Figarist David Kaufmann put us on to a great fallacies site. Fun and useful, even while it implies that fallacies are a sin. So do we, in Thank You for Arguing. But in rhetoric, the real sinner in a fallacy is the person who falls for it. Rhetoric has few rules. If you can persuade without threats or actual violence, you’re good.
As we note in our book, most fallacies come down to one or more of these three elements:
Bad proof. This includes false comparisons, bad examples, and ignorance as proof (assering that the lack of examples proves something). The tests didn’t find anything, so you’re not sick.
Wrong number of choices, offering just two choices when more are actually available, or merging two or three issues into one. We can bomb Iran, or we can let them destroy Israel.
Disconnect between proof and conclusion. The tautology—in which the proof and the conclusion are identical—constitutes the most infamous disconnect. He’s good at sports because he’s an athlete.
Our favorite fallacious quote comes from the great Homer Simpson. When he offers his daughter, Lisa, a doughnut, she asks if he has any fruit instead. “This has purple in it,” Homer replies. “Purple is a fruit.”
Can you name the fallacy?