When someone in the first minute of a debate says: "That's a nice idea, but it simply cannot be done." Is this a fallacy? If so, which one?

I think it probably is a fallacy because we should first discuss whether something is desirable and then we can brainstorm about how to get to the desired result. So the debate is in a way hijacked.

But I can't really figure out which fallacy is involved. Perhaps it has something to do with these fallacies?

  • Jumping to conclusions
  • Shifting burden of proof

But I am not entirely sure! Any input is appreciated.

  • Argument from personal incredulity? (Unless, of course, they can prove that "it simply cannot be done".)
    – cHao
    Aug 24 '17 at 22:11

I believe it's simply a case of a false premise; They are saying "This is impossible, it's a waste of time to discuss impossible solutions, therefore we should not discuss this"

It's a perfectly valid argument (so no 'fallacy' per se) they're simply basing this argument on false assumptions.

  • Yes, but it is more than that: the false premise is used to try to kill the discussion before it has started. Maybe it is not a fallacy but at least a nasty discussion-trick... Perhaps it is indeed a form of jumping to conclusions. Oct 15 '17 at 21:27
  • Read the concept of fallacy. "It can't be done" is a false premise. "It can't be done because it is impossible" is a fallacy.
    – RodolfoAP
    Nov 15 '17 at 4:36
  • "It can't be done because it is impossible" is a tautology, the exact opposite of a fallacy!
    – JeffUK
    Nov 15 '17 at 9:25
  • Read the concept of tautology. The opposite, in any case, is an oxymoron. Being a tautology does not exclude it from being a fallacy.
    – RodolfoAP
    Nov 16 '17 at 2:08
  • Read the concept of tautology. I have,. this is a very condescending way to say you disagree with my definition, please provide your own definition if you think I'm wrong.
    – JeffUK
    Nov 16 '17 at 12:52

Well, in order for this to be fallacy there would have to be some kind of misdirection. Like, say, the speaker of "that's a nice idea, but it simply cannot be done" could be ridiculing you or somehow trying to shift the direction.

However, this could be a polite, assertive statement. From the context, it sounds like the person had already listened to the original idea to be able to react this way.

So, I would focus more attention on

  • whether the speaker could have so much more knowledge as to be able to swiftly assess the situation (return of investment = its possible, but not feasible. That could be considered a fallacy on his part).
  • whether the speaker could be close-minded (in that case calling him on the problem wouldn't help), but trying to shift the speaker's perspective with a better solution might.
  • encouraging the speaker to express more details about why it isn't possible or what his/her concerns are.

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.