Your house is perhaps the dirtiest house in the world, yet when someone criticizes that multiple times, your reaction is, "Will you also criticize the other dirty houses?"

Is there a name for this fallacy?

(It is possible that there are multiple fallacies in this instance. For this example, I am specifically interested in pointing to other dirty houses.)


1 Answer 1


This can't be a fallacy, because neither participant is articulating a logical argument in the first place.

The term "argument," in common parlance, means "an angry quarrel or disagreement" (Merriam-Webster, sense 1c). But in the context of logic and philosophy, it instead means "a coherent series of reasons, statements, or facts intended to support or establish a point of view" (ibid, sense 1b).

When "someone criticizes" your house, such criticism, by itself, is not "intended to support or establish" anything at all. It might form part of a larger argument that e.g. you should clean your house or pay someone else to do so, but it's not a complete argument and can't be evaluated for correctness on its own. Similarly, the rejoinder to look at other dirty houses simply tries to deflect the criticism. In the context of a larger argument, it might constitute a non sequitur fallacy (if we assume the other dirty houses are irrelevant to the ultimate conclusion of whether or not you should clean your own house), but by itself, it is similarly impossible to evaluate.

Finally, I must note that I have seen quite a few questions on this site asking us to assign names to purportedly fallacious arguments. In the general case, this is rarely useful, and I remain somewhat baffled as to why it's such a popular question. Instead of focusing on "Which fallacy is this argument?", I think it is more helpful to focus on "If the premises are true, must the conclusion necessarily be true?", because the latter question is how you tell a valid argument from an invalid (fallacious) argument. It also saves you the trouble of memorizing the silly latin names for everything, because you don't actually need to know the name of a fallacy to reject it. When we try to apply this question to the conversation which you describe, we can see that there are no conclusions, and so the problem (this isn't even an argument to begin with) is immediately apparent.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.