Rhetorical Fallacies: Sliding down a Slippery Slope with Pigs

“I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.” George Bernard Shaw
Beware of Pigs

One tool of “pigs” in manipulative persuasion is the rhetorical fallacy.  A fallacy is a deliberate mis-use of logical argument.  You’ll find them regularly in political, social and family “discussions”.  Don’t get drawn in to a debate centered on a fallacy.  Ignore the fallacy and re-connect with the argument.

Ski Trail 4496Here are eight common rhetorical fallacies:

  • Slippery slope – “If we let Europe regulate our banks, next we will all be speaking German“. This fallacy connotates a small (reasonable) step with a much larger (unreasonable) outcome.
  • Sweeping Generalization – “Smoking kills; therefore all smokers are suicidal“. This generalizes one element of a decision to smoke in absence of the broader set of reasons for smoking.
  • Hasty generalization – “Everyone I know likes chocolate; therefore everyone likes chocolate“. My sample is not representative of the larger population.
  • Straw man – “If we just open up our borders, every beggar, lazy and crazy will be here tomorrow.”   This is a false argument that avoids the real issue.
  • False choice – “You’re either with us, or against us.”  This statement presents 2 options when in reality 3 or more choices exist.  Another common example: “If you really loved me, you would…
  • Argument from authority – “Because I’m your father“.  There is no logic involved.  This is not an argument.  
  • Argument from force – “Give me the toy or my big brother will beat you up.”  No argument, just the threat of force.  It can be subtle.  
  • Ad hominem attacks – “Vote for me because the other guy is a liar.”  A personal attack, ignoring the actual argument.


Beware the Pigs Inside

These are used by other people, but I sometimes find that some of my own inner reasoning falls into the fallacy structure.  As I reflect on my own thinking processes, I watch carefully for use of these fallacies.  My ego loves to come up with self-serving but false logic to prove my “rightness”.

Have you spotted any fallacies today?

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