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Hyperbole

A hyperbole is a figure of speech. Figures of speech are rhetorical constructions that are to be taken non-literally. This rhetorical device is used to make a point in an emotional fashion or to make a point in a more vivid fashion in figurative language. Hyperbole is pronounced high-PER-bo-lee, and is one of many literary devices such as an idiom, a paradox, an oxymoron, and similes and metaphors. We will examine what a hyperbole is with some examples, and where the word hyperbole came … [Read more...]

Appeal to authority

The appeal to authority fallacy is associated with attributing truth to a statement based on the authority of the speaker or on the authority of someone who supports the statement. This is fallacious because it assumes truth to be a function of power or prestige rather than objectivity. An authority, simply by being authority, cannot will truth into existence. Insofar as truth exists as an objective reality, it isn't subject to anyone's commands. There are exceptions. For instance, we tend to … [Read more...]

Straw man fallacy

The straw man fallacy involves misrepresenting an opponent's position to make it easier to refute. Straw man arguments often oversimplify opposing views or disregard inconvenient points in favor of points that are easy to argue against.  Examples In many instances, the person committing the straw man fallacy highlights the most extreme position of the opposing side---for example: Opposing argument: Teens should be taught about contraception methods so they can practice safe sex should they … [Read more...]

Everything happens for a reason

Everything happens for a reason is a noble cliché that may provide comfort, but in logical discourse the assumption on which the statement is based is an example of the pathetic fallacy---that is, the attribution of human feelings and motives to inanimate nature. The statement that everything happens for a reason does not explain away randomness, and in fact it dismisses important truths about the senselessness of some events. Sometimes the reasons for things lie in unthinking, unemotional … [Read more...]

Proof by example

The proof by example fallacy involves attempting to derive general conclusions from one or a few examples. In its simplest form, proof by example works like this: X, which is in the group G, has the property A. Therefore, all things in the group G have the property A. Or, to give an extreme example, consider this illogical argument: A car with Ohio license plates almost ran over me me. Therefore, people from Ohio are terrible drivers. Such specious arguments may be the bread and butter of … [Read more...]

Poisoning the well

The fallacy known as poisoning the well involves presenting negative information about an opponent to preemptively discredit what he or she says. For example, let's say the president is running for reelection, and her primary opponent is an up-and-coming politician whom few in the public have heard of. Ahead of a televised debate, the president might poison the well by running negative campaign ads that highlight her opponents' past transgressions or supposed moral failures so that viewers … [Read more...]

Synecdoche

Synecdoche (from Greek, meaning literally simultaneous understanding) is a figure of speech in which one of the following occurs: A part of something is used for the whole (e.g., hands for sailors, Ol' Blue Eyes for Frank Sinatra). A whole is used for a part (e.g., the law for police). A specific is thing is used for a general thing (e.g., John Hancock for signature, Coke for all colas, Wall Street for the financial industry). A non-specific term is used for a specific thing (e.g., the … [Read more...]

Begging the question (fallacy)

Begging the question, sometimes known by its Latin name petitio principii (meaning assuming the initial point), is a logical fallacy in which the writer or speaker assumes the statement under examination to be true. In other words, begging the question involves using a premise to support itself. If the premise is questionable, then the argument is bad. The most basic instances of begging the question involve rephrasing. In these examples, the statement following because just restates the … [Read more...]

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