Equivocation

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

In logic, equivocation ('calling two different things by the same name') is an informal fallacy resulting from the use of a particular word/expression in multiple senses within an argument.[1][2]

It is a type of ambiguity that stems from a phrase having two or more distinct meanings, not from the grammar or structure of the sentence.[1]

Below are some examples of equivocation in syllogisms (a logical chain of reasoning):

Since only man [human] is rational.
And no woman is a man [male].
Therefore, no woman is rational.[1]

The first instance of "man" implies the entire human species, while the second implies just those who are male.

A feather is light [not heavy].
What is light [bright] cannot be dark.
Therefore, a feather cannot be dark.

In the above example, distinct meanings of the word "light" are implied in contexts of the first and second statements.

All jackasses [male donkey] have long ears.
Carl is a jackass [annoying person].
Therefore, Carl has long ears.

Here, the equivocation is the metaphorical use of "jackass" to imply a simple-minded or obnoxious person instead of a male donkey.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Damer, T. Edward (21 February 2008). Attacking Faulty Reasoning: A Practical Guide to Fallacy-Free Arguments. Cengage Learning. pp. 121–123. ISBN 0-495-09506-0.
  2. ^ Fischer, D. H. (June 1970), Historians' fallacies: toward a logic of historical thought, Harper torchbooks (first ed.), New York: HarperCollins, p. 274, ISBN 978-0-06-131545-9, OCLC 185446787