I feel like a lot of "logical fallacies", if called out, can just be labelled by the opponent as inductive reasoning. For example:

"candidates didn't know the air conditioner didn't work, they didn't know the room was too big, how are they going to beat isis?" -Trump

This is an ad hominem. However one can always explain that they meant: One's lack of planning, management and foresight needed to do small tasks casts doubt on one's ability to complete much more difficult tasks.

Another example is the band-wagon fallacy. If someone is called out for this, they could just say that following the bandwagon leverages "wisdom of the crowd".

This and many other fallacies can be recognised as providing some evidence for the truth of the conclusion so calling them out isn't effective. Am I missing something?

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    1st: do you really think that Trump's quote above is something like "an argument"? 2nd: do you really think that it has something to do with Induction? Apr 20, 2021 at 9:54
  • Yeah, it's an inductive argument.
    – tim
    Apr 20, 2021 at 10:32
  • he's basically saying: Since X candidate lacks planning and management abilities (premise), which is evident from bad venue selection. and since you need good planning and management abilities to defeat Isis (premise) Therefore,X candidate will not be able to defeat isis.
    – tim
    Apr 20, 2021 at 10:36
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    No; induction is to derive a general conclusion from some specific instances: I've observed one hudreth of black crows; thus (presumably) every crow is black. Apr 20, 2021 at 10:47
  • It is well known that informal fallacies often have a form of a plausible (not necessarily inductive) argument in the right background context, that is what makes them seductive. So they cannot be called based on form alone, the relevant background has to be missing. But, for example, one cannot "just say" that wisdom of the crowd is being leveraged. They must demonstrate that the crowd can be plausibly expected to have relevant wisdom in the circumstances under discussion. Short of that, they are committing the band-wagon fallacy.
    – Conifold
    Apr 20, 2021 at 20:10

1 Answer 1


You are quite right! Which is one reason why obsessing over fallacies can be misleading and unhelpful when it comes to assessing arguments. Merely pointing out that an argument has the form of a known fallacy is not a sufficient reason to consider the argument defective.

Firstly, a minor point about terminology. You seem to be using the word 'inductive' to mean any argument that is not deductive. Although this is common in some textbooks, in my view and that of many others, this is not a good use of the term. It is better to limit 'inductive' to arguments that progress from observed examples to generalisations, rather than as a catch-all for any non-deductive form of reasoning.

To add another example, abductive arguments typically take the form of affirming the consequent. If the prisoners escaped out of this window, there would be footprints in the soil. There are footprints in the soil, so (probably) the prisoners escaped out of the window. If the victim had been poisoned with cyanide we would expect to see such-and-such symptoms. We do see such-and-such symptoms. So the victim was (probably) poisoned with cyanide. The arguments are not demonstrative, and might be defeated by additional evidence, but a great deal of perfectly acceptable reasoning like this instantiates the form of affirming the consequent.

Another reason why affirming the consequent is often not incorrect is that it may be based on a correlation. If A is positively correlated with B, then B is positively correlated with A, so there may be many cases (not all) when "if A then B" supports "if B then A" and hence permits us to reason from B to A.

Another type of case can arise when "if A then B" suggests "if B then A" by way of an implicature, rather than actually implying it.

Also, one should always bear in mind that it is not safe to progress from "this argument instantiates an invalid form" to "this argument is invalid". Any argument, whether valid or not, can always be found to instantiate some invalid form or other.

The upshot is, if you are assessing an argument, it is not adequate just to say, "Aha! this is an instance of such-and-such fallacy," and to imagine that in so doing you have refuted the argument. Unfortunately, logic and reasoning are often badly taught and a lot of people seem to have this misconception. Reasoning isn't a game where if you spot a fallacy you shout out its name and you win. For another thing, many fallacies are just rules of thumb and indicate only that an argument may be defective, not that it must be.

If a person wishes to establish that a fallacy is being committed in an argument, they should at the least show why they think this really is an example of the fallacy; why the reasoning cannot be assimilated to some other acceptable form; and why this particular example really is defective. It is always better to attend to the specifics of an argument, rather than to appeal by analogy to some general rule that may or may not apply, even if that rule is labelled 'fallacy'.

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