Spotting Logical Fallacies

Learning Objectives

  • Recognize common logical fallacies
  • Evaluate logical fallacies in texts

When you evaluate an argument for logical fallacies, you consider what elements of the argument, if any, would cause an audience to believe that the argument is illogical or inappropriately manipulative. If you determine that these fallacies have been committed, you should question the credibility of the author and the legitimacy of the argument. If you employ these fallacies when making your own arguments, be aware that they may undermine or destroy your credibility.

Read the following passage and note where you see logical fallacies.

Passage: against the smoking ban

The University of Mississippi recently passed a policy banning smoking on campus. I am a smoker, and I have a lot of friends who are smokers, and we all agree that this policy should be overturned. This policy is framed in terms of health outcomes and promoting individual well-being, but the University has not instituted policies regarding many other behaviors related to health, such as exercising. Furthermore, the University does nothing to sanction other forms of air pollution, such as automobile exhaust. Smoking is a right, and Americans have rights, so the smoking ban is wrong. What’s next? Will we ban potato chips and Cokes on campus? Will we force-feed broccoli and carrots to first-year students? People eighteen years old and up are adults and have the ability to make their own decisions regarding their health and habits. The policy also states, “All members of the university community share in the responsibility for adhering to and enforcing this policy.” That type of language asks students and faculty to be informants against each other. A college campus is a place for free expression of ideas and behaviors.  It’s simple: either we are a freedom-loving campus or we aren’t.  I choose freedom, and I believe all of America’s veterans would agree with me. Perhaps the Chancellor has an ulterior motive for instituting the ban and is using smokers as a scapegoat.

Each question below will show you a section from the passage. Decide which logical fallacy best applies to the statement, or select “no fallacy.”

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