How to ERASE Logical Fallacies

Businessman and businesswoman sitting face to face in meeting

An essential skill to develop—particularly if you intend to discuss the truth of your faith with others—is how to understand, evaluate, and present a logical argument. Though it might seem complex and rather intimidating, an argument in logic is really a very simple thing. To have an argument you must make a claim (called the conclusion, or the central point of the argument) and provide support (called premises, or evidence, facts, and reasons) for believing the claim to be true or correct. To have a good argument (logically sound or cogent), your premises must be (1) true, (2) pertinent to your central claim, and (3) sufficient to justify the conclusion.

What Are Fallacies?

A fallacy occurs when a logical argument contains a specific defect. A defect is a mistake in the reasoning process which causes an argument to break down (or fail to adequately support the conclusion). Left unrecognized and uncorrected, that failure leads to a defeated (unsound or not cogent) argument. Bad arguments provide no logical justification for their claims. Thus the person who reasons carefully will attempt to understand and thus avoid committing the common fallacies that serve to shipwreck arguments.

10-common-logical-fallacies

E-R-A-S-E the Fallacies

Various fallacies (errors in reasoning) describe breakdowns in the all-important premise-conclusion relationship. As stated earlier, for the conclusion of an argument to be adequately supported, all premises must be true, and the argument must employ correct reasoning in using them. Here’s a logical checklist to follow that will help you avoid or erase the most common and dangerous fallacies.

1. Premises should solidly Establish the conclusion.

A viable argument provides support that genuinely establishes the argument’s central claim. Thus the careful thinker will be on guard to avoid unwarranted presumption. Good premises are not based on easily challenged assumptions, but instead on those rational elements that supply legitimate proof or evidence for accepting the conclusion. Common fallacies of presumption include Wishful Thinking, Begging the Question, and Complex Question. (See infographic.)

2. Premises should be Relevant to the conclusion.

The premises that do the supporting must be relevant, applicable, and/or pertinent to the conclusion. Thus the student of logic must be on the constant watch for logical irrelevancy. The support should be readily connected to the conclusion in terms of justifying, grounding, and counting in favor of the truth of the conclusion. Typical fallacies of relevance include Red Herring, Straw Man, Missing the Point, Ad Hominem, Appeal to Pity, and Appeal to Force. (See infographic.)

3. Premises should provide Adequate support for the conclusion.

The premises must sufficiently support the conclusion by providing enough evidence. Thus, the watchman on the logical wall must be aware that fallacies provide some support for the conclusion but ultimately not enough. The enough question should also involve queries about number, kind, and weight of support provided for the conclusion. Common fallacies of inadequacy (also called weak induction) include Appeal to Authority, Appeal to Ignorance, and Hasty Generalization.

4. Premises should provide Simple support for the conclusion.

Good premises avoid confusion and provide simple and clear support for the argument’s conclusion. Thus the logic enthusiast seeks to protect simplicity and clarity by eliminating vagueness (being blurry or fuzzy), ambiguity (having multiple meanings), and grammatical error. Thinking, speaking, and writing should reflect an inner logical unity and coherence. Common fallacies of ambiguity include Equivocation and Amphiboly. (See infographic.)

5. Premises that support the conclusion carefully weigh the Equivalence of comparisons.

Logical arguments often appeal to the use of causal connections and analogical relationships. Thus the reflective person will inquire as to whether these connections and relationships are truly equivalent. However, cause-and-effect connections can be difficult to track and analogies are sometimes difficult to weigh so logical mistakes can easily creep in. To be good at logic requires reflection upon categories and comparable relationships. The False Cause and Oversimplified Cause fallacies have premise-conclusion relationships that reflect problematic causal relationships. Whereas the Slippery Slope and False Analogy fallacies reflect breakdowns in comparing analogical relationships.

Logic is an indispensable tool for weighing and evaluating the merit of arguments, and knowing what constitutes a good argument greatly assists a person in discovering a rational and truthful vision of life. Following the logical checklist above can be of great use in attempting to avoid and ERASE those pesky and destructive logical fallacies.

Reflections: Your Turn 
What are the essential features of a logical argument? What characterizes a good argument?

Resources
For a discussion of the fallacies specifically mentioned in this article, see Kenneth Richard Samples, A World of Difference: Putting Christian Truth-Claims to the Worldview Test (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007), 55–69.

