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Welcome! This is the place to ask the community of experts and other fallacyophites (I made up that word) if someone has a committed a fallacy or not. This is a great way to settle a dispute! This is also the home of the "Mastering Logical Fallacies" student support.


Dr. Bo's Criteria for Logical Fallacies:

  1. It must be an error in reasoning not a factual error.
  2. It must be commonly applied to an argument either in the form of the argument or in the interpretation of the argument.
  3. It must be deceptive in that it often fools the average adult.

Therefore, we will define a logical fallacy as a concept within argumentation that commonly leads to an error in reasoning due to the deceptive nature of its presentation. Logical fallacies can comprise fallacious arguments that contain one or more non-factual errors in their form or deceptive arguments that often lead to fallacious reasoning in their evaluation.

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Logan Jefferson

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Logan Jefferson


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experience
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Mon, Sep 05, 2016 - 02:06 PM

You've never experienced X, so you can't have an opinion on it

This is a common argument I hear, where someone will state their opinion on a given situation, and the other person will say something along the lines of, "Well, you've never [done/experienced] X, so you have no right to [judge/have an opinion/talk about] it. Is this fallacious? The best example I could think of would be:

P1: I think spanking children is wrong.
P2: You've never had children, so you have no right to judge other people's parenting.

(not a jab at parents, this is just the best example of this form I can think of at the moment)



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Bo Bennett, PhD
Author of Logically Fallacious

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Bo Bennett, PhD

Author of Logically Fallacious

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About Bo Bennett, PhD

Bo's personal motto is "Expose an irrational belief, keep a person rational for a day. Expose irrational thinking, keep a person rational for a lifetime."  Much of his charitable work is in the area of education—not teaching people what to think, but how to think.  His projects include his book, The Concept: A Critical and Honest Look at God and Religion, and Logically Fallacious, the most comprehensive collection of logical fallacies.  Bo's personal blog is called Relationship With Reason, where he writes about several topics related to critical thinking.  His secular (humanistic) philosophy is detailed at PositiveHumanism.com.
Bo is currently the producer and host of The Humanist Hour, the official broadcast of the American Humanist Association, where he can be heard weekly discussing a variety of humanistic issued, mostly related to science, psychology, philosophy, and critical thinking.

Full bio can be found at http://www.bobennett.com
Print Mon, Sep 05, 2016 - 02:37 PM
The overall form of the argument is not fallacious in itself, but only applications are. If we take your example and modify it a bit:

Person1: I think spanking children should be avoided because decades of research has demonstrated that children who are spanked have many more psychological issues as adults.

Person 2: You've never had children, so you have no right to judge other people's parenting.

This is a non-sequitur because person 1 isn't making a judgement about parenting; but stating a fact. Person 1 does not have to have experience with parenting to know that spanking a child should be avoided.

Now let's modify this again:

Person1: I think a parent should never spank a child because decades of research has demonstrated that children who are spanked have many more psychological issues as adults.

Person 2: You've never had children, so you don't realize that in some cases, spanking the child could be the lesser of the two evils and therefore is the best course of action.

Perfectly valid point. In this example, the lack of experience of having a child does matter since Person 1 used an absolute statement about spanking.

There is no hard rule here. The key points are 1) make sure that the second person isn't objecting to the wrong issue and 2) decide if experience matters or not based on the argument being made.
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Frank Doonan

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Print Tue, Sep 06, 2016 - 12:39 PM
Correction of a few typos in my response.

I am not sure this would be truly a fallacy, but in classes on communication skills I took the response "I know how you feel." fails in talking to other people with problems, because in reality one does not know how someone else feels. This and other approaches like "feeling for someone, or feeling as some one else feels," are considered sympathetic responses and tend restrict communication and may illicit hostility. It is best to use reflective empathetic phrases that let the other person know you are willing to listen to them. Phrases like; "I can see this has upset you. Do you want to talk about it?"


