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Encyclopedia > Ignoratio elenchi

Ignoratio elenchi (also known as irrelevant conclusion or irrelevant thesis) is the formal fallacy of presenting an argument that may in itself be valid, but doesn't address the issue in question. "Ignoratio elenchi" can be roughly translated by ignorance of refutation, that is, ignorance of what a refutation is; "elenchi" is from the Greek έλεγχος, meaning an argument of disproof or refutation. In philosophy, a formal fallacy or a logical fallacy is a pattern of reasoning which is always wrong. ... In psychology a conclusion is said to be valid, if and only if, it is based on true premises. ... Elenchos (Greek: , a cross-examination for the purpose of refutation), sometimes spelt elenchus, is the central technique of the Socratic method. ...

(Some sources give by ignorance of the issues or even by ignoring the issues as a translation of ignoratio elenchi. This is linguistically impossible as a translation of the Latin phrase.)

Aristotle believed that an ignoratio elenchi is a mistake made by a questioner while attempting to refute a respondent's argument. He called it an ignorance of what makes for a refutation. For Aristotle, then, ignoratio elenchi amounts to ignorance of logic. In fact, Aristotle goes so far as to say that all logical fallacies can be reduced to what he calls ignoratio elenchi. Aristotle (Greek: Aristotélēs) (384 BC – 322 BC) was a Greek philosopher, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. ...

Modern use limits this term much more narrowly to the kind of mistake described in the first paragraph above.


Red herring

Similar to ignoratio elenchi, a red herring is an argument, given in reply, that does not address the original issue. Critically, a red herring is a deliberate attempt to change the subject or divert the argument. Look up red herring in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ...

Tu quoque

Tu quoque, Latin for "And you too!", is another deliberate diversion from the original issue. It asserts that the advice or argument must be false simply because the person presenting the advice doesn't follow it himself. Tu quoque is frequently seen in conjunction with an ad hominem argument, when the assertion implies wrongdoing on the part of the presenter. An ad hominem argument, also known as argumentum ad hominem (Latin, literally argument to the man), is 1) a logical fallacy that involves replying to an argument or assertion by addressing the person presenting the argument or assertion rather than the argument itself; 2) an argument pointing out an inconsistency... Look up ad hominem in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ...


  • Baseball player Mark McGwire just retired. He's such a nice guy, and he gives a lot of money to all sorts of charities. Clearly, he will end up in the Hall of Fame.

The conclusion is ignoratio elenchi, since friendliness and charity are not qualifications for induction into the Hall of Fame. Mark David McGwire (born October 1, 1963 in Pomona, California) is a former professional baseball player who played the majority of his major league career with the Oakland Athletics before finishing his final years with the St. ... The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, located at 25 Main Street in Cooperstown, New York, is a semi-official museum operated by private interests serving as the central point for the study of the history of baseball in the United States and beyond, the display of baseball-related...

  • I should not pay a fine for reckless driving. There are actual dangerous criminals on the street, and the police should be chasing them instead of harassing a decent tax-paying citizen like me.

The existence of worse criminals is a secondary issue which has no bearing on whether the driver deserves a fine for recklessness. If the speaker was deliberately attempting to divert the issue, this would be an example of a red herring. While the argument about how the police should spend their time may have merit, the question of whom the police should prioritize pursuing and the question of what should be done with those the police have caught are separate questions.

  • The premier's tax policies may be popular, but I suspect he had an affair and is paying the woman to keep quiet. The media should investigate that!

A red herring, the unrelated alleged affair, attempts to change the subject away from the popular policies. However, if the original discussion was of the premier's public integrity (encompassing both popularity and conduct), this argument could be perfectly valid.

  • Thomas Jefferson argued that slavery was wrong and should be abolished, but since Jefferson himself owned slaves, it clearly was not wrong.

An example of tu quoque: slavery was either right or wrong, regardless of Jefferson's actions. The validity or truth-value of Jefferson's argument is not affected by his participation in slavery.

See also

An enthymeme is a syllogism (a three-part deductive argument) with an unstated assumption which must be true for the premises to lead to the conclusion. ... Johnnie Cochran using the Chewbacca Defense against Chef in South Park. ...

External links

  Results from FactBites:
Ignoratio Elenchi (620 words)
Ignoratio Elenchi (irrelevant conclusion): the fallacy of proving a conclusion not pertinent and quite different from that which was intended or required.
Ignoratio elenchi is a name used for arguments whose premisses have no direct relation on the claim at issue.
Ignoratio elenchi will be used in a special sense in these notes as a "catch-all" classification for fallacies of irrelevance which do not clearly fit into the other fallacies outlined here.
Reference.com/Encyclopedia/Ignoratio elenchi (578 words)
Ignoratio elenchi (also known as irrelevant conclusion) is the logical fallacy of presenting an argument that may in itself be valid, but which proves or supports a different proposition than the one it is purporting to prove or support.
Aristotle believed that an ignoratio elenchi is a mistake made by a questioner while attempting to refute a respondent's argument.
Similarly to ignoratio elenchi, a red herring is an argument, given in reply, that does not address the original issue.
  More results at FactBites »



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