I was having a discussion with a friend who proposed the question of "who has killed the most people, directly or indirectly?".

She argued that it would be Karl Benz (inventor of the motor vehicle) due to all proceeding designs stemming off of his and the frequency of motor vehicle caused death.

I instead suggested it would be whoever had invented the first practical firearm. She then stated that wouldn't count because you could then go further back and state it would be whoever invented the first weapon in general, to which I claimed by that logic her answer would be invalid since you could state the inventor of the wheel. This was reduced down by her to "the first humans whom we are descended from" since we cant die without being born first.

Clearly this is ridiculous but it made me think if it was covered by an existing fallacy, feels very slippery slope like but I'm not wholly sure.

Any ideas?

  • The problem is your terms aren't well-defined. If you believe in evolution, my answer would be Mitochondrial Eve, the female ancestor of all people. If we'd never been born, we could never die! You could extend this back to the first ameba/lifeform, but that stretches the pronoun "who" (as opposed to "what"). Religious people would argue God (responsible for all life and death). – user935 Oct 16 '17 at 15:06
  • Slippery slope? – Quentin Ruyant Oct 16 '17 at 15:19
  • This is not a matter of fallacy. It is known as the problem of causal responsibility, and no sharp boundary can be drawn on how far it extends, different ethical systems draw it in different places, see Is it a logical flaw to blame someone for an event if they were simply its causal factor? The problem is somewhat similar to deciding at which point a handful of grains becomes a heap, known as Sorites Paradox, and the answer is that the question itself is misguided. – Conifold Oct 16 '17 at 20:02

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