Appeal to Authority
(argumentum ad verecundiam)


    While sometimes it may be appropriate to cite an authority to support a point, often it is not. In particular, an appeal to authority is inappropriate if:
    1. the person is not qualified to have an expert opinion on the subject,
    2. experts in the field disagree on this issue.
    3. the authority was making a joke, drunk, or otherwise not being serious
    A variation of the fallacious appeal to authority is hearsay. An argument from hearsay is an argument which depends on second or third hand sources.
  1. Noted psychologist Dr. Frasier Crane recommends that you buy the EZ-Rest Hot Tub.
  2. Economist John Kenneth Galbraith argues that a tight money policy s the best cure for a recession. (Although Galbraith is an expert, not all economists agree on this point.)
  3. We are headed for nuclear war. Last week Ronald Reagan remarked that we begin bombing Russia in five minutes. (Of course, he said it as a joke during a microphone test.)
  4. My friend heard on the news the other day that Canada will declare war on Serbia. (This is a case of hearsay; in fact, the reporter said that Canada would not declare war.)
  5. The Ottawa Citizen reported that sales were up 5.9 percent this year. (This is hearsay; we are not n a position to check the Citizen's sources.)
    Show that either (i) the person cited is not an authority in the field, or that (ii) there is general disagreement among the experts in the field on this point.
    Cedarblom and Paulsen: 155, Copi and Cohen: 95, Davis: 69
26 May 1995 / 06 January 1996