01 ‘Relevance’ Fallacy


This below list of informal fallacies is from “The Art of Argument, An Introduction to the Informal Fallacies” by Aaron Larsen, Joelle Hodge and Christopher Perrin. We encourage you to buy this book and learn how to spot fallacies in sermons and online articles and discussions. The book itself contains 28 popular fallacies broken up into three categories: Relevance, Presumption and Clarity. In this article we will focus on the ‘Fallacies of Relevance’:

“These arguments have premises that do not “bear upon ” the truth of the conclusions. In other words, they introduce an irrelevancy into the argument.”

Here is a summary of the ‘Fallacies of Relevance’:


FALLACIES OF RELEVANCE Arguments that are really distractions from the main point.
Ad Fontem Arguments (Arguments against source) Arguments that distract by focusing attention on the source of the argument, rather than on the issue itself.
1. Ad Hominem Abusive Arguments that attempt to avoid the issue by insulting an opponent with abusive language.
2. Ad Hominem Circumstantial Arguments that try to discredit an opponent because of his background, affiliations, or self-interest in the matter at hand.
3. To Quoque Arguments that assume that a rival’s recommendation should be discounted because the rival does not always follow it himself.
4. Genetic Fallacy Arguments that state that an idea should be discounted simply because of its source or origin.
Appeals to Emotion Arguments that attempt to sway the opinion of people by compelling them to feel emotions such as pity, anger, fear, joy, peer pressure, intimidation, etc.
5. Appeal to Fear (ad baculum) Arguments that distract by making the audience afraid of the consequences of disagreeing with the speaker.
6. Appeal to Pity (ad misericordiam) Arguments that distract by making the audience feel sorry for the speaker or someone on behalf of whom the speaker is arguing.
7. Mob Appeal (ad populum) Arguments that distract by making the audience want to be part of the crowd or one of the “common people”.
8. Snob Appeal Arguments that distract by making the audience want to feel “special”.
9. Appeal to Illegitimate Authority (ad erecundiam) Arguments that distract by attempting to shame the listener into agreement by citing an illegitimate authority.
10. Chronological Snobbery Arguments that distract by making the audience want to either be apart of an old tradition or of the latest cool, new thing.
Red Herrings Arguments that make a more subtle appeal to emotion,  but include types of proofs that are irrelevant to the case at hand.
11. Appeal to ignorance Arguments that claim that since a proposition cannot be disproven, it must therefore be true or likely.
12. Irrelevant Goals or Functions Arguments that distract by measuring a plan or policy according to goals it wasn’t intended to achieve.
13. Irrelevant Thesis Arguments that distract by making a case for the wrong point.
14. Straw Man Fallacy Arguments that attempt to disprove an opponent’s position by presenting it in an unfair, inaccurate light.

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