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I've never found out the name of this fallacy, or even if there is a name for it, but it seems to me it's the fallacy that occurs by far the most often. You are having a debate with someone and then you make 6 crucial points...then the other person responds by picking only point #5 and trying to refute it.

More often than not their attempt to refute the single point they singled out was invalid anyway, but as it appears as if they "hit the ball back" to you to continue the rally, they actually didn't since they ignored almost all the points made. But still since it appears that way, at least to them, it comes back to you to somehow respond.

So to be clear it looks like this:

Person A's argument:

  1. argument point...

  2. argument point...

  3. argument point...

  4. argument point...

  5. argument point...

  6. argument point...

And then person B responds with:

5. argument point...

That's not true because....etc

Then it's back to person A who has to do what, repeat all his points again??

In my experience it's almost always the points they ignore that are most damaging to their whole argument, and the single point they cherry picked out to refute is the weakest and more simple to refute.

Add to that the points aren't normally numbered like they are here, that's just for clarity in this example. So it's particularly difficult to respond to.

It just gives them this opportunity to say in some form or another "no, you're wrong" in response to what you said. Which is powerful in itself but seems like a fallacy to me considering the way it's achieved.

EDIT: Since many people seem to misunderstand what I mean by argument point I'll try to explain a bit more. Imagine you're reviewing a product or service and you have to make a list of pros and cons or advantage and disadvantages. So you could claim a product is not great due to the cons.

e.g.

Cons

  1. very expensive
  2. flimsy
  3. not waterproof
  4. takes too long to recharge
  5. customer support rude

So my fallacy would be that someone would claim this product is in fact good and would argue against these five disadvantages by stating "no you're wrong, it's not a bad product because it actually doesn't take that long to recharge". So regardless of whether what he said is true or not, he simply has ignored all the other cons that add up to a bad product. So even if true it's still a bad product based on the other cons.

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Geoffrey Thomas
    Mar 21, 2020 at 9:58
  • Presenting too many many points in a debate is sophistry, people engage in a debate with a limited amount of time to spend on it. Once a friend sent me a link to "The revelation of the pyramids" it was so full of fallacies that I got exhausted by watching it. No way I would have the time to debunk all that. So depending on the time both parties are willing to allocate to the debate, a selection of points may be brought up, and if some arent answered, one can remind the other about it. Apr 19, 2021 at 17:34
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    Hi Hasen: The comments haven't been deleted. I had to move them to chat in line with site rules - there were +20. See link above: 'moved to chat'. Hope this helps. Best - Geoffrey
    – Geoffrey Thomas
    Apr 23, 2021 at 8:35
  • @Geoffrey Thomas♦ Oh ok so they still exist. But still, most people coming here will not notice them since they're not visible here, so I felt necessary to point that out.
    – Hasen
    Apr 25, 2021 at 12:13
  • I can't reinstate comments moved to chat. Which comment answers your question?
    – Geoffrey Thomas
    Apr 26, 2021 at 9:22

4 Answers 4

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You haven't described this issue clearly.

In general, if A makes ten arguments for a position and B refute one of the arguments there are multiple reasons why B might do that. B might think that if he refutes one argument your position is refuted, which would be wrong. B might think he wants to take your arguments out one at a time so he starts with one argument with the aim of getting agreement that it's wrong before he moves on to the others. Or he might just want to refute that particular argument without having any intention to go on to any further arguments.

Another problem is that looking for the name of a fallacy to use in an argument is a bad idea in many cases. A name just means you've put a label on something not that you understand it.

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  • I thought I made it clear that the person was ignoring the points because he couldn't refute them? Even if he did think if he somehow just refuted one argument it was enough, he'd have to specifically state "therefore all your other points make no sense" otherwise he's just not addressing those other points...
    – Hasen
    Mar 19, 2020 at 15:03
  • Your point last doesn't seem to make much sense, clearly I understand what the situation is, I just wondered if there is a name for it. There is a strength in named fallacies that are recognised so quoting them is powerful in an argument. Logically it shouldn't be that way, but that's just how humans respond.
    – Hasen
    Mar 19, 2020 at 15:05
  • Oh and they never, ever go back to the points they initally ignored....ever...not unless you bring them up again and again and they normally try to ignore them even on subsequent times.
    – Hasen
    Mar 19, 2020 at 15:06
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    Without seeing the actual argument I can't tell who is in the wrong. It is extremely common for people to make points that fail basic tests of logic and then fancy that they have pwned the person they're arguing with.
    – alanf
    Mar 27, 2020 at 13:55
  • If you think you've pwned the person who's made points that fail basic tests of logic then you need to SAY THAT IN YOUR ARGUMENT RESPONSE...just saying nothing is making yourself pwned by your opponent...it actually reminds me of another idiotic fallacy people use like "do you realise what you said doesn't make any sense?" Then no explanation, just that single sentence.
    – Hasen
    Aug 4, 2022 at 13:30
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The specifics rely on a concrete example of that, but there's a good chance that it's not a fallacy at all.

