Rhetorical appeals are logical fallacies when one presents them as reasons to accept an assertion. Rhetorical appeals are logically irrelevant because they don't attempt to state premises that prove or disprove a conclusion, instead, rhetoric is an attempt to appeal to one's emotions rather than one's reason. For this reason, we can refer to all rhetorical appeals in logical arguments as False Signs.  I attempt to list these fallacies from the most brutish, onward.

Appeal to FaithEdit

This is the claim that you can possess truth or knowledge with faith. It is not an epistemological position, it is a rejection of epistemology itself. . Theistic faith or non contingent faith, is a claim that one does not need justification to hold a belief. Therefore faith cannot stand in as a premise in a logical argument. (Colloquial usages of faith that equate faith with trust are not at odds with reason.)

See also: the argument to uncertainty and the universal skepticism fallacy.

The "appeal to faith" is often used in a different way by theists - who claim that all forms of thought rest upon faith. This claim, which was created to undermine reason itself, is false. There is no need for a baseless belief when one has reasons to believe, be they axioms or pragmatism. See the quote under the Stolen Concept Fallacy for more on this.

Faith, by definition, relies on a belief that does not rest on logic or evidence. Faith depends on irrational thought (i.e., a desire) and produces intransigence. Faith has never been shown to be anything more than believing what you want to believe no matter the reality. Historically, people "of faith" have used the very next appeal that follows "to alter the opinions" of their opponents.

What to look out for:  Faith is not a means to gain knowledge. Faith is simply an assertion that one can accept a belief without justification.

Appeal to Force: Ad BaculumEdit

We can call this the Sledgehammer Fallacy - Argument through intimidation. Threat or harm is promised or implied to the listener if the conclusion is not accepted. The crudest of crude fallacies and the "logic" of that oafish overvalued officer, Major West...


Smith! Concede that Platonic Reals have an existence external from the mind!

Never, you ninny!

What to look for:  In an appeal to force, you are never given any reason for believing - you are given a reason to comply.

Appeal to RidiculeEdit

The Appeal to Ridicule is a fallacy in which ridicule or mockery is substituted for argument.

Appeal to PityEdit

In Latin, Ad Misericordiam. Here, a blatant attempt to invoke sympathy is offered. The protypical example is the downtrodden employee who implores his boss to give him a raise so that he can take better care for his starving children. He has not given his boss a reason why he deserves an increase of salary, only a reason why he needs more money. Note well the difference.

Warning catchphrase  Simple - Ad Misericordiam arguments usually focus on the happenstance or misfortune of a person or people and draw upon feelings of guilt.

Appeal to SuperiorityEdit

Akin to the appeal of snobbery, this is an appeal that claims that one's proposition must be true, since it is is not shared by the common man - but only held within intellectual circles. See the next fallacy.

Appeal to the PeopleEdit

Ad Populum. Advertising makes heavy use of this appeal. The most common approach would be the the bandwagon appeal which implies that some claim must be true, because everyone of any note or importance believes it. But in an argument, it doesn't matter who believes in a claim or how many people believe in a claim, what matters are the reasons why they believe in the claim.

Warning, Warning!:   Ad populum arguments prey upon our lesser side our pride, our fears, and our petty hatreds.

Note: Ad Populum is often equated with Ad Numerum, which follows below. Some hold the two to be identical and therefore, interchangeable, others hold that a true Bandwagon appeal makes an appeal only to others in the immediate vicinity (those around the bandwagon) whereas the appeal to numbers cites overall numbers of people who hold to a belief. Feel free to use the terms as you wish.

Appeal to Beliefs - "Everybody Knows That!"Edit

This is the fallacy of simply asserting that a claim ought to be well known or obvious, and that therefore, it should simply be accepted. This is a particularly insidious rhetorical appeal because it is often an attempt to use people's vanity against them: since most people are unwilling to appear ignorant of such claims, they tend to accept them to avoid appearing ignorant. The listener's desire to be accepted or respected or simply avoid appearing ignorant is taken advantage of... to... The implication that an arguer's conclusion is already common knowledge, ergo true, leaves an opponent who asks for evidence left open to appearing ignorant.

"Surely you are aware of X? Everyone knows it, I don't even need to cite a source, do I"?

An excellent example of a television character strongly influenced by this appeal would be 'Barney Fife' from The Andy Griffith Show.

Argumentum ad NumerumEdit

This fallacy is closely related to the ad populum fallacy. It consists of asserting that the more people who support or believe a proposition, the more likely it is that that proposition is correct. There is at least a weak correlation between the number of people who accept a proposition and it's validity - but correlation is not causality.

Argumentum ad NauseamEdit

A fallacious argument is more likely to be accepted as true if it is repeated over and over. We can also refer to this process as Propaganda. Joseph Goebbels discovered that if something is repeated enough times, people will eventually come to accept it as true, even unquestionable.

Here is a nice example of this fallacy. It appeared on a web site of a "martial arts master" who argued over the existence of something called "Qi". The page is a good example of logical fallacies.

If Qi were just a concept, why would there be such a plethora of information regarding it's importance and use?

Argumentum ad nauseam is also a suspect debate tactic. Debaters can wear out the opposition by just repeating arguments until they get sick of the whole thing and give in.

Appeal to WonderEdit

This fallacy occurs when someone declares that any statement which appears too novel, too wonderful or astounding, must be false, simply because of the sensation of wonder or amazement the statement causes. There is nothing wrong with this sense of wonder causing us to take pause, and express doubt, but to rely solely on this sensation as a rebuttal is a logical fallacy. As Carl Sagan stated in Candle In The Dark, science (i.e. rational thinking) is a blend of wonder and skepticism, neither alone is sufficient

A nearly identical fallacy is the the Appeal to Incredulity

Appeal to IncredulityEdit

Another form of the appeal to wonder, this fallacy occurs when we assert an argument is false because the conclusion seems too incredible to us. A very famous example would be Einstein's denial of quantum theory - "god does not play dice with the universe!" The fact that a conclusion appears incredible to us is not a fit refutation for an argument. What matters is whether the evidence justifies the premises of an argument, and whether the argument form is sound. If the argument is valid and sound, it's conclusion is true, no matter how perturbing the conclusion is...

The fact that a conclusion appears incredible to us is meaningless. What matters is whether the evidence justifies the premises of an argument, and whether the argument form is sound. If both of the facts are true, then the argument is valid and sound, no matter how perturbing the conclusion is.

Let me speak for the theistic side, for a change. There have been times - when I've studied brain anatomy and have had the thought "This is just a bit too much to have come about by natural processes"

So I can appreciate how others get this sense too. A sense of wonderment.

But seeing as a sense of wonder only speaks to being overwhelmed by the limits of our understanding, we can't allow this sense of wonderment put a stop to our striving to understand. Yes I can appreciate how the "complexity" of the world can lead a theist to say "goddidit". But we would only be reifying our ignorance if we were to stop here. It would be a sign of of intellectual laziness to stop at this sensation, and to call it a discovery - or an answer.

So while I can see how both the uneducated and the informed can wonder at complexity, but to say things are "too complex" is only to say that we we find it marvelous and wondrous.

Appeal to NormalityEdit

This is the fallacy of believing that any behavior that becomes a common practice must be a valid behavior. We often make culturally based assumptions on just what is normal. And they rely on limited knowledge. But many commonly accepted practices are reevaluated and found morally wanting. It was once normal to own slaves and beat your children, for example. But not many today would argue that those once normal practices were correct. See the next fallacy, as well as the Appeal to Natural Law fallacy.

Appeal to TraditionEdit

This is the fallacy of asserting that something must be right or good because "that's the way it's always been." It is a form of an appeal to Antiquity. The concept is akin to the following fallacy:

Appeal to AntiquityEdit

Argumentum ad antiquitatem. This is the fallacy of asserting that something is right or good simply because it's old. This mindset was directly responsible for the error of the scholastics, who held that Aristotle and Plato had to be correct in their views on science and nature, because they were venerable philosophers from a golden age. In fact, this very fallacious mindset is behind the entire concept of a 'golden age'. The reality is that the past was a brutal, primitive and ignorant world to live in.

Example: "For thousands of years Christians have believed in Jesus Christ. Christianity must be true, to have persisted so long even in the face of persecution."
Response: It is not the antiquity of a tale that is an evidence of its truth; on the contrary, it is a symptom of its being fabulous. - Thomas Paine, Age of Reason

Argumentum ad NovitatemEdit

This is the opposite of the Argumentum ad Antiquitatem; it's the fallacy of asserting that something is better or more correct simply because it is new, or newer than something else. Yes, it's true that our distant ancestors were brutes, but not every new idea is automatically better than what they came up with.

Christianity is just the thought of the ancients. Modern science is latest way of thinking, and therefore the best.

