The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Fallacy: Appeal to Belief

Description of Appeal to Belief

Appeal to Belief is a fallacy that has this general pattern:

  1. Most people believe that a claim, X, is true.
  2. Therefore X is true.

This line of "reasoning" is fallacious because the fact that many people believe a claim does not, in general, serve as evidence that the claim is true.

There are, however, some cases when the fact that many people accept a claim as true is an indication that it is true. For example, while you are visiting Maine, you are told by several people that they believe that people older than 16 need to buy a fishing license in order to fish. Barring reasons to doubt these people, their statements give you reason to believe that anyone over 16 will need to buy a fishing license.

There are also cases in which what people believe actually determines the truth of a claim. For example, the truth of claims about manners and proper behavior might simply depend on what people believe to be good manners and proper behavior. Another example is the case of community standards, which are often taken to be the standards that most people accept. In some cases, what violates certain community standards is taken to be obscene. In such cases, for the claim "x is obscene" to be true is for most people in that community to believe that x is obscene. In such cases it is still prudent to question the justification of the individual beliefs.

See also Appeal to Popularity.

Examples of Appeal to Belief

  1. At one time, most people in Europe believed that the earth was the center of the solar system (at least most of those who had beliefs about such things). However, this belief turned out to be false.

  2. God must exist. After all, I just saw a poll that says 85% of all Americans believe in God.

  3. Of course there is nothing wrong with drinking. Ask anyone, he'll tell you that he thinks drinking is just fine.

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