Is there a "hierarchical" or "webbing" pattern to logical/cognitive fallacies?

Something that I've thought. Some fallacies may be related to others and the idea is that "if one does one, then it may be expected that one does another". However, I lack evidence as to whether these kind of connections exist "in practice".

  • 1
    Probably. But the vagueness of the concept of fallacy, its dependence on context, and the controversial nature of identifying something as a fallacy make it very difficult to study such patterns. Here is an Abdulmajeed-Finjan study of fallacy use in Tony Blair's speeches on Iraq that has some statistics, but I have not seen many like this.
    – Conifold
    Sep 1 '19 at 9:20
  • @Conifold Yeah I have been thinking about "probably" as well. This is motivated by the fact that I've perceived that some people have a tendency for "repeating over the same things" or "seeking for explanations that are 'semantically near' earlier ones". E.g. because this kind of reasoning saves energy.
    – mavavilj
    Sep 1 '19 at 9:30
  • Tindale's book Fallacies and Argument Appraisal does some grouping of fallacies into semantic clusters.
    – Conifold
    Sep 1 '19 at 11:23

A cognitive bias is a psychological predisposition to error, where as formal and informal fallacies are logical errors arising from structural flaws in reasoning and generally arise from formal deficiencies or violations of principles, though they overlap to a certain extent. Informal fallacies usually rely on cognitive bias (think appeal to emotion, for instance).

WP article has a subsection on classification.

From T. Edward Damer's Attacking Faulty Reasoning, avoiding informal fallacies must satisfy three criteria: they must be acceptable (reasonably true), relevant to the conclusion, and provide good grounds for the inference. The author classifies this way:

  1. Fallacies of Linguistic Confusion
  2. Begging-the-Question Fallacies
  3. Unwarranted Assumption Fallacies
  4. Fallacies of Missing Evidence
  5. Causal Fallacies
  6. Fallacies of Irrelevance
  7. Irrelevant Appeals
  8. Fallacies of Diversion
  9. Fallacies of Deductive Inference

Note that highly relevant to these groups is the Toulmin Method for understanding argumentation as outlined in his work Uses of Argument where fact, warrant, backing, rebuttal, and conclusion are structural elements of argument and inference.

Also see the fallacy and bias recommendations in this SE post.


Perhaps a useful way to view the interconnections of fallacies is to view them from the perspective of argumentation schemes. In a survey of argumentation schemes Fabrizio Macagno, Douglas Walton and Chris Reed attempt to do the following: (page 2)

The purpose of this paper is threefold: 1) to describe the schemes, showing how they evolved and how they have been classified in the traditional and the modern theories; 2) to propose a method for classifying them based on ancient and modern developments; and 3) to outline and show how schemes are interrelated and can be organized in a modular way to describe natural arguments or produce complex arguments.

Fallacies are features of argumentation. Studying the interconnection of types of argumentation may be helpful in trying to find patterns within fallacies.

F. Macagno, D. Walton and C. Reed, Argumentation Schemes, History, Classifications and Computational Applications. IFColog Journal of Logics and Their Applications 4(8), 2017, 2493-2556. Retrieved on September 1, 2019, from Douglas Walton's site at https://www.dougwalton.ca/papers%20in%20pdf/17IFColog%20SCHEMES.pdf

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