Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A plausible but fallacious argument.
  • n. Deceptive or fallacious argumentation.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A flawed argument superficially correct in its reasoning, usually designed to deceive. An intentional fallacy.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The doctrine or mode of reasoning practiced by a sophist; hence, any fallacy designed to deceive.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A false argumentation devised for the exercise of one's ingenuity or for the purpose of deceit; sometimes, a logically false argumentation; a fallacy.
  • n. Syn. A sophism is an argument known to be unsound by him who uses it; a paralogism is an unsound argument used without knowledge of its unsoundness. Paralogism is a strictly technical word of logic; sophism is not. Sophistry applies to reasoning as sophism to a single argument. See fallacy.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a deliberately invalid argument displaying ingenuity in reasoning in the hope of deceiving someone

Etymologies

Middle English sophime, sophisme, from Old French sophime, from Latin sophisma, from Greek, from sophizesthai, to be subtle, from sophos, clever, wise.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)

Examples

  • A sophism is taken as a specious argument used for deceiving someone.

    Intrusive Government: Quotes From the Past

  • Lurking behind the Euro-sophism is an uneasy sense that, if there were open primaries on this side of the A tlantic, voters might start demanding all sorts of unreasonable things — might, in other words, start behaving like tea partiers.

    Why Europeans Can't Throw a Tea Party

  • There is a well known, so-called sophism of the ancients consisting in this, that Achilles could never catch up with a tortoise he was following, in spite of the fact that he traveled ten times as fast as the tortoise.

    War and Peace

  • There is a well known, so-called sophism of the ancients consisting in this, that

    War and Peace

  • But, above all things, you should beware of imposing on yourself by that vulgar sophism which is called IGNORATIO ELENCHI.

    Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous

  • But, above all things, you should beware of imposing on yourself by that vulgar sophism which is called ignoratio elenchi.

    The Third Dialogue

  • I am not sure if anything in Bronkhorst and Oetke's discussion clears away the suspicion that we are dealing with some kind of sophism here.

    Joseph S. O'Leary homepage

  • Bacchanals is this, that the women of the chorus, staid and temperate for the moment, following Dionysus in his alternations, are but the paler sisters of his more wild and gloomy votaries -- the true followers of the mystical Dionysus -- the real chorus of Zagreus; the idea that their [77] violent proceedings are the result of madness only, sent on them as a punishment for their original rejection of the god, being, as I said, when seen from the deeper motives of the myth, only a "sophism" of Euripides -- a piece of rationalism of which he avails himself for the purpose of softening down the tradition of which he has undertaken to be the poet.

    Greek Studies: a Series of Essays

  • That's why my inner child is delighted that Eliezer at Overcoming Bias has skewered the silly "absence of evidence" sophism: [I] n probability theory, absence of evidence is always evidence of absence.

    The Bayes Who Wasn't There, Bryan Caplan | EconLog | Library of Economics and Liberty

  • RIAA lied about cessation of lawsuits p2pnet news view | RIAA News: - RIAA spin-doctor-in-chief Mitch ‘The Don’ Bainwol (right) is a liar, said p2pnet in March, going on, “Lies, half-truths, dissemblance, mis - and disinformation and sophism are all standard tools used routinely by the RIAA”.

    RIAA lied about cessation of lawsuits

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