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I'm looking for a word or phrase to describe the following thought. While analysing someone else's writing I found that their arguments had some problem. For example let's say someone argues that a particular house has slippery floor. So all houses all over the world, that has the same floor-tiles are also slippery. So most household accidents all over the globe happens because of this particular brand of floor tiles.

Although the example I mentioned is extreme, but I want to know how should I explain this. The phrase that comes to my mind is The writer made some "leaps" in argument But I'm told this might not be right. Is it right? The writer has "significant discrepancies" also doesn't clearly espress my thought. He has discrepancy that's okay. But what I want to mean is that, he's jumping from a narrow point of argument and drawing conclusion on a much broader scale. So how should I express this? And Thank you for reeading this.

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    The word is fallacy but exactly which is probably not for this site as it's more of a philosophical question. – Andrew Leach Sep 16 '15 at 10:32
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    "Leap" is very often used in critiques of flawed logic in philosophical arguments. It is a fine word. Here the leap would seem to be that the writer blames "most household accidents" on slippery floor tiles without showing that slippery floor tiles were installed in the houses where the accidents occurred. – TRomano Sep 16 '15 at 11:27
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    It occurs to me you often just say "jumped". You "jumped to the wrong conclusion". – Fattie Sep 16 '15 at 12:43
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    Are you talking about a missing step in an argument, or a general error in an argument? (your example of overgeneralization is not a missing step, but instead just faulty generalization). – Mitch Sep 16 '15 at 12:44
  • I just made up the example. But I guess I'm looking for both missing steps and over-generalization in the end. I think I'll go with an "illogical leap of argument". But I did learn a lot of other similar expression. – Rio1210 Sep 16 '15 at 19:12

10 Answers 10

17

There are a few terms for logical fallacies that might fit. In general discussion, I'd call it "jumping to conclusions".

hasty generalization

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

faulty generalization

A faulty generalization is a conclusion about all or many instances of a phenomenon that has been reached on the basis of just one or just a few instances of that phenomenon. It is an example of jumping to conclusions.

proof by example

Proof by example (also known as inappropriate generalization) is a logical fallacy whereby one or more examples are claimed as "proof" for a more general statement.

You might also say that anecdotal evidence or cherry picking is being used.

15

Such a conclusion, which does not follow from the evidence or stated assumptions, is a non sequitur. Be a little careful though, as 'non sequitur' is (informally) also used to refer to statements which simply seem out of place.

  • From Oxford a non sequitur is "A conclusion or statement that does not logically follow from the previous argument or statement." Thus, ANY logical fallacy results in a non sequitur. According to your link a non sequitur is "a statement that is not connected in a logical or clear way to anything said before it". In this sense, it is used to describe an out-of-place statement as you said. The OP's situation meets the broad definition of non sequitur but not the second, commonly used definition. Therefore, it is better to refer to the OP's situation with a specific fallacy name. – James Sep 17 '15 at 11:10
  • @James indeed the second sense does not apply, but many words have multiple different, even conflicting, uses, so I do not consider that a point against "non sequitur". If Rio1210 is writing something remotely formal, it is even less likely to be misunderstood. A specific fallacy name may be preferable, but since all we have is a construed example we cannot know what the fallacy is (and this might be the wrong site for deciding that, anyways), or if it even has a name. Rather than list some potential matches, which you had already done, I chose to suggest a more generic option. – Jacob Raihle Sep 17 '15 at 13:04
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A few things come to mind...

Fallacious: based on a mistaken belief.

Specious: superficially plausible, but actually wrong.

Ungrounded/unfounded: having no real basis or justification.

That being said, writing "the author made some leaps" or "the author was reaching with" seems acceptable.

3

The term usually used in talking about mathematical arguments (or forensic ones) is

gap

or much more fancy

lacuna

in an argument. For example, if I am trying to convince you that Socrates is mortal, I might say: "All men are mortal. Socrates is Greek. Therefore Socrates is mortal." We are assuming that all Greeks are men (it could be that some are immortal). Since it wasn't stated in the proof, it is a 'gap' in the explanation.

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Using

Leap

is exactly the word I would use to describe, exactly what you say. (Or, indeed, you could just say .... step.)

Note that you would further qualify it, so, a false leap, an incorrect leap.

There's a problem with using "technical" argument terms (non sequitor, etc) in that they have specific meanings.

What you are saying is specifically that at that step in the chain of the argument, the person took an illogical leap, because that step does not in fact follow from the previous step, due to such-and-such reasons.

If you're trying to be extremely precise about something, such as a logical argument, be clear: avoid using "fancy" words because the specific legalistic-like meaning of those may come back and, to use a technical phrase, "bite you in the ass!"


BTW , Tim Romano has already completely said all this, very nicely, in a comment.

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    Or "leap of logic" as I have often heard it. – Robusto Sep 16 '15 at 12:37
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The jump itself is called (inductive) leap. A logical argument which lacks of premises to be a valid argument is called enthymeme.

This is exactly your case. There are some premises to be found which would justify the leap and resolve the enthymeme.

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I'd describe it as a faulty assumption, that is

  • a logical but inaccurate assumption regarding a situation, usually based on personal bias.
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    FTR, I would say, regarding the problem at hand where the person made an unjustified step in their argument: it could indeed be due to a faulty assumption, but, it could be due to many other things. It would be unclear to think of a "faulty assumption" (in particular) as the only, nominative, cause of a mis-step in a mathematical-proof-like chain of reasoning. – Fattie Sep 16 '15 at 12:31
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I quite like discontinuity:

lack of rational connection or cohesion

Perhaps in the form "conceptual discontinuity".

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You also have the phrase

correlation does not mean causation

i.e. Just because data correlated, that is a house has a slippery floor, and that house has a hand of bananas in it, the bananas didn't cause the floor to be slippery

However, using your phrase, I'd say something like :

the author used some logical acrobatics in his reasoning and arguments

acrobatics meaning some flips, loops and twists to get to the destination!

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If this floor happens to be slippery, then to conclude that all floors of the same type are also slippery is transferring what is a specific instance to the general case. Honestly not sure of a concise term for it.

My six-year-old has a nine-year-old big brother, and since it's all he knows, he thinks that all families in the entire world have a big brother in it.

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    This does not provide an answer to the question. To critique or request clarification from an author, leave a comment below their post. – Chenmunka Sep 17 '15 at 17:33
  • What? From the question: For example let's say someone argues that a particular house has slippery floor. So all houses all over the world, that has the same floor-tiles are also slippery. So most household accidents all over the globe happens because of this particular brand of floor tiles.. The OP wants a phrase or a word describing this. I'm proposing "transferring what is a specific instance to the general case". How exactly do I not address the question? – aliteralmind Sep 17 '15 at 17:40

protected by tchrist Dec 3 '17 at 0:00

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