Like ideally your arguments and premises would lead up to a conclusion so it would be:

(A,B,C,D,E) -> Conclusion

or idk:

(A,B) -> C, (C,D) -> E and (E,F) -> Conclusion

or something like that. So pointing out that any of these premises or (pre-)conclusions is false or invalid would have a destructive effect on the soundness or respectively the validity of your entire argument.

That does not mean that you're conclusion must be false, but it means that your implication is false and that indeed puts the ball is back in your field to either fix that problem or to give up on this claim.

But it seems that you think about something more along the lines of:

  1. (A,B) -> C
  2. (D,E) -> C
  3. (F,G) -> C

...

So each of the arguments is it's own implication independent of the others. So showing that one of them is not sound or even invalid only works for that one argument and as said not in and of itself debunks the conclusion. Yet it still puts the ball back in your field to either fix or give up that specific argument, so at least in that regard it's still not a fallacy.

Also depending on the medium of communication it's usually not ideal to produce multiple arguments at the same time. Like if it's a write-up of all counter arguments then it might be ok, but in a discussion that's more akin to attempting a DOS attack ("denial of service" due to a flooding with requests) on the opponent, so rhetoric rather than substance.

And then you approach, not so much logical, but a practical problem. Like if someone comes at you with a list of 10 arguments and each of them crumbles away under scrutiny without resistances or attempts to back it up, then you're kinda approaching the point where you ask yourself whether that's a good use of your lifetime, because the other end seems to be dead set on a conclusion and seems to take up any argument in it's defense rather than having found the conclusion as a necessary result of a set of premises. So no matter how many arguments you're taking down, the other end will always come up with another one and no a plurality of arguments in favor of something means very little in it's defense. So they're acting in bad faith and leaving the scene unless they are willing to defend their claims is unfortunately often the best option you've got.

That in itself is acting fallacious, because "the boy who cried wolf", may now have actually seen a wolf and can be employed by bad faith actors as a means to shut down an argument without engaging with the meat of it, but it could also be a useful heuristic when engaging with bad faith actors. So it's a double edged sword that is logically problematic. So you kinda rely on an educated audience to distinguish one from the other. Which is again not a logical problem but a practical one.

So to mitigate that you could just focus on your strongest argument instead.

If they then again pick a part of it that is not relevant for the argument or which side tracks ignoring the argument, then it's idk a strawman fallacy or something like that, where you don't fight the argument, but a mock version of it. Or again they could have a real point if your argument actually relies on that point. Then it would be again up to you to confirm that the argument is debunked, how it could be saved or how the integral part of it is still untouched and valid.

So it pretty much depends on an actual example of it.

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There is one person trying to prove that a statement is correct, and one person trying to prove that you have no evidence.

You have five arguments that purport to prove your statement. The other person shows that one of your arguments is not just unproven but wrong. So the situation is changed: Instead of five statements that may or may not be correct or wrong, you have four that may or may not be correct or wrong, and one that is most definitely wrong.

That very much weakens your position. Not only has the other person shown one of your arguments to be wrong. They have also shown that you are careless in making arguments, therefore your arguments 1 to 4 need much more scrutiny before they can be accepted, and you should provide much more evidence that your arguments 1 to 4 are correct.

It's a fallacy to thing that disproving your statement is the only result that would count. Instead, the other person has created very reasonable doubt in your arguments. It's like being in court and making five statements. If the defense proves that one statement was a lie, then your reliability as a witness is very much in doubt.

