ArgLab • Colloquium

Jan Albert van Laar

Arguments from popularity: Only a bit convincing yet far too persuasive

How to assess arguments from popularity? According to staunch critics, they provide no real justification whatsoever. According to enthusiasts, they are in proper circumstances most convincing. First, I characterize arguments from popularity, and contend that many argumentative appeals to popular policy should not be qualified as arguments from popularity. Second, I argue that arguments from popularity can provide real support, but that normally they are only a bit convincing. Third, I show that arguments from popularity are likely to be fallacious, and that their fallaciousness has widely diverging causes. I will stress that they are far too persuasive when exerting pressure on the addressee: deferring to the opinions of others can be wise, but any touch of docility runs contrary to the spirit of argumentation.


Jan Albert van Laar, University of Groningen (the Netherlands)