Rhetorical Fallicies

Jenavieve Grego

Slippery Slope

Event X has occurred (or will or might occur). Therefore event Y will inevitably happen.

Example- "You can never give anyone a break. If you do, they'll walk all over you."

Hasty Generalization

a conclusion based on insufficient or biased evidence. In other words, you are rushing to a conclusion before you have all of the facts.

Example: Sam is riding her bike in her home town in Maine, minding her own business. A station wagon comes up behind her and the driver starts beeping his horn and then tries to force her off the road. As he goes by, the driver yells "get on the sidewalk where you belong!" Sam sees that the car has Ohio plates and concludes that all Ohio drivers are jerks.

Circular Reasoning

Restates argument rather than proving it.

Example- We should kill the pig and give the heart to the kid because human life is more valuable than non-human life. And we should kill the pig and give the heart to the kid because animals are for humans to use to serve their needs.


conclusion that oversimplifies the argument by reducing it to only two sides or choices.


  1. Either claim X is true or claim Y is true (when X and Y could both be false).
  2. Claim Y is false.
  3. Therefore claim X is true.

Ad Hominem

an attack on the character of a person rather than his/her opinions or arguments.

Example- A: “All murderers are criminals, but a thief isn’t a murderer, and so can’t be a criminal.”

B: “Well, you’re a thief and a criminal, so there goes your argument.”

Ad Populum

emotional appeal that speaks to positive or negative concepts rather than the real issue at hand.

Example-“Gods must exist, since every culture has some sort of belief in a higher being.”

Red Herring

a diversionary tactic that avoids the key issues, often by avoiding opposing arguments rather than addressing them.

Example- "We admit that this measure is popular. But we also urge you to note that there are so many bond issues on this ballot that the whole thing is getting ridiculous."

Straw Man

Oversimplifies an opponent’s viewpoint and then attacks that hollow argument.

Example-Prof. Jones: "The university just cut our yearly budget by $10,000."

  1. Prof. Smith: "What are we going to do?"
    Prof. Brown: "I think we should eliminate one of the teaching assistant positions. That would take care of it."
    Prof. Jones: "We could reduce our scheduled raises instead."
    Prof. Brown: " I can't understand why you want to bleed us dry like that, Jones."

Moral Equivalence

compares minor misdeeds with major atrocities.

Example- "Somebody who participates in assisted suicide is as bad Hitler."