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For AP English Language + Composition. From A Rulebook for Arguments by Anthony Weston.

ad hominem

"to the man." attacking the person of a source, rather than his/her qualifications, reliability, or actual argument.
{It's no surprise that Carl Sagan argues for life on Mars--after all, he was a well-known atheist."}

ad ignorantiam

appeal to ignorance. arguing that a claim is true just because 9t has not been shown false.
{I do not have much information on this except that the general statement of the agency is that there is nothing in the files to disprove this Communist connections.}

ad misericordiam

appeal to pity. appealing to pity as an argument for special treatment.
{I know I flunked every exam, but if I don't pass this course, I'll have to retake it in summer school. You have to let me pass!}

ad populum

appealing to the emotions of a crowd, appealing to a person to go along with the crowd
{Everyone's doing it!}

affirming the consequent

if p then q.
therefore, p.

{When the roads are icy, the mail is late. The mail is late. Therefore, the roads are icy.}

begging the question/circular argument/petitio principii

implicitly using your conclusion as a premise
{God exists because it says so in the Bible, which I know is true because God wrote it, after all!}

complex question

posing a question in such a way that people cannot agree or disagree with you without committing themselves to some other claim you wish to promote
{Are you still as self-centered as you used to be?}{Will you follow your conscience instead of your pocketbook and donate to the cause?}

denying the antecedent

if p then q
therefore, not-q.
{When the roads are icy, the mail is late. The roads are icy. Therefore, the mail is late.}


sliding from one meaning of a term to another in the middle of an argument.
{Women and men are physically and emotionally different. The sexes are not "equal" then, and therefor the law should not pretend they are.}

false cause

generic term for any questionable conclusion about cause and effect

false dilemma

reducing the options you consider to just two, often diametrically opposed to each other and unfair to the people against whom the dilemma is posed.
{"Since the universe could not have been created out of nothingness, it must have been created by an intelligent life force."}

loaded language

language that primarily plays on the emotions, manipulating instead of making an argument

non sequitar

drawing a conclusion that "does not follow." general term for bad argument.


generalizing from too few examples

overlooking alternatives

forgetting that things may happen for a variety of reasons, not just one. many fallacies fall into this category

persuasive definition

defining a term in a way that may seem to be straightforward but in fact is loaded.
{evolution: atheistic view that species develop as a result of mere chance events over a supposed period of billions of years}

poisoning the well

using loaded language to disparage an argument before even mentioning it
{I'm confident that you haven't been taken in by those few holdouts who still haven't outgrown the superstition that....} {No sensitive person thinks that...}

post hoc, ergo propter hoc

"after this, therefore because of this." assuming causation too readily on the basis of mere succession in time

red herring

introducing an irrelevant or secondary subject and thereby diverting attention form the main subject

straw man

a caricature of an opposing view, exaggerated from what anyone is likely to hold, so that it is easy to refute

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