Category : Smart Thinking

Critical Thinking Logic & Reasoning Smart Thinking

Logical Fallacies: Cause and Effect

Circular Logic

A conclusion which relies on a premise which is based on the conclusion.

Example: “The Bible is the word of God – I know that because it says it in the Bible and it must be true because the Bible is the word of God.”

Denying the Antecedent

Assuming that a cause is based on the effect when there are multiple possible causes.

Example: “If you get a good degree, you’ll get a good job. If you don’t get a degree, you won’t get a good job.”

Ignoring a Common Cause

Claiming a link between 2 events, when there is a 3rd event which is likely to be the cause.

Example: “During the 60s  there was a sexual revolution, because of that people are dying of AIDS.”

Cum Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc

Claiming that 2 events that occur together must have a cause-effect relationship and assuming that correlation = cause.

Example: “Smart people wear glasses, so wearing glasses must make you smarter.”

Affirming the Consequent

Assuming that there’s only one explanation for an observation you’ve made.

Example: “Marriage usually results in children, so that’s why marriage exists.”

Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc

The claim that because one event followed another, it was caused by it. Another cause-effect fallacy.

Example: “Since Obama became president, ISIS has become more powerful. Therefore, Obama has caused the rise of ISIS.”

Two Wrongs Make a Right

If someone is wronged, then another wrong will cancel it out

Example: “They killed 100 of our soldiers, so we need to kill 100 of their soldiers to make it right.”

Read More
Critical Thinking Logic & Reasoning Smart Thinking

Logical Fallacies: Manipulating Content

Converse to attacking a person or group to discredit their argument, manipulating content takes a person’s argument and twists it into something entirely different or to manipulate your argument to make it appear more persuasive.

Confirmation Bias

When you cherry pick evidence which confirms your existing beliefs, but ignore all evidence to the contrary as erroneous or irrelevant.

Example: Paying more attention to the 5 studies which show a link between vaccines and autism than the 1,000+ studies which disprove any link.

Suppressed Evidence

The deliberate neglect of relevant evidence/information which counters your own argument.

Example: “Iraq has weapons of mass destruction and so we should invade.” This ignores the reports that show no evidence of such weapons.

Biased Generalising

Using an unrepresentative sample of people to bolster your argument.

Example: “75% of people would vote for Bernie Sanders” Based on a poll only of students.

Ad Hoc Rescue

Trying to protect a belief or idea by revising the argument each time a flaw is found.

Example: “Apart from the freedom to live in any EU country, the millions of jobs it sustains, increased security, strong business links, lower import costs and greater political influence,  what has the European Union ever done for us?”

False Dilemma

Positioning two options as the only two options and deliberately hiding or suppressing alternatives.

Example: “You have to choose between the Republicans or the Democrats.”

Misleading Vividness

By describing a situation in detail, even if that situation is rare or unlikely in order to convince that it is more of a problem that it truly is.

Example: “After gay marriage was legalised, school libraries now stock same-sex literature. This means that primary school children are exposed to gay fairy tales and books which promote a gay lifestyle”.

Red Herring

Intentional introduction of irrelevant material to distract from the argument and alter the conclusion.

Example: “The Prime Minister doesn’t need to disclose his tax returns. After all, there are corporations who have billions of pounds in unpaid tax.”

Slippery Slope

The assumption that a single small step in one direction will lead to an inevitable chain of increasingly worse events.

Example: “If we introduce stricter gun control, the government will be more controlling and we’ll be living in a dystopian country”.


Suggesting a claim or argument that is impossible to prove false, purely because there is no way to check it’s validity.

Example: “He is a Prophet and speaks the message of God.”

Read More
Critical Thinking Logic & Reasoning Smart Thinking

Logical Fallacies: On the Offensive

When we disagree with someone, often it’s easier to try and discredit the person or to manipulate their argument in order to make it weaker and easier to attack. Generally, this occurs by attacking the person themselves, rather than attacking the content of the argument.

The below are common approaches that this can take:

Ad Hominem

Ignoring the argument itself and attacking the person making the claim.

Example: “Anyone who wants to leave the EU is just a racist.”

Circumstance Ad Hominem

Saying that a claim has no credibility because of the person’s own interest in the claim.

Example: “This study on the cancer-beating properties of cannabis was funded by the pharmaceutical companies and so can’t be trusted..”

Guilt By Association

Ignoring or discrediting a claim or an idea by associating it with an undesirable group.

Example: “So if you think that The Patriot Act is inhumane, does that mean you support terrorism?”

Genetic Fallacy

Attacking a claim’s cause or origin rather than it’s content.

Example: “Are you surprised that the rich don’t complain that tax havens are unfair?”

Straw Man

Exaggerating, distorting or overly simplifying a claim and then arguing against the manipulated claim.

Example: “You think that Syrians shouldn’t escape to the EU, so you’re saying that Syrians don’t deserve to live in the EU, that they’re lesser than you?”

