Student Material

Chapter 7: Pseudo-reasoning

Students’ material


Indicate whether the following claims are true or false.

  1. All fallacies have at least one false premise.
  2. An argument with a prescriptive conclusion but no prescriptive premises is fallacious.
  3. No fallacy has a true conclusion.
  4. Ad hominem fallacies are ‘substantial’ fallacies.
  5. No causal fallacy is a ‘formal’ fallacy.
  6. The perfectionist fallacy is committed when an argument is not perfect.
  7. There is a fallacy called the Smokescreen Fallacy.
  8. It is conceivable that a fallacy could be rationally persuasive for some person.
  9. An argument of the form is fallacious:
    P1) If P then Q.
    P2) Q
    C) P
  10. No valid arguments are fallacious.


Say whether each of the following is fallacious/a good argument/a rhetorical ploy

  1. You shouldn’t wear fur; fur comes from dead animals some of which have been skinned alive.
  2. Paul McCartney’s daughter says you shouldn’t wear fur. She knows about fashion. That’s enough to stop me.
  3. When it’s below 30 degrees outside and the hairs inside your nostrils are freezing, fur is the best way to keep warm. Everyone here in Northern Russia says so.
  4. Even though clothing is our core business, my company does not want to undermine its brand values by expanding into fur coats.
  5. Climate ‘change’ is just a con dreamed up by the environmental lobby to take us back to the Stone Age.
  6. Rick Idlewild is well-known for advocating carbon minimization schemes, but he would say that, wouldn’t he? He’s got business interests in a carbon trading scheme.
  7. If we don’t do everything in our power to abate carbon emissions, sea levels will rise and whole counties will be inundated. We cannot allow this to happen and must do whatever we can to prevent it. We must stop using our cars and taking international flights.
  8. Most people are counter-suggestible when it comes to Government diktats. Whenever the Government tells people to change their behaviour – eat less of that, do more of that, spend more, consume less – they do the opposite. So the best approach the Government could take to preventing disastrous climate change is to stop trying to get people to change their behaviour.
  9. If we don’t take action against climate change now, sea levels will rise to dangerous levels. Sea levels have already risen to dangerous levels, so clearly we haven’t taken any action against climate change.
  10. The President says he’s committed to finding solutions to tackling climate change, but there he is jetting around in Air Force One, pumping out carbon emissions like they’re pure oxygen. Why should we take any notice of what he says?


Name each of the following fallacies

  1. I’m not sure if my sister’s new partner, Frances, will like the gift we have bought her. We’re giving her a fishing rod. She lives in Canada and most people who live in Canada live near a river, a lake or the ocean and most people who live near water like to fish.
  2. If it’s raining, we can’t play tennis outdoors. We can’t play tennis outdoors, so it must be raining.
  3. Playing tennis outdoors is much better for you because you get to breathe fresh air instead of that stale stuff in the stadium. You should always play outside if you can.
  4. I really want to learn to fish. It must be a great way to spend your holidays and weekends. The vast majority of people here in New Zealand enjoy fishing.
  5. So the Government wants to make carbon offset payments compulsory for all domestic and international air travel. What’s the point? That approach alone won’t solve global warming.
  6. I think she’ll make an excellent Vice-President. After all, she’s clearly a devoted mother and she knows how to shoot straight.
  7. Yes, but you would say that, wouldn’t you? If your cousin’s elected Vice-President, you’ll have a direct line to the President.
  8. Indian food is the best. Sachin Tendulkar says so and he’s probably the best batsman in the world right now.
  9. Medical researchers have detected a correlation between the medication I’m taking for osteoporosis and cancer. I’m not taking any chances. I’m going to stop taking it it causes cancer.
  10. Of course carrying a little bit of cannabis for your own use is immoral. It’s illegal, isn’t it?


Name each of the bad argument techniques exemplified in the following.

  1. It would be wonderful if this year the television companies complied with the spirit as well as the letter of the law regarding advertising on Christmas Day. Normal people, like myself, consider promos to be advertising. [ … ]
    M. J. Drummond, Freemans Bay, New Zealand Herald, 24/12/08 (adapted and shortened)
  2. Look, there’s really no alternative here. Either we buy food or we buy beer, we can’t have both.
  3. You say that it’s a straight choice between beer and food, but I simply don’t agree that those are the only two options, and, anyway, you always drink more than I do.
  4. If you think I’m going to let you have a cell phone at your age, you’ve got another think coming. Once you’ve got a cell phone, you’ll want an iPod, then it’ll be an iPhone and before I know it you’ll be demanding that I buy you a sports car.
  5. (Said by child addressed by argument above) My mum’s so unreasonable and unfair. I asked her for a cell phone and she said she won’t buy me anything I ask for, ever!
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