12

Specifically, I want to know the word most often used in debates and the such.

Let's say two individuals are arguing about God. One of them asks something like,

"Then how do you explain...?"

The other responds with something like,

"God could do... or..."

One could, and the opposing individual likely would, label that answer as a

"_____ answer/argument"


Another example: the one individual may say,

"How did Moses survive on the mountain, if he didn't eat or drink?"

The other may respond with,

"God could have kept him alive."

The opposing individual may then respond with,

"That's a _____ answer," (I think)

denoting how convenient that answer is because of course God could do that, but that really doesn't have much explanatory power. I think it describes how you could use the argument that "God did it" to describe pretty much anything and it would be seemingly valid, so it ultimately isn't a good or satisfying answer.

The blank word means something to the effect of "conveniently desirable" or "all-encompassing" or "easy" or "thoughtless (due to the answer being all-encompassing)" or "conveniently effective".

Basically, the word describes how convenient and "golden-hammer"-like the answer is and how it ultimately doesn't answer the question, as you ask the question to attempt to gain an (at least partial) explanation for the thing they end up providing as the answer.

Although, maybe I don't understand the word entirely. No, the word is not circular (I know that in that last bit, that's the word I described, but it's not the word I'm looking for). It's bugging me. I've heard it used in debates, but I can't easily find it.

Edit: I should have explicitly stated this: the word is a single word, not a phrase. I really don't think that the word is a highly rare one, or a "scholarly" one like tautology. Unfortunately, this may be a word that you wouldn't necessarily expect to be used in this way (even though it is perfectly valid and is certainly used in this way) and one that would be extremely difficult to find just by searching synonyms (though, I could be wrong).

An example of a word that is like that is "humor" as in "humor me". This is fairly irrelevant, but I once couldn't think of the word humor to mean "giving me indirect permission to continue by feigning interest" as in, "Why are you telling us this story?" "Why are you humoring me by engaging with the telling of the story?" I could not find that word through synonyms. The word I'm now seeking may be similar in this way (that it can't be easily found in synonyms and that the definition of the term being used is not the most common one). Hopefully this helps.

Edit: The answer is "cop-out". See my own answer below.

11 Answers 11

20

The word I was looking for is "cop-out".

I was slightly wrong in my edit about it being a single word (it is hyphenated, though).

Cop-Out

  • something that avoids dealing with a problem in an appropriate way

(MWD)

Explanation:

If someone (given the situation provided in the question, though, maybe it wasn't the best example situation) responds with,

"God could have kept him alive,"

the opposing party might respond with,

"That's a cop-out answer."

"God did it," is really (in most cases) avoiding trying to create a valid, more plausible reason/argument -- avoiding putting in the work to create an argument that actually accounts for the situation, not one that simply, itself, ultimately needs an explanation (e.g. by what mechanism did God keep Moses alive).

I'm probably not supposed to do this, but, as an aside, thank you for all of your answers. Most of them were really good, just not the one I was looking for. But hopefully, your suggestions will help someone else that happens upon this question.

  • 1
    Personally, I'd fine it more natural to say "that's a cop-out" rather than "that's a cop-out answer". – anotherdave Jun 24 '17 at 10:29
17

'That's a facile answer / argument.'

facile [adj]

1 Ignoring the true complexities of an issue; superficial. facile generalizations

[ODO]

facile adjective ​

A facile remark or theory is too simple and has not been thought about enough: a facile explanation

[CED]

facile

1a (1) : easily accomplished or attained ...

(2) : shallow, simplistic I am not concerned … with offering any facile solution for so complex a problem — T. S. Eliot

...

c : readily manifested and often lacking sincerity or depth

[M-W]

facile adj. ...

  1. Arrived at or presented without due care, effort, or examination; superficial: We don't need another facile solution to a complex problem.

[AHD]

11

Vacuous [vak-yoo-uh s]/ adjective

  1. without contents; empty.

  2. lacking in ideas or intelligence.

  3. expressing or characterized by a lack of ideas or intelligence; inane; stupid.

  4. purposeless; idle

Similar to fatuous though it has the added implication that it is not just foolish, but empty and lacking substance.

10

I would be tempted to call that a fatuous argument:

complacently or inanely foolish: silly
from m-w.com

You might use this for any situation where the arguer attempts to dismiss a valid concern with a hand-waving, deus ex machina counter and an implicit attitude of "I can't be bothered to actually think about that."

  • Great! That exactly fits the specifications of the OP. – Soha Farhin Pine Jun 22 '17 at 16:19
9

I also like "pat answer" as an alternative.

MWD

Definition of pat

1.a : exactly suited to the purpose or occasion : apt

1.b : suspiciously appropriate : contrived a pat ending

2 : learned, mastered, or memorized exactly

3 : firm, unyielding

4 : reduced to a simple or mechanical form : standard, trite pat answers

TFD

pat answer

a quick, easy answer; a simplified or evasive answer. Don't just give them a pat answer. Give some more explanation and justification. Otherwise you will just end up answering a lot more questions.

