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Appeal to Consequences

argumentum ad consequentiam

(also known as: appeal to consequences of a belief, argument to the consequences, argument from [the] consequences)

Description: Concluding that an idea or proposition is true or false because the consequences of it being true or false are desirable or undesirable.  The fallacy lies in the fact that the desirability is not related to the truth value of the idea or proposition.  This comes in two forms: the positive and negative. 

Logical Forms:

X is true because if people did not accept X as being true then there would be negative consequences.

 

X is false because if people did not accept X as being false, then there would be negative consequences.

 

X is true because accepting that X is true has positive consequences.

 

X is false because accepting that X is false has positive consequences.

Example (positive):

If there is objective morality, then good moral behavior will be rewarded after death.  I want to be rewarded; therefore, morality must be objective.

Example (negative):

If there is no objective morality, then all the bad people will not be punished for their bad behavior after death.  I don’t like that; therefore, morality must be objective.

Explanation: The fact that one wants to be rewarded, or wants other people to suffer, says nothing to the truth claim of objective morality.  These examples are also begging the question that there is life after death.

Exception: If it is understood by both parties that an argument is not being made, rather it is a warning based on possibilities, and the person issuing the warning acknowledges it is not evidence for the claim, then there is no fallacy.  The problem is virtually every such warning has an implied argument, so it is very debatable what is fallacious or not.

Tip: Realize that you can deal with reality, no matter what that reality turns out to be.  You don’t need to hide from it—face it and embrace it.

References:

Walton, D. (1999). Historical Origins of Argumentum ad Consequentiam. Argumentation, 13(3), 251–264. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1007779527544



Registered User Comments

Jacob
Friday, May 03, 2019 - 04:59:51 PM
I was at work today (I am an arborist) and a homeowner told us that he had accidentally removed a healthy tree which he thought was diseased. My boss consoled him, saying that this undiseased tree may have become diseased later and fallen on his house. That is obviously not right, because this is the same as saying that all healthy trees should be cut down because they might become unhealthy later. That would mean cutting down all trees.

I have heard another one about murder. Say you accidentally shoot an innocent person thinking they are a murderer. Upon finding that the recently deceased is not a murderer, your console yourself with the rationalization that he probably would have become a murderer later. That means you should shoot all people.

I read your post about Reductio Ad Consequentia. From what I understand, the examples I gave are appeal to consequence fallacies and the way to root them out is by applying this tool: Reductio Ad Consequentia.

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Bo Bennett, PhD
Friday, May 03, 2019 - 05:06:07 PM
Your examples here work well with the Reductio Ad Consequentia test, but I am not sure they are good examples of appealing to the consequences. True or false is bit different from good or bad actions. What you describe deal more with that... moral actions then with truth. That is my initial thought on this but perhaps I am not seeing in the same way you are.

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Jacob
Friday, May 03, 2019 - 05:42:07 PM
@Bo Bennett, PhD: Are there other fallacies which would fit my examples better?

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Bo Bennett, PhD
Friday, May 03, 2019 - 07:38:29 PM
@Jacob: Perhaps appeal to possibility fallacy combined with rationalization.

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Neil Brooks
Friday, October 25, 2019 - 10:09:17 AM
Sometimes in our efforts to ease the emotional pain of others we can lose sight of or forget logic/sense and will say things that do not really make sense, at least not in a critical way.

It matters not to most folks, if what they are hearing makes sense in a critical fashion, the fact that someone has taken the time and effort to speak to them, and notice their discomfort, is enough in that moment.

If the statement were being made as a statement of fact, then it would be something to debate.

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