Invincible Ignorance


The arguer defends a position simply by refusing to acknowledge the force of the arguments supporting the opposing view.



Some phrases characteristic of this fallacy may include, "I refuse to listen..." "I don't care what you say..." etc.



"Capital punishment is just wrong, no matter what you say."


"The earth is flat. The evidence for a round earth, such as the so-called landing on the Moon, was faked. They shot the whole thing in a Hollywood studio."


"Fake news!" - Donald Trump, on too many occasions to be worth documenting.


"I'm not going to read these transcripts...I find the whole process to be a sham, and I'm not going to legitimize it." - Sen. Lindsey Graham (referring to transcripts of testimony by State Department employees claiming that Trump attempted to trade U.S. military assistance for a personal political favor).



This is a fallacy of circularity because it assumes what is in question, namely the truth of the position being defended. In general, one should defend ones own beliefs. Consistency is a better policy than being too gullible and indecisive. Moreover, since people who have thought a position through tend to be fairly loyal to their conclusions, a person who holds to a position can sometimes appear to be more rational and thoughtful than someone who is too easily swayed by every argument he hears, or who has no particular convictions at all.

The fallacy of Invincible Ignorance mimics the consistency that comes from having a well-thought-out position. However, it asks us to overlook the distinction between rational consistency and sheer stubbornness.


Source: I first became aware of this fallacy from W. Ward Fearnside and William B. Holther, Fallacy the Counterfeit of Argument (1959). The term "invincible ignorance" has its roots in Catholic theology, where it is used to refer to the state of persons (such as pagans and infants) who are ignorant of the Christian message because they have not yet had an opportunity to hear it. The earliest use of the term seems to have been by Pope Pius IX in Quanto Conficiamur (1677), although discussion of the concept can be found as far back as Origen. When and how the term was stolen by logicians to refer to the state of persons who pigheadedly refuse to attend to evidence remains unclear. [I'd like to thank email correspondant Robert Weil, who benefited from an undergraduate class from a Jesuit philosophy instructor, for bringing the origins of this term to my attention.]


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