Accused of a fallacy? Suspect a fallacy? Ask Dr. Bo and the community!

Quickly register to comment, ask and respond to questions, and get FREE access to our passive online course on cognitive biases!

one moment please...

Homunculus Fallacy

(also known as: homunculus argument, infinite regress)

Description: An argument that accounts for a phenomenon in terms of the very phenomenon that it is supposed to explain, which results in an infinite regress.

Logical Form:

Phenomenon X needs to be explained.

Reason Y is given.

Reason Y depends on phenomenon X.

Example #1:

Bert: How do eyes project an image to your brain?

Ernie: Think of it as a little guy in your brain watching the movie projected by your eyes.

Bert: Ok, but what is happening in the little guy in your head’s brain?

Ernie: Well, think of it as a little guy in his brain watching a movie...

Explanation: This fallacy creates an endless loop that actually explains nothing.  It is fallacious reasoning to accept an explanation that creates this kind of endless loop that lacks any explanatory value.

Example #2:

Dicky: So how do you think life began?

Ralphie: Simple.  Aliens from another planet seeded this planet with life billions of years ago.

Dicky: OK, but how did that alien life form begin?

Ralphie: Simple.  Aliens from another planet seeded that planet with life.

Explanation: This fallacy can be tricky because maybe it is true that aliens are responsible for spreading life, so the answers might be technically right, but the question implied is how life ultimately began, which this form of reasoning will not answer.

Exception: There might be some exceptions that rely on high-level epistemology having to do with a large enough loop and validating feedback.  The important question to ask is, does the explanation have any value and is the question being answered or deflected?


Tulving, E. (2000). Memory, Consciousness, and the Brain: The Tallinn Conference. Psychology Press.

Registered User Comments

Saturday, May 19, 2018 - 03:32:55 PM
Is it the homunculus fallacy if someone says this...

"My heart says yes and my head says no"

Or have you ever watched Dexter, about the serial killer who kills other murderers? He referred to his drive to kill as his reptilian brain. Dexter believed he had one normal mind and a killer reptilian mind in the same body.

Or this...

"I trust you but not the devil inside you."

If someone commits a crime and then blames not himself but the devil inside of himself, is this the fallacy?

login to reply
1 reply
0 votes
Reply To Comment

Bo Bennett, PhD
Saturday, May 19, 2018 - 05:38:58 PM
Those examples are more poetic than argumentative, so I would say no.

login to reply
1 votes
Reply To Comment

Become a Logical Fallacy Master. Choose Your Poison.

Logically Fallacious is one of the most comprehensive collections of logical fallacies with all original examples and easy to understand descriptions; perfect for educators, debaters, or anyone who wants to improve his or her reasoning skills.

Get the book, Logically Fallacious by Bo Bennett, PhD by selecting one of the following options:

Not Much of a Reader? No Problem!

Enroll in the Mastering Logical Fallacies Online Course. Over 10 hours of video and interactive learning. Go beyond the book!

Enroll in the Fallacy-A-Day Passive Course. Sit back and learn fallacies the easy way—in just a few minutes per day, via e-mail delivery.

Have a podcast or know someone who does? Putting on a conference? Dr. Bennett is available for interviews and public speaking events. Contact him directly here.

About Archieboy Holdings, LLC. Privacy Policy Other Books Written by Bo
 Website Software Copyright 2019, Archieboy Holdings, LLC.