Appeal to WealthEdit

Argumentum ad crumenam. The fallacy of believing that money is a criterion of correctness; that those with more money are more likely to be right. The opposite is known as Argumentum ad Lazarum. Example: "Microsoft software is undoubtedly superior; why else would Bill Gates have got so rich?"

Appeal to PovertyEdit

Argumentum ad lazarum. This is the fallacy of assuming that someone poor is more virtuous than someone who is wealthier. This fallacy is the opposite of the Argumentum ad Crumenam. For example:

Monks are more likely to possess insight into the meaning of life, as they have given up the distractions of wealth.

Poor people can be stupid too, and often are. This fallacy stems from a psychological phenomena: we tend to find that our own characteristics and strong points are the most important characteristics and strongp oints for everyone. If you are poor, you're likely to find wealthy people to be inferior to you in some way.

Appeal to Adverse ConsequencesEdit

This argument is based on holding that what a person "wishes" to be true, must be true, because the alternative is to undesirable to consider.

Drsmith dark



Pascal's Wager is a famous example of this fallacy.

Example: A God offering us eternal life must exist; because if He didn't, where will I end up after I die?

Let's examine the illogic of this claim. A useful tool for uncovering the fallacious nature of an argument is through substituting new premises into the form of the argument:

A parachute offering me an escape from the horrible fall I am now experiencing after being tossed from the empire state building must exist; because if it doesn't, what will happen to me when I hit the ground?

Clearly, our own hopes and desires for a thing does not make it so.

Here is a classic example of this fallacy:

If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, then we are to be pitied more than all men." (1 Corinthians 15:13-19, NIV)

In other words, if you don't believe Christ was raised from the dead, then we must face the painful reality that the dead are merely dead. And such a position would be pitiful. Therefore, we should accept the belief.

Warning signals  Watch out for an opponent who confuses what he desires to be true for what is true. When this occurs, disengage from the conversation, as you are wasting your time... and his.

Against the PersonEdit

One of the few fallacies known better by its Latin nomenclature than its English equivalent, the Ad hominem fallacy occurs when one makes an issue of the arguer himself, rather than his argument. The intent is more than just to hurl an insult, it's the act of insulting with the intent of undermining the credibility or competence of the arguer, so that one simply ignores the argument altogether. So the intent is to get people to simply dismiss the argument without ever considering it.

There are valid forms of ad hominem - in the case of testimony, the character of testifier is the source of credibility for the claim. However, to doubt or reject a valid deduction based on the source, is an ad hominem fallacy. For more on legitimate forms of ad hominem, see below.

Types of Ad Hominem fallaciesEdit

Ad homninem abusiveEdit

Ad homninem abusive is the most crude form of ad hominem. It is a direct assault upon a person's intellect or moral character in order to undermine the argument.

The fool sayeth in his heart that there is no god.

Simply being insulted by your opponent is NOT ad hominem. It's an INSULT. To refer to an insult as ad hominem is to misapply this fallacy. To put it briefly, If I were to call, say, this robot:


A clinking, clanking collection of corroded cathodes!

...a clinking, clanking collection of corroded cathodes, this would merely be an insult, and a well earned one at that. If I were to reject one of his emotionally driven arguments because he's a clinking, clanking, collection of corroded cathodes, I would be committing an ad hominem fallacy.

Ad Hominem CircumstantialEdit

This fallacy is the questioning of an arguer's motives. Freud's famous attack on the motives of Christians, in: Civilization and its Discontents, can be taken as an ad hominem circumstantial attack - if one refuses to acknowledge Freud's comments that the question of the validity of Christianity has been settled elsewhere.

Ad FidentiaEdit

(Against Self-Confidence) occurs when a debater attacks his opponent's confidence instead of the argument. Ad Fidentia is a fallacy, because however unconfident a person may be in their assertions, their ideas may still be correct. We must challenge facts and logic, and not people.

Genetic FallacyEdit

This fallacy occurs when it is held that a claim must be false because it originates from a certain person or institution. The classic example is "Hitler/Mussolini/Bin Laden says 2+2=4, but it must be untrue, because he was a Nazi/tyrant/terrorist." In fact, take a look at the next fallacy....

Argumentum ad NaziumEdit

Also known as "Reductio ad Hitlerum" or "Guilt by Association". This is a specific Genetic fallacy.

Unfortunately, it does not go without saying that in our examination we must avoid the fallacy that in the last decades has frequently been used as a substitute for the reductio ad absurdum: the reductio ad Hitlerum. A view is not refuted by the fact that it happens to have been shared by Hitler. Source: Leo Strauss, Natural Right and History (1976), pp. 42-43.

