A fallacy is a term used in logic – the science specializing in making inferences and analyzing them on the subject of their truthfulness and propriety. It means a false argument that is invalidly used to justify or to prove some kind of thesis/statement or which does not correlate either with the thesis or with the conclusions made on its basis. It stands for the wrong way of thinking, making inferences, etc. thus showing that there is no logical connection in the course of justification of a certain point in an argument. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, it is “an often plausible argument using false or invalid inference” (Fallacy).
A fallacy may be committed both intentionally when the person is unknowledgeable in the field of discussion and another person is trying to convince him/her in the point. However, there may also be the type of a fallacy that happens unintentionally:
It is particularly easy to slip up and commit a fallacy when you have strong feelings about your topic—if a conclusion seems obvious to you, you’re more likely to just assume that it is true and to be careless with your evidence (Fallacies).
As an example of a fallacy in argumentation about the medical sphere, one may consider the following argument: “Cancer is incurable because there has been found no cure yet”. It is a false assumption based on a sound argument – there is no cure for cancer found yet. However, it does not mean that if there is nothing found yet, there is no cure at all. Medicine is developing and researching the field, thus moving towards the solution to the problem that becomes only a matter of time. Thus, it is wrong to state that there is no cure at all only because humanity has not discovered it yet. This example is a good illustration of an informal fallacy –
The deviation in an informal fallacy often stems from a flaw in the path of reasoning that links the premises to the conclusion (Informal Fallacy).
In connection with this one can find a good example of a fallacy in the situation with cigarettes “American Spirit” and the way it is organized. The author, Gary N. Curtis, bases his/her initial thesis on the logical fact that something natural is considered good, whereas something unnatural is considered bad and unhealthy:
American Spirit uses the slogan “it’s only natural” and claims that its cigarettes are “100% natural tobacco”. Some smokers may buy American Spirit cigarettes because they believe that “natural” tobacco is in some way safer or healthier than tobacco that contains additives. However, the carcinogens in cigarettes that cause cancer are natural components of tobacco (Curtis).
Generally, specialists in logic see the essence of fallacies in false constructing deductive and inductive arguments. If the fallacy is used in the construction, then both types of argument are considered invalid (Description of Fallacies).
As a possible solution to the problem of constructing fallacies while producing arguments, the workers of the writing center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have worked out a set of recommendations to avoid fallacies and to make one’s argumentation stronger. They include: using good premises (thus ensuring that the position in the argument will be well-grounded); providing good support for the conclusion (thus connecting the grounding of the argument to the inferences coherently and cohesively); checking the most important issues in the matter being addressed (ensuring that one has not missed something that may lead him/her in the wrong path of inferences); not making irrelevant chains in the argument that may not be supported (Fallacies).
- Curtis, N. Gary. Featured Fallacy, 2009.
- Description of Fallacies, 2009.
- Fallacies. The Writing Center of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2009.
- Fallacy. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, 2009.
- Informal Fallacy. Academic Dictionaries and Encyclopedias Source, 2009. Web.