28

There is no significant debate over whether or not theft should be legal. There are not pro-theft and anti-theft political groups; basically everyone agrees theft is bad, so that precludes the existence of significant pro-theft groups, and because there are no significant pro-theft groups, there is no need for anti-theft groups.

Theft from people less wealthy than the thief should be illegal.

Very few people disagree with this opinion. It is uncontroversial.

Theft from people less wealthy than the thief should be legal.

Very few people agree with this. Most people will consider this obviously morally wrong, even if they believe it should be legal to steal in certain cases. It is not a controversial opinion; it is nearly universally rejected.

Because it is not controversial, it seems that it would also be accurate to describe this belief as "uncontroversial," however, I've only heard that word used to refer to something widely accepted.

Is there a single adjective that could go here?

"Theft from people less wealthy than the thief should be legal" is a _____ opinion.

2
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Laurel
    Commented Dec 22, 2022 at 2:29
  • So, you are looking for a single word that means outside the Overton window?
    – jsw29
    Commented May 18, 2023 at 17:35

23 Answers 23

30

If you want to emphasize that people hold this belief in active opposition to a more widely accepted belief, you could use contrarian:

Opposing or rejecting prevailing opinion or established practice; (habitually) going against the popular consensus.

[OED]

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  • 1
    In the same vein, provocative fits the example sentence. Commented Dec 15, 2022 at 12:44
  • 7
    contrarian has a connotation of going against the mainstream for the sake of being argumentative, not truly holding the position. I would not generally apply it to, say, flat earth "theory" Commented Dec 15, 2022 at 20:39
  • Disagree with @thegreatemu - it doesn't always have that connotation. A contrarian stock investor is still hoping to make money.
    – Joe
    Commented Dec 16, 2022 at 20:25
  • Wrong. Contrarian is just opposition, and it is not universal: a contrarian is usually a person or a group, not the universe. Suicide being "nearly universally rejected" (c.f. main question) people cannot be said to be contrarian to suicide. Contrarian to suicide would imply a group or a person contrary to a majority in favor of suicide.
    – RodolfoAP
    Commented Dec 17, 2022 at 8:26
43

If you want to emphasize that there might be people who think it, but no one else believes them, then you might use fringe.

3 a: something that is marginal, additional, or secondary to some activity, process, or subject

b: : a group with marginal or extremist views

Merriam Webster

"Theft should be legal" is a fringe statement.

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  • 2
    The thing with "fringe" is that although it does imply that very few people agree with the statement, it also implies that a small number of people do agree with it. The latter part might not be wanted. Commented Dec 15, 2022 at 15:01
  • 1
    @JohnBollinger: The title does say nearly universally rejected, so I think that nuance fits within the brief. Commented Dec 15, 2022 at 18:07
  • I like fringe as well, it's probably the most polite description I can think of to describe NAMBLA; an organization that wants to legalize activities almost universally regarded as abhorrent in the US. Commented Dec 15, 2022 at 19:53
25

Maybe heretical?

While the primary connotation of the word (think, heresy) is religious, it has another definition, not as common, that refers to an idea or view that's contrary to mainstream or conventional beliefs and opinions.

Also consider:

heterodox, adj.: holding unorthodox opinions or doctrines (Merriam Webster)

(A heretical idea is more controversial than a heterodox one; heretical is a stronger word)

iconoclastic, adj.: a person who attacks settled beliefs or institutions (Merriam Webster)

(A somewhat different meaning; it doesn't fit your example and refers to the person rather than the belief, but it's related enough that I thought it should be included)

Finally, there's the word radical, which doesn't quite work here; that thievery should be condoned is not necessarily a 'radical' idea, but the word could possibly be used in a different, fitting context:

radical, adj.:
1] very different from the usual or traditional, extreme
2] favoring extreme changes in existing views, habits, conditions, or institutions (Merriam Webster)

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    I don't think heretical is helpful. Heresy can be nearly universally accepted but that doesn't mean it's right. Or: something can be nearly universally rejected but still be true.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 15:57
  • What do you mean by "radical" "refer[ing] to a more positive belief"? I've only heard it used with a negative connotation.
    – Someone
    Commented Dec 16, 2022 at 0:16
  • 1
    @Someone, I guess I'm kind of cherrypicking the supporting example here, but Cambridge Dictionary's entry for 'radical,' under the expanded examples section, offers 'This is a desperate situation which requires a truly radical solution.' But you're right! I may have been thinking about other usages of radical when I wrote that sentence. I'll change it. Commented Dec 16, 2022 at 3:23
  • Considering that most people accept that the earth is round, saying that it is cubic is not an heretical idea, it is just fallacious.
    – RodolfoAP
    Commented Dec 17, 2022 at 8:31
24

Perhaps unorthodox. This adjective can be used to define people and their behaviour in an individual level, and abstract things like ideas/beliefs/opinions in a more universal level.

