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Logical Fallacy of Defining Terms Too Narrowly

 

Logical Fallacy of Defining Terms Too Narrowly

Definint terms too narrowly is one of the many smokescreens that are used to cover the fact that the reasoning is based on one of the three fallacies of Agrippa's trilemma. Whenever a logical fallacy is committed, the fallacy has its roots in Agrippa's trilemma. All human thought (without Divine revelation) is based on one of three unhappy possibilities. These three possibilities are infinite regress, circular reasoning, or axiomatic thinking. This problem is known as Agrippa's trilemma. Some have claimed that only logic and math can be known without Divine revelation; however, that is not true. There is no reason to trust either logic or math without Divine revelation. Science is also limited to the pragmatic because of the weakness on human reasoning, which is known as Agrippa's trilemma. This is a fallacy that superimposes another level of fallacy on top or one or more of the three fallacies of Agrippa's trilemma.

The logical fallacy of too narrow definition of terms occurs when terms are defined so narrowly that people, items, things, or concepts are excluded when they should not be. Note that this fallacy is very similar to the "No True Scotsman" fallacy. It's a way to manipulate the argument to exclude or omit relevant examples from a sample and create a false impression.

Examples of the Logical Fallacy of Too Narrow Definition of Terms

Sandy: "How come no articles supporting creation are ever published in peer-reviewed scientific journals?"

Rocky: "The secular/atheist-controlled, peer-reviewed scientific journals reject any articles that mention creation or God unless they are mentioned in a negative, regardless of the scientific validity of the article. However, there are peer-reviewed scientific journals that will accept papers that don't arbitrarily limit inquiry to an atheistic worldview."

Sandy: "Those aren't real peer-reviewed scientific journals."

By limiting the definition of what can be a peer-reviewed scientific journal, Sandy is defining terms too narrowly. By doing so, Sandy creates the false impression that no scientific articles supporting creation are published in peer-reviewed journals, when, in fact, all that Sandy has done has been to use deceptive language.

Sandy: "Every single scientist agrees that evolution is scientific fact."

Rocky: "Organizations such as CMI, ICR, or AIG employ many scientists who believe that God created the Heavens and the Earth in six days. And there are many other qualified, PhD scientists who don't buy into the evolution story."

Sandy: "If they don't buy into Darwin, they are not scientists."

Sandy's premise has become a circular argument through a very narrow definition of the word, scientist to only include evolutionists. Another example of this same argument is, "There is a test that real scientists must take to show that they are real, and the test requires that they recognize evolution to pass the test. Therefore, only evolutionists are real scientists."

Rocky: "Christianity has had a positive historical influence. The atrocities of the Crusades can't be counted because those people who did that weren't really Christians."

Sandy: "You are trying to defend Christianity as a positive historical influence and now you say that the atrocities of the eight Crusades do not “count” in an argument because the Crusaders weren’t living up to Christian ideals, and thus aren’t really Christians. That is the fallacy of defining terms to narrowly."

Sandy is right. Rocky is defining Christianity too narrowly unless he begins by stating that only those who are led by Christ are part of Christianity. However, that is not how the word, Christianity is used in the culture. Christianity is a broadly defined word. It is too broad to have a meaningful conversation regarding it. Using the word, Christianity, is, in fact, the fallacy of using a word with too broad of a definition. It's the wrong term. Rocky should have used the term follower of Christ. He would have to first establish that Jesus Christ is not a theory or a religion. He is a Person, and everyone who follows Christ is led by Christ. Christ leads. Rocky would need to explain that he knows this by revelation, since Christ leads him personally. Then, with a sanely defined word, Rocky can say that Christ never led anyone to commit an atrocity. However, Rocky could not claim that no Christ-follower has ever committed an atrocity. When a person is following Christ, that person begins as a new-born baby in Christ. Over time, through repeated and constant submission to the Holy Spirit, the person is set free from fleshly passions that lead into sins/atrocities. Whether any Christ-follower has yet been set totally free is questionable.

