Question

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Mr Brown

What would you have me do?

Is there a name in rhetoric or fallacious argument for this type of thing? 

What would you have me do?/What else was I supposed to do?  etc.

It seems to be an attempt to shift responsibility, probably also a distraction from the main argument.

This was used after a vote was put up on a group chat. The vote was clearly a false dilemma between two options, neither of which were things I wanted, although one was presented as my  preferred choice. I'd clearly stated that I wanted a discussion and not a vote. There was no reason to vote between two options as many alternatives were possible. It was an attempt to avoid open discussion. The vote was also rigged in favour of one option. I left the group and received a message with the  'What would you have me do?' line. This all followed a previous message which I've discovered used a truly ridiculous amount of rhetoric and fallacy so I'm presuming this is also some kind of trick.

Thanks.

asked on Tuesday, Feb 16, 2021 07:47:54 PM by Mr Brown

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Answers

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Kostas Oikonomou
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It is like implying that you had *obviously* absurd demands and you were *obviously* unreasonable. Like telling you "I've done all I could. WHAT MORE DO YOU NEED FROM ME???" That could be an honest question, but if you already had explicitly told him what you want, then I think it's something like:

Appeal to Exasperation = your demands are *obviously* so unreasonable that makes me lose my mind (usually said in an emotionally loaded voice or shouting in exasperation), implying that 'you should be ashamed by your unreasonable demands' and basically accusing you of being unfair for accusing someone who in fact did everything they could. 

That's the closest I can think for what people, in many cases, use to silence one's complaints - being at fault (or insincere or mistreating another) and then acting like they're the victim. Like Baiting and Bashing  which is a similar technique used by abusers, narcissists etc.

It can be also what is called Emotional Reasoning , when they don't deflect but truly believe that since they have an emotional response (being angry, sad, mistreated), their feelings accurately present reality and their feelings are proof that the other is at fault.   

answered on Wednesday, Feb 17, 2021 03:31:37 PM by Kostas Oikonomou

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Mr Brown writes:

Thanks for that. Yeah, the guy started by saying that he'd actually acted  for my benefit, suggesting I should be grateful, so some of what you've mentioned would seem to fit. I just wondered if there was something else around passing on the responsibility to the other person, kind of like "I don't know what's wrong here. It's your job to tell me," obviously insincerely. I've come across narcissists before who tended to do this, acting despicably while claiming it was the other party's responsibility to tell them when they were upset or how could they know?

He's also a lawyer and an expert arguer! I noticed there was a trend of him saying as little as possible, playing dumb, leading me to say more and more which he would then jump upon with straight Ad Hominems  and  Tu Quoque  arguments.

For years with this guy I thought it was  Emotional Reasoning that led to him speaking in anger. Now I believe it's more like, he gets angry and ALLOWS HIMSELF to use rhetorical tricks and fallacious arguments, feeling like he's justified in doing that. There isn't any chance he doesn't understand the fallacies himself.

posted on Wednesday, Feb 17, 2021 11:53:55 PM
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Shockwave
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Although this is not a form of argument but a question, it exudes a spirit of unverified claim that the other side has done everything in its power and that any request beyond that is superfluous, if not rude.

Of course, this question in itself does not have to be malicious, someone can honestly ask this with the intention of hearing the other party's suggestions about a possible change of actions, but this question is often misused for the purpose you described.

answered on Wednesday, Feb 17, 2021 02:08:25 PM by Shockwave

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Mr Brown writes:

Thanks. Yeah, there's a sense of 'I tried to help you. I've done everything I can. What more could I do?' It's the whole shifting of responsibility thing that has me interested. I recall an episode of South Park (parodying a LeBron James Nike ad) where Cartman, after acting badly, tries this technique of asking 'What should I do?' After a beat the reply comes 'You should f*** off.'

posted on Thursday, Feb 18, 2021 02:38:27 AM
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Bo Bennett, PhD
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There is no argument here; it is just a question, so no fallacy. It might even fall under Socratic questioning if the question is sincere.

answered on Wednesday, Feb 17, 2021 10:21:18 AM by Bo Bennett, PhD

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Mr Brown writes:

Thanks for your reply.

The argument in context was more like 'I had to post the vote between your choice and my choice or you would have said I was favouring one side.' Yet neither of the choices given had anything to do with me nor represented my view. It was a false dilemma heavily rigged towards one choice which was used to prevent actual discussion. I subsequently found a staggering number of fallacies in the guy's messages leading up to this 'vote' so wondered if this final kind of passing of responsibility with 'What else was I supposed to do?' was also a known rhetorical strategy.

Thanks again.

posted on Wednesday, Feb 17, 2021 10:56:08 AM
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Robert W. Armijo
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Sounds like a question only Shakespeare can best answer.

answered on Wednesday, Feb 17, 2021 08:01:13 AM by Robert W. Armijo

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