(of behavior, ideas, or methods) different from what is usual or expected - Cambridge

Unorthodox differs from the adjective unconventional which is a bit less strong in connotation than unorthodox; and unorthodox works better for ideas that go against more serious moral norms like not stealing. Unconventional works better for things that deviate from cultural norms like how to dress, speak, act and it can define a lifestyle.

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    I'm not sure how strong "unorthodox" is - it's often used of things like boxing stances and other things which are non-standard but not necessarily shocking or unheard-of. The alternative answers like "heretical" are definitely stonger.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 10:07
  • 2
    Stronger than unconventional. However, people can decide to use it with milder connotations.
    – ermanen
    Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 10:16
16

They might be marginal, one definition of which (Merriam-Webster) is:

excluded from or existing outside the mainstream of society, a group, or a school of thought

This is one of the most neutral ways to say that.

Some relatively positive ways to say this are unconventional, dissenting (although I was beaten to that one) and even brave.

Some slang terms with a strongly negative connotation are crank (from a German word meaning “sick”), crackpot (someone with a serious brain injury), nuts/nutty/nutso (One theory is that this also being a slang term for testes led to the Bowdlerization nertz, which became nerds.) or if there are several of them, cultish.

4
  • Crackpot... a fugazi? Fuhgeddaboudit, +1.
    – Mazura
    Commented Dec 15, 2022 at 4:45
  • 2
    Ah, marginal is perfect, but (appropriately) just out of reach of my mind. Thanks for suggesting that one! (And brave reminds me of classic British TV sitcom; "A quite brave statement, Minister...." Commented Dec 15, 2022 at 10:34
  • @TobySpeight And like I said, I thought dissenting was a great one, and then only realized later ....
    – Davislor
    Commented Dec 15, 2022 at 19:31
  • Orwell was fond of the word crank to refer to the sort of person who has a sense of superiority in their counter-cultural beliefs, with the superiority coming in part because their beliefs were so unpopular.
    – Kirt
    Commented Dec 17, 2022 at 3:47
11

We might call this a dissenting view (Wiktionary):

dissenting (comparative more dissenting, superlative most dissenting)

Showing a strongly different opinion, belief, or viewpoint.

11

You can call it an eccentric view. (Merriam-Webster: "deviating from conventional or accepted usage or conduct especially in odd or whimsical ways"; "deviating from an established or usual pattern or style")

Or an idiosyncratic statement. (Merriam-Webster: idiosyncrasy: "a peculiarity of constitution or temperament : an individualizing characteristic or quality")

8

For a word that means "nearly universally rejected," try . . .

indefensible, adj.
2. Incapable of being defended in argument, maintained, or vindicated; unjustifiable, inexcusable.
Source: Oxford English Dictionary (login required)

 

"Theft should be legal" is an indefensible statement.

 

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    I don’t think that implies that a view is nearly-universally-rejected, only that it ought to be. For example, “Alcohol-Related Hazing Common, Indefensible.”
    – Davislor
    Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 22:49
  • @Davislor — If no one is willing or able to defend the statement, it has been rejected. Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 23:03
  • That’s not how it’s used, though. A few more examples: “What is the most intellectually indefensible and socially harmful belief to gain widespread currency in your industry?” (Bryan Caplan), “there is a widespread ignorance [...]. It is not, I repeat, that the thinkers, the writers and the leaders of popular thought, in whatever media, have for the most part studied [...] and rejected it as unhistoric, impractical and outdated. It is simply that they have not studied it at all! I believe their attitude of almost total ignorance to be quite indefensible, [...]” (J.B. Phillips)
    – Davislor
    Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 23:52
  • 2
    ‘Indefensible’ means that it cannot be defended. If it could be defended, but isn't (which is what the question is asking), then it's not indefensible, but merely ‘undefended’.
    – gidds
    Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 23:54
  • 1
    @Davislor We don't seem to be disagreeing over very much :-) Perhaps I should have said that ‘indefensible’ is used for views that cannot be correctly (or perhaps reasonably) defended — but not (as this answer claims) that few or no people even try to defend them. For the latter, I still think ‘undefended’ would be more accurate.
    – gidds
    Commented Dec 15, 2022 at 11:00
8

One possibility I haven't seen yet is anathema.

