Understanding Fallacies

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Nirvana Fallacy

The Nirvana fallacy is the logical error of comparing actual things with unrealistic, idealized alternatives. It can also refer to the tendency to assume that there is a perfect solution to a particular problem. A closely related concept is the Perfect solution fallacy.

Example: "If we go on the Highway 95 at four in the morning we will get to our destination exactly on time because there will be NO traffic whatsoever."

By creating a false dichotomy that presents one option which is obviously advantageous—while at the same time being completely implausible—a person using the nirvana fallacy can attack any opposing idea because it is imperfect. The choice is not between real world solutions and utopia; it is, rather, a choice between one realistic possibility and another which is merely better.

Example

Posit (fallacious)
These anti-drunk driving ad campaigns are not going to work. People are still going to drink and drive no matter what.
Rebuttal
Complete eradication of drunk driving is not the expected outcome. The goal is reduction.
Posit (fallacious)
Seat belts are a bad idea. People are still going to die in car wrecks.
Rebuttal
While seat belts could never save 100% of people involved in car accidents, the number of lives that would be saved is enough to far outweigh any negative consequences of wearing a seat belt.
Reference Guide
Fallacy Summary

The content of this Fallacy originated from Stephen Downes Guide to Logical Fallacies.

 

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