Why Change
Fallacies?!
How many logical fallacies can you name off the top of your head?

For comparison, how many dog breeds can you name? If you’re like most people, you probably scored embarrassingly higher on the second question. Aristotle first started teaching fallacies over 2300 years ago, so after all these centuries you’d think we’d be pretty good at identifying them, right? Apparently not.

If teaching logical fallacies were a business, it’s failing.

The product (fallacies) is essential for critical thinking, but very few customers (students) are buying them (remembering). So when a business is failing, it’s time to reorganize and rebrand. That’s what foolacies are: a rebooted version of fallacies for the 21st century.

Why are logical fallacies so hard to learn?

For starters, look at the names. If you’re a new learner, “Cum hoc ergo propter hoc” is gibberish, “Argument from Incredulity” is overly academic, “Appeal to Ignorance” is unintuitive, “Bandwagon” is archaic, and even “Red Herring” is just random words. Also, the definitions were clearly chosen by philosophers for academic debates. But I bet if Aristotle had cable news, with ads for miracle weight-loss cures, and if his friends argued over which Marvel movie was best, fallacies would have been defined differently.

Foolacy Features

• Easier to Learn
• Many Realistic Examples
• Layered by Grade Level
• Engaging Artwork
• Automatic Quizzing & Practice
• Learn from Practice, less studying required
• Large Public Question Bank

All Free! No Ads.

Methodology

1.  

First I researched all the logical fallacies I could find. Actually there is no official list or authoritative source. Wikipedia lists 124. Logically Fallacious lists over 300. Your Logical Fallacy Is lists 24. Aristotle had only 13.

2.  

I gathered all the examples I could find. Most sources fall short with only one or two examples each, and many of those are contrived, e.g. “The rooster crows when the sun rises, therefore the rooster causes the sun to rise.” No real person says that, so it’s not good practice for the real world. I kept only the realistic examples and brainstormed more, for both political and personal arguments. (This took half a year! No wonder all other sources skimp so much.)

3.  

Based on the hundreds of realistic examples, I analyzed which fallacies were most common and which were very similar. From there I narrowed the list to make it short enough to remember, but broad enough to cover most real-word arguments in both politics and personal life. (i.e., I worked inductively from the examples to define the rules.)

•  

Fallacies rarely used in the real world were omitted.
(No list of fallacies is ever complete; there are always unique cases.)

•  

Fallacies that were very similar were combined. Usually the differences were only a formality or some detail assumed but not stated.

•  

Fallacies with an abundance of examples were subdivided if they naturally fell into subcategories, or if the variety was too difficult to describe with one name.

•  

Many bad arguments formed common patterns that meet all the requirements of a fallacy but surprisingly did not match any of the numerous specific fallacies, so I created a few new foolacies.

•  

I researched cognitive biases to better align some foolacies with psychology.

4.  

Then came rebranding. I kept common names of fallacies if they were already well known and fairly intuitive. All new names are cross-referenced to the traditional fallacies.

On each page, click “Show Analysis” at the bottom to see the rationale for how that foolacy was defined.

The goal is a practical list that is easy for people to remember and apply in real-life arguments. It is not an exhaustive abstraction for pedantic debate.

Periodically I analyze the data of student responses (item analysis) to improve the questions. This may also help me refine which foolacies are appropriate to learn at what ages.

Definition

Foolacies are bad reasoning, but to keep the list short, they must meet all three requirements:

1.   Bad reasoning
Flawed logic, misrepresentation, or avoiding the issue. Fallacies are not necessarily lies, mistaken facts, withholding information, bad judgement, or hypocrisy.

2.  

Commonly used in various arguments
Fallacies were excluded if rare or used in only narrow contexts.

3.  

Actually fools many people
Not humor, an accepted rhetorical device, or something so obvious that most people easily see it. Intention is not a requirement; some people do intend to fool you, but most people sincerely believe their own bad reasoning.

While they are called “informal logical fallacies”, they have always also included evasion and misrepresentation.

Fallacies may fool anyone, not just your opponent. In politics fallacies are usually to fool the audience. And you can even fool yourself! For example, a student may complain their teacher treats them unfairly, but they may be fooling themself by Cherry Picking only critical feedback while ignoring compliments.

Remember that “fallacy” does not necessarily mean “false”. For example, you could say a true conclusion like “Vegetables are healthy,” and a fair observation like “everyone says so,” but it’s faulty reasoning to say “Vegetables are healthy because everyone says so.” And you could say something based on a false premise, like “My tinfoil hat protects me from government mind-control beams,” but if there were mind-control waves, metal might in fact be a good shield, so the reasoning itself is not faulty.

Fallacies are inherently subjective, and in the real world a statement might be interpreted more than one way. Statements often fit more than one fallacy, or only partially, or they might not fit any but still be faulty reasoning. Or they may tiptoe to the edge of fair reasoning without crossing that line. Also all appeals to emotion are fuzzy: Expressing your feelings is fair. It’s a fallacy only if you use those feelings to justify; but that may be more implied than stated, so it’s subjective.

This Site

Each foolacy has an “Also” list to cross-reference fallacies and common phrases that imply the same meaning. It also has a “Class” to show how foolacies relate to each other in categories. At the bottom click “Show Analysis” for a discussion of the corresponding fallacy(s).

I try to list a variety of examples for different contexts and ages. On political hot-button issues I include both conservative and liberal examples where I could find them. I try to keep the topics and arguments realistic, but the dialog is intentionally simplified for easier study. I also include example responses to role-model possible ways to respond to faulty arguments.

The Advertising tactics are organized slightly differently, since what’s common in ads doesn’t correlate 1:1 with arguments. I included only common marketing tactics that are misleading or irrelevant.

Still Not Convinced?

Changing systems is always controversial because there are real trade-offs. Here are arguments to keep traditional Fallacies:

1.  

People already know fallacies.

2.  

Lots of existing curriculum for fallacies.

3.  

Latin and big words make you sound smart when disproving opponents.

4.  

Fallacies were defined by the greatest philosophical minds over the centuries.

Here are my rebuttals:

1a.  

Even if you know fallacies, they go by so many different names that every source is different, so Foolacy is just one more different source.

1b.  

But most people don’t know fallacies. I bet less than 1% could name 5, so it’s not really disruptive to most people (unlike changing to metric or away from the Qwerty keyboard, which would disrupt most people).

2.  

The existing fallacy curriculum is mostly just definitions with one or two contrived examples each. I found virtually no exercises.

3.  

Latin and big words make it harder to learn. I’d rather help more people learn foolacies than help a few people sound smart.

4.  

Fallacies evolved in an uncoordinated way, mostly for academic contexts. Foolacies were designed inductively from real-life arguments.

Having said that, foolacies and fallacies can both be used. Even I still cite traditional fallacies where a specific one fits more precisely than a foolacy. We can think of foolacies as the starter kit, and still use the 300+ traditional fallacies as needed for the corner cases. (The fact that they overlap is not new: many fallacies have multiple names and overlap with each other.)

If you hate the new taxonomy, make sure you’re not falling into the Appeal to Tradition fallacy. Please click “Show Analysis” at the bottom of each foolacy page to see how and why it differs from fallacies.

Feedback Wanted

Please contact me with feedback and especially more examples to add. I am continually revising this site based on your feedback. Since there is no authoritative source of fallacies, I’d like this to become a communal effort from educators with broad consensus. Plus I make all the example arguments downloadable for all educators to use for any curriculum.



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