Exercises on Fallacious Appeals

Choose the best description for each of the following.




1."If you don't study and get your degree, you will end up like your uncle. Do you really want to be a loser like him for the rest of your life?"

No fallacy

Appeal to Spite

Appeal to Indirect Consequences (Slippery Slope)

Scare Tactics (Appeal to Fear)

















2."Please don't give George an F; he put so much effort and sweat into that report."

No fallacy

Appeal to Pity (Sob Story)

Appeal to Indirect Consequences (Slippery Slope)

Appeal to Common Practice

















3."If I let you borrow my class notes this time, you'll start depending on them, and you'll never show up for class, and eventually you'll fail the course. So, for your own good, you can't have them."

No fallacy

Appeal to Fear (Scare Tactics)

Appeal to Indirect Consequences (Slippery Slope)

Appeal to Common Practice

















4."I can't believe you still eat red meat! Didn't you see the newspaper report that said 63% of Americans think eating red meat is unhealthy?"

No fallacy

Appeal to Fear (Scare Tactics)

Appeal to Common Practice

Appeal to Common Belief

5."Stephen, if you don't stop smoking, you are going to die!"

No fallacy

Appeal to Fear (Scare Tactics)

Appeal to Indirect Consequences (Slippery Slope)

Appeal to Common Belief

1."If you don't study and get your degree, you will end up like your uncle. Do you really want to be a loser like him for the rest of your life?" You answered:

No fallacy

Though your uncle may be a loser, the suggestion here is that there is an automatic and unavoidable causal connection between not studying for your degree and becoming a loser. Since the supposed effect seems both remote in time and unconnected in a directly causal way, the argument is fallacious.

1."If you don't study and get your degree, you will end up like your uncle. Do you really want to be a loser like him for the rest of your life?" You answered:

Appeal to Spite

Whoever is talking may, indeed, despise your uncle, but since that's not the point of the appeal here, this can't be a case of spite. Though your uncle may be a loser, the suggestion here is that there is an automatic and unavoidable causal connection between not studying for your degree and becoming a loser. But the supposed effect seems both remote in time and unconnected in a directly causal way.

1."If you don't study and get your degree, you will end up like your uncle. Do you really want to be a loser like him for the rest of your life?" You answered:

Appeal to Indirect Consequences (Slippery Slope)

Correct!

Though most of the intermediate steps have been left out here, the implication is clear: not studying is the first step down the slippery slope to being a failure like your uncle. The suggestion here is that there is an automatic and unavoidable causal connection between not studying for your degree and becoming a loser. But the supposed effect seems both remote in time and unconnected in a directly causal way.

1."If you don't study and get your degree, you will end up like your uncle. Do you really want to be a loser like him for the rest of your life?" You answered:

Scare Tactics (Appeal to Fear)

Just because a negative outcome is mentioned doesn't necessarily mean that the persuasion here is based on fear. Though your uncle may be a loser, the suggestion here is that there is an automatic and unavoidable causal connection between not studying for your degree and becoming a loser. But the supposed effect seems both remote in time and unconnected in a directly causal way.

2."Please don't give George an F; he put so much effort and sweat into that report." You answered

No fallacy

The argument is that George's report should be graded, at least in part, not on its quality but on the effort he put into it. In other words, that whoever is grading the report should feel sorry enough for George to give his report a higher grade than it merits. There are, of course, some instances where effort is, or should be, taken into account when work is graded. But we have no indication that this is one of those instances, and there is no evidence to that effect. So this does seem to be a fallacious appeal to the emotions of the person giving the grades.

2."Please don't give George an F; he put so much effort and sweat into that report." You answered:

Appeal to Pity (Sob Story)

Correct!!

The argument here is that George's report should be graded, at least in part, not on its quality but on the effort he put into it. In other words, whoever is grading the report should feel sorry enough for George to give his report a higher grade than it merits. This is a good example of an appeal to pity.

2."Please don't give George an F; he put so much effort and sweat into that report." You answered:

Appeal to Indirect Consequences (Slippery Slope)

A slippery slope argument attempts to connect some remote consequences with the decision in question, but there are no consequences to the grading decision mentioned at all here. Instead, this argument is that George's report should be graded, at least in part, not on its quality but on the effort he put into it. In other words, that whoever is grading the report should feel sorry enough for George to give his report a higher grade than it merits.

2."Please don't give George an F; he put so much effort and sweat into that report." You answered:

Appeal to Common Practice

An appeal to common practice uses the approach that something is permissible (or not) because "everyone is doing it." But here, the argument is that George's report should be graded, at least in part, not on its quality but on the effort he put into it. In other words, that whoever is grading the report should feel sorry enough for George to give his report a higher grade than it merits.

3."If I let you borrow my class notes this time, you'll start depending on them, and you'll never show up for class, and eventually you'll fail the course. So, for your own good, you can't have them." You answered:

No fallacy

All this may be possible, but there is no reason to believe that borrowing class notes leads automatically and inevitably to dependence, absence, and failure. Therefore, this is a fallacious appeal.

