People do many things to try to win an argument or make you see their point of view. Their argument may seem sound and convincing but on close examination it may contain one or more logical fallacies. Our textbook defines a fallacy as “an argument that contains a mistake in reasoning” (Bassham, Irwin, Nardone & Wallace, 2000, Ch 5, p 1). There are many fallacies, our textbook divides them into two basic groups: Fallacies of Relevance and fallacies of insufficient evidence. “Fallacies of relevance are fallacies that occur because the premises are logically irrelevant to the conclusion. Fallacies of insufficient evidence are fallacies that occur because the premises, though logically relevant to the conclusion, fail to provide sufficient evidence to support the conclusion” (Bassham, Irwin, Nardone & Wallace, 2000, Ch 5, p 1). I will discuss in detail three
fallacies: Bandwagon Argument, Begging the Question and Slippery Slope. The first two Bandwagon Argument and Begging the Question are fallacies of relevance. The third fallacy, Slippery Slope is a fallacy of insufficient evidence.
A bandwagon argument is an argument that plays on the idea that everybody is doing it, so you should be doing it too. Rather than looking at a logical relevant reason or evidence for doing something, you are expected to do it because everybody is doing it so why not follow the crowd. An examples of a bandwagon argument is: “Everybody’s doing yoga. Therefore, you should too.” This plays on your desire to be in the popular crowd. It is fallacious because it assumes that because something is popular it is right for you too when in fact you need to logically assess if it is right for you. Bandwagon argument’s significance to critical thinking is that just because it is popular doesn’t mean it is the right decision for you. You still need to exercise skilled judgment it making decisions and not just go with what is popular.
An example of a bandwagon argument in an organizational setting is with the hotel industry. Few hotels were questioning whether to support a web site, but were doing so because they seem to be struggling on how best to use the World Wide Web. In a study of hotel websites they found that using animated pictures and the overuse of images can have a negative effect on site success, but many hotels were using it because they felt that animation merely makes the hotel site “cool” or somehow competitive with other sites, one can recognize this as a bandwagon argument (Murphy, Olaru, Schegg & Frey, 2003).
Begging the Question
Begging the question is a fallacy in which the arguer states or assumes as a premise the very thing he or she is trying to prove as a conclusion (Bassham, Irwin, Nardone & Wallace, 2000, Ch 5, p 15). This sort of reasoning is also known as circular reasoning because simply assuming a claim is true does not serve as evidence for that claim. An example of begging the question fallacy is: “If such actions were not illegal, then they would not be prohibited by the law.” In this example the premise just repeats the conclusion premise including the claim that the conclusion is true.
An example of begging the question fallacy in an organizational setting is in the publishing business, a statement about newspaper columnist Safire that was in the “On Language” section (2001), Pittsburgh Post – Gazette reads, “Anything Safire says about anything is suspect because you can’t believe what you read in the newspapers.” This is an example of linear question-begging. People who agree that this is true would not make an argument because they take for granted a premise that is unproven.
Slippery Slope fallacy is committed when we claim, without sufficient evidence that seemingly harmless action, if taken, will lead to a disastrous outcome (Bassham, Irwin, Nardone & Wallace, 2000, Ch 6, p 13). This is fallacious because there is no reason to believe that one event must follow another event without an argument for such a claim.
This is especially noticeable when extreme steps are taken between one event and another. An example of a slippery Slope argument is: “You can never give anyone a break, if you do they will walk all over you.” This example is a black and white fallacy, there is no room for the gray area. “It should be noted that many slippery-slope arguments leave out some of or all of the intermediate steps that an arguer believes will occur” (Bassham, Irwin, Nardone & Wallace, 2000, Ch 6, p 13). An example of a slippery slope fallacy in an organizational setting is the argument on embryo cell-stem research. When Advanced Cell Technology, Inc. announced it had cloned human embryos in a process that could lead to cures for a host of debilitating diseases, there was a large outcry from critics who claimed that their research will lead society down that ubiquitous “slippery slope”(Williamson, 2001).
Care should be taken when one comes across fallacies such as these. It can confuse any good critical thinker who is not wary of the logical fallacies that abound. An argument may seem sound on first approach but with discernment and good decision making skills, one should be able to identify a logical fallacy.
Bassham, G., Irwin, W., Nardone, H & Wallace, J. (2000). Critical Thinking: A Students
Introduction. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Murphy, J., Olaru, D., Schegg, R., & Frey, S. (2003, February). The bandwagon effect:
Swiss hotels’ web-sit and e-mail management. Cornell Hotel and Restaurant
Administration Quarterly, Vol 44, Iss 1; pg 71. Retrieved September 18, 2005,
from ProQuest database.
On Language. (2001, May 13). Pittsburgh Post – Gazette, p. E.8. Retrieved September
18, 2005, from ProQuest database.
Williamson, D. (2001, November 27). Ironies clone themselves; Scientists’ work spurs
familiar hue, cry. Telegram & Gazette, p B.1. Retrieved September
19, 2005, from ProQuest database.