False equivalence

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This article is about the logical fallacy. For the media term, see False balance.

False equivalence is a logical fallacy in which two opposing arguments appear to be logically equivalent when in fact they are not. This fallacy is categorized as a fallacy of inconsistency.[1]

Characteristics[edit]

A common way for this fallacy to be perpetuated is one shared trait between two subjects is assumed to show equivalence, especially in order of magnitude, when equivalence is not necessarily the logical result.[2] False equivalence is a common result when an anecdotal similarity is pointed out as equal, but the claim of equivalence doesn't bear because the similarity is based on oversimplification or ignorance of additional factors. The pattern of the fallacy is often as such: "If A is the set of c and d, and B is the set of d and e, then since they both contain d, A and B are equal". d is not required to exist in both sets; only a passing similarity is required to cause this fallacy to be able to be used.

False equivalence arguments are often used in journalism[3][4] and in politics, where the minor flaws of one candidate may be compared to major flaws of another.[5]

Examples[edit]

The following statements are examples of false equivalence:

  • "They're both living animals that metabolize chemical energy. There's no difference between a pet cat and a pet snail."

(the "equivalence" is in factors that are not relevant to the animals suitibility as pets).

(the comparision is between things differing by many orders of magnitude: Deepwater Horizon spilled twenty million gallons of oil, your neighbor might spill perhaps a pint.)

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Phillips, Harry; Bostian, Patricia (2014). The Purposeful Argument: A Practical Guide, Brief Edition (second ed.). Cengage Learning. p. 129. ISBN 9781285982847. 
  2. ^ False Equivalence, Truly Fallacious, Aug 16, 2013 (accessed 17 February 2017)
  3. ^ Paul Krugman, "The Falsity of False Equivalence", New York Times, September 26, 2016. (accessed 17 February 2017)
  4. ^ Ari Phillips, "Welcome to the maddening world of false equivalence journalism", Fusion, Aug. 28, 2016. (accessed 17 February 2017)
  5. ^ Neil H. Buchanan, "The False Equivalence of Clinton and Trump's Negatives", Newsweek, June 22, 2016. (accessed 17 February 2017)