search

Become an active member of our fallacy-discussing community (or just become a lurker!)

Argument from Silence

argumentum e silentio

Description: Drawing a conclusion based on the silence of the opponent, when the opponent is refusing to give evidence for any reason.

Logical Form:

Person 1 claims X is true, then remains silent.

Person 2 then concludes that X must be true.

Example #1:

Jay: Dude, where are my car keys?

Silent Bob: (says nothing)

Jay: I KNEW you took them!

Explanation: Refusal to share evidence is not necessarily evidence for or against the argument. Silent Bob’s silence does not mean he took the keys.  Perhaps he did, or perhaps he knows who did, or perhaps he saw a Tyrannosaurus eat them and was threatened by the king of the pixies not to say anything, or perhaps he just felt like not answering. 

Example #2:

Morris: Oh youthful spirit, you have so much to learn.  I know for a fact that there are multiple dimensions that beings occupy.

Clifton: How can you possibly *know* that for a fact?

Morris: (raises one eyebrow, stares deeply into the eyes of Clifton and says nothing)

Clifton: Wow. You convinced me!

Explanation: The reason this technique works so well, is because imagined reasons are often more persuasive than real reasons.  If someone wants to be convinced, this technique works like a charm.  However, to the critical thinker, this will not fly.  Silence is not a valid substitute for reason or evidence.

Exception: Generally speaking, absence of evidence is not evidence; however, there are many cases where the reason evidence is being held back can be seen as evidence.  In the first example, prompting Silent Bob to share a reason for his silence could result in a statement from Silent Bob that can be used as evidence.

Tip: Silence can be very powerful. In public speaking, knowing when to pause and let the audience digest what you said helps them comprehend your message. In argumentation, a pause after making a solid point can increase the odds your interlocutor(s) will accept the point.

References:

Bernecker, S., & Pritchard, D. (2011). The Routledge Companion to Epistemology. Routledge.

Questions about this fallacy? Ask our community!

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