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Appeal to authority

An appeal to authority, argument from authority or argumentum ad verecundiam is one method of obtaining propositional knowledge. Some examples of appeals to authority:

  • Refering to the philosophical beliefs of Aristotle.
  • Quotes from religious books such as the Bible.
  • Claiming that some crime is morally wrong because it is illegal.
  • Referencing scientific research published in a peer reviewed journal.
  • Believing what one is told by one's teacher.

Sometimes an appeal to authority is regarded as a logical fallacy. This is the case when a person presenting a position on a subject mentions an authority who also holds that position, but may not be an authority in that area. For instance, the statement "Arthur C. Clarke recently released a report showing it is necessary to floss three times daily" would be unlikely to impress many people, as Arthur C. Clarke is not an expert on dental hygiene[?]. Much of advertising relies on this logical fallacy, for example when Michael Winner[?] promotes car insurance, despite having no expertise in the field of car insurance.

Citing a person who is a recognized authority in the field is likely to carry more weight. In the middle ages, roughly from the 12th century to the 15th century, the philosophy of Aristotle became firmly established dogma, and referring to the beliefs of Aristotle was an important part of many debates.

Authoritarian ethics[?] is the ethical theory[?] by which one attains ethical knowledge from an authority, for example from a God or from the law. The bandwagon fallacy can be viewed as a special case of an appeal to authority, where the authority is public opinion.

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