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Reductio ad Absurdum

reductio ad absurdum

(also known as: reduce to absurdity)

Description: A mode of argumentation or a form of argument in which a proposition is disproven by following its implications logically to an absurd conclusion.  Arguments that use universals such as, “always”, “never”, “everyone”, “nobody”, etc., are prone to being reduced to absurd conclusions.  The fallacy is in the argument that could be reduced to absurdity -- so in essence, reductio ad absurdum is a technique to expose the fallacy.

Logical Form:

Assume P is true.

From this assumption, deduce that Q is true.

Also, deduce that Q is false.

Thus, P implies both Q and not Q (a contradiction, which is necessarily false).

Therefore, P itself must be false.

Example #1:

I am going into surgery tomorrow so please pray for me.  If enough people pray for me, God will protect me from harm and see to it that I have a successful surgery and speedy recovery.

Explanation: We first assume the premise is true: if “enough” people prayed to God for the patient's successful surgery and speedy recovery, then God would make it so.  From this, we can deduce that God responds to popular opinion.  However, if God simply granted prayers based on popularity contests, that would be both unjust and absurd.  Since God cannot be unjust, then he cannot both respond to popularity and not respond to popularity, the claim is absurd, and thus false.

Example #2:

If everyone lived his or her life exactly like Jesus lived his life, the world would be a beautiful place!

Explanation: We first assume the premise is true: if everyone lived his or her life exactly like Jesus lived his, the world would be a beautiful place.  If this were true, we would have 7 billion people on this earth roaming from town to town, living off the charity of others, preaching about God (with nobody listening). Without anyone creating wealth, there would be nobody to get charity from -- there would just be 7 billion people all trying to tell each other about God.  After a few weeks, everyone would eventually starve and die.  This world might be a beautiful place for the vultures and maggots feeding on all the Jesus wannabes, but far from a beautiful world from a human perspective.  Since the world cannot be both a beautiful place and a horrible place, the proposition is false.

Exception: Be sure to see the appeal to extremes fallacy.

References:

Eemeren, F. H. van, Garssen, B., & Meuffels, B. (2009). Fallacies and Judgments of Reasonableness: Empirical Research Concerning the Pragma-Dialectical Discussion Rules. Springer Science & Business Media.



Registered User Comments

:P
Friday, May 25, 2018 - 11:57:29 AM
The only problem with the second example is that no money doesn't lead to death if every producer is willing to feed those non producers. If everyone lived like Jesus then there would not be any wealth is true. However this would then conclude that people would just live without wealth. The failure of Marxism wasn't due to people helping each other was wrong it was because people can be forced into altruism. Thus if everyone suddenly followed what Jesus would do, there would be no failure because by assumption no one would not follow altruistic behavior :) (btw the Gospels don;t say Jesus hates wealth it just says that he hates hoarding when the hoarders don't help those that need it)

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:P
Wednesday, July 04, 2018 - 09:28:51 PM
@Bo Bennett, PhD: Given your particular version of that argument however its perfectly fine to say its absurd to take it literal, however hopefully my other comment shows its absurd to take anyone literal in that context. :P

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:P
Wednesday, July 04, 2018 - 09:35:27 PM
@demetri.bazos: re: similar character traits not same LUL

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Bo Bennett, PhD
Thursday, July 05, 2018 - 09:33:15 AM
@demetri.bazos: You are calling fallacy on my examples purposely designed to be fallacies.

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:P
Friday, July 13, 2018 - 11:51:32 PM
thats fine. Sry to be condescending sounding but if at all possible could you go through were i went wrong

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Bo Bennett, PhD
Saturday, July 14, 2018 - 02:21:15 AM
@:P: This is a website about fallacies. Errors in reasoning. In order to demonstrate these fallacies I give examples. Some examples are common that one might see often, others are more exaggerated and quite rare in order to make the fallacy more clear. Every example is fallacious. If you say "nobody would say that," you might be right - but I am not claiming they would (strawman). Readers get emotional over the examples because they feel they make them look bad through association. I have taken heat from Christians, creationists, flat-earthers (they are the most nasty), atheists, liberals, conservatives, and even ghost hunters. My message to everyone - stop taking these examples personally unless you look at the example fallacy and say "that makes perfect sense to me... I see nothing wrong with that." Otherwise, we are in agreement.

