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Although fallacies are arguments that violate normative standards for reasoning, under the right circumstances they are perfectly acceptable. That said, competent arguers should typically avoid them and be able to recognize them. This chapter presented what we called the Big Five fallacies: faulty cause, faulty analogy, faulty sign, hasty generalization, and sweeping generalization. First, faulty causal reasoning—which includes committing the post hoc fallacy, the slippery slope argument, and/or confusing correlation with causation—erroneously assumes that an antecedent event (cause) is responsible for a consequent event (effect). Second, the faulty analogy alleges that two things are similar when, in fact, the things are not comparable in important or relevant respects. Third, faulty sign reasoning occurs when people mistake one thing as a reliable indicator for another thing. Fourth, making hasty generalizations involves jumping to conclusions based on limited information. Finally, making sweeping generalizations involves making unfounded universal claims. This chapter also discussed how each type of fallacious reasoning could be countered.


  • 1 Some fallacies, such as false dilemma, involve cognitive errors (Wreen, 2009), other fallacies, such as begging the question, entail faulty premises. Still others, such as ad hominem, violate normative standards for what is considered socially acceptable argument.
  • 2 A discussion of formal logical fallacies can be found in Chapter 11. We’ve separated the discussion of informal and formal logical fallacies here because the former violate pragmatic norms for arguing, while the latter violate the rules of deduction. Interestingly, there is some evidence that skill in identifying formal fallacies correlates with skill in identifying informal fallacies (Ricco, 2007).
  • 3 Hamblin (1970) roundly criticized what he referred to as the “Standard Treatment” of fallacies for being superficial, unsystematic, and atheoretical in nature.
  • 4 Aristotle (1955) divided fallacies into two types; fallacies involving language and fallacies involving things other than language. Schlecht (1991) classified fallacies into three types; unacceptable premises, irrelevant premises, and insufficient premises. Many other classification schemes can be found.


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