Here is a nice example, taken from:

Well, look at the history. Jung was an editor for the Nazi papers during World War II. … Look at the experimentation the Nazis did with electric shock and drugging. Look at the drug methadone. That was originally called Adolophine. It was named after Adolf Hitler.

- Source: "Q&A: Tom Cruise", Entertainment Weekly, 6/9/2005

Poisoning the WellEdit

This is a form of ad hominem similar to the genetic fallacy, wherein your opponent attempts to weaken your argument with points that are true, but which are extraneous to the current argument. Specifically, poisoning the well typically occurs when a person is connected in only a superficial way, to an unsavory person or cause. A great example can be heard by listening to Sean Hannity, a Fox political pundit, who can't help but throw in every supposed Clinton scandal (proven or unproven) into every discussion about Clinton, or bring up unpopular person Barack Obama may have once briefly passed in a hallway.

Guilt by AssociationEdit

This fallacy is used in two general forms: one, the crude form, directly links the arguer to some unsavory individual, such as pointing out that your opponent is one of "Newt Gingrich's boys". In the less crude, more indirect form, your opponent links you to another who might not necessary be in disfavor, but might also support views that are more extreme as yours. For example: "My opponent frequently sides with Governor Ventura, who is on record for legalized marijuana." Unless the opponent also explicitly agrees with the legalization of marijuana, this argument is the logical fallacy of guilt by association.

Ad FeminamEdit

This is the fallacy of appealing to irrelevant personal considerations concerning women,especially prejudices against them. - Always in touch with my feminine side...

Tu Quo QueEdit

Tu Quo Que or "You too" fallacies, concern arguments that are used to justify or defend one's wrong-doing by claiming that an opponent has committed a similar crime. This is more commonly known as "two wrongs don't make a right."

Q: Now, the United States government says that you are still funding military training camps here in Afghanistan for militant, Islamic fighters and that you're a sponsor of international terrorism.¦ Are these accusations true? ¦ A: Osama Bin Laden: ¦At the time that they condemn any Muslim who calls for his right, they receive the highest top official of the Irish Republican Army at the White House as a political leader, while woe, all woe is the Muslims if they cry out for their rights. Wherever we look, we find the US as the leader of terrorism and crime in the world. The US does not consider it a terrorist act to throw atomic bombs at nations thousands of miles away, when it would not be possible for those bombs to hit military troops only. These bombs were rather thrown at entire nations, including women, children and elderly people and up to this day the traces of those bombs remain in Japan. The US does not consider it terrorism when hundreds of thousands of our sons and brothers in Iraq died for lack of food or medicine. So, there is no base for what the US says and this saying does not affect us.¦ Source: "CNN March 1997 Interview with Osama bin Laden"

Valid Ad HominemEdit

There are legitimate forms of ad hominem. This second, valid form of the ad hominem is discussed in John Locke's 'An Essay Concerning Human Understanding'

(It is legitimate) to press a (testifier) with (the) consequences drawn from his own principles or concessions and to show that these claims are mutually exclusive.

Another form of a valid argument ad hominem, would be an examination of the credibility of a witness providing testimony. Premises discrediting the person can exist in valid arguments, when the person being criticized is the sole source for a piece of evidence used in one of his arguments.

Person 'A' committed perjury when he made claim 'X' 

Those who commit perjury even in the face of legal sanctions, tend to be untrustworthy 

Therefore, A 's entire testimony should be rejected

Appeal to False AuthorityEdit

Ad verecundiam occurs when an arguer cites an authority who is not an expert at the subject at hand. This fallacy does not occur if the authority is legitimately an expert in the field of discussion.  A good of thumb is to toss out any reference to Einstein, the most overcited (and erroneously cited) expert. Einstein was an expert in early 20th century physics, with a bent towards determinism. He wasn't even an expert in quantum theory let alone other science, let alone fields outside of science.

Even citing a reliable authority, on its own, does not make a deductive argument valid, however.

Appeal to Anonymous Authority

Closely related to the above fallacy. This fallacy occurs whenever anyone sites an anonymous source as evidence for their claims. We cannot allow anonymous sources to be used as evidence because there is no way to verify the veracity of the source. You'll most likely here this fallacy stated thusly: "Scientists say.... or "leading experts agree that...". Oddly enough, those citing the bible commit this fallacy, unless they are citing one of Paul's works, because every other book of the bible is written anonymously.

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