Classification of Fallacies of Relevance

Douglas Walton


Fallacies of relevance, a major category of informal fallacies, include two that could be called pure fallacies of relevance-the wrong conclusion (ignoratio elenchi, wrong conclusion, missing the point) fallacy and the red herring digression, diversion) fallacy. The problem is how to classify examples of these fallacies so that they clearly fall into the one category or the other, on some rational system of classification. In this paper, the argument diagramming software system, Araucaria. is used to analyze the argumentation in some selected textbook examples of pure fallacies of relevance. A system of classification of these fallacies is proposed, and criteria for determining whether an example should be classified as wrong conclusion or red herring are formulated. A key difference cited is that in a case where the red herring fallacy has been committed, even if the argument may go to a wrong conclusion, there is evidence of the use ofa deceptive tactic of diversion. Textual evidence must indicate that the arguer deliberately interjects a distracting controversy to lead the respondent away from the real issue to be disputed.


red herring, wrong conclusion, missing the point, ignoratio elenchi, Araucaria, misdirected argumentation, diversionary tactics, chaining of argumentation, argument diagramming, ultimate probandum

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ISSN: 0824-2577