A Philosopher's Blog

30 More Fallacies

Posted in Philosophy, Reasoning/Logic by Michael LaBossiere on May 21, 2011

Thanks to the budget cuts to education, I am not teaching this summer. While I did consider practicing “would you like fries with that?”, I decided to finish several book projects that have been languishing due to my teaching load. The most recent is 30 More Fallacies, which is a companion to 42 Fallacies.

The book, as the name states, presents thirty fallacies. It is available via Amazon and Barnes & Noble. It is priced at a bank breaking 99 cents (just over three cents a fallacy).

Here is a sample:

Accent, Fallacy of


This fallacy occurs when a conclusion is drawn from a premise or premises that are ambiguous due to a lack of clarity regarding the emphasis.  Most commonly this fallacy involves an ambiguity arising from a shift in emphasis/accent in the course of the argument. This fallacy has the following form:

1)      Premises are presented that are ambiguous due to a lack of clarity regarding emphasis.

2)      Conclusion C is drawn from these premises.

Ambiguity by itself is not fallacious, but is a lack of clarity in language that occurs when a claim has two (or more) meanings and it is not clear which is intended. The Fallacy of Accent occurs when an inference is drawn from a premise or premises on the basis of a specific sort of ambiguity that arises in three main ways.

The first is that a claim is ambiguous because the intended tone is not clear. For example, the claim “you would be lucky to get this person to work for you” could be high praise or a sarcastic remark depending on the tone used. The second is that the ambiguity arises from a lack of clarity regarding the intended stress. For example, the meaning of the claim “Leslie thinks that Sally has been faithful to him” can shift based on the stress. Stressed one way, the claim can be taken as indicating that Leslie thinks this, but is wrong. A third possibility is that claim is taken out of context. As an example, suppose that the original text was “Among the radical left, Mr. Jones has considerable appeal as a congressional candidate. However, mainstream voters rightfully regard him as a questionable choice, at best.” If someone were to quote this as “Mr. Jones has considerable appeal as a congressional candidate”, then they would be taking the quote out of context.

Perhaps the most used example of this sort of fallacy involves a hard drinking first mate and his teetotaler captain. Displeased by the mate’s drinking habits, the captain always made a point of entering “the mate was drunk today” into the ship’s log whenever the mate was drunk. One day, when the captain was sick, the mate entered “the captain was sober today” into the log. Naturally, the mate intended that the reader would take this emphasis as an indication that the event was unusual enough to be noted in the log and thus infer that the captain was drunk on all the other days. Obviously, to believe that conclusion would be to fall victim to the fallacy of accent.

Example #1

Sally: “I made Jane watch Jennifer Aniston in Just Go With It last night.”

Ted: “What did she think?”

Sally: “She said that she never wants to see another Jennifer Aniston movie.”

Ted: “But you love Jennifer and have all her movies. What are you going to do?”

Sally: “I’ll do exactly what she said. I’ll make her watch Just Go With it repeatedly.”

Ted: “Cruel.”

Sally: “Not at all.  She did say that she never wants to see another Jennifer Aniston movie and I’ll see to that by making sure that she watches that movie rather than another.”

Example #2

Dr. Jane Gupta (on TV): “Though Prescott Pharmaceuticals claims that their VacsaDiet 3000 is ‘guaranteed to help you shed those unsightly pounds’, this claim has not been verified and many of the ingredients in the product present potential health risks.”

Stephen: “Hey, Bob! Dr. Jane Gupta just said that ‘Prescott Pharmaceuticals VacsaDiet 3000 is guaranteed to help you shed those unsightly pounds.’”

Bob: “In that case, I’m going to buy it. After all, Dr. Jane knows her stuff.”

Stephen: “Yes she does. You just missed her-she was on TV talking all about diets and stuff.”

Bob: “I’m sorry I missed that. By the way, do these new pants make me look fat?”

Stephen: “No, your fat makes you look fat.”

Bob: “You wound me, sir.”

Example #3

Employer: “I wasn’t sure about hiring you. After all, you were at your last job just a month. But your former employer’s letter said that anyone would be lucky to get you to work for them.”

Keith: “I will do my best to live up to that, ma’am.”

Employer: “I’m sure you will. Welcome to the company.”

The Fallacies in 30 More Fallacies

Accent, Fallacy of

Accident, Fallacy of

Amphiboly, Fallacy of

Appeal to Envy

Appeal to Group Identity

Appeal to Guilt

Appeal to Silence

Appeal to Vanity/Elitism

Argumentum ad Hitlerum

Complex Question

Confusing Explanations and Excuses

Cum Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc

Equivocation, Fallacy of

Fallacious Example

Fallacy Fallacy

Historian’s Fallacy

Illicit Conversion

Incomplete Evidence

Moving the Goal Posts

Oversimplified Cause

Overconfident Inference from Unknown Statistics

Pathetic Fallacy

Positive Ad Hominem

Proving X, Concluding Y

Psychologist’s fallacy


Reification, Fallacy of

Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy

Victim Fallacy

Weak Analogy

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6 Responses

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  1. T. J. Babson said, on May 21, 2011 at 9:08 am

    Mike–congratulations on the new book.

    Nice image on the cover (does a Kindle book have a cover?).

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on May 23, 2011 at 2:30 pm

      Kindle (and Nook) books do have covers. When you open an ebook, you will (usually) start at the cover image. On an actual Kindle, the covers are B&W, so they do not look as good as covers viewed on color device.

  2. magus71 said, on May 21, 2011 at 11:32 am

    Congradulations on the book, Mike.

    TJ–I thought the same about the cover.

    Does anyone know how to get book covers for e-books? I’m having my book published as an e-book; assuming I have to get an artist to do a cover for me….

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on May 23, 2011 at 2:40 pm

      I’ve made my own covers. The 42 fallacies cover is simple-just solid color blocks and text. For the other covers, I used stock.xchng . They have a large collection of royalty free images. You can also cull Wikipedia for usable images (just check the usage restrictions). Also, NASA has a lot of free stuff if you need anything space related.

      Since the covers are JPEG images (I use a 750 wide by 1500 tall template) you can use something like paint.net or gimp to create the cover. Since B&N and Amazon shrink it down, it is a good idea to make the lettering stand out and a bit larger than you’d have on a printed book.

      Since I am doing mainly critical thinking style books, I have it easier: the “in” style for books is currently fairly minimalistic.

  3. […] [Via Fallacies and Pitfalls[1], Accent Fallacy[2]] […]

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