Merriam Webster has

someone or something intensely disliked or loathed —usually used as a predicate nominative

With example use of "this notion was anathema to most of his countrymen." —Stephen Jay Gould.

You could get away with it as a single word in contexts where it is implied exactly who the idea is anathema to. It has the downside that it can only be used when the statement is somewhat emotively opposed, rather than just being incontrovertibly but blandly considered to be false.

5

Another suggestion would be taboo:

Something that is avoided or forbidden for religious or social reasons

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  • 4
    Taboo carries baggage about why the thing is rejected. It may even imply that it might be accepted in a different culture. It happens to fit with the specific example of theft, but not with other things that otherwise fit OP's descript. "2+2 = 5" is nearly universally rejected, but it isn't taboo. Commented Dec 15, 2022 at 0:31
3

While they are phrases rather than words, I think the best things to fill in your blank would be close to what you started with. Namely, I would use "generally rejected" or if you wanted to emphasize how thoroughly the opposing view predominated, consider just using your original "nearly universally rejected".

"Theft should be legal" is a generally rejected statement.

There are many things in English that never develop a single word to describe them because a short phrase suffices. I believe this is one of those cases.

I also think, that as mentioned in R.M.'s answer, "fringe" comes very close to your meaning if you really want a single word, but I believe "generally rejected" conveys exactly what you are getting at and does so without any of the baggage and implications that some of the other words suggested carry.


As a tangent, but a closely related one, I happen to be a lawyer in Nevada. I agree that almost no one would say that theft should be legal. But there can be considerable argument over exactly what constitutes theft or whether a specific theft may have been sufficiently justified as to take it out of the realm of being a crime. Some of these distinctions can have significant ramifications in the law.

3

A few words that fit into the statement asking about an adjective could be outlandish, pretentious, unbelievable, or dubious.

I've referenced and quoted the sources below that helped me draw this conclusion. I believe these also fit into the "universally rejected" meaning too.

Outlandish

strikingly out of the ordinary : BIZARRE

exceeding proper or reasonable limits or standards

Source


Pretentious

making usually unjustified or excessive claims (as of value or standing)

expressive of affected, unwarranted, or exaggerated importance, worth, or stature

Source


Unbelievable

too improbable for belief

also : of such a superlative degree as to be hard to believe

Source


Dubious

unsettled in opinion : DOUBTFUL

giving rise to uncertainty: such as: of doubtful promise or outcome

questionable or suspect as to true nature or quality

Source

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  • 2
    Dubious is an interesting one. It means doubtful or likely to fail, but a lot of people could hold a dubious position. The most famous line that uses it would be Milton’s “in dubious battle on the plains of Heav’n,” where all the fallen angels were fighting on the losing side. That’s a very poetic usage, but I think it’s basically still how we use the word today.
    – Davislor
    Commented Dec 15, 2022 at 2:11
  • 1
    Outlandish works fine, I think! Great one. Nefarious means something different.
    – Davislor
    Commented Dec 15, 2022 at 21:57
2

Theft should be legal is an unacceptable opinion.


I think it's a good word because:

  1. Contrarian, is probably justified as the top answer, but I think it is normally used to describe a person. Contrarians whole contrarian opinions, which is a redundant way to say contrarians also hold unacceptable opinions.

  2. Fringe, marginal, crackpot, nutty, fantasy and idiosyncratic seem like the beginning of an ad hominem argument, which ought to be avoided.

  3. Provocative, radical, dissenting, contentious and unconventional are more applicable in court or politics, but aren't universally applicable.

