English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Quite often I see derision about ideas by people who label them as 'too academic'. Often this appears to result from laziness or an unwillingness to stretch their thinking.

What's the logical fallacy where people dismiss what you say as irrelevant to the real-world?

share|improve this question
Don't know if there is a logical fallacy that can be accounted for such behaviour, but in general, when someone refuses to accept a differing opinion it is termed "impermissible viewpoint discrimination". – moonstar2001 Aug 4 '13 at 4:22
There's not enough context for me here. By "logical fallacy", do you mean people make the mistake of thinking you are "really" wrong, when actually you're right, but for practical reasons your right answer is no use. Would it make any difference if they acknowledged that your position was correct in theory, but just had no practical relevance? – FumbleFingers Aug 4 '13 at 4:32
Are you actually looking for fallacy of the undistributed middle? – Autoresponder Aug 4 '13 at 4:42
It might be in the List of fallacies on Wikipedia. – Cerberus Aug 4 '13 at 4:48
It's a logical fallacy because the person making the statement that is supposedly irrelevant to the real world is a person living in the real world with an opinion about the real world based on his/her experience of the real world. If you are part of the real world, how can your statement be irrelevant to the real world? If so, what is the meaning of the "real world?" – Godfrey Aug 15 '13 at 3:32
up vote 3 down vote accepted

At its most general this is a fallacy of relevance. Precisely which one would depend on how it’s presented. If your interlocutor were to say “You’re one of them academic types, so you must be spouting nonsense” it would be ad hominem. If they said something more like “Sounds like that academic-talk, we all know how trustworthy that is.” it would be more properly categorized as an appeal to emotion, which emotion exactly would depend on the tone.

However, in order to have committed a logical fallacy they must first have been attempting to make a logical argument, i.e. they must have intended their utterance to convince someone that your argument should be discarded. They may just be arguing in bad faith.

Alternatively they are attempting to undermine the epistemic grounding of your claim by calling into question the absolute validity (or at least applicability) of (Western) philosophical logic / scientific & academic reasoning, which wouldn’t be a fallacy at all but a potentially valid tactic.

share|improve this answer
Your last point presumably depends on what you call valid; it is obviously not any sort of argument. – TimLymington Aug 4 '13 at 8:41
@TimLymington Yes, it does depend on what one calls valid. I agree that it is not an argument (let alone a valid one) within (Western) philosophical logic; that was precisely my point. But now we’re veering into philosophy.stackexchange.com territory! – redjives Aug 4 '13 at 16:40

Following Cerberus's suggestion above, I checked the Wikipedia List of fallacies, and found a couple that bear on the case at hand. One is the "Appeal to Poverty" or argumentum ad Lazarum:

supporting a conclusion because the arguer is poor (or refuting [it] because the arguer is wealthy).

Though this red-herring fallacy focuses narrowly on the financial status of the arguer, it could be applied metaphorically to intellectual wealth, too. Understood in terms of scholarship, the Appeal to Poverty says "I am not clever and learned like my opponent, so I can be trusted to speak plainly and honestly, free of the encrustations of pretension, sophistry, and ivory-tower bias that inevitably accompany academic learning."

A second possibly relevant fallacy is "Inflation of Conflict":

The experts of a field of knowledge disagree on a certain point, so the scholars must know nothing, and therefore the legitimacy of their entire field is put to question.

This fallacy, I've noticed, is especially popular in anti-evolution rhetoric, where disagreements about specific narrow evolutionary details serve as a basis for claiming the existence of bitter division among evolutionists over the general principles of the science.

In effect, the (broadly interpreted) Appeal to Poverty says "You can't trust an educated person," and the "Inflation of Conflict" says "Those academic types don't really know anything anyway."

share|improve this answer

argumentum ad lapidem (appealing to the stone)

discarding the argument as absurd without giving logical reasons

share|improve this answer
The fallacy in question is about labeling an argument academic or impractical, not absurd. – Bradd Szonye Aug 15 '13 at 10:36

jumping to conclusions would also encompass such a fallacy.

Fig. to judge or decide something without having all the facts; to reach unwarranted conclusions.

argument by laziness is self-explanatory and listed as an informal fallacy. It is alternatively referred to as argument by uninformed opinion

Fig. the arguer is not informed on the topic but has an opinion nevertheless.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.