Suppose I am presented with an argument, and respond that they have misunderstood something so badly that, while I am clear about what is being said, I cannot say what error the argument (or question) has made, but it has made an error.

Is that a fallacy?

  • Perhaps "meta-fallacy" would be a useful description. A direct fallacy would be roughly equivalent to an invalid pattern of reasoning, but here we speak of an unjustified claim about the soundness of an argument's premises. Or if we are speaking of validity still, then we might be speaking of something like "the fallacy fallacy," which is the claim that because an argument is fallacious, the conclusion is false. Oct 3, 2023 at 23:14
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    This isn't a fallacy (or an argument, for that matter) and not even necessarily wrong. One may be able to detect errors without being able to spell out what they are or to articulate how they know. It is typical with grammar and semantics of words and various other types of "knowledge how".
    – Conifold
    Oct 3, 2023 at 23:38
  • well i think you've misunderstood something, but i cannot say what @Conifold
    – user67675
    Oct 4, 2023 at 3:29
  • just a silly joke @Conifold there is a difference between being unsure why and ipse dixit, having no reason why, in that the former is not an argument but a mental state. i don't see why you thought i was asking about the former.
    – user67675
    Oct 4, 2023 at 4:38
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    @Conifold that comment should be an answer, so I can upvote it.
    – g s
    Oct 4, 2023 at 15:26

2 Answers 2


It's the "just because" or "mother knows best" fallacy

Ipse dixit is an assertion without proof, or a dogmatic expression of opinion. The fallacy of defending a proposition by baldly asserting that it is "just how it is"

  • You have misunderstood
  • I have not
  • Ipse dixit

Well, an example to drive home the OP's point. Try this on for size:

The Ontological Argument (kind courtesy of St. Anselm 🥀💀)

  1. If God does not exist then God is not the greatest being imaginable.
  2. God is the greatest being imaginable
  3. God exists (1, 2 Modus Tollens)

The great Bertrand Russell is supposed to have declared the ontological argument as sound. Another luminary, Kurt Gödel, thought it was the best theists had to offer? Why else would he refine it and perfect it?

Something's not quite right, I know it, but I don't know what exactly!!!

P. S. We should call it Saint Anselm Syndrome.

  • 2
    This is not a bad answer; I could see not upvoting it, but downvoting it, when it brings up such a perspicuous example from the history of philosophy itself, of the OP's curiosity, seems unduly harsh. I suppose that, by proposing his own phrase for the quasi-fallacy(?) in question, that it comes across as "not a peer-reviewed/citation-based answer," but I would like to look into whether there is, in fact, a phrase like "St. Anselm's syndrome" that is current somewhere in the literature... Oct 4, 2023 at 14:30
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    @KristianBerry, I'm the undeserving recipient of your kindness. Gracias, muchas. All I can say is, word has it that one of the toughest theistic arguments to refute is St. Anselm's. There have been attempts, but Kurt Gödel gave it his stamp of approval. Note Gödel's preeminence in the realm of logic. I'll let the argument speak for itself. Remember to survey the philosophical works on the subject. Wikipedia is a good place to start. And yet ... something's off about it ... but what? Oct 4, 2023 at 14:50
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    If God does not exist then God is not the greatest being imaginable. Why does something have to exist to be imaginable? Oct 4, 2023 at 15:09
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    Russel states explicitly in On Denoting (1905) the opposite of what you say he is supposed (by whom?) to have declared.
    – g s
    Oct 4, 2023 at 15:13
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    @IdiosyncraticSoul. Anslems's exact words are "that than which nothing greater can be conceived." Oct 4, 2023 at 15:39

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