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Equivocation is a logical fallacy that involves taking a word with more than one definition and freely substituting one definition for another. It effectively ignores the law of identity, which is fundamental to logic.

"'Reason' in language — oh, what an old deceptive female she is! I am afraid we are not rid of God because we still have faith in grammar."

Friedrich Nietzsche


"A feather is light. Therefore, a feather cannot be dark."
  • There are two meanings of the word light. The first sentence assumes a meaning that is the opposite of heavy, not the opposite of dark.

This fallacy is used frequently in the service of apologetics arguments. A few relevant examples:

  1. Atheism is based on faith.
    • There are multiple meanings of the word faith, for example things you trust in without critical analysis or things which people believe with good evidence.
  2. Prayer is meditation.
    • Redefining prayer as only a form of mental meditation rather than petitions for things is often used to justify the efficacy of prayer in the petition context.
  3. "No true Scotsman" fallacy.
    • When someone says, "That person wasn't really a Christian because he did that," they are relying on ambiguity in the word Christian and redefining it to suit their needs.
  4. The existence of laws implies a law-giver.
    • This stems from a confusion between natural laws and legal laws. Even legal laws do not always require a law giver. Common law can involve customs which are Memes that evolved over time.
  5. Evolution is only a theory.
    • This plays on the confusion between the scientific and colloquial definitions of the word theory.
  6. Information theory argument
    • This argument depends on confusion surrounding the word "information".

External Links[edit]

v · d Logical fallacies
v · d Formal fallacies
Propositional logic   Affirming a disjunct · Affirming the consequent · Argument from fallacy · False dilemma · Denying the antecedent
Quantificational logic   Existential fallacy · Illicit conversion · Proof by example · Quantifier shift
Syllogistic   Affirmative conclusion from a negative premise · Exclusive premises · Necessity · Four-term fallacy · Illicit major · Illicit minor · Undistributed middle

v · d Faulty generalisations
General   Begging the question · Gambler's fallacy · Slippery slope · Equivocation · argumentum verbosium
Distribution fallacies   Fallacy of composition · Fallacy of division
Data mining   Cherry picking · Accident fallacy · Spotlight fallacy · Hasty generalization · Special pleading
Causation fallacies   Post hoc ergo propter hoc · Retrospective determinism · Suppressed correlative · Wrong direction
Ontological fallacies   Fallacy of reification · Pathetic fallacy · Loki's Wager
v · d False relevance
Appeals   Appeal to authority · Appeal to consequences · Appeal to emotion · Appeal to motive · Appeal to novelty · Appeal to tradition · Appeal to pity · Appeal to popularity · Appeal to poverty · Appeal to spite · Appeal to wealth · Sentimental fallacy · Argumentum ad baculum
Ad hominem   Ad hominem abusive · Reductio ad Hitlerum · Judgmental language · Straw man · Tu quoque · Poisoning the well
Genetic Fallacies   Genetic fallacy · Association fallacy · Appeal to tradition · Texas sharpshooter fallacy