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Is the a word to describe arguments that are convenient, but not rational. Originally I was using the term specious for that purpose, but specious seems to mean something not quite the same in that it means something superficially plausible. However, what about arguments that are not even superficially plausible but are obviously being adopted just as an excuse to do something? So, for example, police often charge defendants with "assault with a deadly weapon" statutes even though the implement used, like a pencil or shoe, is not actually a weapon and various implausible arguments are used to justify these kinds of charges.

So, I have thought maybe a more accurate term might be a strained argument, or forced or contorted. Not sure if there is a better word.

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  • 'Spurious' perhaps wanders nearer to the less apparently true end of the spectrum, but it's not ideal. 'Absurd' and 'irrational' are also ballpark. As are 'flimsy', 'unconvincing' and ''far-fetched'. // What's wrong with 'implausible'? Still not close enough? Commented Apr 19, 2023 at 11:29
  • Late to the party, but I like 'facile.'
    – Dave
    Commented Apr 20, 2023 at 0:08

4 Answers 4

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Consider casuistic : oversubtle; intellectually dishonest; sophistical (source American dictionary).

casuistic qualifies answers to practical questions via interpretation of rules or cases that illustrate such rules, especially in ethics.

specious is seemingly well-reasoned, plausible or true, but actually fallacious.

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Perhaps the following adjective will suit your purpose.

(SOED) meretricious 2 Showily but falsely attractive.

Plenty of examples of the use of "meretricious argument": Google research.

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  • This usage seems to have come from a mistaken inference (or overgeneralization) of the meaning of meretricious from hearing it used. The word originally meant "resembling, or characteristic of prostitutes", meretrix being the Latin for a (female) prostitute. It's clear how we get "overdone, gaudy and tasteless" from this, but I wouldn't extend it to what the OP is trying to say. (I haven't downvoted, by the way.) Commented Apr 20, 2023 at 3:34
  • @RobertFurber I am aware of the two definitions (SOED). However, there is a rather important literature (some 100 cases in the Google research I point to) that show that "appealing and false" and "clever but false" are the acception that this word can on; this shift warants possibly a third acception that would take into account this new nuance. (ex. "It can be used either literally or figuratively (a meretricious argument would be plausible but false).", "There may grow in the student a capacity for skilful but meretricious argument ", (1/2)
    – LPH
    Commented Apr 20, 2023 at 8:56
  • @RobertFurber "Vulgar abuse and meretricious argument have usurped the place of measured periods and pure logic". Perhaps you'd like to peruse those cases more seriously. (2/2)
    – LPH
    Commented Apr 20, 2023 at 8:58
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sophistry

While it might not be the most appropriate term, it likely conveys a similar meaning

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    Commented Apr 19, 2023 at 11:54
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I call that style of reasoning The Unscientific Method.

Where The Scientific Method is characterized by adjusting one's theories to best match the evidence/facts, The Unscientific Method involves doing the opposite: adjusting one's evidence/facts to match one invariant theory.

This is closely related to Not Even Wrong, which is an argument that can't be really said to be right or wrong, as it has entirely avoided testable assertions.

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