
A Red Herring fallacy is one that attempts to distract
somebody from an argument’s weakness by pointing at some
other facet of that argument. For example, a man may say to his
friend, “You forgot to put oil in the engine.” To which his friend
may respond, “Yeah, but I put gas in the tank the last two times.
It seems like I have to do everything.”
While it may be true that he has put gas in the tank the
last two times, and that he may in fact bear a greater burden of
the workload, these factors aren’t really related to the fact that he
forgot to put oil into the engine, and therefore, pose a weak,
Slippery Slope –
This fallacy implies that one event or action will cause a
chain reaction of events or actions to follow, which will
snowball out of proportion to create an extreme end result. An
example would be; “We can’t allow prayer into schools. Kids
would be too distracted. They’d stop paying attention. Next
thing you know, they’d drop out of school and then they’d all
end up homeless”.
Straw Man –
The straw man fallacy is one that attempts to prove a
point by defeating an imaginary adversary. Or, as the term puts
it, a “straw man”. A man could say, “We shouldn’t buy a new
house, because moving won’t solve all of life’s problems.”
While he may be right that moving won’t solve all of his
problems, no one is really advocating that. The argument he
wins is one that no one is really making with him. So, we call it
a “straw man,” because it isn’t real.
Tu Quoque –
This fallacy appeals to hypocrisy. It basically works like
this: one person makes a claim. Another person points out that
the person making the claim is inconsistent to practice it. Then,
he uses this as evidence to say that the claim being made is false.
For example, person A might say, “Hey, I think that if
you were in better shape, you’d feel more energetic”. Person B
might respond, “Whatever. It’s not like you are a bodybuilder”.
Just because somebody isn’t practicing a truth, does not make it
This fallacy uses circular reasoning to base a claim on
unprovable facts. For example, one could say: “you are a witch.
If you try to disagree with me and say that you are not a witch,
then it proves that you are indeed a witch, because witches love
to argue.” The person’s claim leaves no room for other logic, or
for any other option but a forced surrender.
This excerpt was taken from the book, HOW TO STOP ARGUING.
If you enjoyed reading about these fallacies, you will probably also
enjoy the rest of the book, which you can find by clicking: “How To Stop Arguing.” Either click
HERE, or on the image below, if you would like to learn how to stop arguing today!