The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Fallacy: Appeal to Ridicule

Also Known as: Appeal to Mockery, The Horse Laugh.

Description of Appeal to Ridicule

The Appeal to Ridicule is a fallacy in which ridicule or mockery is substituted for evidence in an "argument." This line of "reasoning" has the following form:

  1. X, which is some form of ridicule is presented (typically directed at the claim).
  2. Therefore claim C is false.

This sort of "reasoning" is fallacious because mocking a claim does not show that it is false. This is especially clear in the following example: "1+1=2! That's the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard!"

It should be noted that showing that a claim is ridiculous through the use of legitimate methods (such as a non fallacious argument) can make it reasonable to reject the claim. One form of this line of reasoning is known as a "reductio ad absurdum" ("reducing to absurdity"). In this sort of argument, the idea is to show that a contradiction (a statement that must be false) or an absurd result follows from a claim. For example: "Bill claims that a member of a minority group cannot be a racist. However, this is absurd. Think about this: white males are a minority in the world. Given Bill's claim, it would follow that no white males could be racists. Hence, the Klan, Nazis, and white supremists are not racist organizations."

Since the claim that the Klan, Nazis, and white supremists are not racist organizations is clearly absurd, it can be concluded that the claim that a member of a minority cannot be a racist is false.

Examples of Appeal to Ridicule

  1. "Sure my worthy opponent claims that we should lower tuition, but that is just laughable."

  2. "Support the ERA? Sure, when the women start paying for the drinks! Hah! Hah!"

  3. "Those wacky conservatives! They think a strong military is the key to peace!"

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