Logical Fallacy Lesson 11: Argument From Personal Incredulity

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Logical Fallacy Lesson 11: Argument From Personal Incredulity
Category: Religion and Philosophy


Samuel Thomas Poling, Blog 139, Logical Fallacy Lesson 11, Argument From Personal Incredulity

LFL1: Argumentum Ad Hominem
LFL2: Red Herring
LFL3: Non Sequitor
LFL4: Bald Assertion
LFL5: Ad Hoc
LFL6: Argumentum Ad Nauseum
LFL7: Appeal to Faith
LFL8: Appeal to Emotion
LFL9: Shifting the Burden of Proof
LFL10: Argumentum Ad Ignorantiam
And Now LFL11: Argument From Personal Incredulity

First off, I am considering this as the third part of my ninth logical fallacy lesson. So to fully understand this area of fallacy I'd read my 137th blog, and then my 138th blog, before you read this blog (my 139th). So go read Logical Fallacy Lesson 9: Shifting the Burden of Proof, followed by Logical Fallacy Lesson 8: Argumentum ad Ignorantiam, then this blog, Logical Fallacy Lesson 11: Argument From Personal Incredulity.

Both "Shifting the Burden of Proof" and "Argument From Personal Incredulity" are sub categories of the fallacy "Argumentum ad Ignorantiam."

I've already covered "Shifting the Burden of Proof" and the broader "Argumentum ad Ignorantiam," so now I shall go into the "Argument From Personal Incredulity" fallacy.

A fallacy is an error in logical reasoning, but being incredulous isn't necessarily illogical. As a matter of fact, generally, it's logical. The fallacy of making an argument from incredulity (disbelief) is when, how, why, the way, and for what reason you make your appeal to disbelief. You either have a logical reason for your disbelief, or you don't. The fallacy is when you don't.

As a matter of fact, the fallacy is an avoidance of arguing at all. The appeal to disbelief is fallacious when, in spite of everything your opponent said, you simply claim you just "don't understand" and therefore "it can't be true."

It comes most commonly in the forms:

"I just don't see how..."
"It's a little difficult for me to grasp..."
"Just the idea seems very unlikely to me."

As a matter of fact, I'm taking this as a Red Herring fallacy as well. A Red Herring fallacy is when you try to divert from the subject/question/arguments at hand without properly responding to them. That's exactly what this is doing.

Say I explain to someone; let's say his name is Mike, evolution. I explain the reasoning behind it, I explain the fossil record, I explain it all, and pretty much prove beyond a reasonable doubt that evolution happened. And mike says:

"I just don't see how a fish can become a monkey."

He is ignoring my evidence. He is ignoring the fossils. He is ignoring the logic. He is just saying, "I can't comprehend it, therefore it's wrong."

However, just because someone can't understand isn't evidence of anything (other than maybe their own stupidity). I don't care how unlikely you think it is, I don't care how much little you comprehend it. I don't. Hell, you might even be choosing to ignore what I'm saying. If I've proven it, I've proven it. You will respond to my arguments, or you will lose this debate and I will have proven my assertion past your ability to question it.

Just saying, "I don't understand" all debate long isn't pointing out any flaws in my reasoning, nor is it filling any holes in yours. It is unless, and if you aver otherwise then you are guilty of fallacy.

Just because you don't understand it doesn't mean it isn't so.

Don't get me wrong, doubt is a good thing... But you doubt the reasoning, you don't ignore it. Nor will you say that it's false because you couldn't follow it.

If you truly cannot understand what they're talking about, there isn't anything wrong with that - it might be their fault. Just don't say they're automatically wrong in the debate because of it. Ask for clarification. As for what their argument is.

Maybe it isn't your ability to understand but it is their ability to explain. In which case they cannot prove their side of the debate - for they're not speaking the English language. If they clarify the best the can for you, then you should understand. Whether or not it's correct or logical, you should at least understand what they're trying to say.

What you come to understand might even by Non Sequitor. Calling out a Non Sequitor is not being guilty of an Argument From Personal Incredulity - For being Non Sequitor would mean they failed to provide a link to their conclusion. You having difficulty understanding them in that case would not be your fault and yes, it would mean they haven't proven their side of the debate yet.

Just make sure you know it's their inability to reason or explain that's the problem, and not your inability to listen or understand.

Non Sequitor v.s. Argument From Personal Incredulity can happen - Just be prepared to prove to them that they didn't link to their conclusion if you hope to pin a Non Sequitor fallacy on them. Elseif they can pin an Argument From Personal Incredulity fallacy on you.
Because, yes, "I didn't understand how you linked to your conclusion," would be the fallacy of Argument From Personal Incredulity if they had a link that you failed to hear or understand.

If yer the guy (or girl) who is being accused of Non Sequitor, it's up to you to remind and explain your link. If you hadn't explained the link to your conclusion before hand then apologize for you previous Non Sequitor and move on in the debate. If they keep pushing your past Non Sequitor on you, then remind them you corrected the error and accuse them of argumentum ad logicam for lingering on your past error (I'll explain that fallacy in a later blog. Argumentum ad logicam is when someone keeps trying to say you are wrong, or you lost the debate, because of a past mistake you've made).

If you are being accused of Non Sequitor and you did explain your link full and well, then restate the link and accuse them of an Argument From Personal Incredulity. If they repeat their claim of your argument being Non Sequitor, accuse them of Argumentum ad Nauseum - a fallacy I explained in Logical Fallacy Lesson 6 - The fallacy of repeating yourself even though your argument has already been refuted.

Okay, anyways, to summarize the fallacy of Argument From Personal Incredulity:

Just because you don't understand something doesn't mean it isn't so.

Samuel Thomas Poling, Blog 139, Logical Fallacy Lesson 11, Argument From Personal Incredulity