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Welcome! This is the place to ask the community of experts and other fallacyophites (I made up that word) if someone has a committed a fallacy or not. This is a great way to settle a dispute! This is also the home of the "Mastering Logical Fallacies" student support.


Dr. Bo's Criteria for Logical Fallacies:

  1. It must be an error in reasoning not a factual error.
  2. It must be commonly applied to an argument either in the form of the argument or in the interpretation of the argument.
  3. It must be deceptive in that it often fools the average adult.

Therefore, we will define a logical fallacy as a concept within argumentation that commonly leads to an error in reasoning due to the deceptive nature of its presentation. Logical fallacies can comprise fallacious arguments that contain one or more non-factual errors in their form or deceptive arguments that often lead to fallacious reasoning in their evaluation.

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Jack Mudge

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Jack Mudge


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Sat, Mar 16, 2019 - 01:33 PM

"Title wave" of citations

I'm trying to figure out what to call this debate tactic. In some debates (particularly in informal textual fora, such as Facebook), I will see someone post a massive flood of citations, some relevant, some not, and then demand that their opponent be familiar with all of this material before countering their original point.

A: X is true.
B: I don't think X is true...
A: - stop right there! Have you read C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, and M? Then you have no business disagreeing with X!
(It's an, ahem, Title Wave...)

Some ideas I considered for this:
- It's really similar to a Gish Gallop, but rather than presenting too much for the opponent to refute, it's just trying to claim expertise and stop the conversation.
- "Proof by Intimidation" is usually a joke, but seems like it could almost apply, except the problem here isn't dense jargon, it's just sheer volume.
- Seems like it could be an Ad Fidentia - by attempting to get B to think they lack the relevant knowledge or expertise to approach the topic.
- It resembles Alphabet Soup except instead of using abbreviations en masse, they're using citations instead.
- It's not really an appeal to authority; A isn't defending X by saying that C through M are authorities, just that B isn't allowed to reject X until they've read all of them.
- Argument from Fast Talking almost feels right - just flooding the debate with too much to even digest, let alone argue against. But it's a text version of it, where there isn't any particular time limit and there's no judge keeping track. (I'm sure if B tried to refute X anyway, this would turn into a Gish Gallop.)

Does anyone here have an idea about what to classify this as?



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Michael Chase Walker
Screenwriter, producer, mythoclast

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Michael Chase Walker

Screenwriter, producer, mythoclast

Master Contributor

About Michael Chase Walker

Michael Chase Walker is an actor, author, screenwriter, producer, and a former adjunct lecturer for the College of Santa Fe Moving Images Department, and Dreamworks Animation. His first motion picture was the animated classic, The Last Unicorn.
Michael was an in-house television writer for the hit television series: He-Man, She-Ra, Voltron, and V, the Series. In 1985, he was appointed Director of Children's programs for CBS Entertainment where he conceived, shaped and supervised the entire 1985 Saturday Morning line-up: Wildfire, Pee Wee's Playhouse, Galaxy High School, Teen Wolf, and over 10
Print Sat, Mar 16, 2019 - 01:55 PM
I think you've pretty much run the gamut. All potentially valid or in some instances invalid classifications. Obviously, it depends on the specific discussion.
As Dr. Bo warns:

Exception: Be very careful not to confuse "deferring to an authority on the issue" with the appeal to authority fallacy. Remember, a fallacy is an error in reasoning. Dismissing the council of legitimate experts and authorities turns good skepticism into denialism. The appeal to authority is a fallacy in argumentation, but deferring to an authority is a reliable heuristic that we all use virtually every day on issues of relatively little importance. There is always a chance that any authority can be wrong, that’s why the critical thinker accepts facts provisionally. It is not at all unreasonable (or an error in reasoning) to accept information as provisionally true by credible authorities. Of course, the reasonableness is moderated by the claim being made (i.e., how extraordinary, how important) and the authority (how credible, how relevant to the claim).

The appeal to authority is more about claims that require evidence than about facts. For example, if your tour guide told you that Vatican City was founded February 11, 1929, and you accept that information as true, you are not committing a fallacy (because it is not in the context of argumentation) nor are you being unreasonable.

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Bo Bennett, PhD
Author of Logically Fallacious

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Bo Bennett, PhD

Author of Logically Fallacious

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About Bo Bennett, PhD

Bo's personal motto is "Expose an irrational belief, keep a person rational for a day. Expose irrational thinking, keep a person rational for a lifetime."  Much of his charitable work is in the area of education—not teaching people what to think, but how to think.  His projects include his book, The Concept: A Critical and Honest Look at God and Religion, and Logically Fallacious, the most comprehensive collection of logical fallacies.  Bo's personal blog is called Relationship With Reason, where he writes about several topics related to critical thinking.  His secular (humanistic) philosophy is detailed at PositiveHumanism.com.
Bo is currently the producer and host of The Humanist Hour, the official broadcast of the American Humanist Association, where he can be heard weekly discussing a variety of humanistic issued, mostly related to science, psychology, philosophy, and critical thinking.

Full bio can be found at http://www.bobennett.com
Print Sat, Mar 16, 2019 - 01:59 PM
Good job with the considerations. You found many fallacies that contain elements of what might be going on here.

I think appeal to authority works best and here is why: A actually is defending X by saying that C through M are authorities. The response to "I don't think X is true" wouldn't be to read C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, and M unless these sources agreed that X was true. These are the "authorities" that the person must be familiar with before being allowed to participate in the discussion. We can say that the authoritative nature of these sources is presupposed rather than explicitly stated. But are these legitimate appeals to authority or fallacious?

In terms of a named fallacy for this, I don't think the overall form of the argument is necessarily fallacious. Consider a student trying to tell us about a character's motivation who hasn't read the book. In science (or academia), we might see this with a team of researchers who present conclusions based on extensive research only to have the research rejected by someone who hasn't read (or evaluated) the research. In cases like these, perhaps there is a reasonable requirement to be part of the conversation or to have your opinion taken seriously.

Having said all that, I agree that simply listing sources is a horrible idea and very often a cop out in addressing the point of disagreement. Not peculiarly a problem with reasoning, but poor communication and not a good strategy for persuasion. Personally, I get annoyed when people tell me (or others) to read a certain book in response to an argument. This is basically saying, "I can't refute your argument, but if you give this author 8-10 hours of your time, he or she can do it." :)
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Jack Mudge
Sunday, March 24, 2019 - 06:29:50 PM
Thank you guys! These answers were helpful -- I had ruled out argument from authority because the sources in instances I was considering when thinking about it weren't even relevant to the claims; but the reasoning here makes sense. Even if it's not actually relevant, it's still being given as an authority of some sort (even if only an authority on "required" background information).

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