Appeal to Novelty


The argument supports a position by appealing to the newness of the position, as if being new were itself a kind of authority.



Some typical phrases used to express the authority of newness are "cutting-edge," "pushing the envelope," "new and improved," "the next new thing," etc. One variation of this fallacy is Fadism, which may be as much an Appeal to Popularity as an Appeal to Novelty. Faddism is expressed with such phrases as "the latest craze," "in the swing," etc. (all of which tend to be somewhat dated!) Alternatively, a position may be criticized for being "out of step with the times," or "so five minutes ago."



"Pepsi: the taste of a new generation!" - 1990s Pepsi slogan


"The college that's around the corner, and ahead of the curve!" - slogan for Cuyamaca College



Civilized people believe in progress, and I believe we are right to do so. The biologist Richard Dawkins has proposed that human ideas (which he calls "memes") literally evolve for the same reason that biological organisms evolve, namely that they reproduce (as they are passed from brain to brain), are subject to competition (since human brains--and attention spans--are limited), and undergo mutations (as we misunderstand or re-interpret what we hear from others). Hence there is a tendency for interesting ideas to survive and spread more effectively than uninteresting ideas. Now, many things may be responsible for making an idea interesting, but among those factors is how the idea benefits us. Hence there is a tendency for good (beneficial) ideas to survive and spread more effectively than bad ideas (although certain bad ideas have also proven to be notoriously resilient). The result is that technology tends to improve over time and our knowledge of the world around us tends to grow over time. Progress is a real phenomenon. For that reason we have developed a habit of expecting that this year's ideas will be better than last year's ideas.

Naturally, this habit creates an opportunity for fallacious reasoning. The fallacy of Appeal to Novelty exploits our tendency to accept an idea merely because it is new, as if newness alone guaranteed its being good. While there is certainly nothing wrong with considering new ideas, there is a big difference between being open-minded (i.e. being willing to test and examine new ideas), and being an epistemological fadist. The fact that an idea is new and fashionable does not guarantee that it is true.


Source: Francis Bacon, Novum Organum, 1620. This is one of his "Idols of the Tribe."


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