9

I've encountered this relentlessly in my life. You offer proof that someone is wrong, or even simply state something more obvious than the sun that they don't like, they ban you or do something else to silence you, as if that proves their point. They literally don't even bother to address whatever you said, they just think silencing anyone who says otherwise proves their right.

I've seen a lot of logical fallacies listed, but I've never seen this one. What would you call the fallacy where you claim the sky isn't blue, by silencing anyone who says it is?

15
  • 5
    I am not sure this can be called a logical fallacy. So I am not sure whether this SE can answer your question.
    – Johan
    Feb 22 at 23:09
  • 21
    Argumentum ad baculum ("argument to the cudgel" in Latin, a.k.a. appeal to the stick):"A mainly discursive Argumentum ad Baculum is that of forcibly silencing opponents, ruling them "out of order," blocking, censoring or jamming their message, or simply speaking over them or/speaking more loudly than they do".
    – Conifold
    Feb 23 at 0:27
  • 5
    That appears to be the exact answer. It really should be an answer rather than a comment.
    – user44643
    Feb 23 at 0:51
  • 1
    @Johan "Ad baculum" is traditionally used vaguely for any forcible resolution of disputes, there is no "definition" beyond that. Wikipedia is not an authority on anything, but even its description includes "argument-maker himself causes (or threatens to cause) those negative consequences". And all informal fallacies are not "logical", that is why they are informal.
    – Conifold
    Feb 23 at 1:33
  • 4
    You’re assuming that that’s what they’re trying to do. Most of the time, people just do that because they want others to not hear your opinion: it has nothing to do with proving their or your point. So it’s not really a fallacy Feb 23 at 2:00

11 Answers 11

17

Suppression is not an argument at all, so it isn't a fallacious argument.

Instead, suppression is an example of one of the reasons why appeals to authority or popularity may generate false conclusions, even when the expert or population is somebody who seems like they ought to know the right answer.

See: argument from authority, argument from popularity, and sampling bias.


Named fallacies are useful because they make it easier to bring to mind a particular way that a flawed argument can be mistaken for an airtight inference.

"Off with his head, therefore X" would be a fallacious argument. But it doesn't need a special name because it obviously doesn't follow.

7
  • 2
    Several sources I’ve read speak of the suppressed evidence fallacy, including Carl Sagan’s Demon-Haunted World and the Wikipedia entry entitled Cherry Picking, which includes censorship as an example of this, otherwise known as the fallacy of incomplete evidence. Wouldn’t this apply?
    – h_undatus
    Feb 24 at 4:54
  • If someone wants to call "Off with his head, therefore X" the suppressed evidence fallacy, it's pointless, but they're more than welcome to do so. If somebody wants to call "Our sample of X's has character Y, therefore this X which is not in our sample has character Y" or "Most X's have character Y, therefore this X has character Y" the suppressed evidence fallacy instead of the more common hasty generalization they're welcome to do that, and it's more reasonable. It would be another kind of sampling bias, so relevant, but not specifically what the OP was asking about.
    – g s
    Feb 24 at 17:47
  • If somebody wants to call censorship itself, rather than an argument based on censored data, the suppressed evidence fallacy... well I guess they're still welcome to do that, but only in the same way as they're welcome to call it a tomato.
    – g s
    Feb 24 at 17:50
  • They’re both censoring and making an argument based on censored data. Isn’t the latter the suppression of evidence fallacy? If someone on social media says, “X is true,” and then receives and deletes a comment that demonstrates it isn’t, then haven’t they committed that fallacy? It’s not the act of censorship itself but the reasoning despite their knowledge of disconfirming evidence that constitutes the fallacy. Or have I got that wrong?
    – h_undatus
    Feb 24 at 18:38
  • @h_undatus "Reasoning" despite knowledge that your reasoning is invalid sounds like a lie, not a error in reasoning. I would suggest reviewing the relevant passage/s from Demon Haunted World. It's been a long time since I've read it but I don't remember it having any equivocation between error and deliberate dishonesty.
    – g s
    Feb 25 at 1:50
3

The closest I can think of to what you describe is pound the table:

  1. (figuratively, law) To base an argument on bluster or rhetoric when unsupported by more substantive elements. There's an old legal aphorism that goes, "If you have the facts on your side, pound the facts. If you have the law on your side, pound the law. If you have neither on your side, pound the table."
2
  • 2
    In my personal experience what the lawyer does when neither the law nor the facts are on his side, he pounds the witness. Feb 23 at 5:12
  • 2
    @nielsnielsen Not just lawyers -- this is basically how Trump has been operating for years.
    – Barmar
    Feb 23 at 15:18
2

Here I've tried to describe longer what a fallacy is in the first place. But according to that one. Well it depends on the context. There are examples in closed logical systems where the range of options is limited and where "not A" is equivalent to "A", where eliminating all the wrong answers inevitably reveals the correct answer.

