Friday, February 11, 2005

More on the "name one" fallacy

Last night after writing about the "name one" fallacy, I got to thinking about it some more. I guess telling somebody to "name one" isn't necessarily a fallacy. It depends on the situation. If you're using "name one" as an argument, then it's a fallacy. But if you're just using "name one" as a request for evidence, then it's not a fallacy.

Suppose I say there are people in Paraguay. If somebody says, "Name one," it could be they're just asking for evidence. If I can name somebody who is in Paraguay, that would prove that there are people in Paraguay. Failure to name one, of course, does not prove that there are no people in Paraguay. As they say, "Absense of evidence is not evidence of absense." That's why "name one" is a fallacy when used as an argument against the other person's view.

But a person might concede that your failure to "name one" doesn't mean your position is false. Instead, they might say your failure to "name one" amounts to a failure to prove that your position is true. If you want to prove your position is true, naming one might be one way to do it, but it's not necessarily the only way to do it.

It's possible to prove there are people in Paraguay without naming anybody. I could just whip out an atlas and show the person some population statistics, and that should be enough to prove there are people in Paraguay unless the person wants to be a snit and demand that I prove the accuracy of the atlas, which they don't really doubt but would rather pretend to doubt rather than admit that I'm right. That was a run-on sentence wasn't it? That's okay, though, because this is a blog, and I can do that if I want to. I love blogging!

But, you see, in the case of the egoist I mentioned in the previous blog, I wasn't out to prove anything. It was he who came to me in order to prove something. So the burden of proof was on him. My failure to "name one" did not prove his case. His was an example of the "name one" fallacy. Whether you demand somebody to "name one" in order to prove your point or disprove their point, it's a fallacy, because it only addresses the other person's state of knowledge, not the issue under consideration.

Now, of course, if the issue under consideration is the other person's state of knowledge, then I guess it's not a fallacy. If I say, "I know the names of five people who think I'm a good singer," and somebody says, "Name one," and I can't do it, then that proves that I don't know the names of those five people.


At 2/06/2015 3:10 PM , Blogger John Brosnan said...



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