A Guide to Logical Fallacies: The “Ad Hominem,” “Strawman” & Other Fallacies Explained in 2‑Minute Videos

Here at Open Cul­ture, we like to think we keep dis­cus­sions rea­son­able. Not every site can say that; if you’ve ever dared to scroll down into the com­ments on Youtube (to pick an exam­ple pure­ly at ran­dom) you know what I mean. But on that very same repos­i­to­ry of stream­ing videos and shout­ing match­es, you can also find a help­ful aid to your debates both online and off: PBS Idea Chan­nel’s “Guide to Com­mon Fal­lac­i­es.”

When humans talk, some­times we adhere to the rules of log­ic, and some­times we break from them. In every­day life it does­n’t mat­ter that much either way, but, in the heat of an argu­ment, and espe­cial­ly amid the poten­tial con­fla­gra­tion of an inter­net argu­ment, con­sis­ten­cy is all. Under such con­di­tions, some­one who com­mits even a com­mon log­i­cal fal­la­cy may well do so with­out real­iz­ing it, and if you feel like edu­cat­ing them, you can reply with a link to whichev­er of these videos cov­ers the fal­la­cy they used:

Host Mike Rugnetta (whom you might remem­ber from the pre­vi­ous Idea Chan­nel video we fea­tured, “Math Might Not Actu­al­ly Exist”) breaks down the fal­la­cy in ques­tion, accom­pa­ny­ing his expla­na­tion with a visu­al stream of illus­tra­tions, clips from movies, TV, and video games — and of course those main­stays of com­ment threads, ani­mat­ed GIFs. And he does­n’t just explain, he demon­strates, stag­ing a short debate with a straw-filled, shod­di­ly argu­ing ver­sion of him­self each and every time.

Log­ic has always struck me as an inher­ent­ly fas­ci­nat­ing sub­ject, and these videos cer­tain­ly pro­vide quick and fun­ny hits of it. I do have my doubts as to whether they’ll actu­al­ly help any­one win an argu­ment. So point out oth­ers’ log­i­cal fal­lac­i­es if you must, but bear in mind that you might be the only one who learns any­thing as a result.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Oxford’s Free Course Crit­i­cal Rea­son­ing For Begin­ners Will Teach You to Think Like a Philoso­pher

Does Math Objec­tive­ly Exist, or Is It a Human Cre­ation? A New PBS Video Explores a Time­less Ques­tion

Free Online Phi­los­o­phy Cours­es

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture as well as the video series The City in Cin­e­ma and writes essays on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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  • Markku says:

    Thank you for a sim­ple & sharp clar­i­fi­ca­tions of cer­tain fal­lac­i­es in argu­men­ta­tion. I hope I could find these kind of approach­es in my own lan­guage.

    Would nice to have also some new rhetoric tac­tics explained; such as qua­si sci­en­tif­ic argu­ment from Perel­man and such.

  • Morgan Lesko says:

    Great videos indeed! I’ve made a col­lab­o­ra­tive log­i­cal fal­la­cy game folks might enjoy: http://DontFallacy.Me Cheers!

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