Source: p 143, A Concise Introduction to Logic (12 Ed, 2014) by Patrick J. Hurley

We saw in Chapter 1 that an argument from authority is an inductive argument in which an arguer cites the authority or testimony of another person in support of some conclusion.
The appeal to unqualified authority fallacy is a variety of the argument from authority and occurs when the cited authority or witness lacks credibility.

I already understand, and so ask not about, the definition of Appeal to Unqualified Authority. Instead I ask about the history or etymology behind this term, a question of the history of philosophy, and not of linguistics because:


verēcundia f ‎(genitive verēcundiae); first declension

1.knowing one's place, regarded as a virtue; coyness, modesty

2. shame, awe

  • 2
    It's hard to answer these question for two reasons: (1) you're asking for the etymological history of the name of a fallacy, which matters to few people doing philosophy today now. AND (2) the names of fallacies (especially informal ones) are, at lest in contemporary philosophy, not particularly important, because fallacy does not mean what many people think it means. See meta – virmaior Dec 20 '15 at 5:38
  • I think the sense here would be: "an argument from shame," i.e. the shame you should feel disagreeing with your superiors/elders. People (in the US and Europe) today don't generally feel shame in disagreeing with their elders, but traditionally the presumption that being young = being wrong would have been quite strong. – shane Dec 21 '15 at 3:01

This paper is mainly about the modern use of the term, but also includes a section on (an interpretation of) Locke's original construction. One thing to keep in mind is that Locke's time was much less egalitarian than much of the world today. My current translation is as "argument to deference" -- in hierarchical societies people should (as a moral/social imperative) defer to people of higher station. Locke was criticizing this as mode of reasoning.

Though some contemporary societies don't have the same kind of explicit class structures, we can still fall prey to this kind of thinking. A good contemporary example is the influence that some celebrities have on some issues. Whether or not the celebrity has in fact cultivated expertise on some subject, if your (or your friends') reason for paying heed to their positions is based more on the sense of admiration than on their actual competence, you could be falling prey to the fallacy.

I suspect that the interpretation of this term has morphed over the last 300 years in this context of increasing egalitarianism, especially in the cultures with ties to England, so that now there aren't obvious cases of arguments relying on social (political/cultural) standing. However, there is still the need to identify that sometimes just because a supposed authorities say so, doesn't make it true, hence the inclusion of "unqualified authority" in most modern discussions.


I think you are confusing the target of "modesty" (as meant in the Latin term). The reference below (under "argumentum") gets it right I think -- "to reverence". I.e. it's an appeal to your modesty to accept something (to treat someone else as an authority). So yeah, a translation issue, but not of the type you are worried about I think.


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