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Fallacies of Ambiguity, also known as ‘sophisms’, are fallacies caused by a shift or confusion of

meanings within an argument (Logic: Language, Deduction, and Introduction by Irving Copi, Carl Cohen).
It happens when an unclear phrase with multiple definitions is used within the argument, therefore,
does not support the conclusion. (

The first type of ambiguity fallacy is Equivocation which is a fallacy wherein the same word was
used in the same argument or statement; however it bears two or more different meanings. To
illustrate, in a recent article published by SunStar Philippines and written by Gerome M. Dalipe, wherein
it showed Cebuanos taking a stand on the impeachment trial of Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria
Lourdes Sereno and the Quo Warranto petition filed by the Office of the Solicitor General against her. It
can be seen that they used the line “Justice for CJ (Chief Justice) Sereno” to show their support for the
latter and at the same time, to show their frustration and disappointment over what is currently
happening to our Judicial system. The above-quoted line is an example of Equivocation because it used
the word “Justice” in two instances with two different meanings. The first instance used the word
“justice” with the meaning of just behavior or treatment while on the other hand, the second instance
used the word “justice” to pertain to a judge or a magistrate that belongs to the high courts like the
Supreme Court.

The second type is known as the Fallacy of Amphiboly. It is a fallacy in which a loose or awkward
combination of words can be interpreted more than one way. (Logic: Language, Deduction, and
Introduction by Irving Copi, Carl Cohen). It can occur even when every term in an argument is univocal, if
the grammatical construction of a sentence creates its own ambiguity. ( To
illustrate, in a recent article written by an author name Mark Reynolds and published in an online news
website,, the headline says “Boy paralyzed after tumour fights back to gain a black belt”.
Clearly, by the way the headline is phrased, it gave a different meaning. Had the author only placed the
necessary punctuations in the statement, the headline could have express the true meaning of the
phrase. This is an example of Amphiboly because, even if the terms are univocal, the grammatical
construction of the sentence created the ambiguity. The correct phrasing should be “Boy, paralyzed
after tumour, fights back to gain a black belt.”

The third type of Ambiguity Fallacy is the fallacy of accent which is a fallacy in which a phrase is
used to convey two different meanings within an argument and the difference is based on changes in
emphasis given to words within the phrase (Logic: Language, Deduction, and Introduction by Irving Copi,
Carl Cohen). This is normally used in product advertising. Like in the advertisement of Colgate which
says, “clinically proven to FIGHT GERMS for 12 HOURS” wherein the capital words were placed in such a
manner that they are given a much heavier emphasis, specifically in bold-face and in bigger fonts. This
falls under the fallacy of accent because the statement was given a different meaning. The consumers
are led to believe that that specific brand of toothpaste is capable of fighting germs when as a matter of
fact, all toothpastes do.

Next type is the fallacy of composition. It’s a fallacy in which an inference is mistakenly drawn
from the attributes of the parts of a whole to the attribute of the whole. (Logic: Language, Deduction,
and Introduction by Irving Copi, Carl Cohen). It involves an inference from the attribution of some
feature to every individual member of a class, or part of a greater whole, to the possession of the same
feature by the entire class or whole. ( An example of which can be seen in the
case of Antero J. Pobre vs Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, A.C. No. 7399, August 25, 2009. The context
of the case is that, when the late former senator Miriam Santiago was not considered for the position of
Chief Justice by the Judicial and Bar Council, she delivered a speech on the Senate floor and in an
instance called the Supreme Court as the “Supreme Court of Idiots” after she alleged that she was not
nominated because of former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban and his cohorts’ acts. This falls under
the fallacy of composition because the whole Supreme Court was labeled as ‘idiots’ by Sen. Santiago
only because of the alleged acts of some of its members. This is unruly because it gives injustice to those
innocent part of the Supreme Court who were incidentally also labeled as ‘idiots’

The last type of ambiguity fallacy is the fallacy of division. Basically, it is the opposite of the
immediately preceding example, wherein a mistaken inference is drawn from the attributes of a whole
to the attributes of the parts of the whole. To illustrate, in a news article published in the Manila Times
and written by Tony Lopez, the headline says “Congress is the Philippines’ biggest criminal syndicate”.
( This falls under the fallacy of division since the attribution given to the Congress as the
biggest criminal syndicate made it as an attribution to the entire composition of the Congress,
regardless if they be part of its upper or lower house.