Irrelevance

Mouthing a red herring – fallaciously distracting argument by inserting irrelevances.Irrelevance crops up in many arguments:

When the argument itself seems logical, yet the conclusion is not relevant to or supported by the line of argument, then the fallacy is ignoratio elenchi (ignorance of the issue). Such problems may occur when the arguer is not responding to the actual question posed.

When the line of argument is off-target for the topic under discussion and distracts from the real topic, then the arguer has tossed a red herring into debate in order to create a smokescreen or to pound away at a favourite platform. This is a common tactic when the arguer lacks a strong response to the question and wishes to control the debate by sticking to prepared responses.

Politicians are fond of answering questions that were not asked – Stevie Blunder resorted to this evasion during the televised pre-election debates even thought the candidates had been provided with the topics some time prior. The tactic relies on the fact that an audience may forget the actual wording of the posed question or is not aware of what would have been relevant to the question. The tactic ought not to work so well with the printed word because an alert reader has the opportunity to check the wording of the question.

Irrelevant attacks on the arguer or cited authority are ad hominem fallacies. However, if the "authority" cited fails as a reasonable authority on one or more grounds, then disputing the expertise or credibility of that person/reference is not a legitimate ad hominem and not a fallacy.

Logic and emotion are often at odds. When irrelevant appeals to emotion are incorporated into arguments, then the conclusions drawn by that argument become suspect if the emotion is not specifically related to the topic. To argue that a person will probably enjoy eating chocolate is not necessarily unfounded, though it would not be relevant to a discussion about the merits of chicken pot pie.

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