paralogism (rhetoric and logic)

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

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Paralogism is a term in logic and rhetoric for a fallacious or defective argument or conclusion.

In the field of rhetoric, in particular, paralogism is generally regarded as a type of sophism or pseudo-syllogism.

In the Critique of Pure Reason (1781/1787), German philosopher Immanuel Kant identified four paralogisms corresponding to the four fundamental knowledge claims of rational psychology: substantiality, simplicity, personality, and ideality. Philosopher James Luchte points out that "the section on the Paralogisms was . . . subject to differing accounts in the First and Second Editions of the First Critique (Kant's 'Critique of Pure Reason': A Reader's Guide, 2007).

See Examples and Observations below. Also see:

From the Greek, "beyond reason"

Examples and Observations

  • "[Paralogism is illogical] reasoning, particularly of which the reasoner is unconscious. . . .
    "Ex: 'I asked him [Salvatore, a simpleton] whether it was not also true that lords and bishops accumulated possessions through tithes, so that the Shepherds were not fighting their true enemies. He replied that when your true enemies are too strong, you have to choose weaker enemies' (Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose, p. 192)."
    (Bernard Marie Dupriez and Albert W. Halsall, A Dictionary of Literary Devices. University of Toronto Press, 1991)
  • "Paralogism is either Fallacy, if unintentional, or Sophism, if intended to deceive. It is under the latter aspect particularly that Aristotle considers false reasoning."
    (Charles S. Peirce, Qualitative Logic, 1886)
  • Aristotle on Paralogism and Persuasion
    "The use of psychological and aesthetic strategies is based, first, on the fallacy of the linguistic sign, for not being the same thing as the reality it names, and, secondly, on the fallacy of 'what follows something is the effect of this.' Indeed, Aristotle says that the reason why persuasion derives from psychological and stylistic strategies is a 'paralogism' or fallacy in both cases. We instinctively think that the orator that shows us a certain emotion or trait of character through his speech, when he employs the appropriate style, well adapted to the emotion of the audience or the character of the speaker, can make a fact credible. The hearer, indeed, will be under the impression that the orator is speaking the truth, when his linguistic signs correspond exactly with the facts they describe. Hence the hearer thinks, consequently, that in such circumstances his own feelings or reactions would be the same (Aristotle, Rhetoric 1408a16)."
    (A. López Eire, "Rhetoric and Language." A Companion to Greek Rhetoric, ed. by Ian Worthington. Blackwell, 2007)
  • Paralogism as Self-Deception
    "The word 'paralogism' is taken from formal logic, in which it is used to designate a specific type of formally fallacious syllogism: 'Such a syllogism is a paralogism insofar as one deceives oneself by it.' [Immanuel] Kant distinguishes a paralogism, thus defined, from what he calls a 'sophism'; the latter is a formally fallacious syllogism with which 'one deliberately tries to deceive others.' So, even in its more logical sense, paralogism is more radical than that mere sophistry which, directing others into error, still reserves the truth for itself. It is rather self-deception, inevitable illusion without reserve of truth. . . . Reason entangles itself in paralogism in that sphere in which self-deception can assume its most radical form, the sphere of rational psychology; reason involves itself in self-deception regarding itself."
    (John Sallis, The Gathering of Reason, 2nd ed. State University of New York Press, 2005)
  • Kant on Paralogism
    "Today the term [paralogism] is associated almost entirely with Immanuel Kant who, in a section of his first Critique on Transcendental Dialectic, distinguished between Formal and Transcendental Paralogisms. By the latter he understood the Fallacies of Rational Psychology which began with the 'I think' experience as premise, and concluded that man possesses a substantial, continuous, and separable soul. Kant also termed this the Psychological Paralogism, and the Paralogisms of Pure Reasoning."
    (William L. Reese, Dictionary of Philosophy and Religion. Humanities Press, 1980)

Also Known As: fallacy, false reasoning

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Nordquist, Richard. "paralogism (rhetoric and logic)." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, Nordquist, Richard. (2021, February 16). paralogism (rhetoric and logic). Retrieved from Nordquist, Richard. "paralogism (rhetoric and logic)." ThoughtCo. (accessed February 8, 2023).