Fallacies of Reasoning

Lauer,  Robert H. & Jeanette C. Lauer. (2002). Social Problems and the Quality of Life, 8/e. McGraw Hill.

The Source of Myths: Fallacies of Thinking (pp. 41-49)

“The study of society and social problems is a tricky business. Human beings as individuals, as collectivities, in groups, or in organizations are elusive subjects for serious study. One way we can appreciate the elusiveness is to examine ourselves as “mythmakers” who are led astray by various fallacies of thinking. These fallacies cloud rather than clarify key issues with which students of social problems must deal. We should be alert to at least nine types of fallacies:

  • (1) dramatic instance,
  • (2) retrospective determinism,
  • (3) misplaced concreteness,
  • (4) personal attack,
  • (5) appeal to prejudice,
  • (6) circular reasoning,
  • (7) authority,
  • (8) composition, and
  • (9) non sequitur.

The fallacy of dramatic instance refers to the tendency to overgeneralize; to use one, two, or three cases to support an entire argument.

The fallacy of retrospective determinism is the argument that things could not have worked out any other way than the way they did.

The fallacy of misplaced concreteness refers to making what is abstract into something concrete (reification).

The fallacy of personal attack involves diverting attention from the issue and focusing it on the personality (ad hominem).

The fallacy of appeal to prejudice involves using popular prejudices or passions to convince others of the correctness of one’s position.

The fallacy of circular reasoning refers to using conclusions to support the assumptions that were necessary to make the conclusions.

The fallacy of authority involves an illegitimate appeal to authority.

The fallacy of composition involves arguing that what is true of the part is also true of the whole.

Non sequitur means “it does not follow,” and the fallacy of non sequitur involves using statistics in a misleading fashion: as though the data speak for themselves.”