Informal Fallacies Project
Abstract: Requirements for an informal
fallacy project are described with an example fallacy analysis. Suggestions
for how and where to find fallacies are provided.
Requirements for the Informal Fallacies Project
The Informal Fallacies Project is to be based on your own
choice of resources, including webpages, newspapers, magazines, books, or
journals. The goal for the project is to find and analyze at least
five informal fallacies where each fallacy is a different
type. All references are to be cited in a standard bibliographical
manner. Please keep in mind the following additional guidelines:
- Book, newspaper, magazine, and journal sources for fallacies
are to be publicly accessible.
- Oral arguments, whether in everyday conversations, speeches,
lectures, television, or web broadcasts, are not to be used unless
a written text is separately available on the internet.
- Examples drawn from advertising are to be explicit arguments
and not merely a form of emotive appeal.
- The fallacy selected is to be used in an argumentative context
and not be taken from fallacy examples or illustrations in
critical reasoning or logic sources. (For example, examples copied from
books or websites on informal fallacies are not to be used.)
The evaluation of your project is based on the following criteria:
- Citations are provided in accordance with a standard
bibliographic standard formats such as MLA, APA, Chicago, or
- The excerpt (or fallacy quotation) should be sufficiently
inclusive such that the fallacy is evident: not too brief and thereby
committing the fallacy of accent and not too extensive such that
irrelevant statements are present.
- The extensiveness and adequacy of the explanation of how the
fallacy is effected is essential for full credit.
- At least five different kinds of informal fallacies are to be
The presentation of your paper is be similar to the example
“Before considering these development in detail it
is worth asking why such an apparently simple device as the bicycle
should have had such a major effect on the acceleration of
technology. The answer lies in the sheer humanity of the machine.”
S. S. Wilson, “ Bicycle Technology.” Scientific
American 228 no. 3 (March, 1973), 82.
The question posed is a composite of several questions:
(1) Is the bicycle an apparently simple device? If the answer
to this question is yes, then the further question can be
raised: (2) Did “this apparently simple
device” have “a major effect on the acceleration
of technology?” If the answer to the latter question is
“yes,” the cited question would be appropriate:
(3) How had the bicycle had such a major effect on the
acceleration of technology? An answer to (1) is not clearly
straightforward. An answer to (2) is even less so, and an answer
to (3) (provided in the text) is much more doubtful. Most
of the technical innovations used in the bicycle (e.g.,
differential gears, classic diamond frame, tubular frame,
ball bearings, pneumatic tire) were developed independently
of bicycle technology.
Hence although the technology of this apparently simple
device might be important for the evolution of modern
technology, it is a fallacy to presuppose it had a
major effect on the future development of technology. The answer
provided by Dr. Wilson blurs the distinct aspects
of the question he raises and treats them as a simple query; hence,
the fallacy of Complex Question
Finding Sources for Fallacies
Finding concise, clear examples of informal fallacies is difficult and
Occasionally you can discover fallacies by critically reading materials
containing the exchange of ideas. On average you would be doing well if
you can find one clear fallacy in fifteen or so editorials in daily
newspapers. “Letters to the Editors” in daily local newspapers
and in tabloids presenting exaggerated, sensational, or biased stories are
especially good places to find fallacies.
In general, sources for fallacies include personal arguments in on-line
forums; letters to the editor in newspapers, magazines and journals;
editorials or opinion pieces in newspapers and magazines; debate
transcripts; political speeches pseudo-scientific writings, and lawyer
Some suggested online sources where fallacies occasionally occur
Editorials and Opinion Pages
- “Editorials,” The New York
Times — Topics include current issues involving U.S.
and international affairs.
- “Opinions,” The Washington
Post — Editorials columns, letters to the editor,
as well as national and global issues are essayed, frequently
from a liberal point of view.
- “Thursday's Editorial Archive” and
“Wednesday's Example of Media Bias Archive,” Student
News Daily — Editorial essays and news reporting
on a variety of timely topics are selected from diverse sources
on the web.
- “Political Editorials,” The
Washington Times — Opinion articles from U.S.politics
are usually presented from a conservative standpoint.
- “Opinion,” New York
Post — The opinions expressed in this sensationalist
tabloid usually advance a conservative point of view.
Speeches and Debates
Speeches Collection” — A selection of famous
speeches from various historical periods and on a variety of
subjects is listed at The History Place.
Speeches in History — Archive of great historical speeches
is indexed by topic, speaker, date, and also archived by women,
African-Americans, and U.S. Presidents at EmersonKent.com.
- “Presidential Nomination Acceptance Speeches
and Letters 1880—2016” — This compilation of U.S.
Republican and Democratic speeches is provided by Gerhard Peters
at The American Presidency Project.
Debates 1960—2016” — Transcripts of U.S. general
and primary election debates are furnished by Gerhard Peters and John
T. Wooley at the The American Presidency Project.
- “Top 100 Speeches” — Transcripts of famous
U.S. speeches selected by Stephen E. Lucas and Martin J. Medhurst are
provided at American Rhetoric.
Speech Bank” — Over 5,000 U.S.speeches, debates, and
media events are compiled at American Rhetoric.
- “The Opinion Pages Room for Debate —
Experienced debaters take a opposing stands on current issues.
- Debates.Org — Participants
debate selected topics, respond to argumentative subjects, and post
in open forums on specific topics.
Politics — Topics discussed include U.S. and Global politics
as well as specific political and non-political issues.
Debate Network — Forums include current events, conspiracy,
philosophy, religion, and social issues, among others.