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Fallacies of Relevance: Appeal to Authority

Overview and Introduction

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Fallacious appeals to authority take the general form of:

    1. Person (or people) P makes claim X. Therefore, X is true.

A fundamental reason why the Appeal to Authority can be a fallacy is that a proposition can be well supported only by facts and logically valid inferences. But by using an authority, the argument is relying upon testimony, not facts. A testimony is not an argument and it is not a fact.

Now, such testimony might be strong or it might be weak — the better the authority, the stronger the testimony will be and the worse the “authority,” the weaker the testimony will be. Thus, the way to differentiate between a legitimate and a fallacious appeal to authority is by evaluating the nature and strength of who is giving the testimony.

Obviously, the best way to avoid making the fallacy is to avoid relying upon testimony as much as possible, and instead to rely upon original facts and data. But the truth of the matter is, this isn’t always possible: we can’t verify every single thing ourselves, and thus will always have to make use of the testimony of experts. Nevertheless, we must do so carefully and judiciously.

The different types of the Appeal to Authority are:

« Logical Fallacies | Legitimate Appeal to Authority »

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