What is the name of this fallacy?

Hi all,

I’d like to identify what is fallacious about the following argument. I am in discussion with a young man who has POCD, a purely obsessional form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in which obsessive thoughts take hold of the patient. His particular obsessive thought is that he might be a paedophile. In fact, he’s not, because he’s not sexually attracted to prepubescent children, but it’s the nature of his condition to keep worrying that he might be even in the face of good reasons to the contrary. Anyway, he has presented me with an argument that I know is fallacious but I can’t name the fallacy. I wonder if anyone can identify it (I suspect there may be more than one fallacy involved). I’ll structure it into premises and conclusion:

  1. I like small breasts.
  2. 11-year-old girls (for example) have small breasts.
  3. Therefore I like 11-year-old girls (which makes me a paedophile).

Any thoughts?

It just doesn’t logically follow. Ask him if he likes small breasts on a monkey. Or on a pizza. Or loose.

EDIT: Behold the correct form of the argument, below.

  1. I like all small breasts.
  2. 11-year-old girls have small breasts.
  3. Therefore I like 11-year-old girls’ breasts.

Paedophilia is about a sexual preference for prepubescent children. There’s no talk of such a preference in the argument, however; only of a preference for small breasts.

Hit the nail on the head.
The argument in the OP doesn’t really make sense how it’s worded.
I think the fallacy is this one: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fallacy_of … ted_middle

It’s actually three or four fallacies at once, so far as I can tell. It’s such a mess, it makes my head hurt. There are missing premises, so it depends on which premises you plug in. Excluded middle, sort of, yes, but also a distribution fallacy. Or two. Not all 11-year olds have small breasts, simply liking small breasts doesn’t make one a pedo, so you have to link that up - it’s really a mess, and so is this kid, I guess.

I’m really glad someone else thinks that it’s a lot more intricate than one fallacy. The more I think about it, the more it does my head in too. The fallacy of the undistributed middle certainly comes into it, but I think the argument has flaws on many levels. It intrigues me.

Also, I think it question begging. He does after all obsessively think he’s a paedophile, and gives this argument based on that rationale … making it five or six fallacies, adding petitio principii and post hoc, ergo propter hoc to Faust’s list.

Sure, it’s question begging. It seems predetermined that finding small breasts attractive leads to sexual contact with the breasts.

There exist some breasts such that they are small
Some of these breasts are found on 11-year old girls.
I like these breasts

Therefore, I like 11-yeard old girls.

Now, it has been stated that the young man making these claims is not compulsive, correct? But he doesn’t seem to know this, for he clearly feels that he will compulsively act on his obsession.

Let’s make a substitution argument for the one that was given in the OP.

There exist some hamburgers such that they have cheese on top. Some of these cheeseburgers are found in Cleveland, Ohio. I like these cheeseburgers. Therefore, i like Cleveland, Ohio.

The implication being that i might feel compelled to visit Cleveland, and have a cheeseburger. But few people would really mean this, since we rarely choose a place to visit for only one reason, and since we can get cheeseburgers anywhere.

The missing premise is something like “I need like only one attribute of a thing to like the thing, no matter how repulsive or disagreeable the other attributes are”. Few people would make this claim.

So let’s make this syllogistic, which is not really the most apt way to form this argument, but it is the most intuitive way, for many. Here, clearly some premises are missing.

1.All small breasts are breasts I want to fondle.

  1. The breasts of young girls are small.

  2. Therefore, the breasts of young girls are breast that i want to fondle.

But does he really mean this? Does he really mean P1?

Good stuff, Faust. Thank you.

But I don’t know. Does it matter for the form of the argument whether the one making it is sincere or not? Isn’t that only an issue when it comes to tactics for countering the original argument, as opposed to analysing it as such? In other words, I take it the argument could have been gratuitious and still have the fallacies that have already been pointed out, and that we could add the conflation of the thing as such with its attributes to that list. Or perhaps better yet: confounding, cum hoc, ergo propter hoc, as in seeing material implications or causal connections where there are none. Now, pretending to do so – i.e., not meaning p1 – and thus giving a deceptive argument is not a formal fallacy in its own right, is it? It’s just dishonest and it may well make our interpretation of said argument fallacious.

In sum, I don’t think that whether he really means p1 or not matters. After all, the issue here is not countering his argument. Admittedly, this is not my strong suit and I would really appreciate it if someone would explain this to me.

No, not in the sense of whether it’s syllogistic or not, it doesn’t matter.

Yes. many people are so familiar with the syllogism that it’s the easiest way to counter the argument. Which is why I say that a syllogism is not the best way to make this argument, logically speaking. The limitations of the syllogism are well known and were of course the reason that first-order logic was developed.

Right - it’s the causal implications that are the phantoms, here. Material implication is a very weak implication. Your friend is assuming a causal implication without acknowledging why this should be so.

His argument is deceptive in that he is leaving out some premise or premises necessary to reach his conclusion. he may still sincerely want to have sexual contact with young girls, but I have no way of knowing that.

Oh. I thought the issue was countering his argument. What are you trying to accomplish, then?

Premises in an argument are claims to truth. Attacking the validity would be countering his argument. Attacking the truth of his claims would be, since some of the claims are about his own desires, questioning his sincerity. Which are you trying to do?