Though for most real life purposes, the number of possible options far exceeds anything that can be solved by elimination and just because a lot of other options are wrong doesn't necessarily means that your option is correct (that would indeed be a fallacy because that conclusion doesn't follow from the premises).

With regards to personal attacks that's likely an ad hominem fallacy where you shoot the messenger rather than the message. Though that is basically just Latin for "against the person", so more important than remembering such a term you should realize that it is not an argument that produces a valid or sound conclusion. Technically the argument is not related to the person stating it.

That being said in practical real world examples the argument and it's meaning depends on words that derive their meaning through context so the author could indeed matter as a plumber and a chemist might refer to vastly different things when speaking of something unionized. So there's also something like a fallacy fallacy where you yourself might fall into the trap of thinking that a fallacious argument is wrong, but it doesn't have to be wrong, all a fallacy means is that the presented order of logical steps leading to the conclusion, does not or rather doesn't HAVE TO lead there.

2

Someone might suppress dissenting opinions to "control the narrative" (which is not explicitly a fallacy). They have a particular narrative they want to promote (in terms of how they interpret some facts, selectively sharing or lying about facts, etc.), and dissenting opinions can interfere with that goal of theirs.


Someone might also suppress voices that are rude or mean, regardless of where those voices stand on the issue. So someone might suspect their voice is being suppressed for disagreeing, when in fact it's because they're being rude.

Some people also suppress misinformation. Although, depending on where someone stands on the issue, and their views on free speech, they may or may not see this as a form of inappropriately trying to control the narrative.

Things that are off topic might also be suppressed, as well as anything that's deemed to fall outside the rules of the platform it's posted on (Stack Exchange, for example, discourages discussion in comments, so comments may be deleted for merely being too conversational).

Someone destroying evidence (as per your example) would probably be closer to a form of lying or a "cover up" or concealment.

1

It is not a logical fallacy. It is called gate keeping. Gate keeper has a policy document ,in hand or in mind, to allow or disallow a person or group of person based on the policy. For example - Army can enter the parliament and take over the control of a country ,giving possibly logical reasons, but they can’t do it because they adhere to constitution. Similarly, this site allows only certain topics and not all because they adhere to a policy which can be challenged elsewhere. There are several examples where gate keeping policy is employed to prevent chaos or anarchy.

1

As other answers have mentioned, there's no fallacy unless there's an argument. But there IS an implicit argument here.

Other Person: I believe X
You: Here is Y, a disproof of X
Other Person: Z (something that disregards Y) supports X, therefore X

This is called the fallacy of "cherry-picking," where you pay attention only to the evidence that supports your chosen conclusion, and ignore everything else. It's something that has to be guarded carefully against in proper scientific experimentation.

1

What you are describing is a refusal to listen to relevant evidence. To avoid considering data that is meaningful and on point, there are as many fallacies as there are arguments. The particular fallacy in use at any given time is simply the one that best justifies avoiding the evidence in that instance.

As a general matter, the best answer was offered earlier as a comment by Conifold:

Argumentum ad baculum ("argument to the cudgel" in Latin, a.k.a. appeal to the stick):"A mainly discursive Argumentum ad Baculum is that of forcibly silencing opponents, ruling them "out of order," blocking, censoring or jamming their message, or simply speaking over them or/speaking more loudly than they do".

1

Looking at this it feels like a first cousin of Hempel's paradox: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raven_paradox

Hempel's paradox is a fallacy (argue most philosopers/logicians, they aren't the same!), because eliminating non-relevant propositions about non-ravens, doesn't show very much about ravens.

In a toy world with a finite, countable number of objects that might be a more reasonable approach.

0

I can hardly see this topic and its description as a philosophic one. Neither has it anything to do with logic. There's no fallacy of any kind kind here.

It's all about only autocratic, domineering and authoritarian behaviour.

(I wonder how this question has not been rejected as off-topic. Instead it has received upvotes. Why? Because it presents general interest?)

3
  • It did get downvoted at first, but that changed after I acknowledged that I was misunderstanding what was happening. I had assumed that people thought that censoring contradicting beliefs proved their point. I realize that they're not convincing THEMSELVES something is true by doing this, I just live in a right wing town where authoritarianism is popular.
    – user44643
    Feb 29 at 17:58
  • The OP does indeed describe a well known fallacy usually called appeal to force. Arguments need not be made in convoluted speech, but simple gestures of communication since speech acts might involve symbolic speech.
    – J D
    Mar 3 at 13:23
  • @J D, thank you for bringing in this up. It was the first time I heard about it. In fact, I could imagine there would be something like this. I checked it out and indeed it looks like it fits the case here. Please see more in my comment to your answer below.
    – Apostolos
    Mar 4 at 10:05
0

Mark Andrews and Conifold are on the right path.

