Let's consider the following dialogue:

A: People should be respectful to X.

B: No, people should be respectful to Y.

Now Y is a broader class than X. In the above example, say, X = "their elders" and Y = "all humans". It seems as if B is trying to argue against A by using a generalization which rather dilutes the point that A is trying to make. Is there a name for this fallacy?

P.S: I have don't have much background in philosophy, so do correct me if this isn't a fallacy at all.

  • 1
    Irrelevant points are generally called ignoratio elenchi. But singling out X itself seems to suggest that its members are due some extra respect compared to that accorded to them as members of Y. These sorts of seemings are highly sensitive to context, and whether it is A or B who is committing an offense depends on that. Consider "black lives matter"; "no, all lives matter" exchange, for example. Whether it can be called a fallacy is a separate question. What is appropriate in a context is subject to judgment as much as reasoning, and bad judgment is not a mistake of reasoning (fallacy).
    – Conifold
    May 5, 2019 at 22:46
  • @Conifold Thanks, that's an interesting perspective. Perhaps you could elaborate on it in an answer.
    – user38116
    May 5, 2019 at 22:50

1 Answer 1


In the comments, Conifold mentions ignoratio elenchi or red herring. Bo Bennett describes this fallacy as

Attempting to redirect the argument to another issue to which the person doing the redirecting can better respond. While it is similar to the avoiding the issue fallacy, the red herring is a deliberate diversion of attention with the intention of trying to abandon the original argument.

He also gives it various names:

(also known as: beside the point, misdirection [form of], changing the subject, false emphasis, the Chewbacca defense, irrelevant conclusion, irrelevant thesis, clouding the issue, ignorance of refutation)

However, he identifies avoiding the issue as a separate fallacy which may be closer to the OP's description of making an "irrelevant generalization":

When an arguer responds to an argument by not addressing the points of the argument. Unlike the strawman fallacy, avoiding the issue does not create an unrelated argument to divert attention, it simply avoids the argument.

Bennett also warns arguers about accusing an opponent of committing a fallacy. He views knowing about fallacies as valuable for self-defense and to strengthen one's own arguments. Besides accusing an opponent of committing a fallacy is an invitation for a counter accusation:

I caution you against correcting fallacies that your opponent might raise. As you will see in this book, fallacies go by many different names, and there are varying definitions for the fallacies. Except for a handful of fallacies that have been around since the time of Aristotle, most fallacies are under a continual redefining process that might change the name of the fallacy or the meaning of the fallacy. The bottom line is to focus on exactly what error in reasoning you are being accused of, and defend your reasoning—not a definition or name.

Bennett, B. "Avoiding the Issue" Retrieved on May 6, 2019 from Logically Fallacious at https://www.logicallyfallacious.com/tools/lp/Bo/LogicalFallacies/61/Avoiding-the-Issue

Bennett, B. "Being a Smart-Ass" Retrieved on May 6, 2019 from Logically Fallacious at https://www.logicallyfallacious.com/tools/lp/Bo/LogicalFallacies/207/Being-a-Smart-Ass

Bennett, B. "Red Herring" Retrieved on May 6, 2019 from Logically Fallacion at https://www.logicallyfallacious.com/tools/lp/Bo/LogicalFallacies/150/Red-Herring

You must log in to answer this question.