Fallacies and argument

Falacias y argumentación

Having No idea of how metaphor, analogy, irony, ambiguity, puns, paradoxes, hyperbole, rhythm, and all the other elements of what we usually call “style” —and in most cases without even recognizing that these resources have importance in the setting of personal attitudes into public form, sociologists lack the symbolic resources with which they could build a formulation more acute.

(Geertz, 1992, p 183)

This is the warning that makes Clifford Geertz to every sociologist who intends to deal with a minimum warranty of discourse analysis. For Geertz the rhetorical resources cannot be excluded from the analysis sociolinguistic because “they constitute an intrinsic part of the current language” (Geertz, 1992).1 In the theory of argumentation proposed by Lilian Bermejo, surely we will find some clues about the various rhetorical resources that, consciously or unconsciously, construct the discourses of the multiple social imaginaries that govern the reality that we take for granted in everyday life.

The theory of argumentation we are interested in everything that form part of the good to argue, including that the logic is not enough.


Within the general framework of the studies on argumentation (that involves perspectives as diverse as philosophy, linguistics, rhetoric, discourse analysis or cultural studies), argumentation theory addresses the development and analysis of regulatory models for the argumentation, that is to say, of proposals more or less systematic and comprehensive in order to distinguish between good and bad argumentation.

The philosophical interest of this discipline is evident: it is not only that our conceptions about what is to argue well they are closely related to traditional topics of philosophical research, such as the notions of justification, rationality, etc., but in the absence of experimental methods, the work of philosophical itself consists basically in producing and evaluating arguments. In this sense, the studies of normative argumentation have something of a methodological proposal for the own philosophy.

However, despite the undoubted philosophical interest in the theory of argumentation (reason for which its origins are to be found already in the earliest reflections on the relations between language and world, discourse and society, of Plato, the sophists, and, above all, of Aristotle), its recognition as a discipline took place hardly four decades ago. Because the truth is that philosophers have paid little attention to argumentation in natural language as a subject of study and much less have been taken up to develop specific models for their evaluation. Somehow, it was assumed that formal logic, which eventually was complemented with models for the formalisation of arguments in natural language, was in charge of the systematic part of this task. The idea was that the good argument, it is a question of good inferences (inferences that are valid in the sense of “formally valid”) andgood premises (premises are true). So that those faults argumentative that concerning however to the pragmatic dimension of the argumentation in the communicative behaviour —such as the petition of principle, the change is illegitimate, the burden of proof, the use of loaded language, etc.— remained without a systematic treatment for centuries. The reception in the united States and Canada at the end of the seventies of the work on argumentation that Toulmin and Perelman developed in the fifties, as well as the beginnings of the Amsterdam School of the mid-eighties, led to the establishment of the theory of argumentation as an attempt to address this task.

In the field of the Spanish-speaking countries, the theory of argumentation is still an emerging discipline, although their presence is growing in the university curricula and there are new groups and research projects around it, in part as a response to a growing demand in view of the shortcomings of the logic to evaluate argumentation daily. This book is intended as a small contribution to that process in our area. Although, as a genre, may be somewhat atypical. On the one hand, has the vocation of manual, exposure of the main theories, approaches and contributions current within the theory of argumentation; on the other, it has the form of the essay, the defense of a thesis on a specific topic, namely, the study of fallacies and the possibilities of adopting a theory of fallacy as a normative model for argumentation. Fortunately, both lenses combine quite well, and not in vain, the study of the fallacy was the main motivation for the emergence of the theory of argumentation as an alternative to the logic. Thus, the overview of the discipline that is offered here remains as a common thread to the way in which the various theories of argumentation have been characterized the concept of fallacy and have tried to systematize the analysis and evaluation of arguments fallacious.

The book consists of two parts: the first three chapters are, respectively, a presentation of the argumentation as an activity everyday and ubiquitous, of the theory of argumentation as a discipline regulations within the studies on argumentation and the theory of the fallacy as a development characteristic of the theory of argumentation. These chapters have an eminently expository, even historical, although they are advanced topics central to this work, the characterization of the regulatory models for the argument based on the tasks that are its own, the relationships between logic, dialectic and rhetoric and the corresponding approaches within the theory of argumentation and the theory of fallacy, the distinction between models for the evaluation and models for the critique of the argument, or the characterization of the programs of the argumentation theory and the theory of the fallacy against the formal logic.

The second part, more argumentative, begins with the debate about the viability of a theory of fallacy, and with the analysis of the criticism that the very concept of fallacy has given rise to. Then follows the exposition of the main theories of fallacy, grouped according to their strategies to solve these difficulties, together with an analysis of the possibilities that would have every one of them to serve as a model for the evaluation of the argument. Finally, the chapter of the conclusions collects these analyses in order to assess the possibilities of addressing the normative study of argumentation from the theory of the fallacy, at the time that it defends the interest of the concept of fallacy, as well as the traditional catalogue, as instruments, if not to the assessment itself to the criticism of the argument.

This work has seen the light thanks to the support and enthusiasm of Txetxu Ausín, who has always been confident in my ability to discuss the fallacies without committing many, which is why I was invited to be a part of the research project that he directs, KONTUZ! (FFI2011-24414 of the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness), on the precautionary principle; not in vain are many discussions as to the arguments fallacious involved in the definition and the use of the precautionary principle (pending slippery, argument ad baculum, ad populum, ad ignorantiam, etc.). Under the auspices of this project is funded this book. It also depends on the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness and, in particular, the National Program of Incorporation and the Hiring of RR HH, the research contract Ramón y Cajal that has allowed me to develop the ideas presented here.


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Brief review about the author

Falacias y argumentación
Lilian Bermejo Luque is a doctor of Philosophy from the University of Murcia. His areas of expertise are argumentation theory and theories of rationality. Since 2007, he has served as a researcher Juan de la Cierva in the Department of Logic, History and Philosophy of Science at the UNED, and as a researcher JAE-doc at the Institute of Philosophy of the CSIC, as well as working as an associate professor in the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Murcia. Currently, she works as a researcher Ramón y Cajal in the Department of Philosophy I University of Granada. He is a member of the research team of the Department of Speech Communication, Argumentation Theory and Rhetoric University of Amsterdam and various societies for the study of argumentation. Has been secretary of the Iberoamerican Magazine of Argument, and is a member of the editorial board of the journal Cogency (Universidad Diego Portales) and of the journal Topoi (Springer), in addition to réferi of numerous scientific journals. Participates regularly and has collaborated in the organization of major international congresses specialized (OSSA Conference, ISSA Conference, etc), and was the winner of the Blair Essay Prize in 2005. His publications are found in journals such as Informal Logic or Argumentation, and in collections of texts as Arguing on the Toulmin Model (Springer) or Understanding Argumentation (SicSat) In 2011, he published a monograph Giving Reasons. A Linguistic-pragmatic Approach to Argumentation Theory (Springer).


  1. Geertz, Clifford (1992) The interpretation of cultures. Barcelona: Gedisa Editorial [↩]

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