Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

What do you call an argument/position that is impossible to counter because it depends on undefined adjectives/adverbs?

Examples:

Good websites are the ones that are effectively designed.

Well managed businesses rarely go out of business.

It's similar to tautology, but I'm not sure that's correct.

share|improve this question
1  
"Vague"? See also "no true Scotsman" –  augurar Mar 6 at 3:33
1  
I'd call it "begging the question"... :) –  cHao Mar 6 at 3:58
1  
"The only way to win the game is by scoring more points than the other team. If they can't do that, they'll lose." –  KitFox Mar 6 at 4:15
    
These are not impossible to counter. A well designed website may crash constantly, and therefore not be a good website. A well managed business may find their market decimated by unforeseeable and uncontrollable circumstances. Those adjectives/adverbs have definitions, but they are quite high up the ladder of abstraction. If they were more specific, e.g. 'businesses with a budget and an experienced manager rarely go out of business' then a counter argument could have something against which to gain purchase. Perhaps positions such as these just bland, and lacking in insight. –  silves89 Mar 6 at 12:26
    
@KitFox Clearly not a golfer... –  Dan Neely Mar 6 at 15:43

7 Answers 7

Then there's "res ipsa loquitur", the thing speaks for itself.

share|improve this answer

Following Kant, it is also sometimes called an analytic proposition.

share|improve this answer

A circular argument is one where the conclusion is also one of the premises:

Good websites are the ones that are effectively designed.

In other words, in premise / conclusion form:

If a website is effectively designed, then it is good.

This is essentially defining good to be equivalent of effective, therefore the conclusion is the premise.

Well managed businesses rarely go out of business.

In premise / conclusion form, this is:

If a business is well managed, then it is likely to continue to operate.

Or, stating the implicit premise,

If a business continues top operate AND it operates in a well managed fashion, then it is likely to continue to operate.

Circular argument is also known as circular logic and circular reasoning.

share|improve this answer
    
It is a nice answer and I came up with this idea when I did a research also, though circular reasoning begins with what they are trying to end with. It is almost like saying something in other words in the latter part, and sometimes repeating. In my opinion, it does not fit to the examples. For example: good website is not another way of saying effectively designed website, they have different connotations. So in your answer, it seems like you did circular reasoning for circular reasoning :) Some fallacies are really close to each other also. –  ermanen Mar 6 at 17:08

This looks like a type of fallacy or syllogism. And specifically enthymeme.

(Logic) an incomplete syllogism, in which one or more premises are unexpressed as their truth is considered to be self-evident

From the book "Enthymeme" by Jesse Russell:

In a broader usage, the term enthymeme is sometimes used to describe an incomplete argument of forms other than the syllogism, or a less-than-100 argument.

For Aristotle, who defined it in his Rhetoric, an enthymeme was a rhetorical syllogism which was based on probable opinions, thus distinguishing it from a scientific syllogism.

From the article "Is There Life after Samuelson’s Economics? Changing the Textbooks" by Arjo Klamer, Deirdre McCloskey, and Stephen Ziliak:

Aristotle noted that most arguments take the form of an “enthymeme” , an incomplete or not-quite-air-tight syllogism.

“Free trade is good” or “Taxes reduce output” are enthymemes, not-syllogistic arguments. The average French economists may find such arguments 45 percent true, the average American economist 80 percent true.

Arguing an enthymeme is successful when the economist defends the 45 or 80 percent true as “true enough.” Economics,like other sciences, works in approximations. "Good enough for government work," as McCloskey likes to put it.

There is also a further reading in Aristotle's Rhetoric:

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/aristotle-rhetoric/#enthymeme

share|improve this answer
    
Enthymeme is a common, and entirely justifiable, way of simplifying an argument; the argument itself may be good or bad. OP seems to be asking about a specific fallacy. –  TimLymington Mar 7 at 16:43
    
@TimLymington: I gave examples, definitions and sources. They do not fit to your definition. Can you give examples? Enthymeme is an incomplete argument. From OP's examples: How do you define a good website? How do you define a well managed business? And Aristotle says most arguments come to this point also. OP did not mention that it should be a fallacy. Enthymemes can become a fallacy too and some fallacies are very similar to each other and hard to understand without clear examples. –  ermanen Mar 7 at 16:57
    
The same source you quoted goes on to say "Arguments with several deductive steps are common in dialectical practice, but one cannot expect the audience of a public speech to follow such long arguments. This is why Aristotle says that the enthymeme is and should be from fewer premises". OPs examples are certainly enthymemes, but that is no more what he is looking for than the fact that they are in English. And an argument that is 'impossible to counter because of undefined adjectives/adverbs' must be fallacious; the question is what term fits best. –  TimLymington Mar 7 at 17:53

I would say that the argument is irrefutable. Indisputable has the same connotation.

And a word that I would actually use to describe your example phrases and not so much the question is cliché.

share|improve this answer
    
Stop making me agree with you. Our relationship is based entirely upon endless arguments! –  David M Mar 6 at 4:21

Axiomatic is another fine choice here. It means self-evident and beyond requiring proof.

Link to dictionary definition.

share|improve this answer
    
+1 because you're right. But why not just cut&paste the actual "Self-evident or unquestionable" definition from your link, instead of rephrasing it? And if you highlighted that text (or better, the headword Axiomatic), you wouldn't even need the words "Link to dictionary definition". –  FumbleFingers Mar 6 at 5:49
    
@Fumble it was more of don't just take my word for it … and I like to make things idiot proof (at least until someone builds a better idiot). Plus, I was trying to expand the verbiage to avoid landing in the low-quality post queue. SE historically offers no reward for brevity! –  David M Mar 6 at 12:47
1  
I overuse this word a lot. It's one of my favourites! +1 –  Cruncher Mar 6 at 14:57
1  
@Cruncher "I overuse this word a lot". I see what you did there! –  terdon Mar 6 at 16:45

I would say those are near-tautologies, and certainly truisms.

share|improve this answer
    
+1 for "truism" –  dj18 Mar 6 at 18:49
    
And another +1. I had that word "on the tip of my tongue", as we say. :) –  BobRodes Mar 7 at 14:08

Your Answer

 
discard

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.