fallacy of intended use

On a Youtube channel . . the presenter offers the 'fallacy of intended use', i.e. if A is intended for purpose B, it is immoral to use it for any other purpose. Is there another name for this?
asked on Tuesday, Oct 08, 2019 07:07:15 AM by Dave

Top Categories Suggested by Community


Want to get notified of all questions as they are asked? Update your mail preferences and turn on "Instant Notification."

Reason: Books I & II

This book is based on the first five years of The Dr. Bo Show, where Bo takes a critical thinking-, reason-, and science-based approach to issues that matter with the goal of educating and entertaining. Every chapter in the book explores a different aspect of reason by using a real-world issue or example.

Part one is about how science works even when the public thinks it doesn't. Part two will certainly ruffle some feathers by offering a reason- and science-based perspective on issues where political correctness has gone awry. Part three provides some data-driven advice for your health and well-being. Part four looks at human behavior and how we can better navigate our social worlds. In part five we put on our skeptical goggles and critically examine a few commonly-held beliefs. In the final section, we look at a few ways how we all can make the world a better place.

Get 20% off this book and all Bo's books*. Use the promotion code: websiteusers

* This is for the author's bookstore only. Applies to autographed hardcover, audiobook, and ebook.

Get the Book


I don't know about a name for the fallacy, but a fallacy it is, in my opinion.

A screwdriver is intended for driving screws. If I use a screwdriver to open a paint can, I might damage the screwdriver, but I haven't done anything immoral.

The other days, I used a house key to pry open a key ring. Not the key's intended use, but not immoral.

Suppose gas tax money is used to build a light rail commuter system instead of highways. The highway lobby would consider that to be immoral, but I would not. It sounds fine to me.

The science of statistics was first developed to help gamblers win money. Today, statistics are used to designs airplanes and conduct opinion polls. That's not immoral. In fact, it's a better use of statistics than helping gamblers.

Great question.
answered on Tuesday, Oct 08, 2019 07:20:32 AM by Bill


Bo Bennett, PhD
Hmm, that sounds pretty specific. It is strange to associate morality with how something is used rather than the effect it has on well-being. For example, a kitchen knife was intended to cut food, but to use it to murder a person is immoral. This is immoral because the act of murder is immoral, not because of the unintended use. I never heard of anything similar. To me, this wouldn't pass my first test to qualify as a named fallacy... "It must be an error in reasoning not a factual error." I guess I would need to see some common examples.
answered on Tuesday, Oct 08, 2019 07:20:41 AM by Bo Bennett, PhD


The inclusion of a possible moral argument would seem to apply to the genitalia and their alleged purposes. The genitals are biologically designed for elimination and procreation. Some moral systems argue that to use them for anything else e.g. pleasure, stimulation, onanism, sexual ritual, etc. would be immoral. This would certainly be a pseudo-logical fallacy akin to Appeal to Morality, Appeal to Belief, or an Appeal to Religion.

There are many examples in both human, and animal species with no specific moral taboos, or non Western beliefs, who either self-pleasure or engage in orgiastic practices for both moral, anti-moral, and amoral purposes. (Bonobo chimps, Swingers, Tantric yogis, Satanists, mystery schools, etc).

There are even some Christian schools that practice group sexual rituals as a highly "moral" expression of their Christianity.
St. Epiphanius (c 315 -402 AD) wrote about the practices of an early Christian sect known as the Phibionites:

"[T]heir women, they share in common and when anyone arrives who might be alien to their doctrine, the men and women have a sign by which they make themselves known to each other. When they extend their hands, apparently in greeting, they tickle the other's palm in a certain way and so discover whether the new arrival belongs to their cult. When they have so assured themselves, they address themselves immediately to the feast serving up lavish bounty of meats and wines, even though they may be poor. And when they have thus banqueted, filling their veins, so to say, to saturation they proceed to the work of mutual incitement. Husbands separate from their wives, and a man will say to his spouse: "Arise and celebrate the love feast (agape) with thy brother." And the wretches mingle with each other, and although I am verily mortified to tell of the infamies they perpetrate, I shall not hesitate to name what they do not hesitate to do, so that I may rouse in those who hear of the obscenities to which they make bold, a shudder of horror. For after they have consorted together in a passionate, debauch, they do not stop there in the blasphemy of heaven. The woman and the man take the man's ejaculation into their hands, stand up, throw back their heads in self-denial toward heaven- and even with that impurity on their palms pretend to pray: "We bring to Thee this oblation. Which is the Body of Christ." Whereupon, without further ado, they consume it, take housel of their own shame and say, "This is the Body of Christ, the Paschal sacrifice through which our bodies suffer and are forced to confess to the sufferings of Christ." And when the woman is in her period, they do likewise with her menstruation. The uncleanflow of blood, which they garner, they take up in the same way and eat together. And that they say, is Christ's blood... "...Yet, in their intercourse with each other they nevertheless prohibit conception. For the goal of their corruption is not the begetting of children but the mere gratification of lust..."

answered on Tuesday, Oct 08, 2019 10:18:10 AM by mchasewalker