If someone says they have never taken an action, and never had any issues, therefore that action is problematic, and they are now an expert what logical fallacy(s) is that?

For example:

"Driving your car in the left lane leads to accidents. I've never driven my car in the left lane and never been in an accident, so I think I know what I'm talking about."

  • 1
    Fallacies are supposed to be at least superficially plausible, this example is not. Could you give a more realistic example of how people actually express themselves?
    – Conifold
    Commented Dec 10, 2020 at 1:51
  • this was basically identical to the example im dealing with, so is it defined as simply entirely illogical and implausible?
    – polar
    Commented Dec 10, 2020 at 1:52
  • 1
    People do pretend to be experts when they are not, but they typically make it sound less obvious. Look at appeal to false authority.
    – Conifold
    Commented Dec 10, 2020 at 1:55
  • 1
    Depending on exactly what the arguer is saying, this might be a case of false cause. I wear a talisman to ward off zombies; I've never been attacked by a zombie; so that shows that my talisman works. If the argument is primarily about false claims of expertise, then it is just a weakly supported claim. If someone drives their car every day for 40 years and never has an accident, they probably know something about good driving, but it doesn't necessarily make them an expert on accidents.
    – Bumble
    Commented Dec 10, 2020 at 2:34
  • @Bumble the expertise comment is more of funny sidenote imo, im more talking about the claim like your talisman example.
    – polar
    Commented Dec 10, 2020 at 2:36

2 Answers 2


I don't disagree with JD's answer, but given the OP's reply to my comment, it may be that what they have in mind is more of a false cause type of fallacy. The argument might be represented as:

  1. Driving in the left lane leads to accidents.
  2. This carries the implicature: avoiding driving in the left lane helps to avoid accidents.
  3. I've never driven in the left lane and never had an accident, so this supports 2 and hence 1.

However, it may be that the speaker has never had an accident for entirely different reasons. They drive infrequently, or they mostly drive on deserted country roads, or they are just a particularly careful driver. So their claimed explanation of their lack of accidents may not be the correct one, hence a false cause, or a questionable cause.

I mentioned an extreme example of this in a comment above: I wear a talisman to ward off zombies; I've never been attacked by a zombie; so that shows that my talisman works. Or: taking contraceptive pills prevents people from getting pregnant; I (a man) take contraceptive pills every day and I've never got pregnant, so that proves they work. In both cases there are much more plausible explanations of the data.

In general, distinguishing false causes from correct ones is not easy, and often involves a number of factors. People driving in the wrong lane probably does contribute to some accidents. A more tricky example might be:

  1. I always eat healthy foods, take exercise, and don't use alcohol or recreational drugs.
  2. I've never been seriously ill.
  3. Therefore doing those things is good for your health.

Yes, those things are good for your health, so it is not a false cause, but in practice we would want to see more data. Also, there are other causes of good health, and there are other causes of serious illness, so it is not as simple as the argument suggests.

  • Interesting. I upvoted because my intuition is absolutely silent. False cause is bad reasoning from cause to effect, but I with uncertainty feel that drawing the conclusion about the property of expertise given dispositions of behavior is non-causal. Is it because expertise is normative and causality purports to be positivistic? Relationships of causation are temporal in nature, but can the same be said of assessing expertise? The justification of the claim to reliability in knowledge-how and -that seem a priori... even if the evidence is a posteriori? Outstanding and thought-provoking answer!
    – J D
    Commented Dec 10, 2020 at 6:37
  • I'm really dodging the part about the claim of expertise, since the OP in their comment to the question indicated that they are more interested in the talisman example. False cause is a kind of defective explanation. It happens when a proferred explanation is much less plausible than some alternative, or when a specific claim that A causes B is defective because there is good reason to believe that B has some other cause.
    – Bumble
    Commented Dec 10, 2020 at 10:38

Short Answer

When one claims that one's argument is correct because soley of one's driving achievements, then one is appealing to one's accomplishment. This is a type of genetic fallacy.

Long Answer

Let's rewrite your question as a syllogism:

P1. Driving the car in a particular manner causes accidents.
P2. I have driven in such a way I have never been in an accident.
C. Therefore, I'm an expert on driving and avoiding accidents.

The conclusion is what the argument purports to be about. In this case, the claimant is making an argument to prove they are an expert in driving.

One potential fallacy at play would be the genetic fallacy:

The genetic fallacy (also known as the fallacy of origins or fallacy of virtue)1 is a fallacy of irrelevance that is based solely on someone's or something's history, origin, or source rather than its current meaning or context.

The question is 'does this sole premise to the claimant's driving history serve as an adequate basis for determining the driver's current expertise?' Obviously not. Let's us imagine that a famous racecar driver in the 1930's was alive, and talks about how he won races and was an excellent driver, but now he is in his 90's suffers from legal blindness, and hasn't driven in 20 years. Does his history allow us to conclude with certainty that he is currently an expert? Absolutely not. But we can get more specific. In this argument, the claimant appeals to his accomplishments to validate his claim to expertise.

Another avenue of attack on this argument is that P2 purports to be an accomplishment, and certainly if this same driver had not only a racing pedigree, but also a flawless domestic record in driving, that would be quite the accomplishment; however, is this driver still an expert on driving given his circumstances? Not necessarily, so here we see that the appeal is to accomplishment which is a type of genetic fallacy. From the WP article:

Description: When the argument being made is sheltered from criticism based on the level of accomplishment of the one making the argument. A form of this fallacy also occurs when arguments are evaluated on the accomplishments, or success, of the person making the argument, rather than on the merits of the argument itself.

Remember, a general notion of expertise in driving would require not only current knowledge-that but knowledge-how. The question of a driver's expertise isn't a question of prior, irrelevant accomplishments, but rather the current state of the driver's ability. So, while invoking accomplishments in a larger framework of argument certainly strengthens an argument, relying on it in the absence of other factors would be specious.

Please note that though the conclusion that the argument arrives at, that the driver is an expert, is false, this is NOT an an appeal to false authority as some have suggested. From the article:

A similar fallacy is the appeal to false authority. This fallacy is used when a person uses a false authority as evidence for their claim.

Such an argument relies on a premise invoking authority and not in the conclusion. The question at hand is 'Is the conclusion of authority invalid?', not 'Is the claim based on invalid authority?'.

Therefore, the best fit for this fallacious reasoning would be the appeal to accomplishment.

  • Very well written and informative, thank you. Since I did not know the answer I'm going to wait a couple days to see if anyone else has thoughts before clicking the check-mark, but I definitely gave you an up-vote in the meantime.
    – polar
    Commented Dec 10, 2020 at 3:14
  • No worries! :D Certainly, if there's a better answer, I'd like to recognize it.
    – J D
    Commented Dec 10, 2020 at 3:15

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .