Nirvana Fallacy

(also known as: perfect solution fallacy, perfectionist fallacy)

Description: Comparing a realistic solution with an idealized one, and dismissing or even discounting the realistic solution as a result of comparing to a “perfect world” or impossible standard.  Ignoring the fact that improvements are often good enough reason.

Logical Form:

X is what we have.

Y is the perfect situation.

Therefore, X is not good enough.

Example #1:

What’s the point of making drinking illegal under the age of 21?  Kids still manage to get alcohol.

Explanation: The goal in setting a minimum age for drinking is to deter underage drinking, not abolish it completely.  Suggesting the law is fruitless based on its failure to abolish underage drinking completely, is fallacious.

Example #2:

What’s the point of living?  We’re all going to die anyway.

Explanation: There is an implication that the goal of life is not dying.  While that is certainly a worthwhile goal, many would argue that it is a bit empty on its own, creating this fallacy where one does not really exist.

Exception: Striving for perfection is not the same as the nirvana fallacy.  Having a goal of perfection or near perfection, and working towards that goal, is admirable.  However, giving up on the goal because perfection is not attained, despite major improvements being attained, is fallacious.

Tip: Sometimes good enough is really good enough.


+1 #1 araceli 2014-01-11 17:54
is this a Nirvana fallacy "I never wear seat belts, and I never get killed in car crashes, so I don't need to wear a seat belt" ?
+1 #2 Bo Bennett 2014-01-11 22:20
aracell, I am not sure the Nirvana fallacy fits for that claim. Clearly it is bad reasoning—a poor use of inductive reasoning by determining the probability of the future by the luck of the past. As far as a formal fallacy, I am stumped... not sure one exists. If I can think of one, I will post it!
+1 #3 jsimon 2014-01-17 08:52
that is a reverse of the gamblers fallacy.'s_fallacy

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