A brain-blending categorisation and visualisation of errors and manipulations of rhetoric and logical thinking. How many do you use?

The word ‘rhetological’ is made up. Just so I can munge two types of entity: rhetorical techniques and logical fallacies.

Both are used heavily by institutional powers – governments, religions, political parties, across the entire spectrum to sway opinion, confuse and obfuscate. And, unfortunately, we internalise them, like bad habits, into our own decision-making and mental processes.

How many you recognise? Or use?

UPDATE 11th April: We now have a French version – and printable French PDF to download. Thanks to Gilles Peyroux!

appeal to method

This is an attempt to elucidate and name a few of the most common fallacies. I’ve drawn from the many, great collections and lists out there online (see the sources below).

Quite a few suffer from being over-abstract and heavily philosophical. Some have difficult-to-grasp examples. Sometimes these fallacies are so simple, or basic maybe, that they’re actually hard to grasp mentally. You need examples.

So I’ve condensed all the definitions and tried to write them in the plainest of plain English. Also, I’ve roved for everyday, topical examples to give a sense of each fallacy and technique. As a team, we also created little ‘roadsigns’ to give you a visual-conceptual flavour of each.

In philosophy, there are some formal ways of categorising fallacies. I ignored those. Mostly, I admit, because I didn’t understand them. Instead I went for more intuitive groupings. That may not be canonical. Sorry!

I think it works though. Here’s an example. The most senior Catholic bishop here in the UK recently outlined his argument against same-sex marriage. Here’s our rhetological matrix applied to his speech.

appeal to your brain

If you want to play Rhetological Bingo during political speeches or at work feel free to instantly download a quick-ref, hi-res PDF.

It also occurred to me as I uploaded the final, that the imagery could work very well in HTML. And it’d be easy to translate. If anyone can help me with that, please get in touch.

As ever, we welcome your feedback and corrections. We’ve probably suppressed a few key fallacies. Confused cause & effect. Maybe even garbled our definitions. Help us out!

ADDITIONAL RESEARCH: Marley Whiteside, Kathryn Ariel Kay, Peter Ayres.
DESIGN: Tatjana Dubovina, Piero Zagami.
TEXT VERSION: In this Google Doc
SOURCES: Wikipedia, FallacyFiles.org, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Skeptic Dictionary, ChangingMinds.org, LogicallyFallacious.com, Dosters, e-ducation.net, EvolutionWiki.org, Infidels.org, Philosophical Society, Sjsu.ed, TVTropes.org, Santarosa.edu, A Concise Introduction to Logic (Patrick J Hurley), Beginners Guide to the Scientific Method (Stephen S Carey)