Is there a name for the usage of the name of a well-known personality as an argument in a conversation, not by using a citation or an opinion of him/her, but an alleged quality?

I found this to be used a lot in TED talks or personal development books/conferences. For me, it's different from the "argument from authority" because it's not a citation nor an opinion from the personality but more about a quality given to the person. Or is it?


Mandela was a great leader, and he was "something", so all leaders should be "something".

1 Answer 1


It is technically known as Association fallacy :

It goes like this , In general :
Premise: A is a B
Premise: A is also a C
Conclusion: Therefore, all Bs are Cs

In your Case :
Mandela was a great leader
Mandela was "something" (Educated ? Black ? Humble ? African ? tall ?)
So all leaders should be "something" (Educated ? Black ? Humble ? African ? tall ?)

In case the Quality is not known to be true or known to be not true , then consider using a related Concept :

Cargo Cult : A cargo cult is an indigenist millenarian belief system, in which adherents perform rituals which they believe will cause a more technologically advanced society to deliver goods.

In your Case , we may think that leaders must try emulating Mandela (perform rituals) believing that great things (deliver goods) will then occur.

Putting those together we get , "Association fallacy leading to Cargo Cult" or "Cargo Cult involving Association fallacy" or other combinations.

  • 1
    Don't forget that cargo cults are limited to certain societies in the Pacific; it's a bit of a stretch to use the expression to refer to a particular attitude in general. Nov 25, 2022 at 16:21
  • 2
    It has got some wider usage too [ Eg tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/CargoCult + en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cargo_cult_science ] @KateBunting
    – Prem
    Nov 25, 2022 at 18:25
  • You haven't answered the question at all.
    – Lambie
    Jan 22 at 16:55
  • The OP's example does not fit the general form of the fallacy. Crucial to the example is that its conclusion contains a should, which does not correspond to anything in the general form of the fallacy, as presented here.
    – jsw29
    Jan 22 at 22:53

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