Critical Thinking & Reasoning: Understanding Fallacies

When we form arguments or examine others’ arguments, we need to be cognizant of possible fallacies. A fallacy can be defined as a flaw or error in reasoning. At its most basic, a logical fallacy refers to a defect in the reasoning of an argument that causes the conclusion(s) to be invalid, unsound, or weak. The existence of a fallacy in a deductive argument makes the entire argument invalid. The existence of a fallacy in an inductive argument weakens the argument but does not invalidate it.

It is important to study fallacies so you can avoid them in the arguments you make. Studying fallacies also provides you with a foundation for evaluating and critiquing other arguments as well. Once you start studying and thinking about fallacies, you’ll find they are everywhere. You could say that we live in a fallacious world!

The study of fallacies can be dated back to the start of the study of logic. In ancient Greece, Aristotle classified fallacies into two categories—linguistic and non-linguistic. Within these two categories, he identified 13 individual fallacies. Through time we have reclassified fallacies using various typologies and criteria. For our purposes, we will focus on formal and informal fallacies.

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