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Douglas Arndell

Fallacy of complicit support?

I encountered this fallacy when it comes to corporations and companies with sketchy histories, and the people who buy and consume products from those same companies, often under the banner of anti capitalist argumentation.

P1. Company A has done Bad Thing X and Y

P2. Person Z has consumed products from Company A

C1. Therefore, Person Z tolerates or supports Bad Thing X and Y by consuming Company A's products.

C2. This means Person Z is morally guilty/complicit.

A often seen rebuttal to anyone trying to combat this logic is "there is no ethical consumption under capitalism" and "we are all complicit".

What fallacies are in this train of argumentation and the responses to attempted rebuttals?

asked on Monday, Jul 20, 2020 06:33:52 PM by Douglas Arndell

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Answers

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Bo Bennett, PhD
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What we have here is an opinion in argument form. The conclusions do not necessarily follow (Non Sequitur). I see this more as of a philosophical discussion than a problem of logic. For example, if one follows a well-being based moral system, then they may follow the rule, "If company A has an overall positive effect on well-being, I will support it." So bad thing X and Y is forgiven by good thing A and B. Or perhaps one is a virtue ethicist who will not tolerate what they perceive to be a moral failing despite the "greater good." Other factors need to be considered as well, such as the practicality of alternatives (e.g., "Ford is racist, but BWM is not, but there's no way I can afford a BMW!"), if the person really thinks bad thing A and B are bad things, if they knew about it, etc.

The biggest problem I have against this "complicit" argument is that people are acting as self-appointed moral police, who are judging others by their specific moral code and values.

I do think boycotts have their place and certainly can be effective in seeing immediate, positive social change. I think boycotters need to be well-informed and have their facts straight before taking action. I think the boycotters should then make a well-reasoned argument and let people join their cause rather than casting accusations of moral bankruptcy if they don't.

answered on Monday, Jul 20, 2020 08:54:59 PM by Bo Bennett, PhD

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Bryan writes:

Do you think that this is less about real criticism of others but more a case of virtue signalling?

posted on Friday, Jul 24, 2020 09:08:48 AM
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Bo Bennett, PhD writes:
[To Bryan]

In this case, I believe that boycotting and the act of virtue signaling are closely linked. For example, people who boycott and tell nobody about it are clearly doing on principle. People who post all over social media how we should boycott but don't boycott themselves are clearly doing it for virtue signaling. It is the group (majority I would estimate) that do both that get dopamine hits from both the boycotting and the virtue signaling. The positive reinforcements they get from the virtue signaling strengthen their principles, and their strengthened principles likely leads to more virtue signaling. In short, people most likely boycott partly on principle and partly for virtue signaling.

[ login to reply ] posted on Friday, Jul 24, 2020 09:21:28 AM
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Rationalissimo
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I've always been irritated by the "you are complicit" logic, since it comes across more as a moralistic mudslinging than an attempt at discussing the existence of, and proposing solutions to, a problem. We've seen it a lot with the current anti-cop hysteria in America and elsewhere.

Let's parse this arguement.

P1. Company A has done Bad Thing X and Y

P2. Person Z has consumed products from Company A

C1. Therefore, Person Z tolerates or supports Bad Thing X and Y by consuming Company A's products.

C2. This means Person Z is morally guilty/complicit.

I've highlighted the problematic parts of the argument. C1 does not follow from P2, since the speaker ignores the possibility that the person is unaware of the bad things done by the company. It could also be the case that they are prepared to accept the moral failure of corporations but make up for it elsewhere. C2 also does not follow, since the ability to affect a situation also plays into moral judgements. There is a difference between willingly taking part in immoral behaviour (in which one is the main actor) and being caught up in a complex working of interconnected systems, such as an economy, in which people are far removed from most decision-making (most of us aren't on the boards of Coca-Cola, for example).

Thus, we have a Non Sequitur as the conclusion is not supported by the premises.

A often seen rebuttal to anyone trying to combat this logic is "there is no ethical consumption under capitalism" and "we are all complicit".

"No ethical consumption under capitalism" is an opinion, though it is not the same as applying complicity to all people under it. Remember, most people are removed from the decision-making processes in the economy.

answered on Monday, Jul 20, 2020 07:18:55 PM by Rationalissimo

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Jason Mathias
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This would be a Ad Hominem (Guilt by Association) fallacy. 

answered on Thursday, Jul 23, 2020 08:09:04 PM by Jason Mathias

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