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Philip J. Rayment
Sunday, July 22, 2018 - 11:06:56 PM
I also wondered about this example. I think the fallacy (not a logical fallacy I suppose) is of taking the proposition too literally. If you wanted, you could argue that living one's life "exactly like Jesus lived" would involve living in the area of 1st-Century Israel, performing miracles, being crucified and rising from the dead, etc. But clearly the loosely-worded proposition doesn't mean that.
Given that, why should one think it means "roaming from town to town, living off the charity of others, [and] preaching about God" rather than something more like :P's suggestion of emulating his character traits?
So yes, you can use reductio ad absurdum to show that the proposition, if taken literally, is false, but if it wasn't meant to be taken that literally, is this response then effectively a strawman fallacy?

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Bo Bennett, PhD
Monday, July 23, 2018 - 07:07:34 AM
@Philip J. Rayment: If the arguer in the example mean simply emulating character traits, then yes, the response would be a strawman. Someone has said this to me before (this is where the example comes from). I did ask for clarification because I did not understand what they meant. The conversation went on for about an hour. At the start, they meant much more than "emulating character traits" and I used this technique until we agreed that it would be great for people to be kind to each other. For example, the person claimed that one should devote their life to God rather than have a family. I pointed out that this would lead to the end of humanity in one generation if everyone did this. My example is a short and sweet example of the Reductio ad Absurdum.

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:P
Tuesday, August 14, 2018 - 09:17:46 AM
@Bo Bennett, PhD: No worries I'm not attacking you for that I just was having different thoughts on the claim :p

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rx7man
Monday, October 08, 2018 - 03:59:15 AM
Everyone would die while relatively young beaten and nailed to a cross... Sounds lovely.

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maru
Friday, October 04, 2019 - 02:39:55 AM
> The failure of Marxism wasn't due to people helping each other was wrong it was because people can be forced into altruism.

Er.. Marxism didn't fail, unless you took your classes in the states.

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Electro_blob
Sunday, September 24, 2017 - 12:54:43 AM
This is a blatantly biased website against Christians. A general example would be much more appropriate. People come onto these websites to learn about argument, not to have a God bashing session.
Prayer is a general appeal to God, much like a letter to a Senator, which can be rejected or accepted. God will do what he sees fit. If your prayer fits in to His schedule, it will be done. Otherwise, God will carry out His will, not yours.
The obvious intention of the second example is to state that we should follow the principles demonstrated by Jesus's life, not that we should literally act exactly as he does. Love God with all your heart, mind, and soul. Love your neighbor as yourself. If everyone followed these principles, the world would be a better place. Of course, you can not love anyone if you are starved to death and expect others to provide the funds for your gifts to no one. Jesus would not preach to believers something they already know, he would only strengthen it. Nor would Jesus starve himself to death. Your assumptions are unrealistic. However, if everyone worshiped God, worked hard to improve their lives, and helped to improve other people's lives, the world would be perfect.
All your conclusions based on the proposed statement are valid, but the wording of the examples are obviously biased to lead your reader to believe that Christian arguments are generally invalid.

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Michael Chase Walker
Thursday, July 26, 2018 - 01:56:47 PM
@tuqqer: Thank you, my friend!

