Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Fallacies in the Courtroom

Logical fallacies refer to statements that seem right but are actually wrong because they don't contribute to the argument at hand. Philosophers love pointing them out to show the weaknesses of other people’s arguments. Defense lawyers also find knowledge of logical fallacies useful when pointing out the flaws in the State’s case against their clients.

Below are some examples of logical fallacies you'll often come across at a hearing.

Ad Hominem
Latin for "to the man," argumentum ad hominem is an argument based on an irrelevant detail about the opposing party. For example: "That man is a killer because he's covered in tattoos depicting the Grim Reaper." Yet when you think about it, tattoos suffer from cultural bias given that they're a common sight in prisons.

False Dilemma
The false dilemma fallacy provides only two choices to an argument: pro or con. While this may be the case in some instances, most of the time, at least one extra option exists. For example: "You either drink or drive." This argument is considered fallacious since you can choose to neither drink nor drive.


Equivocation refers to the ambiguity of a keyword used in the argument. This is one of the most difficult to counter because the message gets lost in translation. For example: "I have the right to free speech, so I can heckle others." The First Amendment confirms free speech but does not condone heckling, as it already constitutes an offense against others.

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