11: Authority & Tradition

Informal Fallacies

Key Terms

Modus Ponens
Modus Tollens
Disjunctive Syllogism
Reduction Fallacy
Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc
Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy
False Dilemma
Straw Man
Special Pleading
Slippery Slope
Weasel Words
Meaningless Jargon
Argument from Authority
Argument from Tradition

  • Not logical
  • Pseudo-reasoning (false reasoning)
  • Unsound arguments

Fallacies of Relevance

  • Deny, confuse, or falsify an argument by focusing on the origin of an argument
  • Appeal to opinions outside of oneself rather than critical thinking or analysis
  • Five types:
    • Appeal to Authority
    • Appeal to Tradition
    • Bandwagoning
    • Ad Hominem Attacks
    • Appeals to Emotion (including Pity, Fear, and Flattery)

Argument from Authority

  • Also called Appeal to Authority
  • We should agree with a point of view because it is endorsed by an authority
  • Most frequently used on commercials
  • Strength of argument depends on two factors
    • Whether the authority is a legitimate expert on the subject
    • Whether most legitimate experts agree about the subject


  • Nine out of 10 dentists endorse this mouthwash.
  • This politician (or political party) believes we should (or should not) boycott goods from this other country.

Argument from Tradition

  • Also called Appeal to Authority
  • We should agree with a point of view because that is how it has been done before


  • This form of government has existed for hundreds of years.
  • This feud between families has been going on for generations.
  • We’ve always shopped at this grocery store.


  • Authorities are often in conflict with an opinion
  • Authorities are flawed and can lose legitimacy
  • Traditions are situated in a specific time period and can be antiquated
  • Traditions can be misguided and exist to maintain the power of the elite