I think it is one kind of informal fallacy to dismiss a logical argument by just calling it ridiculous without actually showing how the argument is invalid. At first, I thought it to be ad hominem as it indirectly implies that the one arguing is being stupid. Am I correct, or is there any other term to label this fallacy?

The argument itself might really be flawed or invalid, but my question here is whether it is valid to dismiss the argument just by calling it ridiculous and not showing the flaw in it.

  • 2
    There are certainly some arguments you can tell are flawed but lack the words to concretely describe how it is so. The ontological argument was like that for a lot of people. Of course it's not intrinsically wrong to call something out if you feel it's wrong, simply because you lack the ability to describe why. It might not win you any debates or successful term paper grades, but just because you can't describe it doesn't mean you're wrong or it lacks description.
    – stoicfury
    Mar 2, 2013 at 22:46
  • I have encountered this quite often even here from moderators. When any "rebuttal" merely asserts that a position is incorrect, yet fails to point out any specific error I label this "rebuttal" as Empty Rhetoric Entirely Bereft of Supporting Reasoning. (EREBoSR). The shorter more conventional way of saying this is simply baseless assertion.
    – polcott
    Apr 20, 2020 at 14:46
  • Not being able to follow an argument may indicate it is flawed. But labeling it ridiculous is in fact an ad hominem attack, if it is meant to be convincing on its own. What deserves ridicule is a subjective judgment unrelated to logic. (Then again, we all have emotions, and we can express them without implying they are good substitutes for logic. Rhetoric happens whenever there is argumentation. Subjective impressions have a proper use in rhetoric, in addition to logic.) Apr 27, 2020 at 15:59

7 Answers 7

  1. "Ridiculous therefore invalid": This is possibly fallacious (depending on what one considers ridiculous in general), since an argument could possibly be considered valid and ridiculous, for example because of its excessive/unnecessary length. Now what is this called? I think affirming the consequent, which is a formal fallacy, might apply. "If invalid then ridiculous, therefore if ridiculous then invalid."

  2. "Ridiculous": This could be an example of ignoratio elenchi (failing to address the issue in question, in this case: validity), an informal fallacy!

  3. "Ridiculously invalid": This could imply that that (almost) the whole argument under consideration consists of flaws. In such case, there is hardly any need to point them out.

  • Come on people, forget, at least for a moment of indulgence, Condorcet and Arrow. There are all kinds of buttons here waiting to be pressed.
    – user3164
    Feb 25, 2013 at 20:41
  • Why so urgent need for pressed buttons?
    – zaa
    Feb 26, 2013 at 0:27
  • The premise "If invalid then ridiculous" implies that "If not ridiculous then valid", is the conclusion right? I think there is no correlation between validity and ridiculousness.
    – user3225
    Feb 26, 2013 at 2:26
  • @zaarcis My comment is due to a general "meta" observation. Methinks that if people hardly press buttons on this site, then the site perhaps doesn't work as well as intended?
    – user3164
    Feb 26, 2013 at 6:57
  • @AnowarJaman "If not ridiculous then valid" could be false and could be true, depending on what one thinks deserves ridicule and/or the intended meaning of ridiculous (which could also be: foolish, absurd). And, with regards to your second sentence, it's slightly awkward to discuss the statistical properties of one instance.
    – user3164
    Feb 26, 2013 at 7:15

A debater commits the Ad Hominem Fallacy when he introduces irrelevant personal premises about his opponent. Such red herrings may successfully distract the opponent or the audience from the topic of the debate.

The whole point of logic is to develop techniques for evaluating the cogency of arguments independently of the arguer's identity. Is the person being criticized arguing or testifying? Are reasons being presented, or must we take the person's word for something? If the person is arguing, the argument should be evaluated on its own merits; if testifying, then credibility is important.

  • There isn't always a perfect distinction between arguing and testifying. Very seldom will a debate participant be expected to attend to all the minute details of a logical proof if there is reason to believe that such details could be attended to easily but would distract from the main argument. Such hand-waving, however, should be only be accepted by people who are credibly debating in good faith.
    – supercat
    May 13, 2014 at 16:17
  • Your description of "ad hominem" is nearly correct. But it does not answer the OP who wants to know what the term is for calling an argument ridiculous.
    – BillOnne
    Sep 5, 2022 at 19:00

"Fallacy spotting" seems to be in vogue at the moment, but remember that accusing someone of committing a fallacy is just a way of saying that person has failed to provide a logically valid argument. Applying false premises to a validly formed argument is not fallacious, it simply means the argument is not sound, which is also to say that the argument fails.