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Larry Allen Brown
Thursday, July 04, 2019 - 11:42:19 PM
@Bo Bennett, PhD:
I think most of the hostility toward logic comes from those that hold deep beliefs. Beliefs must be justified by an appeal to an authority of some kind (usually the source of the belief in question) and this justification by an appropriate authority makes the belief either rational, or if not rational, at least valid for the person who holds it.” However, this is a requirement that can never be adequately met due to the problem of validation or the dilemma of infinite regress vs. dogmatism. Whenever a person makes an absolute claim, there must be a basis or foundation for that claim to stand on. But then it's obvious that things require bases. That only begs the question, what is the basis for the basis that one is using to justify his belief? And what then is the basis for the basis for the basis that he's using? And on it goes into infinite regress. At some point the person is forced to accept that his belief has no basis, or he simply claims I believe it because I believe it, and the discussion ends in a demonstration of circular reasoning.

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Larry Allen Brown
Friday, July 05, 2019 - 12:16:28 AM
>"This is a blatantly biased website against Christians."<
Nah... I don't think so.

>"People come onto these websites to learn about argument, not to have a God bashing session."<
If what you're saying is true, then you need to learn that you can't cut off an argument by appealing to belief. Your arguments will only take you as far as your beliefs will allow. Logic doesn't care about anybody's beliers.

>"Prayer is a general appeal to God, much like a letter to a Senator, which can be rejected or accepted."<
You're comparing God to a US Senator?? Really? Is there one in particular that strikes you as more God-like than the others? I don't think it's a good analogy. For one thing, you can vote for a Senator. You can vote him/her out of office. You don't get to vote for God. God doesn't need your vote. He's going to do what he wants regardless of what you might think.

>"God will do what he sees fit. If your prayer fits in to His schedule, it will be done. Otherwise, God will carry out His will, not yours."<
Then prayer is useless since God acts on a whim. Tell me something; What informs him of whether he sees something is fit or not? What informs him of his moral decisions? Does he get morality from an outside source, or does he simply arbitrarily say this is moral and this is not? If that's the case, he could say that Genocide was morally acceptable. Would you agree with him on that? I'm not saying that God approves of Genocide, but I am saying that he could do that if he decided to. As you say, ">"God will do what he sees fit. If your prayer fits in to His schedule, it will be done. Otherwise, God will carry out His will, not yours" So he could do that couldn't he? He could decide that genocide is morally acceptable.

>"Love God with all your heart, mind, and soul."<
That's a commandment. Can anybody command you to love him/her? Love doesn't work like that. You can't be ordered to love somebody, unless you live in North Korea.

>"However, if everyone worshiped God, worked hard to improve their lives, and helped to improve other people's lives, the world would be perfect."<
Utopia. Just believe as I do and all will be PERFECT. You're speaking of the Christian God aren't you? Obviously there are other religions in the world that probably would say the same thing. So which one is the right one that will make the world perfect if we all believe as you suggest?

>" but the wording of the examples are obviously biased to lead your reader to believe that Christian arguments are generally invalid."<
Just because nobody has presented a valid "Christian argument" doesn't necessarily mean that one doesn't exist. I just haven't seen one yet. But the problem that you'll have is that it's an ideology with a rigid dogma that admits no new knowledge. And that's it's weakness. Unless you are one who is willing to entertain any position and holds all his positions, including his most fundamental standards, goals, and decisions, and his basic philosophical position itself, open to criticism; one who never cuts off an argument by resorting to faith, or irrational commitment to justify some belief that has been under severe critical fire; one who is committed, attached, addicted, to no position, you're going to be at a distinct disadvantage in an argument with a person well versed in logic and critical thinking.
>"

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Larry Allen Brown
Friday, July 05, 2019 - 01:53:21 AM
@Fay:
>" secular hypocrisy which is also a religion."<

Is there a church? Maybe you should find a nice Christian's only site that won't upset you so much. You're clearly over your head in here.

