Distinction Without a Difference

Description: The assertion that a position is different from another position based on the language when, in fact, both positions are exactly the same -- at least in practice or practical terms.

Logical Form:

A is not the same as the first letter in the alphabet.

Example #1:

Sergio: There is no way I would ever even consider taking dancing lessons.

Kitty: How about I ask my friend from work to teach you?

Sergio: If you know someone that is willing to teach me how to dance, then I am willing to learn, sure.

Explanation: Perhaps it is the stigma of “dancing lessons” that is causing Sergio to hold this view, but the fact is, someone teaching him how to dance is the same thing.  Sergio has been duped by language.

Example #2:

We must judge this issue by what the Bible says, not by what we think it says or by what some scholar or theologian thinks it says.

Explanation: Before you say, “Amen!”, realize that this is a clear case of distinction without a difference.  There is absolutely no difference here because the only possible way to read the Bible is through interpretation, in other words, what we think it says.  What is being implied here is that ones own interpretation (what he or she thinks the Bible says) is what it really says, and everyone else who has a different interpretation is not really reading the Bible for what it says.

Exception: It is possible that some difference can be very minute, exist in principle only, or made for emphasis, in which case the fallacy could be debatable.

Coach:  I don’t want you to try to get the ball; I want you to GET the ball!

In practical usage, this means the same thing, but the effect could be motivating, especially in a non-argumentative context.

Tip: Replace the phrase, “I’ll try” in your vocabulary with, “I’ll do my best”.  While the same idea in practice, perceptually it means so much more.


0 #1 Liwnerd Park 2012-08-28 09:28
:lol: This made my day!
-1 #2 macbaldy 2012-10-07 21:47
That this phrase, "distinction without a difference", is a fallacy is the point of its utility. It's intended to highlight a noncontradictio n in terms. It's a colloquial, pseudo-academic substitute for "no difference" or "same difference" or "double-talk" or "double speak". Its fallacy is the purpose of its construction and application.
+1 #3 Alejandro 2013-01-07 01:31
Quoting macbaldy:
That this phrase... is a fallacy is the point of its utility.

And its utility as a fallacy is the point of this page. Welcome!
0 #4 herb 2013-05-06 18:34
"I can see that you have not been successfully indoctrinated to the Corporate World View. Learn to think of people, individually or in groups, as profit and loss centers. Then you segregate the market into premium, ordinary and discount arenas. Children in the bottom eighty percent or so of the economic divide become loss centers. Corporations do not exist to generate losses. The "useless eater" of the last century has now been replaced by the "profitless person." A difference without a distinction."

I used this phrase in a discussion group. Did I use it correctly?
0 #5 Bo Bennett 2013-05-06 21:04
Herb, I think your use is fine, assuming the other person was claiming the two were different, otherwise it sounds as if this is more of a euphemism. That is, "useless eater" is now offensive, so let's call them "profitless people."

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