Conversational Fallacies: Absolutes


Certified Shitlord
I know I can't be the only one that sees this, but one of the biggest problems in SD is the speech pattern. People tend to talk in absolutes which is rarely a good idea. I'll give an example:

With Absolutes:

"Boys are messy, smelly, and stupid."

This statement is fallacious because it seems to suggest that all "boys" are smelly, stupid, and messy. Speaking this way is only going to confuse and anger people since it comes off as a generalization.

Without Absolutes

"Some boys are messy, smelly, and stupid."

Chances are, this is how you really meant it. Everyone knows that not all boys are the three mentioned adjectives (although we all tend to fit in at least one) so why sound like it? Conversations and debates go much smoother if you add simple language to your statements and prevents people from seeing you as a sweeping, presumptuous cock rag.

Irish people drink way too much

can become:

A lot of Irish people drink way too much


Irish people tend to drink way too much.

By adding in simple words and phrases, you clarify that you're not applying labels and statements to an entire group. Say the above conversation takes place where someone says, "Irish people drink too much." Now, the other person wants to know how they know this. Then, the other person can say, "Only some of them." So why not just skip a possibly lengthy detour and just say, "Some Irish people drink too much" and then continue on?

Maybe I'm a bit off in my explanations, but I've seen a lot of people on this board do it. Such paraphrased examples include:

Children are dumb

Conservatives are Christians


Bottom line is that those sorts of things ruin a conversation and piss people off because they're nothing more than sweeping generalizations even though they're not what you intended.


For a Free Scotland
The thing to remember with absolutes is that just because a statement is falsifiable doesn't make it a bad point. The doctrine of falsification (that you can find one thing that violates a statement) often fails to grasp that generalities aren't rhetorically flawed in many ways.

In terms of competitive debate, it boils down to whether using weaker language (some, most, many) is more harmful than being technically incorrect. Since the people that form absolutes regularly tend to make silly ones, this dichotomy doesn't really apply (your argument sucks just as bad whether making an absolute or not). But for intermediates and up, it's something to consider.