You may heard of this:

If you knew a woman who was pregnant, who had 8 kids already, three who were deaf, two who were blind, one mentally retarded, and she had syphilis; would you recommend that she have an abortion?

And if you said yes, you just killed Beethoven.

This is fallacy and after Googling I found this article. The problem is author has coined a new type of fallacy. Could it be categorized under known fallacy types?

  • 1
    I feel like I'm missing something about the philosophical import/interest of this question -- why is it so urgent to categorize/classify this argument in a vacuum? It seems like it may fit different categories depending on how it's being used rhetorically. Outside of any relevant context, well -- it's not relevant; but that's a tautology and not really a classification!
    – Joseph Weissman
    Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 15:26
  • Asking for a concise explanation of what is wrong with the argument may elicit better/more focused responses -- and indicating what you yourself hypothesize may be wrong about it would also help possible answerers provide a great explanation at the right level of analysis
    – Joseph Weissman
    Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 15:27
  • @JosephWeissman: First, you/community are the expert and can say if it needs a new class or not. I'm just asking. Second: my assumption is based on provided link from rationalwiki. It is not then please explain why.
    – Xaqron
    Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 15:33
  • This is close enough in form to a bunch of unclosed questions that I'm going to reopen but I'd still love to see a little more context here. It seems difficult to classify for some reason, and maybe this in part because there's a lot of unstated assumptions here...
    – Joseph Weissman
    Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 15:56
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    Since this specific name was coined specifically for this anti-abortion argument there is no general name for it. But the argument falls under the broader category which is mentioned in the wiki, appeal to pity, a.k.a. sob story, based on emotion instead of reasoning.
    – Conifold
    Commented Jul 17, 2017 at 19:56

1 Answer 1


The Great Beethoven fallacy, based on the referred article, is that, if we kill a fetus, we are killing a genius who will come to be in the future. You ask what kind of fallacy would subsume the Beethoven fallacy. I offer the counterfactual fallacy as an answer. That is, the Beethoven fallacy is a counterfactual fallacy applied to a pro-life argument.

The counterfactual fallacy occurs when one treats a hypothetical (or counterfactual) situation as if it is a fact, and then draws a conclusion about the future or the past based on the counterfactual situation, but the evidence for the conclusion is almost none. Of course, not all counterfactual inferences are fallacious, as is shown in the following case: "If this coin had not landed on the head side, it would have landed on the tail side." This counterfactual inference is not fallacious because of the well established fact that a coin toss results in a binary case (assuming that the coin is unbiased and landing on the side is impossible).

An appeal to a counterfactual situation commits a fallacy if it lacks well established facts relating to the situation. The circumstance of the pregnant woman in the above case is such that the probability is almost zero that the future person will become a Beethoven. The apple never falls far from the tree! It is more likely than not that, had the fetus been born, it would have lived an unfulfilling life. This is why the pro-life argument based on conterfactual situation is fallacious.

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