Indeed, there are ways of thought which are not consistent with logic. I am not talking about such fallacies here. All of formal fallacies, statistical fallacies or fallacies of relevance (e.g. ad homenem) are here.

But I'm talking about other arguments which are called fallacies. Among them are naturalistic fallacy, appeal to consequences, no true Scotsman and hundreds of others. But as I see it, they are not real fallacies but only the unpersuasive points. Otherwise we could call for any X "appeal to X" a fallacy. For example, appeal to science, appeal to logic, appeal to rationality, etc.

So, are they really called fallacies just in order to make an accuser, the one who says another person is commiting a fallacy, seem more persuasive, therefore being just a manipulative trick?


2 Answers 2



Of course, you can probably find examples of people saying "this is a fallacy" where what gets called a fallacy is not, in fact, a fallacy. Mis-identification is possible, and I've even found something online once that suggested you learn fallacies so that you accuse your opponent of making them in a formal debate setting (I think it got written for high school students engaging in formal debates or something). So, such fallacies can get used as a method of manipulation.

However, all of the fallacies could, and sometimes do, get made by people who don't really make positive arguments of their own or have claims. For example, the "No True Scotsman" fallacy often appears in multiple groups who have members with a certain commitment to the identity of the group being a certain way. But, people who are simply not members of that group sometimes point out that a "No True Scotsman" fallacy occurs. Or even, members of that group will point out, or suggest, that a No True Scotsman fallacy gets made.

Such pointing out really doesn't make anyone look more persuasive when that person really isn't trying to persuade you of anything (other than such a fallacy has gotten made by the person making it). So, no, the notion of an informal fallacy is not just a method of manipulation.

  • I meant, these people instead of trying to understand why does the another person refers to nature, or no true 'Scotsman', instead of being interested in their thoughts, prefers to think of self as of the only right one and accuses another person commiting a fallacy.
    – rus9384
    Commented Jul 31, 2018 at 19:05
  • @rus9384 I don't know who you mean by 'these people'. I would certainly not say that all people who say "that's a true scotsman fallacy!" think that way. I don't think you can infer much about a person just from them saying that something is a fallacy. If you did, that would be hasty generalization. Commented Jul 31, 2018 at 19:07
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    @rus9384 Huh? If you are online, as soon as someone identifies your argument as fallacious by a name, in principle, you have a method by which to see how it leads to errors, since such names generally have sources such as Wikipedia to explain them. Saying "you're wrong" or "your reasoning is fallacious" sounds like an explanation is lacking. Not so much if he or she says "you've made the naturalistic fallacy". We need to see an example and know the full context to determine if a particular response is correct or not. Commented Jul 31, 2018 at 19:13
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    @rus9384 I'm certain there are some people who'd rather point out a fallacy (at best, if not outright discredit your argument just by saying "you're wrong" as Doug points). That doesn't mean that the legitimacy of claiming such fallacy in an argument is immediately associated with manipulation. Sure, I'd be happy to argue with someone who wouldn't only point out a fallacy in my reasoning, but would also elaborate on why he thinks so and offer a counter-argument. That'd be a healthy discussion. But I can't expect to witness that in every discussion I'm having (especially on the internet). Commented Aug 1, 2018 at 15:05
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    @rus9384 a fallacy is an objective claim towards an argument, it can't be used to attack one's world view directly. The fact that one makes a false statement (i.e. containing a fallacy) wouldn't change if he'd had a different world view. If you feel like a fallacy is more compatible with one world view than the other, I suggest that you might not fully understand such fallacy. If someone uses a fallacy in order to support his world view and disown another's, I'd suggest he doesn't fully understand that fallacy. Commented Aug 2, 2018 at 5:03

Employing an informal fallacy or calling one out can serve the same rhetorical purpose: persuading people who are trying to keep score without actually being able to keep up.

But it's not just a method of manipulation. In a discussion that is genuinely aimed at getting to the truth of a matter (rather than securing a "win" for a predetermined position), knowledge and critique of potentially fallacious patterns of reasoning is quite valuable.

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