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  • ???? That doesn't make even the slightest bit of sense. He shows ONE argument is wrong or unproven so four of the arguments are wrong???? So if I shoot one person of five then the other four also die....?? I think you must have made a mistake writing your answer or something, please check it again.
    – Hasen
    Aug 5, 2022 at 15:04
  • No but if you're charged with the murder of 5 people and the court can prove that you shot at least one of them then you're already getting convicted even if there are still 4 open cases, because you've already been proven to be a murderer. Or in that case a person being careless with their arguments.
    – haxor789
    Aug 7, 2022 at 10:07
  • @haxor789 That's a strawman argument, my statement was whether they die or not, not whether anyone gets convicted for it. Your example is also bad because it just highlights the limitations of the law. You get the same conviction if you murder everyone on earth as you do if you just murder one person, it doesn't mean your conviction in any way included all those people... A better example would be someone selling five items and you pay for one and argue that you paid for all of them because you paid for one...
    – Hasen
    Aug 9, 2022 at 8:07
  • @Hasen No my point was exactly this idea of "fool me once shame on you fool me twice shame on me". Of course that is an ad hominem fallacy as it disproves the credibility of the messenger not the message. But it's also a practical heuristic when dealing with bad faith actors. No accusation implied, but you haven't given a good example for your case.
    – haxor789
    Aug 9, 2022 at 9:00
  • @haxor789 You've given a strawman argument which is about as bad an example as can be. The statement that 'affecting one thing out of 5 would automatically affect the others' is currently a random statement with zero proof. There's no logical reason why it would, there has to be a link made between the single thing and the four other things, we can't just assume it's true. That has not been done. 5 people on trial for murder, one gets convicted, it doesn't affect the others. Fooling that person once also doesn't seem to apply here. There's no link made so as it is the statement is super weak.
    – Hasen
    Aug 11, 2022 at 7:56
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For me this looks like a Argument from fallacy (or called "fallacy fallacy"):

It has the general argument form: If P, then Q. P is a fallacious argument. Therefore, Q is false.

Thus, it is a special case of denying the antecedent where the antecedent, rather than being a proposition that is false, is an entire argument that is fallacious. A fallacious argument, just as with a false antecedent, can still have a consequent that happens to be true. The fallacy is in concluding the consequent of a fallacious argument has to be false.

That the argument is fallacious only means that the argument cannot succeed in proving its consequent. But showing how one argument in a complex thesis is fallaciously reasoned does not necessarily invalidate its conclusion if that conclusion is not dependent on the fallacy.

Here's a similar example:

Tom: I speak English. Therefore, I am English.

Ben: Americans and Canadians, among others, speak English too. By assuming that speaking English and being English always go together, you have just committed the package-deal fallacy. You are incorrect. Therefore, you are not English.

The fact that Tom's argument was fallacious is not, in itself, a proof that his conclusion is false.

Btw, according to principle of sufficient reason, ideally there's one and only one reason (argument) to explain a concluding effect. You may need to structure all your arguments into a united one as a classical syllogistic form like above example from the reference...

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  • That doesn't seem the same as my example. It was about listing multiple points where only one single point was 'cherry picked' by the opposing party and refuted. In your example 'Tom' only gives one single point anyway so does not appear to be the same thing as I was describing.
    – Hasen
    Apr 20, 2021 at 14:20
  • @Hasen That's why in my last para I hinted real valid argument format should be syllogistic logical form. There's only one real (however complex and combinatorial) condition to sufficiently cause a conclusion per PSR, as manifested in sciences inductive laws and math deductive theorems. In practice most people are not sure which is the real cause, so they need to list multiple independent arguments trying to cover the real one which is itself a red herring irrelevance fallacy... You multiple arguments are merely necessary conditions at best... Apr 20, 2021 at 15:40
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    @Hasen misunderstanding is everywhere and that's why we love wisdom to arrive at rare truth which most people don't care much... First of all your 6 multiple arguments should really be organized to prove or solve 6 different questions, like here at PSE we only expect one question at a time. Of course I understand in reality most often all those 6 points may be inter-related to serve for a common question. If this is the case, you need to first organize the 6 points logical causality/relation. It's like math, one theorem only proves one point though its premises may be several but organized... Apr 22, 2021 at 2:43
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    @Hasen I fully understand you're talking about folk talk rather than normative logical talk and I'm fully aware most folk talks are full of fallacies on both sides like ur above example. Say boss A doesn't want to start a project while person B wants. Boss A thinks she has 2 arguments for her conclusion (doesn't want to start the project), and B refutes 2nd argument. B certainly has above "fallacy fallacy" that even B is right doesn't mean A's conclusion is wrong. But A also has logical fallacy since either A's 2 arguments cannot lead to A's conclusion OR A's 2nd premise is truly wrong... Apr 23, 2021 at 4:18
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    @Hasen once u employ a math modeling to logically organize your multiple argument points, then when anyone attacks either of those points, you just say, hooray let's calculate the result to verify it's a showstopper or not if you says spending $2,000 for 2 weeks by a contractor is not expensive, let's substitute 2000, 2 weeks into my model... This is called verification principle of modern famous logical positivism movement in western analytic philosophy to get rid of all those meaningless metaphysical arguments for thousands of years... May 1, 2021 at 3:30

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