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Is there a name or definition for the following fallacy (if you can even call it that):

Peter decides that the team will use Product A. While using Product A, the team encounters problems. They blame Peter for making the decision to use Product A. Using the alternative, Product B, would have introduced more problems, but the team overlooks this.

Essentially, it's unjustified blame.

Disclaimer: I have not studied logic/philosophy.

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A fallacy is a structural flaw in an argument. An argument based on a fallacy is a bad argument --in a technical sense-- regardless of the details of the argument.

In this case, it's not clear that the team is committing a fallacy at all. In fact, in the case that there were more than two alternatives, and Peter illegitimately reduced them to two, then he would have been the one committing the fallacy ("Black or White").

If there were in fact only two alternatives, than Peter is stuck in a "Catch 22" where he would have been blamed by his team no matter what choice he made. This is not, however, a fallacy, just a symptom of the unfairness of life.

If the team argues that Peter should be blamed because his decisions made them worse off than they would otherwise have been, then their argument is bad because it is based on a factually incorrect premise, not because it is structurally flawed.

  • "Including a fallacy makes an argument a bad argument, regardless of the details of the argument." I'm not sure if this is a moral judgment or what purpose the rating of argument serves. What is the underlying point and argument is supposed to serve? If I make an flawed argument and still manage to convince someone with it, is it sensible to valuate the argument negatively? Or maybe you have a dialectic theory of how to rank the "stability" of arguments? – Nikolaj-K Jun 23 '15 at 8:16
  • @NikolajK An argument based on a fallacy is structurally flawed --the premises have no necessary connection to the conclusion. It's a technical judgment, not a moral one. I have edited to make this more clear. – Chris Sunami Jun 23 '15 at 12:58
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If the team were making a claim that Peter could've chosen better, and expect Peter to prove otherwise, they would be committing the Burden of Proof fallacy.

Per the rules of critical thinking and in the legal system, the burden of proving a claim, lies with the claimant. So if someone were claiming Peter could've chosen better, the onus is on them to prove so, and not on Peter to prove otherwise. It could also be seen as innocent until proven guilty - because Peter already had authority to make decisions (his exercising that authority can be seen as honest/innocent). And here's a wiki reference to legal burden of proof: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legal_burden_of_proof

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The team may be correct to blame Peter for the extent of the problems; however, this is unknowable from the information given. Peter could perhaps be faulted for overselling the ease of using Product A, rather than managing the expectations of his team, and preparing them to expect difficulties, and framing the problems as simply challenges the team must work through to achieve success.

It is also possible Peter could be guilty of not properly equipping the team to succeed with his chosen Product A, such as getting expert consulting in implementation of Product A and training his team.

It is not necessarily proven or provable that Product B would have been a better option for the team, because humans are involved. However, for the purpose of discussion let's simply accept the premise that Product A was in fact the better choice. Given that, team members are potentially guilty of several logical fallacies in blaming the problems with product A on Peter and his decision to go with it over Product B, and particularly in assuming B would have been a better choice.

Fallacies from the perspective of a team member blaming Peter:

Argument from ignorance: "Product B would have been better." (but without having direct experience with B, thus coming from a place of ignorance)

Correlation proves causation: "Peter chose Product A over Product B, therefore Peter's choice of Product A is to blame for the problems we are experiencing with A." The causes of the problems, perceived or real, are not stated and are not possible to know without informed research. (Some organizations would use tools like "5 Whys" to attempt to discover the root causes of the problems.) Problems may have resulted from incompetence (or even sabotage) by team members, by lack of followup from Peter, or the problems could simply be the "normal" rate of problems being perceived as "excessive". A Latin name for this fallacy would be "Post hoc ergo propter hoc" meaning "after this, therefore because of this".

In the category of Faulty Generalization fallacies, there are several more that potentially apply.

Cherry picking -- pointing out obvious individual issues and problems with A, while ignoring or even suppressing evidence that B may have had the same problems or even worse problems.

Hasty generalization -- basing sweeping conclusions on a small sample size. There are problems in initial use of A, therefore it was a bad decision, and Peter made a poor decision in choosing A. The real causes could include such possibilities that Product A has a learning curve for effective use, or that Product A has a best practice installation procedure that was not followed. Peter could certainly be culpable on these, just for a different reason than simply his choice of Product A.

An influential team member could lead others astray with the fallacy of Misleading vividness, presenting isolated, non-showstopper problem(s) with such vivid, emotional detail, as to overly influence and mislead the team over minor problems.

Peter may or may not have been guilty of a False Dichotomy fallacy in limiting the choices to A or B. I think it's reasonable to give him the benefit of the doubt and surmise that A and B were his top two choices out of possibilities considered.

In practice, Peter would be poorly served to spend much energy looking for logical fallacies in the team's reasoning. He would be far better off working with the team to identify and break down the problems encountered with A, and to engage the team in working through these problems, and to ensure he has done all he can to provide the necessary implementation, training, and support resources to make Product A a success in his environment. Effective leadership would trump philosophy on this one.

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