In case you haven't noticed this already, the argument that Christianity is a historically positive or negative influence on society is an irrelevant point if the objective is to show Christ to be a real Person Who lives in every person who follows Him. Comparing governments that allowed freedom of religion and that were based on Biblical principles (Early U.S. government) to Socialistic governments (Nazi, Red China, North Korea, etc.) or strong central governments that are allowed to write laws regarding religion (the Holy Roman Empire), there is logical motivation for governments that allow freedom of religion and that were based on Biblical principles as opposed to Atheistic Socialistic governments or strong central governments that are allowed to write laws regarding religion (the Holy Roman Empire). To use it as a reason that a skeptic ought to come to Christ is the logical fallacy of appeal to consequence. The real point that Rocky ought to be concentrating on is the fact that Christ is, that Christ is good, that Christ is real, and that rejection of Christ is the most serious sin anyone could commit. All of these are easily verifiable, not to say that an skeptic will be willing to verify it to himself or herself.

Fallacy Abuse

Rocky: "Followers of Christ do not commit atrocities. The history of the crusades and inquisition that you mentioned have been greatly distorted in the first place, though there were abuses. Christ didn't lead any person to commit abuses."

Sandy: "You are trying to defend Christianity as a positive historical influence and now you say that the atrocities of the eight Crusades do not “count” in an argument because the Crusaders weren’t living up to Christian ideals, and thus aren’t really Christians. That is the fallacy of defining terms to narrowly."

Rocky: "Actually, your statement is a straw man argument. I said nothing about Christianity. Christianity is a broad term that includes everyone who applies the label to themselves. A subset of those people who use the name, Christianity, in reference to themselves is actually following Christ. I made no claim regarding the large group but only the group that includes only those who are following Christ. In addition, I didn't say that anyone who is normally a Christ-follower is always following Christ. I said that Christ doesn't lead anyone to commit attrocities. That means that no one follows Christ to commit atrocities, so you are guilty of fallacy abuse."

Sandy's argument is actually taken from an atheist website on logical fallacies. Of course, a follower of Christ may indeed try to defend Christianity rather than speaking of Christ, and then that Christian would be committing the logical fallacy of too broad a definition to be meaningful.

 



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Last updated: Sep, 2014
 
 




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Logical Fallacy of Ambiguity

Logical Fallacy of the Barnum Effect / P. T. Barnum Effect / The Fallacy of Personal Validation / The Forer Effect

Logical Fallacy of Ambiguous Assertion

Logical Fallacy of Innuendo

Sly Suggestion Fallacy

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Use-Mention Error / UME

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Illicit Observation Fallacy

Metaphorical Ambiguity Fallacy

Euphemism

Logical Fallacy of Equivocation / Bait and Switch / Amphiboly / Semantic Ambiguity / Type-Token Ambiguity / Vagueness

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Middle Puzzle Part Fallacy

Idiosyncratic Language Fallacy

Type-Token Ambiguity Fallacy

Fallacy of Modal Logic / Modal Scope Fallacy / Misconditionalization

Modal Fallacy / Modal Scope Fallacy

Scope Fallacy

Ambiguous Middle / Ambiguous Middle Term

Logical Fallacy of Hypnotic Bait and Switch

Definist Fallacy

Logical Fallacy of Defining a Word in Terms of Itself

Socratic Fallacy

Logical Fallacy of Defining Terms Too Broadly

Logical Fallacy of Defining Terms Too Narrowly

Logical Fallacy of Failure to Elucidate

Logical Fallacy of Persuasive Definition / Appeal to Definition / Appeal to the Dictionary / Definist Fallacy (type of) / Rhetorical Definition

Logical Fallacy of Composition / Exception Fallacy

Logical Fallacy of Division / False Division / Ecological Fallacy / Ecological Inference Fallacy

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Logical Fallacy of Nominalization, Misnomer, Labeling

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Pigeonholing Fallacy / Ahistoric Fallacy

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Disjunction Fallacy

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Logical Fallacy of Ambiguous Collective / Type-Token Ambiguity

Conceptual Fallacy

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Butterfly Logic

The Logical Fallacy of Process-Product Ambiguity / Act-Object Ambiguity


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