  4. Dubious, nonsensical, irrational, spurious and unbelievable make you doubt the sanity of the holder of the belief and are the beginning of the genetic fallacy

  5. Unorthodox, heretical, anathema, iconoclastic, cultish and taboo are more dogmatic. If the example was a purely religious one, that would fit but "thou shalt not steal" is a self-evident truth.

Unacceptable is just a straightforward way to say, something is generally not accepted, but it's not impossible to comprehend a person accepting of it.

2

Non-starter

(informal) a person, plan, or idea that has no chance of succeeding or being effective. "as a business proposition it's a nonstarter"

1

If you want to emphasise that this is universally rejected because it doesn't make any sense, you could easily use the word irrational:

not governed by or according to reason

Note that this is distinct from beliefs that may have been plausible based on limited initial evidence, but where further evidence shifts the consensus against them. For example, belief in the existence of phlogiston in the 17th century was not irrational, even though it was universally rejected in the 18th century.

Of course, do be aware that this represents a value judgement not only on the belief but also on people who believe it. This would not be an appropriate word if you want to debate people with this belief in good faith.

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    I don’t think this implies that a view is rare. Popular views are often called irrational, for example, “What are some of the most common, but still irrational things people believe about money?”
    – Davislor
    Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 22:33
  • @Davislor You're confusing views/opinions with behaviour. Humans are very bad at rational behaviour, as that list describes. But the title is flat wrong, because no human believes that any of those things are good to do. They're things we all categorically know are bad, in the same way as the OP asks, but we do them anyway. Sometimes because it seems the best of different bad options, and sometimes because it's just easier than making proper rational decisions. (And yes, I do include myself! :)
    – Graham
    Commented Dec 15, 2022 at 1:09
  • 1
    Okay, so would you agree that people often describe widely-held beliefs that they know many other people will argue are correct as “irrational,” too? For example, would you agree that this is very common on all sides of arguments over religion and atheism? Whether or not you believe this to be the wrong way to use the word, as you felt my first example used the word wrong, that is in fact how the word is commonly used?
    – Davislor
    Commented Dec 15, 2022 at 1:18
1

There are two main approaches to this question, what one might term factual and implicational (if such a word exists). Most of the answers have been in the latter category — a belief that is held by few people is controversial, heretic, fantastic, contrarian etc. I find all of these unsatisfactory because none is universal — each only applies in particular circumstances and does not necessarily imply near-universal rejection.

If the factual approach is taken, we are forced to consider the like of

“Theft should be legal” is a minority opinion.

or

“Theft should be legal” is a rare opinion.

These may seem rather feeble, as what they lack is an indication of the extreme infrequency with which the opinion is held. I do not know of a single word that has this implication (of for the -issimo of Italian!), and so if I had to use an adjective I would qualify it with an adverb:

“Theft should be legal” is a extreme minority opinion.

or

“Theft should be legal” is an extremely rare opinion.

The latter has the advantage of not using a noun as an adjective.

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  • Although rare is right in the meaning "hard to find, not common" , the word comes with a connotation of "good/excellent".
    – Martial P
    Commented Dec 16, 2022 at 12:46
  • @MartialP — not in this context, any more than its meaning of lightly cooked.
    – David
    Commented Dec 16, 2022 at 13:50
1

I would said it is a niche opinion.

"Niche" both highlights that it's believed by only «a tiny segment of the population», but also suggest that said segment of population have their specific reasons (here, moral set or beliefs) that leads them to have such opinion that majority would simply disregard.

Another word for that could be "marginal".

1

Fallacious

Synonyms

  • erroneous.
  • false.
  • incorrect.
  • untrue
  • wrong

Examples of Usage


The information on the website is fallacious


No one could explain how the fallacious information had gotten into the report.

1

A folly.

Though follies are often associated with some alleged perception which is explained by the folly.

3
  • It doesn't really fit the sample sentence from the question though. Commented Dec 16, 2022 at 15:34
  • . . . folliful . . . ?
    – Trunk
    Commented Dec 16, 2022 at 15:36
  • That's a judgement, that also tell nothing about how little that belief is spread. So it doesn't answer the question.
    – Martial P
    Commented Jan 5, 2023 at 14:20
1

discredited

/diˈskredədəd/

adjective

brought into disrepute; having lost respect or credibility.

