Fallacies of ambiguity characteristics Classification types examples

Fallacies of ambiguity

Fallacies are generated by a misunderstanding of reasoning, lack of clarity in the use of a phrase or word that generates the logical error and that can have persuasive psychological force, being, however, a simple mistake generated from the concatenation of its propositions – and many times even producing epistemological mistakes. The word or phrase may be ambiguous, in which case it has more than one distinct meaning, or the word or phrase may be vague, that is, without a distinct meaning. In this article we will provide you the Fallacies of ambiguity.

Classification of Fallacies of ambiguity

According to philosophy, fallacies of ambiguity are divided into:


The same word can be used with two different meanings. Examples:

  1. Crime is illegality. The trial of a robbery or murder are criminal actions. Robbery and murder trials are called criminal actions. Therefore, the robbery and murder trials are illegal. (Example taken from Copi.)
  2. Child killers are inhumane. Therefore, humans do not kill children. (The argument plays on the moral and descriptive meanings of ‘human’)
  3. In order to be big or small, an object must first be. Therefore, the being of the object came first. (Play with the logical and physical meanings of “to be”)
Proof: Identify the word that is used more than once. Then show that the word comes with different definitions, suitable in one of its uses and inappropriate in others.


An amphibology occurs when the construction of the sentence allows us to assign different meanings to it. Examples:

  1. At your job, everyone likes a car. So there is a very special car. (Does everyone like any car or the same car?)
  2. The Oracle of Delphi told Croesus, king of Lydia, that “if Croesus declares war on Persia, he will destroy a mighty kingdom”. (The Oracle didn’t say it would be his own kingdom…)
Proof: Show the ambiguity of the sentence, showing that it can receive different interpretations.


Emphasis is used to suggest a proposition different from what is actually expressed. This kind of fallacy is often most blatant in sensationalist tabloids. Examples:
  1. The ex-girlfriend, seeking revenge on the captain, wrote in the newspaper: “Today, the captain was sober.” [She suggests, with emphasis, that the captain is usually drunk. (Copy, p. 117)].
  2. Revolution in France is feared by the authorities (the term “feared” puts the authorities at risk, since it is not clear in what form the fear is given, or if in a preventive or fearful way).


Applies to two types of invalid arguments that are closely related to each other. The first is described as reasoning fallaciously from the properties of the parts of a whole to the properties of the whole itself; the second is strictly parallel to what has just been described, that is, the fallacious reasoning starts from the properties possessed by elements or individual members of a collection to the properties possessed by the collection or totality of these elements (it is like thinking from an inductive reasoning to the deductive, and vice versa, or, even more, from generalization to particularization or, figuratively, from universality to contingency, and so on). Examples:

  1. All the parts of a certain machine are light in weight, so the machine “as a whole” is also light in weight (the error manifests itself when we think that a very heavy machine cannot consist of many light parts).


It is the inverse of the COMPOSITION fallacy. The same confusion presents itself in it, but the inference develops in the opposite direction. A little tricky to tell them apart, but it wouldn’t be appropriate to consider this an impossible task. The first mistake of the fallacy of DIVISION considers that what is valid collectively must be valid individually, as well as the second mistake, in reverse, when arguing from the properties of a collection of elements to the properties of the same elements. Examples:

  1. If a certain company is very important, then Mr. Doe, who is one of its employees, is very important.
  2. Dogs are common. Rhodesians are dogs. Therefore, Rhodesians are common (the breed being known to be obviously rare).

Types of fallacies of ambiguity and examples

1- The mistake

It is produced by the confusion generated by the different meanings of a word or phrase used in the same context.


– Premise 1: heroin is harmful to health.

– Premise 2: Maria is a heroine.

Conclusion: Maria is harmful to health.

2- Amphibology

It consists of the argumentation on ambiguous premises due to its grammatical structure. In other words, it refers to the lack of clarity in the statements.


– Premise 1: we will go through the park and the zoo.

– Premise 2: we wait for you there.

Conclusion: where are they waiting for you, in the park or at the zoo?

3- The composition

In this it is expressed that the whole must also be of the same nature as its parts. That is, what is true for the whole is true for the parts. Fallacies of ambiguity characteristics


– Premise 1: Lemons are very acidic.

– Premise 2: the lemon cake has lemons.

Conclusion: as the lemon cake has lemons, then it is very acidic.

4- The division

Contrary to the fallacies of composition, those of division assume that what is true in relation to the whole is also true for any of its parts.


