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Fallacies of Authority

Estimated Lesson Time: 30 minutes (self-evaluated option) / 1 hour 30 minutes (instructor-evaluated option)

This is a sample lesson or if you are a student you are not logged in. You can view the course material, but to access all the course content, interact with other students, save your progress, and earn the certificate of completion, you must register and login.

Lesson Introduction

In this lesson, we cover five fallacies that are directly related to authority: Anonymous Authority, Blind Authority, Just Because Fallacy, Appeal to Celebrity, and Appeal to Authority. We’ll take a detailed look at how you can know when calling on an authority is fallacious vs. rational.

By the end of this lesson, students will

learn that "they" are usually full of crap

learn how dangerous blindly following authority can be

learn how celebrities persuade us even though they shouldn't

learn when believing an authority is a helpful heuristic, and when it is not

learn that rational thinkers don't say "just because"

Lesson Resources

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Lesson Videos

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Introduction to Lesson 6 (00:52)

A quick video introduction to this lesson.

Appeal to Authority (10:38)

Using an authority as evidence in your argument when the authority is not really an authority on the facts relevant to the argument. As the audience, allowing an irrelevant authority to add credibility to the claim being made.

Appeal to Celebrity (05:27)

Accepting a claim of a celebrity based on his or her celebrity status, not on the strength of the argument.

Anonymous Authority (02:51)

When an unspecified source is used as evidence for the claim. This is commonly indicated by phrases such as “They say that...”, “It has been said...”, “I heard that...”, “Studies show...”, or generalized groups such as, “scientists say...” When we fail to specify a source of the authority, we can’t verify the source, thus the credibility of the argument. Appeals to anonymous sources are more often than not, either a way to fabricate, exaggerate, or misrepresent “facts” in order to deceive others into accepting your claim. At times, this deception is done subconsciously -- it might not always be deliberate.

Blind Authority (06:22)

Asserting that a proposition is true solely on the authority making the claim while extreme cases also ignore any counter evidence no matter how strong. The authority could be parents, a coach, a boss, a military leader, or a divine authority.

Just Because Fallacy (03:59)

Refusing to respond to give reasons or evidence for a claim by stating yourself as the ultimate authority in the matter. This is usually indicated by the phrases, “just trust me”, “because I said so”, “you’ll see”, or “just because”. The just because fallacy is not conducive to the goal of argumentation -- that is coming to a mutually agreeable solution. Nor is it helpful in helping the other person understand why you are firm on your position. “Just because” is not a reason that speaks to the question itself; it is simply a deflection to authority (legitimate or not).

Lesson Key Points

Appeal to Authority: Using an authority as evidence in your argument when the authority is not really an authority on the facts relevant to the argument. As the audience, allowing an irrelevant authority to add credibility to the claim being made.
Appeal to Celebrity: Accepting a claim of a celebrity based on his or her celebrity status, not on the strength of the argument.
Anonymous Authority: When an unspecified source is used as evidence for the claim. This is commonly indicated by phrases such as “They say that...,” “It has been said...,” “I heard that...,” “Studies show...,” or generalized groups such as, “scientists say...”
Blind Authority Fallacy: Asserting that a proposition is true solely on the authority making the claim while extreme cases also ignore any counter evidence no matter how strong.
Just Because Fallacy: Refusing to respond to give reasons or evidence for a claim by stating yourself as the ultimate authority in the matter. This is usually indicated by the phrases, “just trust me,” “because I said so,” “you’ll see,” or “just because.”

Lesson Assignments

Assignment #1:

This assignment is for students with the instructor-evaluated course option.

Explain the difference between a legitimate appeal to authority and a fallacious one. Provide an example or two. (1-2 paragraphs in the space below)
Assignment #2:

This assignment is for students with the instructor-evaluated course option.

If you were a critically-thinking marketing executive involved in a board meeting where the idea of using a celebrity to endorse your product was being discussed, what would you say? (1-2 paragraphs in the space below)
Assignment #3Take a minute to answer at least one of the following questions in the discussion section below:

What was the most important thing you learned in this lesson?

What question do you have about this lesson?

How would you sum up this lesson in one sentence?


Then, respond to/comment on at least one student's post. Comment on a post that has no comments yet, if possible.

Instructor Feedback on Assignments

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Lesson Quiz

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    From the Course:
    Mastering Logical Fallacies
    Bo Bennett, PhD
    Social Scientist, Business Consultant
    (2 ratings)
    Academics : Social Science
    Offered by BooksToCourses.com
    $59.00 $29.00
    $499.00 $249.00
    Lesson Progress
     
     
     
     
     
      Lessons

    Lessons greyed out are for enrolled students only.

    #3: Appeal to Common Belief
    #4: Fallacies and Religion
    #5: Deception Through Confusion
    #10: Fallacies of Poor Statistical Thinking
    #11: Black and White Thinking
    #12: The Impossible and the Possible
    #13: The Red Herring
    #15: Special Pleading
    #16: The Analogy - Both Friend and Foe
    #17: A Look at Nature
    #18: Fallacies Worthy of Mention
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    Lesson Quiz

    Be sure to click the "Submit Quiz Answers" at the end of the quiz to save and submit your quiz answers. Select the best answer.

    1) Which fallacy is used as a conversation stopper?
    a) Anonymous Authority
    b) Blind Authority
    c) Just Because Fallacy
    d) Appeal to Authority
    2) With which fallacy might you hear "scientists say..."?
    a) Anonymous Authority
    b) Blind Authority
    c) Just Because Fallacy
    d) Appeal to Authority
    3) If a claim is made by an authority that one claims MUST be true based on the authority making the claim, this is know as which fallacy?
    a) Anonymous Authority
    b) Blind Authority
    c) Appeal to Celebrity
    d) Appeal to Authority
    4) If I am more likely to think Adult Buddy Diapers are the best because Betty White said so in an advertisement, then I am guilty of
    a) Blind Authority
    b) Appeal to Celebrity
    c) Appeal to Authority
    d) Gerontophilia (Google it)
    5) Appeal to Authority is a tricky fallacy because
    a) the legitimacy of any given authority can be questionable
    b) what constitutes an "authority" is often very debatable
    c) legitimate authorities can make claims unrelated to their area of expertise
    d) all of the above
    6) If parents' say "Because I said so!" to end the conversation
    a) they are fallacious morons
    b) they are mean
    c) they are parents and sometimes a fallacy is better than having to try to explain things to kids
    d) the department of logic services will come after them
    7) "The Pope told me that priests can turn bread and wine into Jesus’ body and blood. The Pope is not a liar. Therefore, priests really can do this." is an example of
    a) Blind Authority
    b) Appeal to Authority
    c) Anonymous Authority
    d) a and b could both be correct
    8) "You know, they say that if you swallow gum it takes 7 years to digest. So whatever you do, don’t swallow the gum!" is an example of which fallacy?
    a) Blind Authority
    b) Appeal to Authority
    c) Anonymous Authority
    d) Appeal to Celebrity
    9) Which of the following is a problem with blindly (unconditionally) following an authority figure?
    a) the authority figure's authority is usually dictated though others or books written by anonymous authors
    b) the authority figure could be wrong
    c) it can result in good people doing horrible things
    d) all of the above
    10) A celebrity endorsement means more when
    a) an A-list celebrity is used
    b) the product or service being endorsed is used by the celebrity
    c) the product or service being endorsed is directly related to the celebrity status of the celebrity
    d) the celebrity does not end up in prison
    submitting answers...

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