How to point out argumentation fallacy in "real life"



I often come up discussing (peacefully!) with people on a wide spectrum of topics, and equally often I have to debunk flawed arguments, in logic sense (see for example this question).

However I can't just come out with "your argument is not valid in pure logical sense!", because people I usually come up arguing with would just not understand, or worse just call me a weirdo (sigh)

Thus, how should I behave in those cases? Have you any suggestions, or meaningful experiences?


Posted 2014-05-01T13:10:34.643

Reputation: 181

3This question appears to be off-topic. – Hunan Rostomyan – 2014-05-01T14:33:30.403

You are probably right... – mattecapu – 2014-05-01T14:39:35.790


I'd suggest to maybe try adding concrete argument examples that people have not been able to understand. Because as it stands, other than being off-topic, it is also too abstract to generate useful responses. (I'd recommend that you read Plato's dialogues and Aristotle's Rhetoric, if you haven't already. Will greatly improve your arguing technique.)

– Hunan Rostomyan – 2014-05-01T14:55:46.753



Take the logical fallacy that seems to come up the most: Appeal to Authority. People will make decisions all the time because someone with lots of experience or an important sounding title told them to do so.

I think rather than saying "No Fair! That's the appeal to authority fallacy," you guide the person to the meat of why it's not a compelling argument by asking questions:

  • "I'm trying to understand better, why do things work that way?"
  • "Can you provide an example in the past where such a thing worked?"
  • "Why did you come to that conclusion?"

Rather than putting some one on the defensive, it allows the other person a chance to make a sound argument.

James Kingsbery

Posted 2014-05-01T13:10:34.643

Reputation: 5 868

2I think this is right. In general, identifying the fallacy should just help you find an approach to countering the argument, it isn't a magic charm to invoke by name. – Chris Sunami supports Monica – 2014-05-01T16:45:34.297


There is no requirement that you prove the world wrong or correct it. It is the right of everyone to live in their "weird" perspective of the world (as long as it causes no obvious harm).

So if you presented your arguments, revealed a flaw, and the opposite side still sticks with his/her believe, let them be.


Posted 2014-05-01T13:10:34.643

Reputation: 211

The point it's not wheter reveal or not reveal the flaw, it's how to reveal it. That's different. – mattecapu – 2014-05-01T13:26:25.627


Usually, when people argue, they do it to win the argument and not to clarify the truth. Whatever, if their intent is different, it wouldn't be difficult to come to a conclusion.

Di Ana

Posted 2014-05-01T13:10:34.643

Reputation: 301

If people argue simply to win the argument then that kind of debate is in a way useless because it is a contest that can only show who has superior rhetorical skill and not who is closer to the truth.

How to point that out to the people when noticing that they are doing it? By simply leaving the debate or something else? – Danijel – 2014-05-02T13:42:26.497

1Telling them! But don't expect them to listen you. Maybe some of them do, maybe not. This is their task, live it to them. – Di Ana – 2014-05-04T21:43:58.513


The best way to show someone that their argument is fallacious is to use a concrete counterexample. For instance, suppose somebody gives you an argument that affirms the consequent. You say something like,

"Your argument is just like this one: `If it is raining, then the street is getting wet. The street is getting wet. Therefore, it is raining.' that isn't right, right? The street could be wet for all kinds of reasons, for instance, somebody might have opened a fire hydrant. All the first sentence guarantees us that if it rains, then the street will get wet, not that rain is the only way a street could get wet."

Most people don't know any logic, but people's verbal reasoning skills are actually sometimes more acute than you might think. (Verbal reasoning is quite a common skill in daily life.)


Posted 2014-05-01T13:10:34.643