I've often found myself subject to this tactic, where someone will present an argument in support of a particular outcome, and then dismiss any criticism of it because the critique fails to solicit immediate, specific examples.

This is often deployed within an informal or unanticipated meeting, meaning the other side of the debate will not have been briefed or be expecting the points made.

As a working reference:

Person A: I think we should grow less corn this year, as corn hasn't been selling as much as it used to.

Person B: I think that may be short sighted, as market trends can fluctuate and we may find ourselves selling out of corn.

Person A: When have we last sold out of corn?

Person B: I don't have any specific dates to hand, but even in my very recent experience I know we've come very close.

Person A: You don't have any evidence to support that statement; the motion passes.

For major decisions there will be enough time for due diligence, but when Person A holds a senior position and the tactic is employed in informal circumstances, with regularity, it removes the opportunity for discussion. It's basically refusal of response, but via dismissing the lack of evidence out of hand.

  • I'd say it's simply [retaining] focus (or being pragmatic). If someone tells you you need volcano insurance, but can't come up with any examples of past contexts where that would have been useful, they're probably just wasting your time with irrelevancies. Commented Aug 24, 2015 at 14:29

2 Answers 2


Person A is using a fallacy, namely "argument from ignorance"

Argument from ignorance (Latin: argumentum ad ignorantiam), also known as appeal to ignorance (in which ignorance stands for "lack of evidence to the contrary"), is a fallacy in informal logic. It asserts that a proposition is true because it has not yet been proven false (or vice versa). This represents a type of false dichotomy in that it excludes a third option, which is that there is insufficient investigation and therefore insufficient information to prove the proposition satisfactorily to be either true or false. Nor does it allow the admission that the choices may in fact not be two (true or false), but may be as many as four,

  • true
  • false
  • unknown between true or false
  • being unknowable (among the first three).

In debates, appeals to ignorance are sometimes used in an attempt to shift the burden of proof.


This is somewhere in the family of hasty generalization, also known as jumping to conclusions.

Wikipedia gives the definition of hasty generalization as:

Hasty generalization is ... faulty generalization by reaching an inductive generalization based on insufficient evidence—essentially making a hasty conclusion without considering all of the variables.

Though because that implies reaching a positive conclusion, as opposed the negative conclusions you're talking about, we might prefer the variation logicallyfallacious.com refers to as hasty conclusion:

The hasty conclusion is leaping to a conclusion without carefully considering the alternatives -- a tad different than drawing a conclusion from too small of a sample.

Another candidate in the same family, often cast in opposition to hasty generalization is is slothful induction.

Again, per Wikipedia:

Slothful induction, also called appeal to coincidence, is a fallacy in which an inductive argument is denied its proper conclusion, despite strong evidence for inference.

Though this would be more applicable in your scenario if the corn proponent had cited at least a small handful of instances of corn selling out (as opposed to none at all).

Caveat: these labels, individually and collectively, apply if and only if the argument is plausible a priori. That is, there is some reason to believe the argument might be true. In the context of your example, the corn proponent or other members of the meeting should be able to recall some example of corn selling out, even if the last time it happened was 1985 (which makes the argument plausible, without weakening the detractor's position that corn hasn't sold out recently).

I learned a great term for an argument or theorem for which the proponent can advance no examples in a mailing list I participate in, where our resident mathematician said:

As to learning mathematics, I believe that proofs are a post hoc formalization, and that almost all mathematics proceeds from examples. Indeed, theorems without concrete examples are dismissed as "general nonsense".

It was so well put that it stuck with me; years later I still use the term.

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