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I hope this is on topic, and trust it will be closed if it isn't.

Consider the following fallacious arguments:

  1. There is an upper limit to the number of people the earth can support; therefore the earth is currently overpopulated.

  2. X is a good thing; therefore the world would be a better place with more X (regardless of the cost).

  3. If you stand still forever, you'll never get anywhere; therefore you should never stand still.

Is there a standard name for the sort of fuzzy thinking that underlies all of these? If not, does somebody have a catchy name to suggest?

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  • I am not sure I understand how all of these exhibit the same structure of (bad) reasoning. I can see they're all bad arguments; but are they all bad for the same reason? If so, how? (1) seems to be bad argument bc it adduces a factual claim not in evidence (not just that there's a hypothetical limit as in premise, but where the actual world population already is in relation to it). (2) seems bad mainly bc it acknowledges one genuine facet of evaluation (the goodness of having X) but ignores another (the costs of getting more X), i.e., writes off a tradeoff. Mar 8 at 13:22
  • (2) may have another, different problem, if X has a diminishing marginal utility, since the premise doesn't tell us whether the world already has enough X to satisfice or not. (It's a good thing to have pudding in the cabinet; but that doesn't mean we can always conclude that adding one more box of pudding is better. At some point, you have enough; or may even have too much). (3) seems bad because it illlicitly strengthens a claim about what you can't do forever into a claim about what you can't do at all, even for a little while, which is much stronger than what the premise justifies. Mar 8 at 13:26
  • Anyway, I can see why all of these are bad arguments, but I don't get a strong picture of what they all have in common structurally that makes them bad. Could you elaborate a bit on what you were thinking unites them? Mar 8 at 13:27
  • You have not presented any formal arguments correctly. There are specific rules to form syllogisms which you attempt here and fail. You cant't just write whatever you want any kind of way and call it an argument. None are arguments the way you wrote them. Thus no fallacies are present the way you wrote it. You are confusing debate or aka Rhetoric for Philosophy.
    – Logikal
    Mar 8 at 21:11
  • @AlabamaScholiast : "I am not sure I understand how all of these exhibit the same structure of (bad) reasoning. " The common structure is "It is possible to have too much (or too little) X; therefore the quantity of X that currently exists is too much (or too little).
    – WillO
    Mar 9 at 4:33

2 Answers 2

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  1. There is an upper limit to the number of people the earth can support; therefore the earth is currently overpopulated.

  2. X is a good thing; therefore the world would be a better place with more X (regardless of the cost).

  3. If you stand still forever, you'll never get anywhere; therefore you should never stand still.

These share the following idea:

Too much of X is bad, therefore we need less of X.

Or inverted:

Too little of X is bad, therefore we need more of X.

The problem with this reasoning is that it neglects the location of the "optimum" amount of X in respect to the current amount. This isn't named as a specific fallacy that I know of. It's somewhat related to the base rate fallacy in that you are applying a generality (too much of X is bad) without considering more specific information (whether X is currently above or below the optimum).

So let's name it! I think the "overcorrection fallacy" is descriptive, because we observe that too little of X is bad, and we "overcorrect" in the direction of too much of X. Or we observe that too much of X is bad, and overcorrect in the direction of too little of X.

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  • Yes, you've exactly grasped the common thread I had in mind. I'm sorry it wasn't clear to others.
    – WillO
    Mar 8 at 15:53
  • I like "the overcorrection fallacy" but am waiting to see if someone comes up with something a little catchier.
    – WillO
    Mar 8 at 17:55
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It’s just a non-sequitur. You take some proposed fact (which we should check for truthfulness, by the way), and draw conclusions that are not logically justified.

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