First I am sorry if this is confusing, this is something I was thinking about as sometimes I encounter such arguments, and I was thinking if this is defined as some logical fallacy (name please).

I'll try to give an example: Very incompetent person attacks much more competent person (but not as assertive) and you step in and make points about victims performance compared to his own. Then this attacker suddenly changes into victim and calls you out that you are attacking them. What is the best reaction, besides telling them they are ridiculous?

Different yet little similar example: People complain about something very silly, irrelevant and spend a lot of time doing it, and when you try to dismiss it after thorough explanation they argue that you are same because you complain about them complaining. How witty non "it is ridiculous" counter would you chose?

I hope it makes some sense, and if you could provide some thought or article regarding this idea.


3 Answers 3


The fallacy here is not in getting the parties wrong, it is in the idea that this matters. Actually, no rational argument is a war, so 'who attacks' is utterly irrelevant. And considering it relevant is the fallacy of appeal to emotion, in the form of 'underdoggery' or 'onedownsmanship'.

By accepting the role of victim, a party can establish allegiance with our memories of being mistreated, and we all cut them a break. But in any rational discourse, this should not mean that the attacker has less right to use any specific form or logic. Nor does he have more responsibility for the outcome.

The idea of 'complaining' being something different from (indirectly) making a request has the same disease. By making the person whose considerations you wish to dismiss into a 'plaintiff', you imply they have less rights and a higher burden of proof, because that is the way our legal system works.

Nor does 'neutral' have any logical meaning. All facts and logical positions are neutral, or they are biased, and therefore not facts or logical positions.


There's no general name for this as described. In the case where an aggressor attempts to shift responsibility to the person being attacked, this is called "blaming the victim," which is not a logical fallacy, but a social phenomenon.

In terms of logic, the first case is an appeal to pity where a person attempts to justify a bad argument through irrelevant personal history --in this case the irrelevant personal history of having been "attacked" by you.

The second is both false equivalence where your well-supported complaint is falsely presented as equivalent to the person's poorly founded complaint, and tu quoque ("you too!") where a person's bad behavior is justified as reflecting your own.


I do think you need to make these cases clearer. It is difficult to sort out what you are asking. Perhaps you could describe more exactly the exchanges between "X,"Y", and "Z."

What you describe sounds like common "personal" arguments or even, if I may add kiddingly, "spousal" disputes. It is interesting to consider how logic or judicial judgements might work, or fail to work, in the typical, repetitive arguments people really have.

It sounds like the "you" who intervenes in these cases is assuming his/her own neutrality. Yet that neutrality is not being accepted by the original party or parties. Once you are "in the argument," so to speak, there is no way to "prove" you are neutral. Indeed, there is never any way to "prove" one's motives are "pure," since motives are unobservable.

As a practical matter, logic is generally useless in personal arguments. One can endlessly "reframe the hypothesis," as Quine might say. One can endlessly dispute motives. And it is interesting to consider why. Silence, however, will often prevail. If you simply cease argument after your interlocutor's most exaggerated claim, they will be left holding their own words, and may go on to perform their own "reductio ad absurdum."

This is more rhetoric than philosophy. But the Sophists and much of Greek philosophy did emerge out of the law courts.


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