"a discredited system"

0

What about nonsense or nonsensical?

language, conduct, or an idea that is absurd or contrary to good sense

Calling an idea nonsensical would imply that you believe no reasonable person would think of it. Some fun synonyms are balderdash, bunk, claptrap, and gibberish.

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    I don't think that's the word. Nonsense is more used in ideas that are illogical or non-sensical on its face. Whereas something can make sense on a superficial level but few agree with it given a broader view on the matter
    – fjch1997
    Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 21:37
  • I mean... "'Theft should be legal is a nonsensical' statement" totally makes sense. But the OP seems to think that that statement isn't quite such a nonsense..
    – fjch1997
    Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 21:41
  • 2
    I don’t think “nonsensical” carries the implication that a view is not widely held. Urban Dictionary even has Common Nonsense for the exact opposite. Or, for example, “How To Reverse The Widespread, Nonsensical Principles Of Utopianism.”
    – Davislor
    Commented Dec 14, 2022 at 22:42
0

If an idea or suggestion is very far off mainstream it may be a fantasy or even border on the delusional. As in "the suggestion to stop prosecuting theft borders on the delusional", because in the opinion of the speaker here it is common knowledge that human nature makes law enforcement necessary. Everybody who thinks otherwise has lost their touch with reality.

Calling something a fantasy is less of an ad hominem argument because it focuses on the viability of an idea rather than on the proponent's state of mind. For example, ideas to defund the police could be called fantasies at least in conservative circles because there is no way the suggestion could find a majority, and even if it did, it would not be viable.

"Delusional" is probably fitting best for conspiracy theories like pizzagate. It implies that the idea's absurdity is so obvious and requires so much mental contortion that it does not merit a detailed answer.

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  • Don't want to bring politic in that, but your exemple is terrible since it have been proved true. The pizzagate was about a club of million/billionaires having pedo activities, wich have been mediumly spread through the population (enough to not consider it marginal) and finally proven true with the Epstein Case, despite not involving one exact pizzeria that was just an irrelevant detail of the story.
    – Martial P
    Commented Jan 5, 2023 at 14:18
  • @MartialP Good example, actually. Between the Epstein case and Pizzagate lies the line separating sanity and delusion. I understand that on occasion, like with the Catholic abuse scandals, that line becomes blurry (i.e., most sane people that are not insiders would have rejected the idea of systemic abuse and cover-ups by the church leadership until just a few years ago). But not in most other cases, including Pizzagate. Commented Jan 5, 2023 at 15:23
  • @MartialP And then there is always the Gustl Mollath case where a psychiatrist famously said (translation from me): "There is some truth to that story but the ideas based on it may still be pathological, removed from reality and excessive." As in the famous adage "that I'm crazy doesn't mean I'm not being followed." Commented Jan 5, 2023 at 15:26
-2

If your audience is familiar with logical terms, you might be able to use:

Contradiction:

someone or something with qualities or features that seem to conflict with one another

In logic, a contradiction is the opposite of a tautology (a statement that is always true.) That is a contradiction is a statement is always false. For example:

"That theft should be legal is essentially a logical contradiction."

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  • 1
    As an opinion, what does it contradict? What about other positions that nobody supports? Is there a contradiction in "grocery shoppers should be required to wear reflective clothing for visibility"?
    – Laurel
    Commented Dec 15, 2022 at 16:15
  • @Laurel I think you might be thinking of the general usage of the word. A logical contraction is in conflict with itself. The idea of theft being legal would. The fundamental concept of theft is that it is a crime. A legal crime is a logical contradiction. If it were legal, theft wouldn't be a crime, and therefore it can't be theft, it's just 'taking'.
    – JimmyJames
    Commented Dec 15, 2022 at 17:10
  • Regardless of whether this particular statement is self-contradictory, the term "contradiction" does not at all carry the meaning of "nearly universally rejected" that the question is asking about.
    – V2Blast
    Commented Dec 15, 2022 at 17:27
  • @V2Blast How many people do you know that would not reject a logical contradiction?
    – JimmyJames
    Commented Dec 15, 2022 at 18:44
  • 1
    The example statement from the OP, "Theft should be legal." is also not a contradiction, as the act of theft still exists in the absence of any legal framework, as when a chimp steals its partner's banana. Commented Dec 15, 2022 at 20:18

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