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Appeal to Authority: Fallacies

To appeal to authority is to cite an expert’s opinion as support for one’s own opinion. This method of thought is not necessarily fallacious. Clearly, the reasonableness of the argument depends on the “expertise” of the person being cited and whether he or she is an expert in a field relevant to the argument. Appealing to a doctor’s authority on a medical issue, for example, would be reasonable; but if the issue is about dermatology and the doctor is an orthopedist, then the argument would be questionable.



The legalization of drugs is advocated by no less respectable people than William F. Buckley and federal judge Edmund J. Reinholt. These people would not propose a social policy that is likely to be harmful. So there is little risk in experimenting with a one-year legalization of drugs.


In presenting her position the author does which one of the following?

  1. Argues from the specific to the general.
  2. Attacks the motives of her opponents.
  3. Uses the positions of noted social commentators to support her position.
  4. Argues in a circular manner.
  5. Claims that her position is correct because others cannot disprove it.

The only evidence that the author gives to support her position is that respected people agree with her. She is appealing to the authority of others. Thus, the answer is (C).

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