“It is an hypothesis that the sun will rise tomorrow:
and this means that we do not know whether it will rise.”
— Ludwig Wittgenstein
Argumentum ad populum
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(Redirected from Popularity fallacy)
In logic, an argumentum ad populum (Latin for “appeal to the people”) is a fallacious argument that concludes a proposition to be true because many or most people believe it. In other words, the basic idea of the argument is: “If many believe so, it is so.”
This type of argument is known by several names, including appeal to the masses, appeal to belief, appeal to the majority, argument by consensus, consensus fallacy, authority of the many, and bandwagon fallacy, and in Latin as argumentum ad numerum (“appeal to the number”), and consensus gentium (“agreement of the clans”). It is also the basis of a number of social phenomena, including communal reinforcement and the bandwagon effect. The Chinese proverb “three men make a tiger” concerns the same idea.
Appeal to belief is valid only when the question is whether the belief exists. Appeal to popularity is therefore valid only when the questions are whether the belief is widespread and to what degree. I.e., ad populum only proves that a belief is popular, not that it is true. In some domains, however, it is popularity rather than other strengths that makes a choice the preferred one.