Logical Fallacy Lesson 3: Non Sequitor
Logical Fallacy Lesson 3, Non Sequitor
Category: Religion and Philosophy
Non Sequitor is Latin for "It does not follow." When someone says "It does not follow" in Latin, they are basically accusing you of a logical error, the logical fallacy of Non Sequitor.
Now, I knew tons and tons of the logical fallacies long before I knew any of their titles or Latin translations. I'd know when someone was saying ad hominem or post hoc ergo propter hoc, I didn't know the Latin words, nor even categorize those logical fallacies, but I called them out when I heard them in debates.
I later learned that they had their own titles and categories, and I now use those titles and categories, because they're obviously helpful. When you categorize and give titles to logical errors, it makes them so much easier to refute (although annoying to some after a while).
I use to just say things like, "That's completely stupid! My reasons for debating dont impact the validity of my argument! Attack my argument, not me!"
Then I later learned, "That's ad hominem."
I knew the fallacy non Sequitor in that way, but I couldn't even find words to come back to it. When I heard this unfortunately common fallacy, I'd be stunned at the sheer idiocy of it. And in debate, that doesn't look good. I'd go, "...What?!" And just being confused, which I was, isn't helping my side, just making me look like I'm "caught." Even though I knew I was still right and my opponent hadn't yet changed it, I had no way of explaining it.
"What? Huh? I don't know where you're going with that... How does that have to do with...? Could you repeat that?"
And I hated it, I hated having a weakness. Someone could just say something completely ridiculous and I couldn't even begin to refute it.
During a huge class discussion on the Bible being "real" or not, I was kicking ass until someone said, "I believe in the Bible because of really old buildings that were found in Norway!"
I just sat there, mouth half open, staring at the dip.
Mr. Wold stopped the argument there and we went on to another, but if I had only known how to come back to that professionally. My "what the hell are you trying to say?" response is actually logically sound and correct, but it isn't impressive like coming back to an argument you know in LATIN is.
Someone, the negative position in a debate about whether or not we should drill for oil on the ANWR, I asked the question, "Do you drive a car?" I had a trap for him ready. I had all possible squirms he could ever think of thought of myself, and traps behind all them as well. Nothing he could try to say could save him, I would catch him good.
But he went on this rant that made no sense whatsoever. I hadn't slept that night (researching for the Gor Ramn debate) and I just wanted to get to my Rebuttal so I could make statements again, so I just gave up on it.
"Uhhh... Okay... Whatever..."
I won the debate, but Mr. Wold critisized me on a weak cross examination.
What my opponent had done was make a Red Herring, but also, like all Red Herrings, had made a Non Sequitor.
Most Non Sequitor are Red Herrings.
All Red Herrings are Non Sequitor.
They're very similar and go hand in hand. My last Logical Fallacy Lesson was on Red Herrings if you want to know what those are. To sum it up, Red Herrings are things introduced into the debate to distract or avoid the argument or topic at hand.
But this one is about Non Sequitor. What is Non Sequitor? It's "it does not follow." It is something that does not make any damn sense. You might KINDA know where they are TRYING to go with what they say, but if they don't link between what they say and their conclusion - then they are guilty of non Sequitor - either on purpose or on accident.
This is a pretty perfect example of a Non Sequitor:
"Smoking should be banned because I saw a red truck drive by me yesterday."
I think it's obvious what is logically fallacious about that statement. And the name for that logical error is Non Sequitor. How the hell does a truck driving by you explain why smoking should be banned? They didn't explain how! It did not follow. They did not link to their conclusion. Non Sequitor.
Sometimes it is on purpose when someone makes a Non Sequitor. Sometimes they're just saying a bunch of junk to get the questioner off of them and confuse to audience. It doesn't matter to them if they have a good answer - if they just make a lot of random, miss-mash, then the audience will assume he had a very well thought through response, even though it didn't make any God Damn sense. If you don't understand what the hell your opponent said, don't feel ashamed. Just ask them to explain it again. If they don't link to their conclusion, accuse them of Non Sequitor. The audience will not be confused on what's going on anymore, I promise.
Other times it is on accident. They forget or neglect to link to their conclusion, or they plan to later, or they just didn't do a good job at explaining it. Don't be afraid, just ask them to clarify. If they can't, accuse them of Non Sequitor.
"I know God exists because artifacts were found in such-and-such location."
You can kiiiinnndddaaa see where they are trying to go with that, so help them along. "How do artifacts prove God? Do they match up with something the Bible says? How does that prove anything other than that one part of the Bible?"
And if they deserve it, hit them with the Non Sequitor.
I like the name of this fallacy, by the way.
And many people know what Non Sequitor means who don't even know about logical fallacies - to many it's like an every day word. So it's a pretty cool fallacy pointer-outer. And it's hella common. If I had to vote on a most common fallacy, it'd be up between Red Herring and Non Sequitor, because more other fallacies also meet the definition of those fallacies. Once other logical fallacies don't appropriately link to the conclusions they assert with them, like ad hominem doesn't link to how someone's argument is wrong, these other fallacies are ALSO Non Sequitor. Whenever someone says something you just know is stupid, stop to think for a second, "Is this also a Non Sequitor?"
And finally, I'll leave you with another example of Non Sequitor. This is also obviously a Red Herring, for he is trying to dodge replying to the other side's arguments, but I think it's an even better example of Non Sequitor. It does not follow.
Cochran: Ladies and gentlemen of this supposed jury, Chef's attorney would certainly want you to believe that his client wrote "Stinky Britches" ten years ago. And they make a good case. Hell, I almost felt pity myself! But, ladies and gentlemen of this supposed jury, I have one final thing I want you to consider. Ladies and gentlemen, this is Chewbacca. Chewbacca is a Wookiee from the planet Kashyyyk. But Chewbacca lives on the planet Endor. Now think about it; that does not make sense!
Gerald Broflovski: Dammit!
Gerald: He's using the Chewbacca Defense!
Cochran: Why would a Wookiee, an eight-foot tall Wookiee, want to live on Endor, with a bunch of two-foot tall Ewoks? That does not make sense! But more important, you have to ask yourself: What does this have to do with this case? Nothing. Ladies and gentlemen, it has nothing to do with this case! It does not make sense! Look at me. I'm a lawyer defending a major record company, and I'm talkin' about Chewbacca! Does that make sense? Ladies and gentlemen, I am not making any sense! None of this makes sense! And so you have to remember, when you're in that jury room deliberatin' and conjugatin' the Emancipation Proclamation, [approaches and softens] does it make sense? No! Ladies and gentlemen of this supposed jury, it does not make sense! If Chewbacca lives on Endor, you must acquit! The defense rests.
Video of the Chewbacca Defense
Samuel Thomas Poling: Blog 114, Logical Fallacy Lesson 3, Non Sequitor