Prevent a weak argument, avoid these fallacies

By: Ian Pinkerton, Columnist

As humans, we tend to be stubborn about our beliefs. After all, it’s human nature to hold onto an opinion. Because of this, formulating a strong, convincing argument can be exceedingly difficult. Like with most things in life, you have to work hard and practice in order to refine and develop proficient argumentative skills. Consequently, because of this very reason, it’s easily lost in the maelstrom of both the social and academic priorities that come with college. This article serves to highlight useful rhetorical strategies that help strengthen arguments as well as common mistakes that greatly weaken arguments.

But why is a strong argument important? It’s simple: weak arguments are ineffectual; they aren’t convincing enough. If someone writes in a paper claiming that audiobooks are bad, it can be waived off as a personal opinion, but if someone were to write that audiobooks are bad and back it up with substantial rhetoric and cogent style, it could be the most convincing argument against audiobooks to ever exist. It all depends on what elements were considered when it was written. It is important to always keep this in mind when constructing an argument.

Here are eight fallacies that can lead to the demise of any argument if utilized:

  1. Ambiguity– The Ambiguity fallacy is when the writer utilizes double meanings or ambiguous and unclear language in order to confuse the reader and misrepresent the reality of an argument. 
  2. Begging the QuestionBegging the Question is when the argument that is presented has its roots and foundation in the overall conclusion that it’s trying to make. In other words, it is when the initial argument is made with the conclusion at its epicenter. For example, if you were to argue that Spider-man is amazing and use his title of “The Amazing Spider-Man” as your evidence, you would be begging the question.
  3. The Texas Sharpshooter- Though the name of this fallacy is rather silly and informal, it is of dire importance that it is not utilized in an argument, especially an academic one. This fallacy occurs when the writer hand-picks data that specifically favors their argument, but leaves out negative data, in order to fit assumptions that are at the head of the argument.
  4. Slippery Slope The Slippery Slope fallacy is relatively simple; it is when the writer asserts that because one thing happened, another thing drastically occurs as a result. In other words, it is when the reasoning escalates: for example, if you say that “if people watch T.V., there will be nothing real left in the world,” you are utilizing the Slippery Slope fallacy. 
  5. The Fallacy Fallacy- This aptly named fallacy is all about presumption. This fallacy occurs when it is presumed that because an argument is poorly made, or a fallacy is committed, it is incontrovertibly wrong. This is one of the most easily recognizable fallacies when analyzing someone’s argument.
  6. Straw Man- The straw man fallacy occurs frequently when a writer is not substantially knowledgeable on the reality and particulars of their argument. It is when the writer misrepresents an opposing argument in order to dismiss or counter it with greater ease.
  7. False Cause This fallacy is executed when, to further an argument, the writer presumes that a certain relationship between two things is evidence that they are each other’s cause. In other words, it is when one thing is assumed to be the cause of another because they are, in some way, related. For example, if you claim that “because chairs are made of wood, and because burning wood gives you headaches, wood is bad for your health,” you are committing False Cause.
  8. Loaded Question- The name of this fallacy is, in some ways, reminiscent of loaded dice in a gambling hall: it is used to try to cheat your opponent. Loaded Question is when a question is asked in order to favor your argument that has assumptions at its foundation, making it impossible to answer without admitting inherent guilt. In other words, it is when the writer utilizes a trick question. 

Being that there are so many particulars to keep in mind, writing a successful argument is an admirable feat. Persuasion is no easy or simple accomplishment. Yes, it is a lot to commit to memory, but it is essential if you want to ensure your argument to be legitimate and strong; besides, nobody likes their arguments to be invalidated over unintentional rhetoric, or the lack thereof. If you want to research more methods to strengthen your arguments, a quick google search for “Rhetorical devices” will surface millions of satisfactory results. The same can be said for “Fallacies.” And if you don’t, that’s okay; the essentials are laid out in this article. Hopefully, now that the basics are readily accessible, your future arguments will be stronger than they have ever been before.


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