Appeal to Authority|
(argumentum ad verecundiam)
While sometimes it may be appropriate to cite an authority to
support a point, often it is not. In particular, an appeal to
authority is inappropriate if:
A variation of the fallacious appeal to authority is hearsay. An
argument from hearsay is an argument which depends on
second or third hand sources.
- the person is not qualified to have an expert
opinion on the subject,
- experts in the field disagree on this issue.
- the authority was making a joke, drunk, or
otherwise not being serious
- Noted psychologist Dr. Frasier Crane recommends that
you buy the EZ-Rest Hot Tub.
- Economist John Kenneth Galbraith argues that a tight
money policy s the best cure for a recession. (Although
Galbraith is an expert, not all economists agree on this
- We are headed for nuclear war. Last week Ronald
Reagan remarked that we begin bombing Russia in five
minutes. (Of course, he said it as a joke during a
- My friend heard on the news the other day that Canada
will declare war on Serbia. (This is a case of hearsay; in
fact, the reporter said that Canada would not declare war.)
- The Ottawa Citizen reported that sales were up 5.9
percent this year. (This is hearsay; we are not n a position to
check the Citizen's sources.)
Show that either (i) the person cited is not an authority in the
field, or that (ii) there is general disagreement among the
experts in the field on this point.
Cedarblom and Paulsen: 155, Copi and Cohen: 95, Davis: 69
26 May 1995 / 06 January 1996