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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.

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Geoffrey Thomas Mar 21 '20 at 9:58
  • Weirdly the correct answer to my question was in the comments here but it's all been deleted since there were too many. The answer given by multiple people was that it was 'cherry picking' a single point out of multiple points. The actual answers given below so far have all been incorrect because the question was not understood. – Hasen Apr 23 at 3:24
  • 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 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 at 12:13
  • I can't reinstate comments moved to chat. Which comment answers your question? – Geoffrey Thomas Apr 26 at 9:22
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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 '20 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 '20 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 '20 at 15:06
  • Upvoted for the last paragraph. – David Blomstrom Mar 19 '20 at 15:31
  • 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 '20 at 13:55
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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 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... – Double Knot Apr 20 at 15:40
  • @Hasen You either bundle all your multiple arguments as a whole sufficient reason, and in this case if one of it is refuted, it doesn't mean your conclusion is wrong, otherwise your opponent commits fallacy fallacy as shown in my answer above; or your multiple arguments as a whole merely indicates some necessary conditions, in this case it doesn't matter if any of them is refuted, since your argument is only necessary not sufficient, the formal fallacy is on your side... – Double Knot Apr 20 at 16:58
  • You can't just bundle arguments into one since most of the time it's impossible. The most vital part of my question is that it's numerical. It's about MULTIPLE points and someone choosing only one of them - kind of similar to the game of roulette. If you're not addressing that then you're talking about something else entirely. Your example of listing several points because they're not sure of the real cause only talks about a unique situation, in the real world, people, countries, ideas etc can and do all have multiple problems. – Hasen Apr 22 at 2:23
  • Your example is particularly awful. Tom could easily make multiple points to prove his argument. e.g. I speak English. Therefore, I am English. I was also born in England and my parents were born in England. Easy for him to make multiple points. Then his opposition could simply say exactly what Ben said above, cherry picking ONLY the part about speaking English and not addressing his other points that he was born in England and his parents were born in England too.....to be honest I really think you didn't understand my original question at all... – Hasen Apr 22 at 2:32
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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.

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  • OK but nobody mentioned making 'too many' points, just more than one. Even making just two points e.g. it will take too long and be too expensive is extremely normal. – Hasen Apr 23 at 3:21
  • "too many" is defined by the time it would take to answer them vs the time allotted for the conversation. Even a single point can be too much, for ex if you ask one person to clarify general relativity or quantum mechanics that may be be too much – Manu de Hanoi Apr 23 at 6:36
  • Yes but nobody mentioned anything about 'too many', just more than one. So not sure why you're bringing that up at all. Like in my example above, you can give more than one point in a single sentence. If the argument is online then a large amount points can be totally acceptable since there's not really a time constraint. In any case really no idea what this has do with anything at all...? – Hasen Apr 25 at 12:19

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