3."If I let you borrow my class notes this time, you'll start depending on them, and you'll never show up for class, and eventually you'll fail the course. So, for your own good, you can't have them." You answered:

Appeal to Fear (Scare Tactics)

Not all fallacies ending in a negative outcome are appeals to fear. Here, for example, there's no sense of a threat; the suggestion is that failure will come as a matter of course, and there is no attempt to use a fear of failure to influence the individual. Indeed, in this case, the decision is not that individual's to make. On the other hand, there is also no reason to believe that borrowing class notes leads automatically and inevitably to dependence, absence, and failure.

3."If I let you borrow my class notes this time, you'll start depending on them, and you'll never show up for class, and eventually you'll fail the course. So, for your own good, you can't have them." You answered:

Appeal to Indirect Consequences (Slippery Slope)

Correct!!

All this may be possible, but there is no reason to believe that borrowing class notes leads automatically and inevitably to dependence, absence, and failure. That's a classic example of a slippery slope argument.

3."If I let you borrow my class notes this time, you'll start depending on them, and you'll never show up for class, and eventually you'll fail the course. So, for your own good, you can't have them." You answered:

Appeal to Common Practice

It may be a "common practice" to borrow notes for a class, but the emotional appeal by that name operates by suggesting that what everyone does is permissible to do. That's not what is going on here, though. In this exercise, there is no reason to believe that borrowing class notes leads automatically and inevitably to dependence, absence, and failure.

4."I can't believe you still eat red meat! Didn't you see the newspaper report that said 63% of Americans think eating red meat is unhealthy?"

No fallacy

It's certainly no fallacy that eating meat is unhealthy, if not for you, then for the poor animal who was slaughtered for you. But that's not the point here. The fallacy in this exercise is that meat's unhealthy nature can be proven by an opinion poll, which is not the case.

4."I can't believe you still eat red meat! Didn't you see the newspaper report that said 63% of Americans think eating red meat is unhealthy?" You answered:

Appeal to Fear (Scare Tactics)

Not all fallacies with negative outcomes are appeals to fear. Were this an appeal to fear, there would be either an implicit or explicit threat of illness on the basis of meat-eating. But that's not the case here. The fallacy in this exercise is that meat's unhealthy nature can be proven by an opinion poll, and an opinion poll can do no such thing.

4."I can't believe you still eat red meat! Didn't you see the newspaper report that said 63% of Americans think eating red meat is unhealthy?" You answered:

Appeal to Common Practice

Meat eating and opinion polls are both, unfortunately, common practices, but the fallacy of appeal to common practice works by suggesting that something is permissible if "everyone is doing it." But that's not the case here. The fallacy in this exercise is that meat's unhealthy nature can be proven by an opinion poll, which is not the case.

4."I can't believe you still eat red meat! Didn't you see the newspaper report that said 63% of Americans think eating red meat is unhealthy?" You answered:

Appeal to Common Belief

Correct!!

It's certainly no fallacy that eating meat is unhealthy, if not for you, then for the poor animal who was slaughtered for you. But that's not the point here. The fallacy in this exercise is that meat's unhealthy nature can be proven by an opinion poll, which is not the case, and makes this a case of a fallacious appeal to common belief.

5."Stephen, if you don't stop smoking, you are going to die!" You answered:

No fallacy

If we choose to present true information in the form of a threat, is that still a fallacy? It's true that there is a causal connection between smoking and early death. But the way this argument is presented is both absurd (because Stephen is going to die, whether he gives up smoking or not) and threatening (because, without a sense of the progression of the diseases associated with smoking, there is an immediacy about the claim, as if Stephen will die soon). The point is that this claim is working on Stephen's emotions, instead of presenting the evidence and arguments to him and letting him arrive at his own conclusion. It may be in a good cause, but this is nonetheless a fallacy.

5."Stephen, if you don't stop smoking, you are going to die!" You answered:

Appeal to Fear (Scare Tactics)

Correct!!

The fallacy here is in the presentation of the argument, rather than in its content. It's true that there is a causal connection between smoking and early death. But the way this argument is presented is both absurd (because Stephen is going to die, whether he gives up smoking or not) and threatening (because, without a sense of the progression of the diseases associated with smoking, there is an immediacy about the claim, as if Stephen will die soon). If you are having trouble seeing this as an appeal to fear, imagine that Stephen is 119 years old and in perfect health. Yet, even at 119, there is sound medical evidence that smoking is unhealthy. This is just a case of using a poor strategy to an important point across.

5."Stephen, if you don't stop smoking, you are going to die!" You answered:

Appeal to Indirect Consequences (Slippery Slope)

What does "you are going to die" mean here? Obviously, Stephen is going to die whether he stops smoking or not, so the meaning here must carry the implication, "if you don't stop smoking, you are doing to die as a more or less direct result of that smoking." There aren't a lot of intermediate steps between the cause and the eventual effect here, and while the effect may be distant in time, it is not a remote likelihood, so this is not a good example of appeal to indirect consequences.

5."Stephen, if you don't stop smoking, you are going to die!" You answered:

Appeal to Common Belief

An appeal to common belief use what people think is true as a substitute for what is verifiably true. But there is no clear attempt here to use what is commonly believed to be true. Though many people associated smoking with illness and death, this exercise never invokes those people's beliefs, and so this cannot be appeal to common belief.