Definition: Normal, commenly accepted. Often used as fallacy (argumentum ad populum).
Often used by conservative or traditional people as an argument, as do politicians. Popular is something different then a Good Thing. Good is an opinion; popular is a fact. One can't connect his/her opinion directly to the fact and therefore state his/her opinion as a fact; that's not logic, that's a fallacy.
Infidels.org about logic and fallacies writes about argumentum ad populum:
- This is known as Appealing to the Gallery, or Appealing to the People. You commit this fallacy if you attempt to win acceptance of an assertion by appealing to a large group of people. This form of fallacy is often characterized by emotive language. For example:
- "Pornography must be banned. It is violence against women."
- "For thousands of years people have believed in Jesus and the Bible. This belief has had a great impact on their lives. What more evidence do you need that Jesus was the Son of God? Are you trying to tell those people that they are all mistaken fools?"
Another, more technical example: the fact that most people use Internet Explorer doesn't make IE the best browser on earth. It makes it the most popular. One cannot use the popularity of IE to conclude it is the best, nor it is good. The same counts for Windows, floppy drivers, coffee, x86; there are (lots of) alternatives for these products. Are they worse just because they are less popular? Ofcourse not!
Popular can lead to argumentum ad baculum / appeal to force in some situations. Example: an ISP was going to host a site about pedophiles including stories about people who have pedophile thoughts, but do not execute these thoughts. The fact that these people wanted to expres their opinion was caught by the media. The ISP in question kicked the site from it's servers 1 day before it was opened. The pedophiles then had to find a different hosting company which they did have found. People found it ridiculous that that hosting company wanted to do it. People found it normal that the first hosting company did kicked them off. It's quite possible that the first hosting company did this to do not damage their popularity, and did became more popular by kicking them off. In contrast to the second company who saw this under freedom of speech (no illegal acts took place on the site in any way). Now, assume that the first ISP gave the address of the site owner and people would threaten him en masse. Eventually escalated in someone shooting and killing him. Which got in the news. Then, people accepted it, because they found it normal. This resulting in one fallacy (argumentum ad populum) based on yet another one (argumentum ad baculum / appeal to force). Where popularity is, there is also unpopularity, which can lead to argumentum ad baculum / appeal to force as well, like popularity can.
History (ie. Germany in the 30's) and current world politics also contain these 2 fallacies. One could enjoy it to analyse them, but the truth can also be confronting...