Source: pp 253, 259. With Good Reason, An Introduction to Informal Fallacies (2000 6 ed) by York U. Prof. S. Morris Engel.

[p 253 :] This exercise's instruction = this one.

[p 259 :] 43. The moment Alice appeared, she was appealed to by all three to settle the question, and they repeated their arguments to her, though, as they all spoke at once, she found it very hard indeed to make out exactly what they said.

The executioner's argument was, that you couldn't cut off a head unless there was a body to cut it off from: [1.] that he had never had to do such a thing before, and he wasn't going to begin at his time of life. [End of 1.]

The King's argument was, that anything that had a head could be beheaded, and that you weren't to talk nonsense.

The Queen's argument was, that if something wasn't done about it in less than no time she'd have everybody executed, all round. (It was this last remark that had made the whole party look so grave and anxious.) (Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland)

Conjecture: Please see the one here that pertains to all these exercises.

I have not read this book, but know that Carroll was an excellent mathematician and logician and so might have inserted some clever Informal Fallacies. So have I missed anything?

Anyhow, I can only discern an Appeal to Tradition (as a case of Appeal to Authority (cf. pp 244-245) in 1 above, because the necessity of an action depends not on what the execution did or did not do in the past, but on what is needed now. I do not discern any Logical Fallacies by the King or Queen.

  • Why not the other arguments (by the king and queen)? Can you explain your reasoning?
    – E...
    Commented Jul 30, 2016 at 15:21
  • @EliranH Yes: I did not discover any fallacies in the King's or Queen's arguments: but the answer below proves me wrong!
    – user8572
    Commented Jul 31, 2016 at 1:05

1 Answer 1


I assume the situation was about the Cheshire Cat, which disappeared bit by bit until only the head remained, then only the smile, and then nothing.

The executioner's argument seems Ok: You can't cut off a head unless there is something to cut it off from. It's not quite right that there must be a body; a head on a stake can be cut off even though there is no body, but since there is nothing but the head this slight weakness in the argument doesn't produce a wrong result. That he has never done it and isn't going to do it is just a statement of his approach to work, nothing to do with logic.

The kings argument is plainly wrong. Not everything with a head can be beheaded, for example a state, a beer, or a pin. There might be the informal fallacy that having power equals being right. "You are not to talk nonsense" is a strong fallacy - instead of stating how the executioner is wrong, he just declares his words as nonsense, which proves nothing.

I wouldn't dare accusing the Queen of any fallacies. I like my head connected to my body too much.

  • 2
    +1 for the last line alone =) Also, the examples of things with heads that cannot be beheaded is enlightening, but there's something to be said for pragmatism in such measures!
    – Cort Ammon
    Commented Jul 30, 2016 at 23:20

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