Generally, such a circumstance is called an appeal to force. If you read the WP article carefully, you'll see they cite in support the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy's article Fallacy. From that article:

  1. The ad baculum fallacy is one of the most controversial because it is hard to see that it is a fallacy or even that it involves bad reasoning. Ad baculum means “appeal to the stick” and is generally taken to involve a threat of injury of harm to the person addressed.

Why such a fallacy might be controversial is because there are two different concepts of what an argument is. On the one hand, an argument might be taken to be two explicit propositions that serve as premises reaching a conclusion through a combination of relevance, inference, etc. But there's a looser definition of argument that involves intended to persuade someone as to a conclusion by more implicit reasoning. If I point to a book, and you point to a gun, and we both understand that these are both symbolic, rhetorical acts, then abstractly, it might be seen as a language-game. Such symbolic acts are sometimes referred to as symbolic speech.

In philosophy of language, such a symbolic gesture which attempts to intimidate or scare an opponent (perhaps into altering their testimony in a court of law) is called a perlocutionary act. From WP:

A perlocutionary act (or perlocutionary effect) is the effect of an utterance on an interlocutor.1 Examples of perlocutionary acts include persuading, convincing, scaring (emphasis mine), enlightening, inspiring, or otherwise affecting the interlocutor. The perlocutionary effect of an utterance is contrasted with the locutionary act, which is the act of producing the utterance, and with the illocutionary force, which does not depend on the utterance's effect on the interlocutor.2

Of course, many thinkers simply resist simple symbolic gestures as argumentative. It is a fact that Aristotle's syllogism is seen as the prototype of what an argument is. The subject in linguistics that studies where meaning can be transferred without explicit language use is called pragmatics. For some thinkers, the ambiguous nature of a pragmatic communications is troubling.

Of course, if an interlocutor explicitly threatens someone in an argument, as some former world leaders are known to do, then it's quite clearly a fallacy of irrelevancy. In such a case, the appeal to force is quite obvious. It's important to remember that rhetorical acts need not be logical in nature.

3
  • @J D, indeed "appeal to force" (argumentum ad baculum) looks like it fits the case here. However, certainly I cannot consider using force and threats as having anything to do with logic. It is an action or behavior of its own, which can be used not only in argumentation but in anything one can imagine. It is not even like "appeal to authority", which indeed is used in philosophical and other discussions, which at least can be used as a substitute of one's own reasoning or argumentation, which in fact means lack of one's own reasoning, and thus not a fallacy either, in a strict sense.
    – Apostolos
    Mar 4 at 10:30
  • (Cont'd) By looking at kinds of "fallacies" that are described as such, like the above two, we can easily realize that the term "fallacy" is abused. A fallacy is statement or series of statements based on is an invalid or faulty reasoning. E.g. in the above two "fallacies" there is total lack of reasoning. Using force or threats, in one case, and refering to some other source, in the second, is not reasoning.
    – Apostolos
    Mar 4 at 10:33
  • @Apostolos I would challenge the notion that appeal to force doesn't rely on reason. The core to fallacious reasoning is persuasive, irrelevant inference. Even in the extreme, a symbolic act, the recipient of the threat is 1) often persuaded 2) infers violence will be done and infers what the consequences are and 3) acts accordingly despite the irrelevance in regards to the logical import of the argument. That is reason. Reasoning doesn't require fancy logic symbols or statements; it only requires the exercise of an understanding of consequence. See Audi's The Architecture of Reason.
    – J D
    Mar 4 at 14:55
0

@J D has brought up the case of "appeal to force", which indeed looks like it fits the case here. However, certainly I cannot considerusing force and threats as having anything to do with logic. It is an action or behavior of its own, which can be used not only in (replacing actual) argumentation but in anything one can imagine. It is not even like "appeal to authority", which indeed is used in philosophical and other discussions, and which at least can be used as a substitute of one's own reasoning or argumentation because of lack of one's own. Thus, it is not actually a fallacy either, in a strict sense.

A fallacy is a statement or series of statements based on an invalid or faulty reasoning.

So, by looking at the description of the two kinds of "fallacies" mentioned above, we can easily realize that the term "fallacy" is abused. In both "fallacies" there is no reasoning of any kind. Using force or threats, in one case, and refering to some other source, in the second, is not reasoning.

So, once again, using force or theats to make a point is not a fallacy. It's just condemnable behavior.

You must log in to answer this question.