I see this a lot, someone in a category of people attempts to shut down anyone with an opinion that is not from the same category. For example, people without children weighing in on parenting; the parent may say something like "well, since you don't have kids and I do, my position is of more validity than yours."

Another example: a drug user (of some kind) telling someone who has never done drugs and does not care to, "until you tried it, you have no right to judge me."

People frequently try to limit the consideration on opinions to those in their same group, while it is perfectly reasonable that the non-drug user, especially if they are a chemist or well read on the subject, may have an equally valid opinion, or even more valid. In fact some might even say that someone NOT in the category has a better chance of being objective and seeing the forest for the trees.

So what is the fallacy of trying to shut down opinions when the source of the opinion is not someone who has personally had the experience under discussion?

  • I think this might be simple Ad Hominem -- "an argument is rebutted by attacking the character, motive, or other attribute [non-parent or non-drug user] of the person making the argument, or persons associated with the argument, rather than attacking the substance of the argument itself."
    – elmer007
    Nov 17 '16 at 14:54

It is specifically just the genetic fallacy: assuming an argument is erroneous on the basis of its provenience.

But I prefer to see it as what CS Lewis named 'Bulverism' -- diagnosing an argument as a symptom of something (the speaker's known or presumed bias or ignorance, the social or political context, any psychological dynamics at play, concurrent rhetorical manipulations, etc.) instead of considering its content

The specific diagnosis given in both of your example cases is 'ignorance through lack of exposure'.

However you choose to identify it in particular, as @elmer007 notes above, you can tell this is a fallacy right away because it is ad hominem -- pointed at the speaker and not the content.

Even if ignoring or being especially dubious about an argument for some contextual reason is sensible, it is always still a fallacy. Logically, one can only reject an argument based upon its content -- which involves actually considering the content.

  • 1
    Does it qualify as a fallacy if it was not intended to be a logical argument in the first place?
    – Cort Ammon
    Nov 17 '16 at 6:28
  • Politics isn't logic. If you are ntending to deal with his thinking with anything other than logic, that is always a logical fallacy. I have already conceded that it might be politically sensible -- betting on the odds he will waste your time -- but it is not logical in the philosphical sense.
    – user9166
    Nov 17 '16 at 14:36

Not everything that shuts down our arguments is a named fallacy. In this case, I would call this behavior "efficient."

It would be very reasonable to assume that an expert's opinion is more valid than that of someone who knows nothing of a field, would it not? Do we assume that the average traveler has a better opinion regarding how to fly an airplane than a pilot? Do we assume the average driver has a better opinion of how to maintain a vehicle than a seasoned mechanic? No, we don't.

If one had unlimited resources, it would be highly reasonable to listen to every opinion and weigh them accordingly. A failure to do so might be called a selection bias (which could be as close to a named fallacy as you may get). However, we rarely (if ever) are so lucky. Accordingly, what you want to call a fallacy, I would call an efficient way to spend finite resources. The more limited the resources are, the more reasonable this behavior is.

  • So a parent maintaining that a single adult cannot have an equally valid opinion on, for example, whether children should be allowed to smoke, is "efficient"? You have utterly lost me now.
    – Sindyr
    Nov 17 '16 at 1:44
  • 1
    That is not the question you asked. You asked about the fallacy of trying to shut down opinions based on the source of those opinions, which is a reasonable process. If you intended to ask about the case where someone asserts that you cannot have valid opinion, then you could call that an "appeal to authority," but that is not always the case when someone is shutting down opinions based on who says them.
    – Cort Ammon
    Nov 17 '16 at 1:49
  • Parenting, in particular, is a case where the difficulty of explaining to a non-parent what it is like is sufficiently difficult that people just get lazy and stop trying. Saying "you can't have a valid opinion because you're not a parent' may just be the lazy version of my argument in such a case. They may simply not want to deal with the full version of that debate.
    – Cort Ammon
    Nov 17 '16 at 1:50
  • You may not be able to help me if I am unable to explain the problem to you adequately, but I will try again. The drug example may be better. Saying that only people who have tried drugs have a valid opinion on whether people should try drugs - do I need to go in more detail how irrational a position that is? If not, then THAT'S the fallacy I am looking for. A person who says "You have not done X or experienced X, therefore you opinion carries less weight (or possibly no weight at all.)
    – Sindyr
    Nov 17 '16 at 2:01
  • Another example, compare a woman speaking about issues relating to womens health to a male gynecologist - isn't it an obvious irrationality for this untrained woman to refuse to listen to the male OB/GYN's opinions on account of him not being a woman, isn't that irrational on its face? What's is the mistake these people are making? If this still doesn't help you answer my question, I will wait for the next helper. Thanks.
    – Sindyr
    Nov 17 '16 at 2:01

In the examples you've given, it appears to be a "psychological essentialism" function. Which, while phase appropriate for ages 4-7, seems also to be quite popular in current extreme postmodern ideologies. For example; only a woman can say anything valid about women. If you're not a black male, then you have no insight into the state of black male life. You must be queer to say anything about queerness. And on and on. Identity politics uses this tactic to an alarming degree. But, as already stated by someone else, politics is not philosophy. And identity politics is totally bereft of philosophical soundness. Your examples fall into a kind of identitarian rut. Now, a junior high math teacher and someone who works at CERN might be better protagonist/antagonist examples of experience vs training/knowledge.


I read the answers and they are interesting. I agree that this thinking can be seen as an ad hominem but to me sound more like an apeal to authority or ad verecundiam fallacy.

To think that people with some experience are right just because they have more experience, despite evidence to the contrary. However one must also consider that the argument that experience gives people a knowledge advantage over the non experienced counterpart can be perfectly good. It is not a fallacy in all circumstances, to think it is so would be the argument from fallacy.

From Wikipedia:

Argument from fallacy is the formal fallacy of analyzing an argument and inferring that, since it contains a fallacy, its conclusion must be false. It is also called argument to logic (argumentum ad logicam), fallacy fallacy, fallacist's fallacy, and bad reasons fallacy.

  • I agree that if it were flipped over, it would be an appeal to authority, in the form of in-group stereotyping, or as @SigurdFenrisson labels it 'psychological essentialism'. But it is being used defensively, to diffuse the argument, rather than being used to add false premises derived from the source. So it is more a form of Bulverism. Both are genetic fallacies.
    – user9166
    Nov 30 '16 at 16:35

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