In logic and rhetoric, a fallacy is usually an improper argumentation in reasoning often resulting in a misconception or presumption. Literally, a fallacy is "an error in reasoning that renders an argument logically invalid". By accident or design, fallacies may exploit emotional triggers in the listener or participant (appeal to emotion), or take advantage of social relationships between people (e.g. argument from authority). Fallacious arguments are often structured using rhetorical patterns that obscure any logical argument.
Though an argument is not "logically valid", it is not necessarily the case that the conclusion is incorrect. It simply means that the conclusion cannot logically be arrived at using that argument.
Though often used unintentionally, fallacies can be used purposefully to win arguments regardless of the merits. Among such devices, discussed in more detail below, are: "ignoring the question" to divert argument to unrelated issues using a red herring, making the argument personal (argumentum ad hominem) and discrediting the oppositions character, "begging the question" (petitio principi), the use of the non-sequitur, false cause and effect (post hoc ergo propter hoc), bandwagoning (everyone says so), the "false dilemma" or "either-or fallacy" in which the situation is oversimplified, "card-stacking" or selective use of facts, and "false analogy". Another common device is the "false generalization", an abstraction of the argument that shifts discussion to platitudes where the facts of the matter are lost. There are many, many more tricks to divert attention from careful exploration of a subject.
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