Which fallacy: Thinking everything someone does in a discussion that's wrong is a fallacy?


There are a lot of questions about which fallacy something is on this site.

Many times, the argument in the question is not actually a fallacy, but something that the questioner doesn't like/agree with or some other behavior that's not a fallacy.

Is it a fallacy to call every problem in a discussion a fallacy? If yes, which one?

Josef says Reinstate Monica

Posted 2019-11-07T15:09:01.437

Reputation: 153

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– Geoffrey Thomas – 2019-11-15T09:32:08.280




To call everything a fallacy isn't a bad argument, it is bad argumentation, technically, so no.

See this related post here fallacies regarding invoking fallacies.


It is true that many people engage in what I've heard called fallacy mongering, which is the tendency to reduce all of your opponents' disagreeable points to fallacies, often with little regard to the actual definition of fallacy or the fallacy in question. Often times, fallacy mongers will accuse one of a fallacy in anticipation of a point before it is even made, often hurling the name of the fallacy exclusively:

You> Do you understand that scientists accept evolution as fact?
Them> Appeal to Authority!!!
You> Are scientists' expert opinions not weighted more heavily in a court of law or by society?
Them> Appeal to Popularity!!!
You> Okay, but doesn't the publication known as the US Federal Rules of Evidence show that scientific authority goes beyond mere percipience in specific matters?
Them> False Attribution!!!

In this slightly hyperbolic example, just by invoking a proposition in which experts play a role, the opponent in the argument believes they are refuting your conclusion that hasn't even been made. Of course, this is a sign that a partner in argumentation is often unaware that argument has widely accepted rules, such as recognizing burden of proof, staying confined to the question, acknowledging enthymemes, deciding upon acceptable logics, etc.

While you cannot stop others from fallacy mongering, you can learn to recognize it, and avoid it yourself by first and foremost recognizing:

  1. The difference between bias and fallacy.
  2. The differences between formal and informal fallacies.
  3. Multiple definitions of informal fallacies exist.
  4. Studying specific fallacies to know when they are and aren't actually present.
  5. Recognizing that informal fallacies are questions of context rather than content.

Francis Dauer in his Critical Thinking asserts a fallacy is:

an erroneous but frequently persuasive way of being led from a reason or circumstance to a conclusion.

But I find it better to recognize necessary and sufficient criteria and rely on three by T. Edward Damer in his Attacking Faulty Reasoning. An informal fallacy is an argument that is built in part or whole on:

  1. Unacceptable propositions. Can the truth of the proposition even be determined, for instance? You can't prove that many angels dance on the head of a pin. Do colorless green ideas really sleep furiously?
  2. Irrelevance. Is your claim or your conclusion pertinent? Is something non-sequitur? And your point is?
  3. Ungrounded: Even if a premise is acceptable and relevant, does it actually imply the conclusion in some manner? Can you get there from here?


Posted 2019-11-07T15:09:01.437

Reputation: 5 708

btw, don't entirely agree with the angels reference link in wikipedia. the absurdity of the argument was to point out whether angels had a corporeal body or not. Corporeal, 1; non-corporeal, infinite. – Swami Vishwananda – 2019-11-08T05:19:14.637

As I am a metaphysician and you are a Metaphysician, I'm sure there's much disagreement to be found. As far as angels, corporeal body implies temporalspatial extensionality which has implications regarding the question of actual and potential infinity. But I invoked the dancing angels trope in the sense that Carnap would have approved of. – J D – 2019-11-08T05:56:49.070


Calling something a fallacy when it is not is of course a mistake.

And, you're right: sometimes people will try to reject the conclusion of an argument by pointing out a fallacy with the argument, and that is called the Fallacy fallacy: just because I make a bad argument for some claim $ does not mean that claim X is suddenly false.

Indeed, sometimes people (especially after taking a first course on fallacies!) will get too caught up in trying to point out fallacies. To them, pointing out fallacies has become a weapon to try and win arguments, rather than that they try to improve arguments in our search for the truth. For example, argument that they attack may actually contain important observations, points, or kernels of truth, but by focusing on the weak spots of the argument, they think they can reject the whole argument, including its conclusion, and so they'll throw out the baby with the bathwater.

I think you may enjoy this comic "The Adventures of Fallacy Man"


Posted 2019-11-07T15:09:01.437

Reputation: 2 677


Your question could use examples.

