Someone goes to the garage and says, "This car you sold me doesn't start." And the reply is, "Well, all machines have some problems."

Where you attempt to invalidate a problem by putting it into a much, much larger context.


The fallacy here is:

  • X is a problem.
  • But X is an example of a much larger problem, Y.
  • Therefore, X is irrelevant.

Is there a name for this pattern?

  • 2
    Why logical fallacy ? If it is true that "All machines have some problems", then necessarily ""This car has some problem". – Mauro ALLEGRANZA May 6 '16 at 12:06
  • Isn't it a logical fallacy in the same way an "ad hominem" argument is a logical fallacy? For example, "Steve says climate change is a fact. Steve is an idiot." Steve might well be an idiot, but it's an invalid counterargument. – Kris Jenkins May 6 '16 at 12:16
  • 2
    This is similar to relative privation, see What is the a fallacy that dismisses problems by presenting “bigger” problems? philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/24622/… – Conifold May 6 '16 at 17:49
  • Yup, looks like relative privation is what I'm thinking of. Thanks @Conifold! – Kris Jenkins May 15 '16 at 8:20

"Well, all machines have some problems."

This is a factual claim that is either true or false. The hunt for fallacies would come into play if the claim is followed by a conclusion.

Let's assume this : "all machines have some problems, therefore, it should be acceptable if your car doesn't start"

This is a clear Non-sequitur fallacy, the conclusion doesn't follow the premise in this claim. The fact that all machines have a problem is irrelevant to the argument that the car should not start.

One could also call for ambiguity fallacy. The ambiguity is what "all machines have some problems" means exactly. The conclusion assumes that all machines have a problem that prevent them from accomplishing the job they were designed for, or make them completely useless, thing that was not suggested in the premise.

To highlight the ambiguity fallacy, i suggest a less fallacious reasoning: "All machines don't start, therefore, it should be acceptable if your car doesn't".

To get rid of the ambiguity, I replaced the assertion with relevant one. It became clear that the factual claim is not true.


I'm not aware of any specific name for this error, but it falls under the general type "red herring" — offering information that's irrelevant to the point in question. The way in which the information here is irrelevant is interesting, but I don't think it presents an especially familiar pattern of introducing irrelevance (in the way that a tu quoque fallacy does, for instance).


There is no fallacy at all. The problem is that there is an unproven and false claim.

If we lived in a universe where all machines have problems, it would follow that your car engine must have problems, therefore you wouldn't have any reason to complain that your car engine doesn't start. In that universe you wouldn't even complain, because the car engine would behave exactly as you would expect.

But we don't live in that universe. The statement "all machines have some problem" is wrong. False. Any conclusion drawn from an incorrect premise can be ignored.


I think this would be a clear example of a logical fallacy called illicitus processus. I saw no reason to add any explanation to the fallacy as it was pretty well explained in the original question, the author of the question seemed to know what does the fallacy mean, just not what its name is so I only supplemented the name. If I'm correct, your mistake takes the form of Every pneumonia is dangerous Every pneumonia is a sickness Every sickness is dangerous

You can check for more info here http://www.fallacyfiles.org/illicitp.html

If I'm off the mark, sorry, was not intentional, you could also check the book Irving Copi & Carl Cohen, Introduction to Logic (Tenth Edition) (Prentice Hall, 1998), pp. 276-7.

  • 1
    Expand on what that means. (answers here are not, in principle, supposed to then require someone to google the terms). – virmaior May 7 '16 at 1:23
  • Your addition still does not explain anything. I've never heard of that fallacy myself but maybe it's ignorance on my part. Can you at least provide a link or some reference? – Eliran May 11 '16 at 18:10

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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