– Premise 1: the university of the north is of the first level.

– Premise 2: the students of the northern university are all first level.

Conclusion: all the students of the north university are first level because the north university is first level.

5- The emphasis or accent

These fallacies are committed the moment the argument is pronounced by its author with an inappropriate accent.

It is also called the fallacy of phonetic ambiguity, and it results from an incorrect intonation or pronunciation that causes the wrong understanding on the part of the interlocutor.


– Physical violence is highly harmful.

When the highest intonation occurs in the word “physical”, the interlocutor may conclude that other means of violence, such as verbal and psychological, are not harmful.

Other examples

Example 1

In the following conversation, an amphibology occurs

-My husband’s pig is sick.

-Who is sick? Your husband or the pig?

Example 2

The following reflection is a fallacy by composition.

If the hummus sauce is delicious. The garlic, paprika, chickpeas, or cumin, which are the ingredients with which the sauce is made, will also be delicious. Fallacies of ambiguity characteristics

Different aspects of Fallacies of ambiguity

What is ambiguity and examples?

Ambiguity is when the meaning of a word, phrase or sentence is uncertain. There may be more than one meaning. However, sometimes ambiguity is used deliberately to add humor to a text. Examples of ambiguity: Sarah bathed her dog wearing a pink T-shirt.

How do you identify ambiguity?

Ambiguity. A word, phrase or sentence is ambiguous if it has more than one meaning. The word ‘light’, for example, can mean not too heavy or not too dark. Words like ‘light’, ‘note’, ‘bear’ and ‘about’ are lexically ambiguous.

What is an example of a scarecrow argument?

The straw man occurs when someone argues that one person has a view that is actually not what the other person believes. So instead of attacking the person’s actual claim or belief, it is the distorted version that is attacked. Examples of Straw Man: 1.

What does lexical ambiguity mean?

Lexical ambiguity is the presence of two or more possible meanings for a single word. It is also called semantic ambiguity or homonymy. Lexical ambiguity is sometimes used deliberately to create puns and other types of wordplay.

What does false dichotomy mean?

A false dichotomy is a dichotomy that is not jointly exhaustive (there are other alternatives), or that is not mutually exclusive (the alternatives overlap), or possibly neither. Note that the example given above is not mutually exclusive, as the test and the program may be wrong.

What is philosophy of ambiguity?

philosophers. Locke. ambiguity. The presence of two or more distinct meanings for a single word or phrase. In itself, ambiguity is a common, harmless, and often amusing feature of common language.

What is the fallacy of misunderstanding?

The fallacy of misunderstanding occurs when a key term or phrase in an argument is used ambiguously, with one meaning in one part of the argument and another meaning in another part of the argument. Examples: I have the right to watch “The Real World”. So it is right for me to watch the show.

What is workplace ambiguity?

Causes of Ambiguity in the Workplace Ambiguity arises in many ways in the workplace. The problem arises from a lack of direction and clearly defined roles. When employees experience ambiguity, they are often working at a job with an uncertain future, and day-to-day work is approached with a level of indifference.

What are ambiguous questions?

An ambiguous question is a question that has more than one meaning and the intended answer is vague.

What is an ambiguous person?

An ambiguous person is a nonconformist person. Nowadays, people also refer to this as non-binary or even a fluid person. It means it refuses to fit in a box or under a label. The idea of ​​being an ambiguous person can be applied to any faculty on the human spectrum.

What is role ambiguity in the workplace?

Role ambiguity occurs when people are unclear or uncertain about their expectations within a particular role, typically their job role or workplace. Role ambiguity arises when the definition of a person’s job is vague or ill-defined. Unclear roles may involve behavioral expectations or performance levels.

How do you deal with ambiguity?

7 ways to help your team deal with ambiguity Understand your own tolerance and reactions. Start with you. Be crystal clear about what is clear. It’s easy to feel that everything is uncertain in times of uncertainty. Know what you collectively know and what you don’t. Don’t waffle. Encourage risk-taking. View alternative scenarios. Involve other people and perspectives.

What is the synonym of ambiguous?

SYNONYMS. ambiguous, ambivalent, open to debate, open to discussion, debatable, debatable. Delphic, cryptic, enigmatic, gnomish, paradoxical, deceptive. obscure, obscure, vague, confused, intriguing, perplexed, enigmatic, doubtful, doubtful, uncertain. double-edged, with the back of the hand.

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