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In a rather heated climate change argument with a denier, he proposed the rather deluded idea that he would be less willing to support climate change policies because they would lower his quality of life, and that the evidence he had personally seen for climate change was insufficient to make him support such policies.

I told him that his idea was a very outdated take on how to solve climate change, rooted in ideas that you would have to stop driving cars completely or turn the lights off when leaving the room. The actual solution would involve a transition to sustainable energy and electric vehicles, both of which would be driven not by anything that he could personally do or feel, but by simple market forces and strategically placed government policies that would speed up the transition.

He copped out of the argument by saying, "Well, since it doesn't affect personally, I don't really care."

How should I counter such an argument?

  • How does one precipitate a heated argument as to something about which your interlocutor does not care? Methinks he doth protest too much... At the same time the argument that government regulation is likely to lower the efficiency of the economy or otherwise affect our quality of life is not really deluded -- it has an experiential base. The urban poor, dependent upon government programs, routinely vote for fewer government programs because they are the one's who get to see the existing ones failing daily. – jobermark Dec 5 '16 at 21:16
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Strictly speaking, it's not a fallacy. If something really doesn't affect me, there's no reason I should care about it. Thoughts:

  • This isn't a true-or-false statement, so you really can't apply the concept of logical fallacy to it. He's not saying "it doesn't affect me, therefore it's false [or true]". That WOULD be a fallacy. Simply saying "I don't care about it" is probably the truth.

  • You can attack the antecedent of this argument by showing that the issue actually DOES affect him, either directly or indirectly.

  • You can attack the conclusion of this argument by showing that he cares about things that don't affect him. Most people have fundamental concepts of morality: you might ask him if he cares about people starving in Africa or other suffering in the world. If he's a true hedonist, he might not. However, if he cares about those things, you've show his statement is false for him: it's possible for something not to affect him but for him to still care about it.

  • When attacking the antecedent, you can take the extreme position that everything affects everything, so "it doesn't affect me" can never be true.

  • When attacking the conclusion, you can point out that by discussing it with you, he does "care about it" to some sense. IE, the issue has entered his life in some way and has some effect on him.

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For starters, this is a hypocritical argument. The person is saying to you that he doesn't care with behaviors or situations that doesn't have an direct impact on his life... but at the same time, probably every person in this planet don't pass a day without trying to influence someone to do something "that doesn't affect them." We ask for help with our job, try to convince someone to buy something he or she doesn't need, even ask our neighbor to inform us when a supermarket promotion starts again. If someone's personal motto is "if it doesn't affect me doesn't matter" and at the same time he always ask the opposite behavior from his fellow human beings, hypocrite is a word that could define him good.

On the other hand, hypocrisy is not the point here. This person really fails to understand how society works. He is blind to perceive that society affects him in so many ways that maybe would be preferable a minor direct impact than this huge indirect one we receive from it, so strong and its capable to shape our thoughts and behaviors profoundly. Everything that happens in our society affects people, and we relate to everyone. So, when a dictator in Ruanda executes prisioners, or a CEO presents a new and not ecological viable product, or a company bankrupts, all this occurences adds to the comings and goings of social moviments, and indirectly we will be impacted. We all have social responsibility, cannot be absolved of it. Human beings are political animals, after all.

To finish my point, you can ask this person if he likes to live in a democracy, and prove him that we only live in democracies today because some people in the past cared about how society was progressing, and fought for principles and ideologies that, utmostly, brought us here.

  • As far as I know, there isn't a single true democracy in the world. The United States, for example, is an intentionally non-democratic republic. – barrycarter Dec 18 '16 at 12:14

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