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Larry Allen Brown
Friday, July 05, 2019 - 02:08:32 AM
@Philip J. Rayment:

>"And yet, Christians supposedly get their beliefs from the Bible, which clearly and unambiguously teaches a creationist point of view."<

Supposedly. But how many have actually read the Bible. And What proves the Bible? It's the word of God. According to who? According to the Bible. That's circular reasoning and a logical fallacy itself. You can't use a theory to prove itself, and you can't use the Bible to prove the Bible.

God is a Metaphysical concept. Not physical. Science only deals with the physical universe. there are no instruments in science that can measure or locate God. Since God is not of the physical world, God cannot be proven to exist through any scientific method. Therefore it's a belief. Either you believe it or you don't. Lots of people want to believe it because it gives them comfort. Others don't because they don't require that from some belief system. Creationism and Science do not agree in any way. You need to understand that religion admits no new information. It's an ideology with a dogma that is adhered to. Ideologies admit no new information. Science does. In fact all scientific theories undergo rigid criticism with every attempt to disprove them. Science is about disproving things. Not proving things. Religion is about trying to prove itself. That's a process of inductive reasoning. Science deals with deductive reasoning.

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Fay
Saturday, July 06, 2019 - 12:24:04 AM
@Larry Allen Brown: Don't project your anger and angst on others. We are too educated for you. The only reason we are on this website is to put you in your place. To show you that are clearly over your head. Your little head. Nice try. I guess I remind you of your father.

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Larry Allen Brown
Saturday, July 06, 2019 - 03:21:38 AM
@Fay: >" We are too educated for you. "<
And...you're an example of that education? Uh huh. I'll bet you know all the best words too. You know, a person that is well educated doesn't have to tell others how well educated they are. It's like telling somebody how smart you are. A smart and well educated person doesn't have to tell you how smart and well educated they are. Only an idiot with a deep inferiority complex would do that. It's a very Trumpian thing to do. One can always tell and draw their own conclusion.

Now, Ms Valedictorian, you haven't answered my question yet. It's a very simple question for you to handle. A third grader could handle it.
You said this:
>"However. With your same dirty mouth"<

I responded with this: "???? My "dirty mouth"? Did you spot some vulgarity or obscenity in what I wrote? I missed that. Could you point it out so we understand what you're talking about?"

Now, I've been over our exchange and I find no obscenities and ad hominem personal attacks on you at all. I asked you to point it out so we can understand what you are talking about. OTHERWISE...you expose yourself as being woefully inept at presenting a rational case for what you're trying to say. It's a demonstration of how to make a fool of yourself in public. Never make up shit about people. Don't you know your Bible?
It's the 9th Commandment: 9You must not give false evidence against your neighbour..
You come across for everyone to see as a phony. And that you're woefully pathetic at any form of argument. Frankly, you're way over your head here. Like I said, find yourself a nice Christian site where you might learn something about the religion you pretend to follow.

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Larry Allen Brown
Saturday, July 06, 2019 - 03:50:26 AM
@Fay: >"The only reason we are on this website is to put you in your place."<

You've been on this site long before I showed up. And I would have thought you'd be on a site that teaches you about logical fallacy's to learn something. That's what the site is for you know. Oh...I get it. You're hoping that being here might actually help you deal with somebody like me? Maybe it'll help you "put me in my place". That's what you said right? Lets see it again. (The only reason we are on this website is to put you in your place) hehehe. Good luck , but you'd best give up on that thought. You're going to need a lot more practice if you hope to succeed with your quest to "put me in my place". You don't define my place. don't you know that?

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Fay
Tuesday, July 09, 2019 - 01:34:08 PM
@Larry Allen Brown:

You are ridiculous. Who has time to read your silly talk?

All the top universities in the world have enormous theology departments. If you had any truth or education do you think they would be in business? The truth is that you are going out of business.

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maru
Friday, October 04, 2019 - 02:35:51 AM
@Larry Allen Brown: What you said is correct, and I also think religions suck. But other dogmatic beliefs also suck, especially those that are hidden in our heads without us even knowing we are being part of an absurd propaganda campaign:

> You can't be ordered to love somebody, unless you live in North Korea.