  One thought on “How to ERASE Logical Fallacies

  1. February 14, 2017 at 11:11 am

    I don’t want to be accused of Missing the Point, but there are a few fallacies that you tell us to avoid and fail to define. I found ten of them: 1) Missing the Point, 2) Appeal to Force, 3) Appeal to Ignorance, 4) Appeal to Authority, 5) Hasty Generalization, 6) False Cause, 7) Oversimplified Cause, 8) Slippery Slope, 9) False Analogy, and 10) Circular Reasoning. I listed the above fallacies in the order of which I noticed they were undefined. Now the Circular Reasoning and Begging the Question fallacies are two fallacies that are often confused with each other, but are not the same thing. I do realize some of the above listed undefined fallacies are self-explanatory, but I do think an explanation would still help your argument. This was a great article and I did understand your point, but I think defining the ten above fallacies will help your point. As a bonus fallacy, for fun: please define the No True Scotsman fallacy. Great article. God bless you. Have a good day.

    • February 14, 2017 at 2:36 pm

      Jeremy:

      As a professor I don’t want to do all the work for the student. Plus my book A World of Difference listed under the reference section contains definitions and examples of all the fallacies listed in the article.

      So do your homework by consulting my book. 🙂

      Best regards.

      Professor Samples

  2. February 15, 2017 at 6:10 am

    Thank you for this timely explanation of what we should consider as we create solid arguments. As always, your posts are informative, educational and practical.

    • February 15, 2017 at 9:53 am

      Hello, Darlene.

      Thank you for those encouraging words.

      With my best regards.

      Ken Samples

    • February 15, 2017 at 10:08 am

      Thanks for the link, Stephen.

      Ken Samples

  3. February 15, 2017 at 3:38 pm

    Helpful rundown, Kenneth. Arguments for atheism when examined closely always employ at least one of these 10 fallacies, commonly The Straw Man and Faulty Analogy as atheists create a god with limits to attack.
    The God of the Bible is described as the source of all truth and wisdom, and our defenses of Him must never step too far away from His complete attributes and absolute sovereignty, being subject to no randomness or other authority.
    Of course, logic and reason won’t persuade anyone to accept the Gospel — only God can do that to a fallen human heart — but well-prepared logical arguments do help to shut the mouths of the deniers and blasphemers.

    • February 15, 2017 at 4:03 pm

      MFD:

      Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I especially appreciate your emphasis upon the absolute necessity of God’s grace in changing the fallen human heart.

      Best regards in Christ.

      Ken Samples

  4. February 16, 2017 at 10:23 am

    Great job on this piece Mr. Samples! We actually featured it here today!

    I greatly appreciate your work! Keep it up!

    Godspeed

    • February 16, 2017 at 12:02 pm

      Hello, Chad.

      Thank you so much for featuring my article. You’re very gracious to do that.

      I also appreciate your important work.

      With my best regards in Christ.

      Ken Samples

  5. February 17, 2017 at 5:57 am

    Reblogged this on Making Rent On The Internet.

    • February 17, 2017 at 7:42 am

      Thanks for the reblog.

      Best regards.

      Ken Samples

  6. February 18, 2017 at 8:45 am

    Reblogged this on Cyber Penance.

    • February 18, 2017 at 8:55 am

      Thanks for the reblog, Mark.

      Best regards.

      Ken Samples

  7. Paul A. Carter
    February 19, 2017 at 10:36 am

    Reblogged this on Thought Synergy and commented:
    This is the best brief summary of logical fallacies and how to avoid them that I have seen. The whole post, but especially the infographic is a keeper!

    • February 19, 2017 at 11:09 am

      Thanks for the reblog, Paul.

      Best regards.

      Ken Samples

    • February 20, 2017 at 8:02 am

      Thanks for the link, Thomas.

      Best regards.

      Ken Samples

  8. Zane Smith
    February 21, 2017 at 8:06 am

    Great article, Kenneth. It could have been made better by adding a couple of examples for each fallacy :p

    • February 21, 2017 at 10:10 am

      Zane:

      I’m hoping the readers will want more and hopefully turn to my book A World of Difference where I define all of the fallacies mentioned in the article and provide examples.

      Best regards.

      Ken Samples

  9. February 27, 2017 at 8:13 am

    What would be the name of a fallacy where someone is in a position of authority, such as a Professor of Logical Argument, who uses that authority as a cloak to persuade others of fallacious arguments, even if the Professor is convinced it is true? Wouldn’t it be difficult to challenge such a position?

    • February 28, 2017 at 5:38 pm

      Best regards to you, Chris.

      Sincerely.

      Ken Samples

      • March 1, 2017 at 9:28 am

        Thanks for your comments.

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