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Peter Love

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Print Tue, Sep 06, 2016 - 08:57 PM
It seems to me that this has the same form as the argument against celibate priests not being able to give advice to married couples or about to be married couples because they have never been married themselves. The point is not whether someone has had the exact experience but whether someone can relate to the underlying universals of the subject. Marriage is fundamentally about relating to another person and that is what priests can relate to. A fallacy of applying a limitation to a person's capabilities around a specific characteristic of a situation rather than being able to see the underlying human experience.


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mike

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Print Thu, Aug 31, 2017 - 11:21 AM
P1: I think spanking children is wrong.
P2: You've never had children, so you have no right to judge other people's parenting.

I would say the respondent commits a red herring, he shifts the question about whether spanking is wrong to whether only those who parent can speak to issues involving children. I love when people throw in the word "judge" to try and put the other person on the defensive. Anthony Weiner did this brilliantly in the famous bakery argument with the chap waiting in line with him, google it.

P2 also seems to be tacitly implying that he spanks his kid, and uses his response as a kind of get out of a jail card, as if he's saying " if you had to deal with kids you'd lose it too and spank them now and again, youre not a parent so you don't understand" This doesn't address whether its "wrong".

Getting back to P1's question, If there are meta analysis out there on spanking and they argue one way or another that spanking is wrong, one doesn't have to be a parent to conclude that its wrong if its been scientifically researched and the consensus is yes, its harmful overall

The implications of P2's response are that we couldn't trust any report on spanking done by a childless person, say a social scientist, clearly ridiculous.


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Bo Bennett, PhD
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Wednesday, August 30, 2017 - 07:39:52 AM
Just wanted to respond to an anonymous comment...

Comment: Sorry but this answer is wrong, and I am really surprised that someone who wrote a book on logical fallacies could give it.

Please consider the possibility that you are wrong, and the person who writes books on fallacies and studies them for a living does know what he is taking about. And you might want to Google the cognitive bias know as the pseudocertainty effect.

The validity of an argument should be assessed on its own merits alone and not on the experience or any other attributes of the person uttering the argument,

You don't mean "validity" because we are not talking about a formal argument. When we are dealing with informal logical fallacies, context matters since the fallacy is not one of form (i.e., a syllogism). Example given below.

...since this is ad hominem.

This is not an ad hominem, it would be a real stretch to make the argument that it is.

Therefore "you have never experienced it" when used as an argument is ALWAYS a logical fallacy.

Your conclusion does not follow what you have been saying; it is a non sequitur. Here's why:

The validity of an argument should be assessed on its own merits alone
Notice your use of the word "should." At best your conclusion could contain "should," not an "ALWAYS."
...since this is ad hominem
Let's pretend this is an ad hominem. You are begging the question that an ad hominem is a fallacy of form and context independent (i.e., any other attributes of the person uttering the argument are irrelevant). From Wikipedia Wikipedia:

However, in some cases, ad hominem attacks can be non-fallacious; i.e., if the attack on the character of the person is directly tackling the argument itself. For example, if the truth of the argument relies on the truthfulness of the person making the argument—rather than known facts—then pointing out that the person has previously lied is not a fallacious argument.

So in other words, the attributes of the person uttering the argument (the fact that they are a known liar) is relevant.

Now your conclusion:

Therefore "you have never experienced it" when used as an argument is ALWAYS a logical fallacy.

All we need is one example to prove your absolute claim false. Here is one.

Person 1: The experience of having sex with supermodel is the greatest experience I can ever had!
Person 2: You are a virgin. You have never experienced it.

Person 2 was not unreasonable is his rebuttal. The fact that person 1 has not experienced what they claim to be the greatest experience they can have, is a problem.

I do agree with "an argument should be assessed on its own merits," which is a good heuristic when it comes to assessing arguments. However, we need to go beyond that to consider nuance and exceptions. And it is important to know the difference between formal and informal arguments and their associated fallacies.

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