Fun with Informal Rhetorical Fallacies

Ignoratio Elenchi: (An irrelevant conclusion, irrelevant thesis, or wrong conclusion fallacy; it is not the same thing as the “Red Herring” fallacy.)

Example:

“It is now legal in Baltimore for same-sex couples to marry. The law took effect January 1st, 2013. This year, Baltimore has also suffered a steep rise in gun-related criminal activity. Therefore, gay marriage caused the increase in firearm violence.”

 

The “Red Herring” fallacy: (The “smokescreen” defense; intentional misdirection.)

Example:

Student: “It is not ok to sleep with your best friend’s girlfriend.”

Professor Higgs: “Whose rule is that, exactly? Who said it’s ‘not okay’?”

Student: “Everybody! It’s just something we all know!”

Professor Higgs: “Please name ‘everybody’ to whom you are referring.”

 

Ad Hominem: (An argument directed toward an opponent’s character; one that has little to do with the topic/argument at hand.)

Example:

Reginald: “You’re a feminist; of course, you don’t like men!”

Feminist Frannie: “That’s a ridiculously ignorant argument. It’s an ad hominem fallacy.”

Reginald: “You’re an ad hominem fallacy.”

 

The “Straw Man” fallacy: (The misrepresentation of an opponent’s argument.)

Example:

Student: “Marijuana should be legalized. Alcohol is a far more dangerous substance. People can drink themselves to death in one night. I don’t know if there’s even one single recorded marijuana overdose. People can’t overdose on pot; they just pass out.”

Professor Higgs: “Do you realize how chaotic the aftermath of legalizing drugs would be? Imagine how people would be driving–“

Student: “But I’m not arguing that all drugs–“

Professor Higgs: “Shhhh. I’m talking. If drugs were legalized, there would be such an uptick in overdose-related deaths–“

Student: “You’re not listening!”

Professor Higgs:  “So, because I’m not listening, I’m therefore an ineffective debate opponent? Is that what you’re saying?” (Ignoratio Elenchi)

Student: “No, what I’m saying is, ‘What idiot hired you?'” (Ad Hominem)

Professor Higgs: “It’s not ok to speak to your elders that way.”

Student: “Who made up that stupid rule?” (The Red Herring fallacy)

Professor Higgs: “You just earned 25 extra credit points.”

Student: “Sheesh, because I earned them, that’s for sure.” (Logical argument)

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