Ah, so I wasn’t entirely off the track then, except for …

… calling a gratuitious argument deceptive when it is not formally deceptive (should have written “insinscere argument” instead), and …

… taking the analysis of the argument, or this game of “name the fallacy”, to be prior to some counter argument. Now I see where I went wrong. Thanks.

Well, a counter argument and an analysis of the given argument may be the same thing. The reductio ad absurdam method is just that.

I think he associates sexual attraction with guilt, and is using his argument, however poorly constructed, and a way of justifying that guilt. Christians are taught that mere intentions can be sinful - that’s just internalising the overwhelming authority that christian morality seeks to portray with its god. The law is just a surrogate, here. But the obsession might be a surrogate as well, since it’s not about anything real, but about generalities.

On other words, i’m not sure the argument is the problem. it’s the truth values he gives to the premises.

Why do all these breasts belong to underage girls, or why are those the only breasts that seem to matter?

It sounds like a way of making sexual attraction bad.

Combating this would be very tricky, i would guess, as long as the association between young girls and small breast is there. maybe you should just show him a bunch of naked women with small breasts, but with their faces obscured, and let him agonise over his attraction to them for a few minutes, and then reveal the mature faces. Change the association.

Does stuff like that work?

Either way, I think he’s going to have to kill his god, whatever that god may be, and accept his values as his own. I think he’s reluctant to take responsibility for his feelings, which is why he needs the surrogate of the consent laws. He’s not alone, but wouldn’t it be easier to change the focus of his obsession than it would be to remove it?

i’m just asking - i am certainly no psychologist.

I wonder, if you’re talking about the illusions/irrational thinking of someone who simply enjoys those illusions and don’t want them to change - and the obsessions and illusions of one with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, can you really compare the two?

That’s a good point, arc, and it speaks to my suspicion. I just have this feeling, based on very little information I admit, that the obsession serves some purpose.

The obsession always serves some purpose - and obviously, at least I think, the purpose can only be found within the person’s history. For instance, one who believes in UFOs may have a feeling of alienation and great loneliness and believing the illusion (since there is no evidence so far) that there are other species/aliens inhabiting the other worlds, latches onto and fixates on that illusion, and thus feels less alone.
As far as some person though who suffers and struggles with OCD, I don’t think that that is an obsession that is enjoyed or wanted. I suppose that they are both rooted in the same purpose; that of controlling fear and the environment around them. And perhaps insofar as the illusion or fixation itself, that might be quite accidental. Just as a small child may perhaps, because of his/her mother’s love of wearing silk and often feeling that silk, grow up with a fetish for silk, because it is associated with security and comfort. But with OCD, I’m not so sure that the obsession itself serves a purpose - what purpose would it serve for one with OCD to think that they are a pedophile - that would be secondary and accidental. I think that what actually serves the purpose is the compulsive and repetitive action/thinking, etc., though it is of course irrational and delusional thinking - that is supposedly to ward off the fear of the person with OCD - in other words, controlling their environment and world, by doing these things because they have no other choice, or they will die or their greatest fear will come about.

That’s why I made my statement above. I don’t think, but maybe I’m wrong, that all delusional or irrational or not well thought out thinking or beliefs stems from a balance of serotonin in the brain. And I realize that this has nothing really to do with the topic but again, there has to be a great distinction between our just simply wanting to believe something to the point where we come to believe it and a physical and mental unbalance situated in the brain chemistry. But maybe I’m wrong - there is that connection with the person with OCD needing to believe and feeling or in their case, ‘knowing’ though wrong, that his actions will thwart some terrible thing from happening.

If it helps, the guy in question previously obsessed about the possibility of him being gay and the possibility of him being transgender (to the point where he scrutinized childhood photos of himself for evidence that he might have been born a female or a hermaphrodite). If there’s one thing common to all these obsessive thoughts, it’s anxiety about not fitting in.

Obviously what he needs is therapy, not counterarguments. Still, I like analysing arguments and am keen to know why this one was fallacious. It seems like it’s far from straightforward! Showing him photos of small breasts on adult women would neither work (his anxiety is unshakeable, as it’s part of his condition to be resistant to reasoning) nor refute his argument. (By the way, I copped out and simply said his argument was silly!)

Thanks all for your contributions so far. By the way, Faust, I think you mistook Skymning for me above, given that you address him here and there as though he were the OP.

Oh, yeah, sorry. I am an old guy.

No worries. :wink:

Yeah, I chose not to point that out as I found it rather amusing.

By the way, Leitmotif, how did this troubled guy respond to that?

He responded by asking how one could tell the difference between real attraction and false attraction (i.e. having his mind acutely aware of the idea of children maybe being attractive to him as a product of his POCD).

Someone else said to him (if you’ll excuse the coarse language): ‘I like fucking vaginas. Cats have vaginas. Therefore I like fucking cats.’

I see. It should be fairly easy to figure out what is real an what is not, based on the presence or absence of physiological signs of attraction. Dilated pupils, heavier breathing, so on. Then again, it might be a very different thing to convince him of this and it may well be that his obsession somehow mimics these bodily reactions – i.e., making them present themselves falsly. There should still be a difference though.

But like you said, therapy sounds like a good idea.

I don’t mind the language at all. Did he get the point?