Recently, I read the following comment:

If you aren't pissing someone off some of the time, you're not doing anything very useful or interesting.

The context was that some people were pissed off and the implication was that therefore something very useful or interesting had caused that anger.

Now I'm pretty sure the argument is fallacious since there are any number of things that can piss people off and doing something useful or interesting is only one of them. But I can't tell if the fallacy is an example of post hoc ergo propter hoc or not. According to Wikipedia, the form of the fallacious argument is:

  • A occurred, then B occurred.
  • Therefore, A caused B.

But the argument doesn't seem to fit that pattern. Is the quoted argument fallacious and, if so, what fallacy does it commit?

  • 2
    "We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?" –Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451 – stoicfury Dec 10 '11 at 0:22
  • They way I see it It doesn't matter how may things piss people off. The argument stands anyway. It does not state that only useful things piss people off or that useful things will piss all people off. It rests on the idea that doing useful and interesting things will always piss some people off. It's like saying that those who stick their heads above the parapet will be shot at by some people. – PeterJ Sep 18 at 8:30
up vote 11 down vote accepted

Yes, the quoted argument is fallacious, but not due to post hoc ergo propter hoc; rather, it is affirming the consequent.

The canonical fallacy is:

If A, then B

B

Therefore, A.

In this case, that translates to:

If one is doing something useful, one will piss people off

I am pissing people off

Therefore, I am doing something useful.

I wouldn't call this a fallacious argument. You simply have a problem with their positively implied premise that all productive or interesting work pisses someone off. A false premise is not a logical fallacy. Being wrong is not always a result of bad formal logic. Logic draws conclusions, but statements are conclusions--in this case, one drawn from unknown assumptions and evidence.

Yea, this isn't a fallacious statement. Logically this would turn into:
~A --> ~B & ~C

If not A then not B and not C.

  • A - You're pissing someone off some of the time.
  • B - You're doing something useful.
  • C - You're doing something interesting.

This may or may not be true, but logically it's correct.

If this statement had been followed with "You're not doing anything useful or interesting therefore you're not pissing anyone off", then it would be fallacious.

  • 2
    Welcome to Philosophy.SE. I think you may have misunderstood the question. The sentence under consideration is not the one in the first quote block, but the argument directly beneath it. – Keelan Aug 30 '16 at 20:12
  • But I think Nathan has a point, namely that modus tollens is at work here. If not B, then not A is the logical structure of the block quoted sentence, which is logically equivalent to If A, then B ("If you've pissed someone off, then you've done something interesting or useful"). Then I think you can apply the "post hoc" fallacy. – Alex Nelson Feb 5 '17 at 16:47

Your Answer

 

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.