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Logic & Scientific Philosophy

Reductio ad Hitlerum

You know who loved painting? Hitler. Hitler was a painter. Are you sure you want to be a painter?

Hitler supported gun control. Gun control and the long-gun registry are evil! (thanks to Conservative MP Larry Miller for that one)

Hitler loved the military – anyone who supports a big military is just like Hitler.

These arguments all share the same logical fallacy: Reduction ad Hitlerum(yes, that really exists.) The flaw in the logic should be apparent: evil in a person does not extend evil to everything that person does, just like in my last post I pointed out that opposition to something does not necessitate opposition to every single thing that something does.

But we still see reductio ad Hitlerum very frequently in both our conversations and our political discourse, as the favoured tactic of people with nothing better to say. Glenn Beck, to those who are familiar with his work, is known for using this, so it seems, to prove virtually every single argument he makes. The fallacy inherent to comparing things to what Hitler did may seem obvious to some people, but its ubiquity in our society means it is still a cause for concern – after all, if it’s used this much, it must be convincing someone! To avoid this fallacy, remember this simple rule: the first person to mention Hitler in an argument loses every time. So next time, instead of resorting to this underhanded tactic, try to come up with a actual, reasonable point to make. Don’t just use Hitler – its insulting, unflattering, and just plain silly.

Besides, there’s always Stalin.

Follow me on Twitter: @LiamtheSaint

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Discussion

One thought on “Reductio ad Hitlerum

  1. I can’t even. The next time I’m in the heat of an argument, I’ll remember this and use Stalin instead. 😛

    Posted by msbethechange | October 6, 2012, 2:59 am

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