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Special Pleading Fallacy

Updated Jan 29, 2023

The Special Pleading Fallacy: A Flaw in Reasoning


In the realm of logical fallacies, one of the most common and deceptive is the "Special Pleading Fallacy." This fallacy occurs when someone applies a double standard or makes an exception for their own argument without providing a valid justification. In this article, we will explore the nature of this fallacy, its impact on reasoning, and how to identify and avoid it.

Understanding the Special Pleading Fallacy

The Special Pleading Fallacy, also known as ad hoc reasoning, arises when someone presents an argument but exempts it from standard rules or evidence without providing adequate justification. Essentially, it involves applying different standards to different situations, often to support one's own position. This fallacy undermines the logical consistency and fairness of an argument, weakening its overall validity.

Examples of the Special Pleading Fallacy

To better comprehend this fallacy, let's consider a couple of hypothetical scenarios:

  1. Example 1: A fitness guru endorsing a particular diet
    Imagine a well-known fitness guru who promotes a specific diet claiming it is the key to a healthy lifestyle. However, when asked to provide scientific evidence supporting the diet's effectiveness, the guru dismisses the request, asserting that their personal experience is sufficient. By ignoring the need for empirical evidence, the guru is engaging in special pleading.

  2. Example 2: A student requesting an extension on an assignment
    Suppose a student asks their professor for an extension on an assignment, citing personal issues and claiming they deserve special treatment. However, if the professor denies the request based on the principle of fairness and equal treatment for all students, the student's plea falls under the special pleading fallacy.

Impact on Reasoning

The Special Pleading Fallacy undermines the integrity of logical reasoning by introducing inconsistency and bias. When someone resorts to special pleading, they essentially create an exception to evade the burden of proof or to support their argument without valid reasons. This fallacy weakens the credibility of their position and can hinder meaningful discourse.

Moreover, the Special Pleading Fallacy can lead to a breakdown in fairness and impartiality. By applying different standards to different situations, individuals may unwittingly create double standards, perpetuating inequality and injustice.

Identifying and Avoiding the Special Pleading Fallacy

Recognizing the Special Pleading Fallacy is essential for constructing sound arguments and engaging in logical debates. Here are a few key strategies to identify and avoid this fallacy:

  1. Consistency is key: Pay attention to whether the person is applying the same standards to all relevant cases. If they are making an exception without justifiable reasons, it may indicate the presence of special pleading.

  2. Seek valid justifications: When someone presents an argument, ask for valid justifications or evidence to support their claim. If they fail to provide adequate reasons and instead rely on personal anecdotes or exemptions, it may be a sign of special pleading.

  3. Apply critical thinking: Be skeptical and question both your own arguments and those presented by others. Evaluate the consistency and fairness of the reasoning being employed and be wary of any exceptions made without proper justification.

By employing these strategies, we can enhance our reasoning skills, promote fairness, and foster more meaningful discussions.


The Special Pleading Fallacy is a common logical fallacy that undermines the consistency and fairness of arguments. By exempting one's own position from standard rules or evidence without valid justification, individuals engage in special pleading. Recognizing and avoiding this fallacy is crucial for constructing sound arguments and promoting logical discourse. By upholding consistency, seeking valid justifications, and applying critical thinking, we can ensure our reasoning remains logical, fair, and free from the pitfalls of special pleading.

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