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A win for rational thought

James Hill lists three weapons of rational thinking to combat common fallacies among students today.

If Aristotle has taught me one thing: it’s that people love to be told when they’re wrong. From ad hominem to post hoc ergo propter hoc, there is no shortage of pompous Latinised fallacies that you can shout at your friends like Harry Potter spells to demonstrate your superior intellect. 

So, seeing as people love it when you flex your first year philosophy elective in casual conversation,we have generously compiled a list of fallacies to help you educate your loved ones (or even your next Tinder date - there’s no way it’ll lead to a feature on @beam_me_up_softboi).

Number 1: the “ad populum fallacy”

“It’s Thursday! We should go to Moose , literally everyone is going and it’s going to be so fun!”

Upon hearing your friend make this statement, you should calmly but firmly explain that they are making an error in rational thought, namely the ad populum, or, appeal to the masses fallacy. The number of people attending Moose is not out-and-out proof that being there is enjoyable nor that attending is the correct outcome. For instance, many people believed that witches were real. This does not, in fact,  mean that witches are real.


Your friend decides to go to Moose and has a fabulous time, whist you stay home and revel in your rationality.

Number 2: the “ad verecundiam fallacy”

“Dropping out of uni in 4th year wouldn’t be that bad. Mark Zuckerberg did it, and look how well it turned out for him!”

This one is a classic. The argumentum ad verecundiam, or, argument from authority uses the authority of some person as support for the conclusion, even when this authority may have no relevance. For example, people often misquote Einstein or Abraham Lincoln on topics that neither Einstein nor Abraham Lincoln probably ever talked about. One must analyse a claim by its own merits, not those of the people who support it. Using “one” to refer to yourself is necessary here, and in all aspects of logical argument. 

You decide to drop out of university, not because Zuckerberg and his success is an authority, but because you really can't be bothered with 9am lectures anymore. Another win for rational thought!

Number 3: the “tu quoque”

“You can’t tell me to clean up the kitchen when your room is a dump!”

If your housemate ever makes this wildly fallacious response to your suggestion to clean the kitchen, make sure you let them know they have committed a logical fallacy—namely tu quoque, or, the appeal to hypocrisy. Just because the slightly moldy pizza in your room is smelling up the house, this does not mean your housemate shouldn’t clean the kitchen. The accusation of hypocrisy does not invalidate the claim that the kitchen needs tidying. 

Your housemate moves out at the end of the lease, and you begin searching for a more rational cohabitant. 

So there you have it. You are now armed with 3 weapons of enlightened reasoning to whip out whenever someone makes an error in rational thought. Your friends and Tinder dates will love you! 

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