Failure of the appeal to authority form of argument

One of the telling issues with people is when they avoid the facts of the case and instead resort to an argument form called an appeal to authority. This usually indicates that the person making the appeal knows they are wrong and are making a last ditch effort to avoid admitting they have made a mistake.

The appeal to authority can come in many forms:

  1. Prof. Whatchamacallit says that
  2. I read it in a book
  3. I wrote a book
  4. You are not as smart as I am
  5. I’ve got an advanced degree
  6. I saw it on YouTube

In some of the comments to this blog there was the claim that the person was an authority. The appeal to authority was that since they were an authority they must be right. Really? An authority?

If someone writes a book and can’t get simple issues correct such as when something happened, or a person’s profession as clearly stated in the referenced article, or the definition of terms as stated by the author in the article then I say, read the articles. Read the articles and fix the next edition of the book.

So how does an “authority” make so many simple mistakes.

It might be proofreading?

It might be easier to make stuff up than to do actual research?

It might be indifference?

It might be hubrus that prevents someone from checking what they think might be right?

We all deal with these so-called authorities all of the time. It might be a boss, or a clerk, or a sports/politics/movie/scotch/comic book or whatever self proclaimed expert. The discussion should be about the facts and not how pompous someone can be.


One Response to “Failure of the appeal to authority form of argument”

  1. Peter Mouton Says:

    Along the lines of whether Wicksell studied to be a physician, joined the faculty of medicine, and then switched to statistics, or the correct spelling of Rosival is Rosiwal, here are a couple more instances of muddled facts for you…

    In the movie Jaws, Sheriff Martin Brody never says, “We’re gonna need a bigger boat.” What he say (to Quint) is, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

    In Casablanca, no one said the oft quoted line, “Play it again, Sam.” Ilsa said “Play it, Sam,” and Rick said, “You played it for her, you can play it for me.”

    In the Empire Strikes Back, Darth Vader never says, “Luke, I am your father.” His precise line is, “No, I am your father.”

    Dirty Harry does not say, “Do you feel lucky, Punk?” as many people think. What he said was, “You’ve got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, Punk?”

    Don’t you wish people would get their study straight?

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