I overheard a conversation that went something like this:

A: You could buy that for me.
B: I can't afford that.
A: Are you going to let money get in the way of friendship?

Specifically, I like the way that A managed to make B responsible for maintaining this friendship by spending money.

I'm pretty sure this was said in jest, but I couldn't forget it.

Is this a fallacy, if so which? The closest I could come up with is Fallacy: shifting the point of the conversation that answer doesn't satisfy me because this looks like an attempted guilt trip.

  • 'Should implies can', so of course your obligation to me implies you have money! (Whereas really, your lack of money implies the lack of obligation.) Governments do it all the time.
    – user9166
    Oct 10, 2014 at 19:20
  • 1
    I can't see a logical conclusion that was drawn based on the application of illegal rules. If we translate the question into a statement, "as a friend, you should buy this for me even though you cannot afford it", it just looks like an unfounded claim.
    – gnasher729
    Oct 11, 2014 at 22:02
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    I agree with gnasher - it's not a conclusion, more a tricksy bit of banter (which I also like) ending in a question. The implication is that in order to have a friendship, A has to buy B stuff, revealing an agenda that B wants said stuff enough to prioritise it above their friendship (in jest, as you say). The only false statement I see is "You could buy that" - not true IF B can't afford it. Nov 19, 2014 at 9:48

4 Answers 4


Check out Appeal to emotion. This seems to best describe the conversation, where the use of word friendship is to focus on emotion than facts.

  • I'm not convinced I'm qualified to judge the truthiness of a philosophical answer, but this answer feels true to me, in the Stephen Colbert sense. Mar 9, 2015 at 17:43

It's a fallacy: Appeal to pity. The conclusion that person B can afford "that" can't follows from the premise "friendship" between person A and person B.


Let me try to interpret the statements as propositions.

Premise 1: Person B is capable of buying "that" for person A.

Premise 2: Person B cannot afford to buy "that" for person A.

Conclusion: Person B has a responsibility to buy "that" for person A.

I propose that an inability afford something for someone implies an a lack of capability to buy something for someone. Therefore, premise 2 implies:

Premise 2A: It is not the case that person B is capable of buying "that" for person A.

Premise 1 and premise 2A assert contrary positions. (i.e. they are of the form p^~p). From two contradictory propositions, any proposition can be proven (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Principle_of_explosion). This works as follows:

Premise 1 is true, and Premise 1 is false.

Premise 1 is true.

Premise one is false.

Premise 1 is true, or the conclusion is true.

The conclusion is true. (by disjunctive syllogism, because premise 1 is false)

There is no fallacy in the argument per se, but at least one of the premises must be false, so the conclusion cannot be inferred. That is the argument is valid but not sound.

Perhaps this exchange seems funny because of the mental incongruity caused by the contradiction between A's and B's first statements.

  • First off welcome to philosophy.se. This is a good answer that unpacks what's going on in the OP's question. I might recommend rewording "Premise 1 is true, and Premise 1 is false." as that sounds crazy. But I get the reason you're saying that.
    – virmaior
    Nov 19, 2014 at 13:20

Short Answer

This is certainly an appeal to emotion. It is also an implicit either-or yoked to an implied ad hominem, and parenthetically one familiar to those of us with children.

Long Answer

A: You could buy that for me.
B: I can't afford that.
A: Are you going to let money get in the way of friendship?

As usual, this is absolutely a valid rhetorical technique, with a heavy appeal to pathos. For an informal logical fallacy, you need to have a specious argument which in a broader sense is one explicitly stated premise, one implicit one, and a conclusion. A stricter interpretation would object to "reading someone's mind", so certainly one might object to the claim there was any argument here at all. I personally reject those strictures as pedantic, so let's rewrite from the likely mindset of person A.

P1. You have money and can choose to buy me things.
P2. Friendship is more important than money.
C. (INSINUATION: Therefore, either you buy me something or else...)

P1 follows from the fact that if A believed B was broke, then they wouldn't waste their time trying to get at the asset. P2 follows from the language "getting in the way" and insinuating that B's choice implies something about the friendship. C is speculative because it is crafted as an insinuation (MW), implied ad hominem the specifics of which depend on some logic. Let's imagine some ways that we can complete the insinuation.

Therefore, you should buy me something or else:

  1. You care about money more than me.
  2. You aren't a good friend.
  3. You are a selfish person.
  4. You are the worst father ever. (I've been getting that one a lot.)

This argument is a pretty common variant of the trope (and psychologists would consider it a manipulation) "If you love me, you would...". If you love me, you'd marry me without a prenup. If you love me, you'd take out the garbage for me. If you love me, you'd let me stay up past my bed time.

Ultimately, such rhetoric sits upon the either-or fallacy that insinuates aspersions.

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