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Illicit Process Fallacy

Updated Jun 27, 2023

The Illicit Process Fallacy: Unveiling Logical Fallacies in Reasoning

Have you ever found yourself engaged in a debate or discussion, only to realize that the other party's argument seemed flawed or illogical? Logical fallacies often lurk within these debates, subtly distorting the reasoning and leading to erroneous conclusions. One such fallacy is the illicit process fallacy, a concept that explores how improper reasoning can undermine the validity of an argument. In this article, we will delve into the illicit process fallacy, uncover its essence, and provide examples to help you identify and avoid this fallacy in your own reasoning.

Understanding the Illicit Process Fallacy

The illicit process fallacy, also known as the fallacy of the undistributed middle, stems from a logical error in syllogistic reasoning. To grasp this fallacy, we must first understand the structure of a syllogism, which consists of a major premise, a minor premise, and a conclusion. The major premise applies a general rule, the minor premise applies a specific instance, and the conclusion draws a logical inference.

The illicit process fallacy occurs when the middle term in a syllogism is not distributed across both premises, rendering the conclusion invalid. In other words, the fallacy arises when the middle term, which appears in both the major and minor premises, fails to establish a logical connection between them. Consequently, the conclusion drawn from such a flawed syllogism cannot be considered logically sound.

Spotting the Illicit Process Fallacy in Action

To better understand the illicit process fallacy, let's examine a couple of examples:

Example 1:

Major Premise: All dogs have fur. Minor Premise: Fluffy has fur. Conclusion: Fluffy is a dog.

In this example, the middle term "fur" is not distributed across both premises. Although all dogs have fur, it is incorrect to assume that everything with fur is a dog. Therefore, the conclusion that Fluffy is a dog based solely on this flawed syllogism is fallacious.

Example 2:

Major Premise: All birds have wings. Minor Premise: Pigeons have wings. Conclusion: Pigeons are birds.

Unlike the previous example, this syllogism is valid because the middle term "wings" is distributed across both the major and minor premises. Here, the conclusion that pigeons are birds is logically sound.

Avoiding the Illicit Process Fallacy

To ensure that our reasoning remains logical and free from fallacies like the illicit process fallacy, it is essential to follow a few guidelines:

  1. Distribute the middle term: When constructing a syllogism, ensure that the middle term is present and distributed in both the major and minor premises. This distribution allows for a proper logical connection between the premises, leading to a valid conclusion.

  2. Verify the logical flow: Carefully examine the premises and conclusion to confirm that the reasoning is coherent and that there are no leaps or unwarranted assumptions. Engage in critical thinking to identify any potential fallacies or weaknesses in the argument.

  3. Seek counterarguments: Actively seek out counterarguments or opposing viewpoints to challenge your own reasoning. By considering alternative perspectives, you can refine your arguments and avoid falling into the trap of fallacious reasoning.

By incorporating these practices into our thinking processes, we can improve our ability to identify and avoid the illicit process fallacy, ultimately strengthening the validity of our arguments.


In the realm of logic and reasoning, the illicit process fallacy poses a significant threat to the integrity of arguments. By understanding the essence of this fallacy and recognizing its various manifestations, we can equip ourselves with the necessary tools to spot and avoid fallacious reasoning. Remember, critical thinking and a comprehensive understanding of logical fallacies are crucial in constructing sound arguments and engaging in meaningful debates. So, the next time you find yourself involved in a discussion, be vigilant and watch out for the illicit process fallacy. Your reasoning will thank you for it.

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