Capaldi PhD Columbia, Smit PhD Catholic Univ. of Leuven. The Art of Deception (2007). p. 257.

Exercise 1

Identify the fallacy, rhetorical technique, and potential difficul- ties in play with each of the following statements. We provide at least one answer for each after the exercises. Keep in mind that more than one answer may sometimes be possible.

p. 258

  1. I am not inconsistent—I am a pragmatist.

p. 260: Answers to Exercise 1.

  1. Appeal to a higher truth.

I don't understand (1) how 6 is a logical fallacy that's (2) an "appeal to a higher truth"?

  • 1
    What is the "Appeal to a higher truth" fallacy ? Aug 8 '18 at 16:13
  • Why is it pragmatic to be inconsistent? The whole notion seems to be fallacious. I also do not grasp how this is an appeal to higher truth. If it is true that he is not inconsistent then why does he have to make any appeal at all? He is explaining he is a pragmatists precisely because he is being inconsistent so why is he claiming he is not inconsistent? He could just say 'I am not being inconsistent' and leave it at that.
    – user20253
    Aug 9 '18 at 11:46
  • @Greek - Area 51 Proposal Another one? How many accounts do you have? Why do you need them all? Are you evading a ban or something? If you’re going to simply ask the same types of questions, I don’t see the purpose in so many accounts.
    – Dan Bron
    Nov 15 '18 at 5:33
  • I remember your previous question, where you were told that you are on the completely wrong path looking for fallacies - this book of yours is about deception, not about incorrect logical thinking. You just repeat the same kind of question again, unthinkingly.
    – gnasher729
    Nov 16 '18 at 23:37

Suppose that in the course of an argument I say both 'p' and 'not-p'. You protest that I have contradicted myself; that I am inconsistent.

Now further suppose that I am a pragmatist. My position, my theory of truth, is that truth is purely a matter of practical utility, of what works satisfactorily if accepted. A proposition or belief is true if and only if it has practical utility or (on the other version) works satisfactorily.

This is a loose charactersation but I am not persuaded that Capaldi has anything more precise in mind. Pragmatism doesn't rule out - deny the possibility of - contradiction, of inconsistency. It simply doesn't worry about it if it serves practical utility.

In light of this, it does not follow that, in the example, I (the pragmatist for a moment) am not inconsistent, since pragmatism recognises inconsistency. I am inconsistent; the point is rather that inconsistency doesn't matter if it has practical utility.

That's one point dealt with - the 'it does not follow' point to which fallacy is relevant.

What of the other ? 'Appeal to a higher truth' ? The idea appears to be that while you and I have a mundane or standard theory of truth on which a statement and its direct denial ('not both p and not-p) cannot be true together, the pragmatist has a different and preferable - a 'superior' - theory of truth on which inconsistency is no necessary problem since an inconsistency can have practical utility.


The authors are not only looking for logical fallacies. Some of the answers could be rhetorical techniques or potential difficulties the statement sets in play. The answer to the first question why the statement is a logical fallacy is that the statement need not be a logical fallacy.

What the statement, I am not inconsistent—I am a pragmatist, suggests is that the speaker has been caught in some inconsistency and the speaker is denying it by "appealing to a higher truth".

The speaker makes this appeal to a higher truth by claiming that whatever inconsistency might have been found can be justified by the "higher truth" of being "pragmatic".

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