So to assert that another's argument is ridiculous and hence wrong with no further supporting evidence may be true or false, but as a single premise there is no further argument and cannot, by definition, be fallacious.

  • I (not an expert) think that when you say "remember [...]" and "by definition", you are referring to the definition of a formal fallacy. The OP asked about informal fallacies.
    – user3164
    Mar 3, 2013 at 10:52
  • 1
    That's a fair point, but even the definition of informal fallacies points to either supplying irrelevant premises or flawed reasoning, neither of which are the case here. To say an argument is fallacious in any respect is to claim that it fails as an argument, before its truth can be assessed. Whether the fallacy is formal, informal, blue, or green is not a distinction that's relevant to this case, because whether the assertion "that argument is ridiculous" is true or not can only be assessed by evaluating the argument which the assertion refers to.
    – Ryder
    Mar 3, 2013 at 13:36
  • I assert, in hopefully the friendliest of possible ways, that you can spot at least three fallacies in that comment alone. :) Otherwise, your point is well taken.
    – user3164
    Mar 3, 2013 at 14:02
  • By all means, please do. After all, if you dismiss my argument without providing reasons, that would itself be fallacious - no?
    – Ryder
    Mar 8, 2013 at 12:07
  • I agree. There is exactly one formal fallacy -- non sequitur -- which logically contains all the others. Naming the flavors carefully quickly becomes 'appeal to authority' rather than actual argumentation. Also, as noted above, rhetoric is not fallacious unless it fails to accompany an argument. None of the rhetorical flourishes in that comment are outright fallacies. Apr 27, 2020 at 16:02

Wikipedia calls it "appeal to the stone," or argumentum ad lapidem.

  • en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk_to_the_hand I call this the baseless assertion fallacy.
    – polcott
    Apr 23, 2020 at 18:06
  • I fixed that. I consider that to be a good answer.
    – polcott
    Apr 26, 2020 at 15:02
  • All of these are simply the same special case of the non-sequitur error. A conclusion cannot possibly logically follow from its premises if the premises are simply missing.
    – polcott
    Apr 27, 2020 at 15:33

It can be an informal fallacy even if you attempt to point out the flaw. See Appeal to ridicule, also called "the horselaugh fallacy".

  • No matter how much personal attack or ridicule is added to a rebuttal as long as the rebuttal has correct reasoning that points out the flaw thus completely nullifying the argument then the rebuttal is sound. There is another fallacy that is essentially equivalent to the baseless assertion fallacy (that I defined in my answer). If someone points out an error (such as a spelling error) that has no consequence to the original argument then this too would be a fallacy, its a form of the strawman fallacy.
    – polcott
    Apr 23, 2020 at 18:03
  • 1
    @polcott I mean, I don't think we're disagreeing lol. Obviously a valid rebuttal doesn't become invalid because there's also an appeal to ridicule. My point was more that an appeal to ridicule may be an argumentative fallacy even if there is an [unsuccessful] attempt to support it by explaining why the argument is supposedly ridiculous. Often another fallacy is committed in the process--"straw man" is probably the one that is most frequently combined/overlapped with a fallacious "appeal to ridicule".
    – Cole Carac
    May 10, 2020 at 17:49

Is it an informal fallacy to call an argument ridiculous without pointing out the flaw?

A conclusion that is simply asserted without any reasoning is a special case of Non Sequitur error in that a conclusion cannot possibly follow from the premises if the premises are missing. I would call this special case the baseless assertion fallacy.

When the term ridiculous is provided as a response this implies that a rebuttal is intended, thus a conclusion was formed and is being asserted. Since no justification is provided for this implied rebuttal the special case of non sequitur error named the baseless assertion fallacy would apply.


On a completely unrelated site I read how some people came to the conclusion that in the Southern Hemisphere you need to replace a 5 pound weight with a 2.5 weight because you are closer to the sun. Seriously. Not making this up.

That argument was so ridiculous that actually pointing out the mistake(s) was very hard indeed.

  • I mean the gravitational force on earth is not the same at all spaces, so for example around the equator it's a little less afaik so that scales have to be adjusted, but the mass of an object would stay the same, not to mention that you'd definitely get more low gravity memes from the southern hemisphere if it were a factor of 2. Or you know from the northern hemisphere since that ball is spinning and the distance to the sun is therefore changing over the course of a day. Or that we would be fried if that change would amount to a factor of 2. Yeah it's pretty ridiculous :)
    – haxor789
    Sep 5, 2022 at 10:22
  • 1
    haxor, it took the people on the site a while to figure out that the weight should have been higher, not lower :-) (If the rest hadn't been so nonsensical).
    – gnasher729
    Sep 7, 2022 at 13:00

You must log in to answer this question.