Critical Thinking Useful Terms

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  • Created by: Diksha
  • Created on: 16-05-10 14:40

Ad hominem (flaw)

Attacking the arguer. A form of reasoning which criticises the arguer’s features so that the readers will dismiss his argument.


A word or phrase with more than one meaning.


A form of argument in which two similar situations are compared. An analogy is used to help the reader to reach a conclusion.

To analyse an argument

Breaking the argument into its component and naming them.


A reference to someone or something. This helps the reader to reach a conclusion

Appeal to authority

Referring to an expert witness or recognised authority to support a claim

Example: it is right to go to war, the Prime Minister says so. Just because he said so does not make it a good reason. It does not mean that their opinions should override anyone else’s.

An appeal to authority can be weak if:

  1. the authority is irrelevant
  2. if there is vested interest

Appeal to emotion

Support a prediction on what has happened in the past or in past experience. However the past is not completely reliable. There could be changes. Just because something has happened in the past does not mean it will definitely happen again.

Appeal to popularity

Justifies a conclusion by its popularity

Example: most people believe that…therefore it should be true.

However just because something is popular does not mean it is right and it is not enough to support the conclusion.

Appeal to tradition

An attempt to say that an action is right by relying on the basis of a long standing practice. Has been done for years. But this does not mean it is right.

Arguing from one thing to another

Using a reason for one thing to support another conclusion


An attempt to make the reader accept something. Usually an argument can be made of reasons and conclusion.


Something that is thought to be true but may not be objectively verified.

Circular argument (flaw)

One of the reasons is the same as the conclusion and the argument does not lead anywhere. Does not decide anything.

Example: the murder verdict must be correct. It was decided in the court of law.

Here both the reason and conclusion leads to the fact that the murder verdict was right.


A statement that can be challenged.

Conflation (flaw)

Bringing two different concepts together and treating them like two similar situations. There will be confusion between the terms and conclusion might fail.

Confusion correlation and cause (flaw)

Post Hoc

Assuming that because A happened before B, A caused B.

Assuming that because A and B happened at the same time, A caused B or B caused A. However, there could be a relation between the two situations and it is possible that neither caused the other.

Confusing necessary and sufficient conditions (flaw)

An argument that assumes that a necessary condition is sufficient to support the conclusion.

A necessary condition is one that is needed for something to happen.

A sufficient condition guarantees that the


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