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There must be a name for this sort of after-the-fact non-argument. Sorry, this is the only way I could find to describe it.


Debbie finds a kitten. Kitten has been burned over half its body, but it's alive.

Debbie says, 'The kitten wants to live!' and takes it to a vet.

Bob says, 'The kitten is suffering and will continue to suffer horribly, the kindest thing would be to euthanize her.'

Debbie refuses; the kitten continues to suffer for months but in the end manages to survive.

Bob says, 'The kitten suffered unnecessarily.'

Debbie then says to Bob, 'The kitten would now be dead had it been up to you. You have no respect for life.'

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    I see no logical fallacy here, just two people talking past each other: neither party addresses the premises of the other. – StoneyB Dec 2 '13 at 19:22
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    Please highlight what you consider a fallacy, you seem (though you have in no way made this clear) to be looking for a word that describes a concept. Please edit your question to i) make it a question and ii) explain what exactly you're looking for. As far as I can tell, neither Bob nor Debbie are applying any kind of logic. – terdon Dec 2 '13 at 20:00
  • Oy..I knew i would not be able to clearly explain what I'm trying to get at. Possibly the incorrect place to ask? – TerryWard Dec 2 '13 at 20:01
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    Just explain which part of this you consider an " after-the-fact non-argument" and tell us if you are looking for a word for that, or a phrase, or an analysis of the logic. – terdon Dec 2 '13 at 20:12
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    Debbie's implicit premise is that the possibility that the kitten will survive the suffering makes the effort to sustain its life obligatory. Bob's implicit premise is that actual suffering makes that effort intolerable. Neither addresses the other's premise. – StoneyB Dec 2 '13 at 21:03
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I suspect, from your last comment, that you are thinking of "argument from consequences", also called "argumentum ad consequentiam".

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    +1 It's perhaps worth pointing out that this is not necessarily a fallacy, and that both parties to the debate adopt it. – StoneyB Dec 2 '13 at 20:31
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    @StoneyB it's a fallacy when it doesn't actually logically follow. I don't think the example is a clear case, as there is a difference between ethics of consequences and argumentum ad consequentiam, and it seems to me that the example are two people with an ethics of consequences, each valuing different consequences. – Jon Hanna Dec 2 '13 at 20:37
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    So Debbie's argument is, the end justifies any interim negative consequences. Bob's argument is, negative interim consequences are NOT justification of the end, be the end positive or negative. Which makes this an ethical conundrum having nothing to do with logic? – TerryWard Dec 2 '13 at 20:46
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    @TerryWard yes, since unpleasant consequences actually do logically follow from either action, each position is logically consistent. – Jon Hanna Dec 2 '13 at 21:00
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    I'd say that logic is part, but not all, of ethics, but that's definitely into philosophy.stackexcange.com territory! – Jon Hanna Dec 2 '13 at 21:32

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