Just as important as writing clearly and eloquently in writing an argumentative or persuasive essay is having a strong, logical argument. Unfortunately, many, even the best of us, fall into the pitfalls of logical fallacies. To avoid this, you need to be aware of the most common logical fallacies.
What are logical fallacies?
Logical fallacies are errors in reasoning that undermine your argument. These range from illegitimate arguments to irrelevant points that are often unsupported. These kinds of reasoning are not accepted in the academy because they are often wrong and, arguably, a kind of dishonesty. These are often used to direct the discussion toward something else, often something irrelevant, to avoid addressing the actual issue when the writer is unable to defend their stand effectively. If you want to be a respectable writer or researcher, you should definitely avoid logical fallacies. At the same time, you should watch out for others arguing for or against your stand using logical fallacies.
This fallacy argues that if a position must be accepted, then the extreme of that position must also be accepted. A middle ground is not an option, which is often the opposite of reality.
Example: If we allow a few immigrants into the country, soon everyone from other countries will come pouring into our shores.
Perhaps the easiest to spot; this logical fallacy makes a claim, for example about a group of people, based on little evidence. More often than not, hasty generalizations are presented as facts.
Example: My friend who is Asian is very good at math, therefore all Asians are good at math.
Appeal to Emotion
This kind of logical fallacy does not actually make use of logic. Rather, it makes use of emotions in order to win the reader’s sympathy, and thus win the argument.
Example: Chickens are too cute to be killed and eaten, so we must all become vegetarian.
In a straw man fallacy, the opponent’s argument is oversimplified, if not distorted, before being refuted.
Example: Opponent: Healthcare is a human right, which is why it should be made available to everyone through affordable healthcare.
Straw man fallacy: We cannot expect hospitals and doctors to work for free. How will they earn their living if we give free healthcare?
An Ad Hominem fallacy attacks the person making the argument instead of their arguments. This is often done to discredit the person making the argument so as to also discredit their arguments.
Example: It’s only natural that my opponent will say that we should legalize abortion. He does not believe in God!
There are instances however when the attack on the person is relevant to the argument.
For example: It’s no surprise that Mr. Smith is against the law regulating mining because he owns the second biggest mining company in the country.
These are some of the most common logical fallacies you should watch out for not only in your own writing but also in counterarguments presented to you. If you need more help in refining your essay, don’t hesitate to ask us.