Edit: another variation is Pat response

  • If specifically talking about an answer, this is definitely the best option. – barbecue Jun 24 '17 at 17:08
7

Perhaps you are thinking of the rhetorical term tautology/tautological? It doesn't traditionally mean quite what you describe,* but it is now often used that way. For example, from Wikipedia:

In rhetoric, a tautology (from Greek ταὐτός, "the same" and λόγος, "word/idea") is a logical argument constructed in such a way, generally by repeating the same concept or assertion using different phrasing or terminology, that the proposition as stated is logically irrefutable, while obscuring the lack of evidence or valid reasoning supporting the stated conclusion.

The combination of "logically irrefutable" with a simultaneous "lack of evidence or valid reasoning" sounds very similar to what you've described.


*In traditional rhetoric, a tautology was not actually an argument but just a simple redundant statement. The term also has a specific meaning in formal logic, which also differs from how the term is commonly used. From Philosopher's Index:

A tautology in logic is a formula that is always true on any valuation or interpretation of its terms. They are also sometimes called valid formulas (not to be confused with a valid argument) or logical truths.
. . .
The term tautology is originally used in rhetoric to refer to statements that are in-themselves redundant. For example, the phrase “unsolved mystery” is a rhetorical tautology because any mystery is unsolved — the adjective is unneccessary and adds no meaning to the phrase.

  • I do thing this suggestion is close to what the OP is looking for but it lacks the "easy" and "thoughtless" concept. I took from the OP that the word being pursued holds a sort of, "that is just a lazy response because you can't think of anything else", despite the response being tautological. – Hank Jun 22 '17 at 14:24
  • @Hank I see what you mean, but if it's a term "often used in debates" I do think this is likely—a "lazy" argument in a formal debate is not quite the same thing as a lazy argument in everyday discourse, since both sides are expected to have put some effort into coming up with their points ahead of time. – 1006a Jun 22 '17 at 14:30
  • I do think it is the right path, and may even be what the OP wants. If not, maybe it could be coupled with an adjective to encompass everything? – Hank Jun 22 '17 at 14:33
  • 1
    @Hank Yes, that might be a good approach. I think it's also still not a slam-dunk answer, just because some folks will look down on people who use it this way due to the differing historical/dictionary meaning. To be clear, I'm not one of them—I think the fact that it's used this way so often suggests the language needs such a term. So if there's a better term, I'd love to learn it! – 1006a Jun 22 '17 at 14:51
7

Similar to facile is glib:

  1. a : marked by ease and informality : nonchalant

    b : showing little forethought or preparation : offhand - glib answers

    c : lacking depth and substance : superficial - glib solutions to knotty problems

  2. archaic : smooth, slippery

  3. : marked by ease and fluency in speaking or writing often to the point of being insincere or deceitful - a glib politician - Merriam-Webster.com

4

Specious

—adjective

  1. apparently good or right though lacking real merit; superficially pleasing or plausible: specious arguments.
  2. pleasing to the eye but deceptive.
0

I'll risk : Prevarication :

Usage Note: The traditional meaning of prevaricate is "to speak or write evasively."
In recent years, a second sense has developed, meaning "to behave in an indecisive manner; delay or procrastinate," perhaps influenced by equivocate, which primarily means "to speak evasively"
but can also mean "to be indecisive." In American English, this second sense is widely considered an error, and a large majority of the Usage Panel finds it unacceptable.
In 2011, 78 percent of the Panel disapproved of the "delay" sense of the word as used in the sentence
He prevaricated for some two years before accepting the new design for production.
This usage is more commonly encountered in British English, as in this quotation from the BBC News: As the industry prevaricated, sales collapsed.

"... Instead, we have seen half-truths, prevarication and evasion." http://www.thefreedictionary.com/prevarication

0

A straw man argument - bending and twisting whatever is available to suit the point you are trying to make.

From Wikipedia:

A straw man is a common form of argument and is an informal fallacy based on giving the impression of refuting an opponent's argument, while refuting an argument that was not advanced by that opponent.[1] One who engages in this fallacy is said to be "attacking a straw man".

-1

I see this has been answered already but I'd like to submit that a "tendentious answer" is close in meaning also. According to Google's onebox,

expressing or intending to promote a particular cause or point of view, especially a controversial one. "a tendentious reading of history"

Merriam-Webster.com adds,

Tendentious is one of several words English speakers can choose when they want to suggest that someone has made up his or her mind in advance. You may be partial to predisposed or prone to favor partisan, but whatever your leanings, we're inclined to think you'll benefit from adding tendentious to your repertoire. A derivative of the Medieval Latin word tendentia, meaning "tendency," plus the English suffix -ious, tendentious has been used in English as an adjective for biased attitudes since at least 1900.

  • An explanation to accompany the downvote would be constructive. "God could do...", the example given, is a tendentious answer. – Michael Kupietz Jun 28 '17 at 23:40

protected by Matt E. Эллен Jun 23 '17 at 13:21

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

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