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Understanding Fallacies

Spotting When We Get It Wrong

Ram Neta

Ram Neta

Professor of Philosophy at UNC Chapel Hill

  • Overview
  • Episodes
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One of the very few survival advantages that human beings have over most other animals is our ability to reason. But if we are going to use this survival advantage to our benefit, we had better learn to reason well. In this course, Dr. Ram Neta will use anecdotes and practical advice to help you learn how to avoid using (or being fooled by) common fallacies of logic and argument. 

What You'll Learn

  • What fallacies are and why we should learn about them

  • The ways in which fallacies weaken arguments and risk misunderstanding

  • How to spot fallacies, and how to deal with them

Supplementary Readings:

Think Again: How to Reason and Argue (Penguin Books in the UK and Oxford University Press in the US, 2018) 

Understanding Arguments, 9th Edition, Concise Version, by Walter Sinnott-Armstrong and Robert Fogelin (UA9) (Cengage, 2014)


PART 1: Fallacies of Unclarity
13 Episodes



1. What and Why


What are fallacies, and why is it worthwhile to study the fallacies that people are most liable to make?

2. Misusing Useful Tools


How can we identify which fallacies people are most liable to make? They turn out to be the fallacies that result from the subtle misuse of tools that are useful.

3. Unclarity


What are fallacies of unclarity, and why is unclarity not just a defect, but rather a useful tool in our language and thinking?

4. Vagueness


What is vagueness, and why is it crucial for both communication and for thinking?

5. Paradoxes


What are paradoxes, and how can vagueness give rise to them?

6. Conceptual Slippery Slopes


How can the vagueness of terms like "significantly different" can give rise to Conceptual Slippery Slope Fallacies?

7. Fairness Slippery Slopes


How can vagueness give rise to Fairness Slippery Slope Fallacies?

8. Causal Slippery Slopes


How can the vagueness of terms like “probably” give rise to Causal Slippery Slope Fallacies?

9. Ambiguity


What is ambiguity, and why is it necessary for communication and thought?

10. Semantic vs. Syntactic Ambiguity


There are two kinds of ambiguity – Semantic and Syntactic Ambiguity – why is one harder to spot than the other?

11. Fallacies of Equivocation


How can ambiguity give rise to Fallacies of Equivocation?

12. “In” vs. “About”


How can we distinguish fallacies that result from unclarity in our language vs. from fallacies that result from unclarity about our language?

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