Before speaking of other countries politics, it's better to first: learn the language, learn their history, learn their actual political system, learn about that region geopolitics, and so on... this kind of "NK bad" makes your argument look ridiculous, or perhaps you were being ironic?

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Dave W
Saturday, August 05, 2017 - 02:00:34 PM
Ok. Very enlightening. But you should have added another fallacy: The Straw Man Fallacy. Anyone desiring two good examples need look no further than those given above about prayer and Christ-likeness. A more impressive use of your time would be seeing how many Christians you could find who would actually explain their understanding of prayer or Christ-likeness in the terms given above. I'll save you some time: You would find none. A child of 8 raised in a mature Christian home could easily distinguish between the nonsense above and the actual beliefs of Christianity. No, 6. No, 5. Maybe younger. But friend, I sympathize with you. I am well acquainted with the miserable task of the anti-Christian who makes the mistake of taking on an educated Christian in debate. Much, much safer to offer the most childish interpretation of Christianity imaginable and then attack that. You would have no hope against the Real Thing.

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Larry Allen Brown
Friday, July 05, 2019 - 02:19:32 AM
>"I am well acquainted with the miserable task of the anti-Christian who makes the mistake of taking on an educated Christian in debate."You would have no hope against the Real Thing." <

I haven't seen that. Be sure to let me know when that takes place. Can you point to the "real thing". I've been waiting a long time to see who that might be.

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Fay
Tuesday, July 09, 2019 - 01:34:30 PM
@Larry Allen Brown:

You are ridiculous. Who has time to read your silly talk?

All the top universities in the world have enormous theology departments. If you had any truth or education do you think they would be in business? The truth is that you are going out of business.

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Larry Allen Brown
Tuesday, July 09, 2019 - 02:18:14 PM
@Fay:
"You are ridiculous. Who has time to read your silly talk?"
Well obviously you do or you wouldn't be posting your insults to me.

"All the top universities in the world have enormous theology departments"

Enormous?? No. Hardly enormous. There are certainly theology departments in most Universities but I wouldn't call them enormous. Define enormous for us. What is their budget that compares to...lets say, the science department or math departments to name just a few.

"If you had any truth or education do you think they would be in business? "
? If I had any truth or education do I think they would be in business?" That's a very weird sentence that makes no sense. I don't even know what that means. I don't see how my "truth or education" has any bearing on whether "they" would be in business. Does their business depend on my truth or education??

"The truth is that you are going out of business"

That's the truth? What business are you talking about?? I have no idea what you're talking about. I'm retired. What business? I think you need to see a Doctor.

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Nick McGivney
Wednesday, May 17, 2017 - 06:48:42 PM
First time I ever got so much more bang than buck when searching a simple definition. I commend the material, and I commend the writer for adding so much more to it through their beautifully wrought examples. I am pure entertained.

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Dave W
Saturday, August 05, 2017 - 02:03:13 PM
Huh. You must be used to raw deals, indeed! But I see what you mean about the entertainment. It is always enjoyable watching fools present themselves as wise men. What else is the internet for?

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Larry Allen Brown
Saturday, July 06, 2019 - 03:37:58 AM
@Dave W: >"It is always enjoyable watching fools present themselves as wise men. What else is the internet for?"<

That's an amazingly egotistical thing to say. Actually there's a great amount to be gained from the internet. It's a remarkable research tool. Of course, you'd have to open your mind beyond the point of thinking that you already know all there is to know.

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Fay
Thursday, February 07, 2019 - 10:03:12 PM
OMG. The owner of this website is AN ANGRY LOSER. He uses examples of Jesus because he is too jealous of wise people. Or he is afraid of the truth. Notice how the shameful coward can act like he is successful in mocking Christianity when he does not invite someone to make him face the truth? He is a one-sided coward that can only succeed if no one is allowed to put him in his place.

