False equivalence

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

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


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 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][6]


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' suitability as pets).

(the comparison is between things differing by many orders of magnitude: Deepwater Horizon spilled 210 million US gal (790 million l) of oil, your neighbor might spill perhaps a pint.)

See also[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)[dead link]
  3. ^ Krugman, Paul (September 26, 2016). "The Falsity of False Equivalence". The New York Times. Retrieved February 17, 2017.
  4. ^ Ari Phillips, "Welcome to the maddening world of false equivalence journalism", Fusion, Aug. 28, 2016. (accessed 17 February 2017)
  5. ^ Buchanan, Neil H. (June 22, 2016). "The False Equivalence of Clinton and Trump's Negatives". Newsweek. Retrieved February 17, 2017.
  6. ^ Bruce Thornton, "The False Comparison Of Trump to Hillary", Frontpagemag, June 7, 2016. (accessed 26 June 2017)