What kind of fallacy is X happens to everyone therefore X is not a problem.

An example of this fallacy is when saying laws in the US disproportionately affect a group of people. Then someone says “every law disproportionately affects people.”

asked on Friday, Jul 30, 2021 09:31:16 PM by quise

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I don't see any clear fallacy with the form (X happens to everyone therefore X is not a problem), although your example might contain the nirvana fallacy (i.e., in a perfect world, all laws would affect all people equally. We do not live in such a world, therefore, let's not bother trying to make the laws better so they affect people more proportionally).

There really is no argument here, so it may be premature to call fallacy. If someone claims that laws in the US disproportionately affect a group of people, the follow-up should be "so what's your point?" or perhaps the more diplomatic "Assuming that is the case, what do you suggest the goal should be?" Then, we might see if the arguer is holding to an impossible standard in some idealized society. If this is the case, the problem would be with their ignorance of the law more than with general reason. I would suspect that there is a very nuanced and domain-specific argument to be had about what it means when a law disproportionately affects people and if it is problematic. If a law is in place for murder, we know that this "disproportionately affects" men, but is this a problem with the law, or with men? We know that the crack/cocaine laws disproportionately affect people of color due to socioeconomic issues, which is far more clear that it is a problem with the law than with the group being most negatively affected. So “every law disproportionately affects people,” could be seen as a non sequitur because it is ultimately irrelevant.

answered on Saturday, Jul 31, 2021 06:47:03 AM by Bo Bennett, PhD

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There isn't really an argument in these two statements, so technically there's no fallacious argument.  

Perhaps the two statements are simply an example of deductive reasoning.  If we accept the first statement as true (laws affect a group of people), then we must accept the second statement (laws affect people) – although perhaps the second statement is merely a more concise re-statement of the first, in which case the two are just expressions of the same opinion.

However, if we assume that the two individuals are trying to convince each other of something (as they might in a complete argument) there are some things they could do to move toward a solid argument and make that argument logically valid.

First of all, quantifiers would be helpful.  Which laws are being described?  All laws? Just some of them?  Laws about ....?

Then, we need to make assumptions clear.  If laws to disproportionately affect a particular group, is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Also, we need to agree on how we define proportionate and disproportionate effects.

For example, if we limit the laws under discussion to traffic laws about maximum speeds, it's probably correct to say that those laws have a disproportionate direct impact on speeders while offering some general benefit to everyone else on the roads.  I suspect many folks would say it's a good thing for these laws to have different effects for speeders and non-speeders.

On the other hand, if we follow some current discussions about how certain societal groups are more likely to run afoul of law enforcement, we can probably find some laws that impact group A differently from group B.  Such examples, assuming we can agree on what similar and different effects look like can serve as evidence of disproportionate treatment and help us determine if the situation is a good thing or a bad thing.

Of course, perhaps the two statements simply make up a tautology: in the grammatical sense since they essentially say the same thing and in the logical sense since the uniqueness of individuals means that the impact of anything (laws included) will of necessity be different (at least in some tiny way) for all of us.  

answered on Saturday, Jul 31, 2021 12:24:15 PM by Arlo

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richard smith

"X happens to everyone" - most likely is an assumption. Very few things happens to everyone.

"X happens to everyone therefore X is not a problem." is not really an argument. Maybe an excuse? Not a problem for who?

"laws in the US disproportionately affect a group of people. Then someone says “every law disproportionately affects people.”" - not really and argument. Unclear on the subject here. Is the subject all laws or specific laws? Is the problem with the law or something about those groups?



answered on Sunday, Aug 01, 2021 09:30:24 AM by richard smith

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quise writes:

It’s specific laws. Like laws associated with the War on Drugs that disproportionately arrested and incarcerated people of color despite they use and sell drugs at similar rates compared to white people.

posted on Sunday, Aug 01, 2021 01:50:35 PM
richard smith writes:

[To quise]

than that is an issue with how the law is apply and not the law itself or having laws. I would say the reply "every law disproportionately affects people."  is more of an excuse and does not address the issue. maybe a red herring or no sequitur. Maybe even A Holmesian fallacy.

[ login to reply ] posted on Sunday, Aug 01, 2021 02:26:50 PM
Kostas Oikonomou

The argument is that because it is normal/common, it is not bad. If it was up to me I would name that fallacy appeal to normality  . Unfortunately that name has been reserved for social norms only (and to be honest I find that highly misleading). I can't imagine any other name more suitable for it. 

Also, since the normality of something is irrelevant to its goodness and therefore to if it is troublesome or not, that argument is also non sequitur .

answered on Sunday, Aug 01, 2021 09:58:19 AM by Kostas Oikonomou

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