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Larry Allen Brown
Thursday, July 04, 2019 - 11:27:51 PM
Well...you've demonstrated your reliance on the ad hominem but you haven't demonstrated where he's wrong. Can you do that, because otherwise you aren't making a coherent argument. You're using one ad hominem after another as a means of projection of your own anger. You call him "AN ANGRY LOSER" in all caps which indicates that you're shouting your own anger. And next you claim he's "afraid of the truth", demonstrating that you can now read minds and claim certainty regarding his Motives. You call him a "shameful coward" because he hasn't invited someone to make him face that truth, when you can see for yourself that you and others have posted comments where you are in fact invited to make him "face the truth" ( and what might that truth be? That contradictions are acceptable? ) You deem him a one sided coward that can only succeed if no one is allowed to put him in his place, when you have every opportunity to do exactly that in your comments. Unfortunately you failed miserably because you offer nothing but ad hominem personal attacks that fail to address anything that he said. You come across as exactly what you project him to be: AN ANGRY LOSER.

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Fay
Friday, July 05, 2019 - 01:16:57 AM
@Larry Allen Brown: You are the perfect example of the fallacy Reductio ad Absurdum

Remember this?

Arguments that use universals such as, “always”, “never”, “everyone”, “nobody"

However. With your same dirty mouth you say that always one one criticises someone else they are committing the fallacy of ad hominem.

So we should never mention somoeone is a child molestor and keep it concealed, is that correct?

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Larry Allen Brown
Friday, July 05, 2019 - 01:49:19 AM
@Fay: You aren't very good at this Fay.

>"Arguments that use universals such as, “always”, “never”, “everyone”, “nobody""<
What about them? They're called Quantifiers. the most significant of Frege’s new inventions was the quantifier. Quantifiers are words like: “all”, “some”, “many” and “most”. They allow us to say things about groups of objects,. “Some men are bald.” That kind of thing. What are you trying to say about them?

>"However. With your same dirty mouth"<
???? My "dirty mouth"? Did you spot some vulgarity or obscenity in what I wrote? I missed that. Could you point it out so we understand what you're talking about?

>"When one criticises someone else they are committing the fallacy of ad hominem.."< No. You misunderstand what criticism means.
That's not what I'm saying at all. I've criticized your post without using a single ad hominem personal attack on you in any way. I've simply criticized your argument for lacking any substance. And I've cited specifically where you go off the rails without resorting to any name calling or obscenity.

>"So we should never mention somoeone is a child molestor and keep it concealed, is that correct?"<

Are you comparing what you've called the author; (AN ANGRY LOSER., he is too jealous of wise people,shameful coward,He is a one-sided coward ) to a Child Molester? Do you find some moral equivalence here? You are putting him alongside a child molester, so are you really going there? Why would you do that?

The ad hominem is defined as argumentum ad hominem in the authors own book and it agrees with most other definitions that you'll find regarding logical fallacy's.
(also known as: personal abuse, personal attacks, abusive fallacy, damning the source, name calling, refutation by caricature, against the person, against the man) What you've done is use the ad hominem in attacking the author. You haven't offered any semblance of a rational argument against what he said. Your emotional response doesn't cut it. It doesn't hold water and reveals you as un-prepared to deal with a logical and well reasoned argument.


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Fay
Saturday, July 06, 2019 - 12:25:50 AM
@Larry Allen Brown: To summarize what you are saying is. Larry brown is a clown. Who has time to read your rubbish? Maybe mindless atheist who love rabbit holes?

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Larry Allen Brown
Saturday, July 06, 2019 - 03:27:46 AM
@Fay:
Why Fay...don't you realize that I always answer each of your points. I do that to crush them right before your eyes. I don't mind at all typing my response. I never even think about if it's long. It's complete and always addresses whatever dumb comment you make. Think of it as getting an education in how to argue with somebody.

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