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Appeal to Authority

 

Disciplines Argument > Fallacies > Appeal to Authority

Description | Discussion | Example | See also

 

Description

An expert asserts A is true. Therefore A is true.

The expert, of course, may not be expert, but they are a touchstone that people use to avoid having their own expertise challenged.

You can also assert your own expertise. If the other person cannot challenge your credentials, then they cannot challenge your argument.

Example

Mike said that this train will be late.

Well, you know what they say...

In a survey, 80% of doctors agreed that this drug can be very effective.

I've been doing this for twenty years, you know.

Discussion

The dilemma with this appeal is not so much in the assertion of truth but in the true expertise of the so-called expert, who may be guessing or even joking. It is also known that if you bring together a group of experts then you are likely to get less than full agreement about any given question.

The expert may not be named (and is hence an anonymous authority) or may be absent and unable to answer probing questions. In this case, it is not known whether the person quoting the expert is quoting them accurately or even making the whole thing up.

Appeal to authority is a common method used in confidence tricks, where the confidence trickster sets themself up as an authority and so both dissuades the target from asking questions and encourages them to trust their 'expert' judgement.

Classification

Appeal, Assertive, Distraction, Relevance

Also known as

Ad Verecundiam

See also

Authority principle, Appeal to Authority Rather Than Reason

 

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