Firmitas

Irrelevant conclusion

Revision 1
© 2011-2019 by Zack Smith. All rights reserved.

Irrelevant Conclusion

This is also known as Ignoratio elenchi. It is more clearly stated as irrelevant to the conclusion.

Irrelevant conclusion is a distracting statement, which attempts to justify a conclusion based on an irrelevant issue.

Its form
  • Proposition P fails to establish Proposition Q as true.
  • Therefore the issue is settled.

Ignoratio elenchi is often deployed to discourage inquiry into official misconduct or criminality.

Examples

Some candy is healthy because it is brightly colored. (Brightly colored therefore healthy.)

The buildings collapsed because they were hit by airplanes.

The murders were caused by a lone gunman, end of story: Despite witnesses speaking of multiple shooters.

Most politicians are trustworthy because they are fathers like you, who love their children.

Weaknesses

You can always demand that a definite link be shown between the irrelevant statement and the conclusion.

You can attack the link by showing examples of where it is false, e.g. bright colored candy has been shown to be linked to ADHD.

You can highlight the irrelevance of the first claim by constructing other conditions that support the same conclusion e.g. mafia bosses are fathers who love their children, therefore they are trustworthy? Not.

You can identify a more salient factor that determines the secondary claim e.g. if candy is vitamin-fortified it is more likely to be healthy than if it is merely brightly colored.

Often the arguer will claim special knowledge that tells them that for instance, brightly color candy is indeed very healthy. Call that into question, even if they claim your doing so offends them.