Either an ad hominem [what relevance is my gauche shirt to this discussion], or, depending on the seriousness of the discussion, the fallacy of irrelevant conclusion [what relevance is it that I think it's a nice shirt] may apply, to one or other of the parties.

I've been in lots of discussions where someone is not interested in their soundness of their reasoning, just want to win the argument. It is not pretty, and I'd guess is what is going on -- in the discussion/s the question refers to.

Being so is very important in discussing philosophy: more so, even, than being able to concede defeat. Both those fallacies fall under abuses of 'truth' and missing the point, anyway. Perhaps that's where analytic philosophy is successful: that is avoids those vices -- in italics -- via an ability to clearly state arguments.

Unless you mean the over-use of 'fallacy' to apply to statements that don't incorporate any reasoning at all. In which case, forgive them: 'fallacy' often just means "false" in the popular imagination.


Posted 2019-11-07T15:09:01.437


What is soundness? You keep pushing this word and it has no real meaning except when people agree to it...but that is a bandwagon fallacy. – Eodnhoj7 – 2019-11-09T03:59:24.467

https://www.iep.utm.edu/val-snd/ @Eodnhoj7 – None – 2019-11-09T16:40:49.673

another_name: The article starts as "it is said to be..." it is an assertion by nature. Soundness is a proposition and propositions in turn are defined by further propositions with this tautology determining what "soundness" even is. It is circular. – Eodnhoj7 – 2019-11-09T22:08:48.880

@Eodnhoj7 - Soundness is not a feature of individual propositions--it's different from truth. Rather it's a property of arguments--an argument is said to be sound if it's a logically valid deduction from a collection of premises that are all true propositions individually. Of course different people can disagree about whether some or all of the premises are true, and therefore disagree about whether or not a logically valid argument is sound. And there can also be disagreements about how to properly translate an informal argument into more formal logical terms. – Hypnosifl – 2019-11-14T11:10:49.893

@Hypnosifl: if soundness is different from truth, as in seperate from it, then there is no truth as to what constitutes soundness. – Eodnhoj7 – 2019-11-14T20:59:51.067

@Eodnhoj - That's a non sequitur, a bit like saying "if weight is different from truth, there is no truth as to how much anything weighs". There can be truths about all sorts of characteristics without those characteristics being conceptually identical to truth. – Hypnosifl – 2019-11-15T02:26:46.920

@Hypnosifl; not really for "weight" must have some truth to it if we are to say something has weight. Truth is existence and concepts exists as concepts as well as forms. – Eodnhoj7 – 2019-11-15T03:33:57.453

What do you mean by "must have some truth to it"? "Weight", as a concept, is clearly a different concept from "truth"--of course there is a truth about statements concerning the weight of objects, but that's different from saying they are just different words for the same concept. If that's all you mean, of course there is also a truth about statements concerning the soundness of an argument, but still "soundness" is a different concept from "truth", and so there is nothing circular about defining soundness in terms of the truth of the premises along with the validity of the deduction. – Hypnosifl – 2019-11-15T09:37:14.940

@Hypnosifl: soundness is an element of truth, as an element of truth it is inseperable from truth. It is a variation of truth as it is a tautology. The same applies, respectively for the "weight" argument. It is an element of truth as a concept. It is true as a concept. You claim soundness is a different concept from truth but both are true as concepts. "Concept" is the medial term which connects them. – Eodnhoj7 – 2019-11-16T01:38:28.320

@Eodnhoj7 - I never said that weight or soundness are "separable" from truth, I don't even know what it would mean to assert that. I also don't know what it means to say something is "true as a concept"--to my mind only propositions like "this object weighs 5 pounds" can be true or false, the concept "weight" isn't asserting anything in itself. But to be clear, if you would say all the same things about the relation of weight to truth as you would about the relation of soundness to truth, then would you say "weight" or any other concept is a tautology too, and if not what's the difference? – Hypnosifl – 2019-11-16T04:24:51.243

@Hypnosifl: "Soundness is not a feature of individual propositions- it's different from truth." True as a concept would be a unicorn. Does it exist empirically? No. Does it exist as a concept? Yes. The unicorn is true as a concept. And false the object can be both 5 pounds and not five pounds when context changes. It may be a true statement under the context X, False under Y, but true and false under Z which contains as an element both X and Y. All concepts are tautologies and as such are inherently circular and fallacious as the same thing is cycling through continual variations. – Eodnhoj7 – 2019-11-16T06:14:06.593