Argument from authority

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Argument from authority or appeal to authority is a form of argument or reasoning that could become a fallacy if it is misused.[1]

In informal reasoning,[2] the appeal to authority is an argument of the form:

A is an authority on a particular topic
A says something about that topic
A is probably correct

The argument may be right in many cases, but it might be wrong in other cases. In cases where the argument is wrong, it would be a fallacy. Therefore, the appeal to authority is not a generally strong argument for proving facts.[3]

An example of a poor appeal to authority is if someone says that "God doesn't exist. I know because Stephen Hawking said so."[4] This is a poor example because even though almost everyone who knows about Stephen Hawking would agree that he was very intelligent man, his knowledge about physics (which he was a professor of) is not important to knowing about whether or not God exists.

An example of a good appeal to authority is if a someone says “I need to take my medicine. I know so because my doctor prescribed it,”[4] This is believable because most doctors have a lot of knowledge and training in how to improve people's health, and it is very likely that the doctor has given similar prescriptions many times before.

References[change | change source]

  1. "Logical Fallacies". Fall 2008. Retrieved 2014-01-25.
  2. Salmon, M.H. (2006). Introduction to critical reasoning. Mason, OH: Thomson Wadsworth. pp. 118–9.
  3. Walton, Douglas 2008. Informal logic. London: Cambridge University Press, p84. ISBN 0-521-71380-3
  4. 4.0 4.1 Fallacies, Patrik Edblad in Logical (2018-11-30). "The Appeal to Authority Fallacy: How To Avoid Getting Fooled By Expert Opinion". Patrik Edblad. Retrieved 2020-06-19.