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I have been seeing a lot of “if you_____then you____ .” fallacy in communication lately. Examples would be “If you don’t support “Black Life’s Matter then you hate black people” “If you didn’t vote Hillary you don’t support women in politics ” ect.

Here are some non-political examples: If you don’t like country then you don’t like music. If you listen to classical music then you are intelligent. If you are depressed then you are living in the past. If you eat breakfast then you get good grades.

All of these statements have a degree of being false because the two topics don’t correlate. Or because there are other factors needed to support the conclusion ( children that eat breakfast were found to have better grades than those that didn’t but factors like sleep and study habits influence grades as well so saying that eating breakfast equals grades isn’t accurate.

I know these are fallacies because they are assuming one point equals the other when there is no logic to support the two being fact just because the first point is true to the person being addressed.

Do these types of statements fall under Black and White fallacy (if you aren’t with us then your against us) or are these “if you then” statements closer to the jumping to conclusions or illogical assumptions?

“if you_____then you____ .” are almost always bullying in nature and said to attack character and induce guilt but on rare occasions, they can come off as positive.

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  • I would say that, in most cases, these are examples of what you call the "Black and White" fallacy because they are rhetorical arguments rather than (pseudo) logical ones. This sort of thing, of couse, works in all directions. "If you don't support Trump then you don't want a Great America", "If you're against Brexit you aren't patriotic" and so on. It's always tribal but I suspect that most of us only spot the fallacy being invoked when it's being invoked in support of a political viewpoint with which we disagree. – BoldBen Jan 23 at 11:00
  • this question seems to me more of a political manifesto and/or rhetorical exclamation rather than a question so I've donw-voted it. – shabunc Jan 23 at 11:30
  • Shabunc I did only use political examples so I can see how you could draw that conclusion. I have edited my question in effort to be clearer. My goal is to identify the type of fallcey these examples are not to be combative or political. – Liz Jan 23 at 17:02
  • This reminds me of the lesson that "correlation doesn't necessarily mean causation", i.e. that just because you wear the same shoes as Michael Jordan doesn't mean you're as good at basketball as Michael Jordan (even though you're wearing the same shoes). – elliot svensson Jan 23 at 18:34
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In black-and-white thinking, the problem is often the mistaken use of contrary statements in place of contradictory statements. Two contrary statements cannot be true at the same time, but both can be false at the same time. "Nobody's right when everybody's wrong", as the song goes.

Take the example, "If you are depressed then you are living in the past." (1) The two contradictories are: (a) All people who are depressed are living in the past; and (b) Some people who are depressed are not living in the past. If one is true, then the other is necessarily false.

(2) The two contraries are (a) All people who are depressed are living in the past; and (b) No people who depressed are living in the past. Although apparently contradictory, the two can be false at the same time.

All-or-none is a common argument. A proponent of this argument better be ready to prove it.

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Most of the examples actually seem to be "affirming the consequent", otherwise known as arguing from the converse.

If you hate black people, then you will probably not support BLM. If you oppose women in politics, you will probably oppose a given woman in politics. If you don't like any music, you won't like Country music. The intelligent are often educated and have had more exposure to classical music. Dwelling on past failures is something depressed people often do.

But the converse of a true statement (in these cases only a likely one) is not logically connected to it. If A then B does not mean if B then A. (And A making B more likely does not mean B makes A more likely.)

The "If-Then" form suggests this is more likely to arise from a fallacy that starts from a an obvious deduction, than broader categories like hasty generalization or black/white. And it is much easier to point out because it is formal in nature.

But one cannot really tell these apart without reading the source's mind. Because living in a black/white world implies affirming the consequent works (because if a => b always implies not a => not b, then it implies b => a) which permits a huge range of corresponding hasty generalizations, (because being logically connected in any way makes all the connected ideas equivalent).

The final one is more straightforwardly just an unwarranted generalization.

The bullying aspect is a secondary 'piggyback' fallacy that guards the first one. Foreclosing a valid line of inquiry because pursuing it may have consequences for the speaker is a separate fallacy, not related by form to the primary one. It is known as 'argument ad baculum' -- 'arguing with a club'. The added tone is meant to make you avoid arguing at all, because arguing at all opens you to threat, in this case loss of reputation due to labeling. That increases the odds you will not controvert the main fallacy.

(My favorite argument ad baculum from recent history is Reagan's press secretary arguing that the CDC should not spend time and money to gather and publish statistics on the AIDS epidemic because nobody wants them -- anyone who asks for them must be gay. He says this talking to a room that contains almost exclusively married men...)

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The following is a definition of the black-or-white fallacy from your logical fallacy is. Note that it also gives another common name for it (one which I'm more used to): false dilemma.

You presented two alternative states as the only possibilities, when in fact more possibilities exist.

Also known as the false dilemma, this insidious tactic has the appearance of forming a logical argument, but under closer scrutiny it becomes evident that there are more possibilities than the either/or choice that is presented. Binary, black-or-white thinking doesn't allow for the many different variables, conditions, and contexts in which there would exist more than just the two possibilities put forth. It frames the argument misleadingly and obscures rational, honest debate.

Example: Whilst rallying support for his plan to fundamentally undermine citizens' rights, the Supreme Leader told the people they were either on his side, or they were on the side of the enemy.

It's this particular fallacy that your examples fall under.


There is no specific fallacy for the if you __ then you __ format. It can cover many different types of fallacies.

The following examples are just a few—including your fallacy of jumping to conclusions. But note that almost any argumentative sentence can be rewritten into an if-then construction, so it's not the syntax of the sentence that determines the type of fallacy but its semantics.

Faulty generalization or jumping to conclusions:

If the sun has risen every day for thousand of days, it will rise tomorrow.

Appeal to emotion:

If you cared about starving children, you would eat your dinner.

Slippery slope:

If we allow same-sex marriage, then we'll have to allow people to marry their cars.

Appeal to popularity:

If so many people believe in the supernatural, then it must exist.

Appeal to authority:

If that acclaimed doctor says it's true, then it must be true.

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That fallacy is overgeneralization.

ODO:

overgeneralization (British overgeneralisation)
NOUN

See overgeneralize

overgeneralize (British overgeneralise)
VERB [WITH OBJECT]
Draw a conclusion or make a statement about (something) that is more general than is justified.

‘Also, they tend to overgeneralise from their experience of spending a few weekend hours clearing brush or canning strawberries to what it was actually like to spend your whole life working on a farm.’

RationalWiki:

Overgeneralization is a logical fallacy that occurs when a conclusion about a group is drawn from an unrepresentative sample, especially a sample that is too small or too narrow.

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