Burden of Proof

Rather than trying to prove your claim, you expect the other person to prove your claim to be false.

Example: “God exists, if you can’t prove me wrong, then  am right.”

Read More
Critical Thinking Logic & Reasoning Smart Thinking

Logical Fallacies: Appeals to Emotion

Appeals to emotion are deliberate manipulations and selective word choice in order to provoke an emotional reaction and to bypass rational thought.

Appeal to Flattery

Using a compliment to disarm and distract in order to slip in an unfounded claim which is accepted alongside the compliment. The compliments/flattery are a form of Trojan horse.

Example: “My intelligent followers will recognise that leaving the European Union is the only reasonable option.”

Appeal to Wishful Thinking

Stating that a claim is true or false simply because you hope that it is.

Example: “There must be life after death, otherwise it’s just emptiness.”

Appeal to Nature

Drawing parallels with nature to imply that your claim is correct.

Example: “Homosexuality is a sin, otherwise why don’t you see homosexual animals?” – this argument is wrong both rhetorically and factually.

Appeal to Fear

A claim which is made stronger by creating a sense of fear and terror.

Example: “If we don’t build a wall, soon Mexicans will steal the jobs of hardworking Americans.”

Appeal to Consequences

Similar to wishful thinking, this is where you argue that a belief is true or false mostly because you don’t want to believe the implications of the opposing belief.

Example: “The reports on weapons of mass destruction must be true, otherwise that would mean that we went to war with Iraq illegally.”

Appeal to Pity

This is quite common on TV talent shows. A person tries to use pity to influence or sway a person’s opinion.

Example: “He lost his wife 6 months ago, rejecting him would be wrong.”

Appeal to Ridicule

Manipulating, exaggerating or presenting an opponent’s argument to make it look ridiculous.

Example: “Beliving in God is just like believing in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny.”

Appeal to Spite

Ignoring or dismissing a potentially valid argument due to a personal bias against the claimant.

Example: “Sally’s idea just won’t work, she’s too impractical.”

Read More
Critical Thinking Logic & Reasoning Smart Thinking

Logical Fallacies: Appeals to the Mind

This is part 1 of a 6-part blog series exploring the errors in our thinking. Being humans, we all suffer from logical fallacies from time to time. Logical fallacies occur when your argument doesn’t hold true if you follow the principles of logical reasoning.

Since they are often so convincing, we all fall prey to these fallacies. In fact, because they’re so easy to take advantage of, we often do it on purpose, especially seasoned debaters.

Politicians, for example, are skilled at using our logical fallacies to their advantage, relying on the public ignorance and mass acceptance of the flaws in their logic. We’ll explore deliberate manipulations of rhetoric which aim to mislead or influence the opinions of others. The first post focuses on appeals to the mind.

Appeal to Anonymous Authority

Using evidence from experts or studies which are unnamed to claim that something is true or more likely. Usually, the claim is fabricated, but an anonymous authority is quoted to give more credence to the idea. I admit that I am often guilty of this, though it’s usually when I can’t remember the source for some information or fact.

Example: “They say that…” or “Studies have shown that…”

Appeal to Authority

Especially common at universities, this is when we claim that something is true purely because an expert, qualified or not, says that it’s true.

Example: “50 different doctors say that vaccinations cause autism.”

Appeal to Common Practice

Claiming that something is true or the best approach simply because it is commonly practiced. This argument could be used in the 18th century to justify slavery.

Example: “Every restaurant in this city handles tips in this way.”

Appeal to Popular Belief (Argumentum ad populum)

Similar to common practice, this is when we claim that something is true purely because the majority of people believe it to be true – common among religious debaters.

Example: “The jury believe that the defendant is guilty, therefore she must be.”

Appeal to Tradition

Very common in offices and other bureaucratic environments ist the claim that something is true because it’s always been that way.

Example: “We’ve always done it this way and it’s never failed us before.

Argument from Ignorance

Again, found regularly in religion – a claim must be true, simply because it’s not been proven to be false or vice versa. This shifts the burden of proof from the claimant to the opposition and is quite a lazy and defensive approach.

Example: “God must exist because you can’t prove otherwise.” or “God doesn’t exist because you can’t prove that he/she/it does”.

Appeal to Incredulity

If a claim sounds unbelievable, then it’s not possible for it to be true.

Example: “The human body is so complex that it couldn’t possibly exist by chance, we must have been designed by aliens.”

Appeal to Probability

The assumption that just because something is probable, that it is inevitable.

Example: “There are billions of galaxies, each with billions of stars and each with orbiting planets – given those numbers, aliens must exist.”

Appeal to Money

The assumption that a product/service that is more expensive is better or that wealthy people are more “right” than their poorer counterparts.

Example: “If Apple products weren’t the best, they wouldn’t be so expensive.”

The next article will cover appeals to emotion and the ways we try to use emotion or our own thoughts are influenced by emotion.

Read More
1 2 3 4 5 6