Argument from authority


An authority argument is one that is affirmed and defended by a person who is an expert in the subject matter.

The authority argument, or ad verecundiam argument, is widely used by those considered "scholars." Whoever does it is, as we would say on a daily basis, an “expert in the field”.

The greatest value or endorsement of this type of argument is its issuer, being someone who understands the subject, it is directly attributed truthfulness. It should be noted that this can happen although the argument, in the same way, can be wrong. In fact, one type of fallacy is the fallacy ad verecundiam, in which an attempt is made to accept an argument that is not good, just because its author is an expert on the subject.

Arguments from authority carry great weight. For this reason, more and more television and radio talk shows are incorporating experts who accompany journalists and talk shows.

For example, if the debate is about measures to combat unemployment, they will invite economists to provide the “scientific” arguments. If it is about electoral alliances in the face of a new legislature, they will incorporate political scientists. Or if it is about health measures against a pandemic, doctors and virologists will come to the debate.

This is done to provide veracity and credibility to the viewer, which adds to the theatrical and media character that debates in themselves have.

Characteristics of the argument from authority

Arguments from authority elicit a number of characteristics:

  • It is carried out by an “expert in the field”.
  • The expert's knowledge is what supports the argument.
  • It is widely used in television and radio talk shows and debates.
  • They usually provide data, examples and scientific evidence that reinforce their argument.
  • Your danger is falling into the fallacy ad verecundiam, which occurs when we believe the expert's argument, because of who he is, but this is wrong.


We have endless examples to illustrate this type of argument, we see it daily, due to our constant interaction with other people.

Some of these examples are as follows:

  • At the doctor: When we go to a medical consultation because we feel bad, the argument that the doctor provides us is one of authority. Because I am the one who has studied the subject and understands the symptoms, the medication and the consequences, I say that you have such a disease, that it is cured with this medication, and that you must follow certain habits and behaviors that favor your recovery.
  • In an economic debate: As we explained earlier, economists make their case, based on everything they have studied during their academic and professional lives. If I know how the different variables that influence the problem to be solved behave, I am right, since my CV supports me.
  • In a store: When we ask a store clerk for advice to buy a certain product, their opinion is supported by their knowledge of their products and their benefits for their customers.
  • With the church: As the priest is the person authorized by God to propagate his work and word, what he says will be correct in matters of faith.
  • At the mechanic: If the car breaks down, we will go to the mechanic to fix it, since we have no idea how the mechanics of a car work. We trust the mechanic because his years of experience are what guarantee that he recognizes and knows how to fix what happens to our car.

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