Definition

Appeal to Authority (argumentum ad verecundiam) logical fallacy and Argument from Authority (argumentum ab auctoritate) are the same form of of discussion argument in which person producing a claim referencing the opinion of an authority as evidence to support an argument. As a fallacy it’s included onto Red Herring Fallacies group.

This can be a fallacy if the referenced person does not have proper authority.

Argument to Authority Example

Though in science discussion it is thought of most of the times non-acceptable, the appeal to authority is one of the most powerful methods of influencing audience but it should not be overvalued. The more developed, democratic and competitive society the less options for this fallacy to have significant value. In competitive environment the authorities are often many and sometimes are contending too.

Appeal to Authority Roots and Origins

Authority meaning is tightly linked to Influence - ability to have an effect on character, behaviour and attidude of surrounding people. People are conformant and like to blend and be organic part of society. The less educated and capable the person the more authorities’ opinion matter to him. On contrary brighter and more energetic people are tend to question experts’ point of view and become leaders and authorities themselves.

Legitimate Reference to Authority

The reference to this opinion is reasonable and person without deep knowlege on the topic should respect that opinion when most of the experts in the field have an agreed consensus on the matter.

If another expert disagrees with such opinion he would be probably wrong, If non-expert disagrees then he would be certainly wrong. We should take into account that scientific knowlege is evolving and improving.

Another aspect - it’s best to trust not the opinions but the facts. A bright person is distinguished not by what he believes, but how and why he believes it. His faith is built on experience and therefore not dogmatic; it is based on evidence, not authority or intuition.

Additional requirement to the expert is to be independent. The government can not reference the ministry official, they should do the scientist or other opinions leader.

Appeal to Personal Authority

Substidutions of proof with the reference to one person opinion can be grouped together in one class “Personal”.

Appeal to Opponent’s Authority

argumentum ad adversarium is the case when person’s own arguments, made in earlier discussion are used against them. As defined by Leibniz: “pushing someone against the wall based on what they said before”.

You told me that, yourself, remember? I’m not making it up.

Appeal to Authority in Hierachical Structures

All people have different level of expertise, play different roles in organizational structure and their reputation is varied not only on absolute scale but also relative to each other. Those differences in hierarchival construct of society are fixed in system of educational levels (Bachelor degree, PhD, Academic), military ranks (Sergeant, Leftenant, General), or role position description in organization (Apprentice, Specialist, Lead Expert, CEO).

Even though appeal to authority in such structured systems is acceptable it is still a sometimes logical fallacy. Example of argumentum ad mominem - appeal to mother:

My mom taught me a woman’s mind should be the most beautiful part of her. Mother knows best!

Appeal to Questionable Authority

In their area of expertise the person must be broadly aknowledged as expert otherwise that would be referencing them would be Appeal to Questionable Authority. This aknowledgement is not given for granted but must acquired and proven.

To empower citation with more influence authority can be prized with characteristics - well known, famous, genius. Their role can also be slightly exaggerated like thought leader (business jargon term) instead of presenter.

Appeal to False Authority

When it’s commonly known that such authority doesn’t posess an expert knowledge in discussed topic. And as we already know expertise is not granted it must be proven.

There is also a possibility that people cited didn’t say that at all.

Appeal to False Authority - Churchill

Its the most frequent case is probably the Appeal to Celebrity or Appeal to Respect, argument to veneration. When well respectable figures like actors, musicians, sportsmen, military or otherwise famous people used as the reference on the topic not related to their job. Often this is happening in advertising.

OMEGA! James Bond’s Watches!

Agent 007 wasn’t specialist in watches. Another example of this fallacy. Kerlie is a very famous personality but not for deep knowledge in websites:

I’m Karlie Kloss, I’ve just created new site with Wix, it looks stunning.

Appeal to Group

Appeal to Anonymos Authority

Example of such fallacy:

Climate scientists agree the global warming is real!

Because the authority is not directly named it’s impossible to confirm them being experts. Usually phrase begins with “Research show…” or “It has been said…”.

Another variant of this fallacy is Appeal to Rumor (“I heard that…"). It’s hard to find the source of source of a rumour so impossible to check their expertise.

Sometimes it’s very close to Hasty Generalization or Genetic fallacy, example:

These are very fasionable shoes, made in Paris. Parisiens know how to dress up properly.

Appeal to No Authority

Is appealing to the person who has no expertise or knowledge in the topic and because other higher qualified specialists are made suspected of conspiracy or other vested interests. That appeal to common sense of uneducated people is frequently used in politics.

We shouldn’t beleive those smart heads! Average Joe knows better. What do you say, people?

It’s different to Appeal to Poverty argumentum ad lazarum where claim beleived to be true because it’s made by poor speaker.

Argumentum ad Populum

Appeal to Popularity, Appeal to People or Appeal to Popular Belief is the reference to public opinion. It’s usually identified as a separate logical fallacy.

Appeal to Self

argumentum ad seipsum is when person references themselves as authority.

Of course I know how to deal with this flu, I’m a doctor.

Person in power or other government official are definitely in better position to use this way of argument because the leader is expected to produce not so much a logically reasoned, but an authoritative opinion. If the same is expressed by someone else, then the expectation changes: the opinion should be reasonably justified.

Appeal to Death is a special case of self-referencing. Here person is considered proved loyalty to their idea with holing to it till their sometimes heroic death. The example could be Jesus Christ and Giordano Bruno who was burnt at stake.

Appeal to God

argumentum ad Deus is the referencing the Bible text as a proof of argument. Argumentum ะต vaticiniis et miraculis is the Appeal to the deeds od Prophets and Miracles described in Bible.

Misuse of Authorities

Argument from Authorities shouldn’t be overused even as a genuine reference because it’s considered as a true sign of intellectual dependence. Let me cite Leonardo da Vinci:

He who argues, referring to authority, is not using his own mind, but rather his memory.

Other common logical fallacies and examples:

More info: