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  • 5minutes

    The Nirvana Fallacy: a logical fallacy invented in 1969 by an economist.

    Funny thing is that even if it is an informal logical fallacy, arguments made from the POV of the nirvana fallacy also usually illustrate the weaknesses in other arguments with longer-recognized illogical fallacy. For instance:

    Semi-red herring argument: There’s too much violent crime! We should ban guns. (the actual issue is violent crime, but the argument is only tangentially related)

    Nirvana response: banning guns won’t work because criminals have and will always find ways around your law.

    Again, the nirvana fallacy is, technically a logical fallacy, but it’s not really a fallacy. It’s a good illustration as to why the first person’s proposed gun ban will not work. You can feel free to replace “guns” with “pizza” and get the same result. I’d also add that the use of history as an argument, while technically a logical fallacy as well (an appeal to tradition), actually does a good job of bolstering the 2nd person’s argument.

    • Ben


  • MiloV1985

    Looking at some of the totally ridiculous ” techniques” listed here made me realize the calibre of person i surround myself with. Not once has anyone in my circle of friends, family or work colleagues ever tried to employ one of these childlish retorts. I guess the difference comes from-like everything else- motivation. If you’re looking to win an argument for the sake of “winning” you’ll stay ignorant to the fact that doing some of the crap ob this list won’t get you anywhere.

    • Steveooooo

      you lie.

    • Eric

      Milo, I think you are guilty of number 4 in your appeal to yourself as an authority on all of the activity or your friends. I agree the examples of each above are rather simple on purpose, but the real application of each techniques can take many forms.

      • MiloV1985

        Eric, isn’t the purpose of any debate to try and illustrate that whatever point you’re’ arguing is logically more sound than that of the other person? Simply undermining the other’s argument or diverting the burden of proof doesn’t prove you’re right, it simply proves you’re good at BS. Futhermore , you end up robbing yourself of the opportunity to see things from another point of view because of the your ( hypothetical) ignorance. Whatever you call it, whatever fancy terms you use, its still amounts to childlike antics equal to ” You’re ugly and you’re mother dresses you ugly”. Not arguing the merits is stupid and pointless and usually used my people playing to the crowd.
        I’ll agree with one thing though, using these techniques does ruin arguments but if you really wanna put someone in their place there are ways around it, but that would require stooping even lower than the idiot you’d be arguing with.

        • Eric


          The point of the top ten list is that the 10 types of arguments ruin arguments. I was pointing out that you used one of the techniques (#4) to justify why your friend are of a high calibre. Then you went on to use the fact that your friend are such a high calibre and don’t use these techniques to reason that the techniques are ridiculous. The fact that you cannot identify these techniques in yourself tells me don’t understand them very well.

          For example in your last reply your first sentence is a loaded question, which is number 2 in the list: “Eric, isn’t the purpose of any debate to try and illustrate that whatever point you’re’ arguing is logically more sound than that of the other person?” Your question is loaded because to answer the question I have to accept that I am in a debate and I am not clear that we are debating or what we are debating.

          In your mind are we debating your use of “appeal to authority” or are we debating that I agreed with you that the examples are simple or something else I have missed?

          Now, take a breath, calm down and let’s see if you can reply without using one of the techniques this time.

  • Travis

    this was written by someone who has lost too many arguments online

    • Nikter

      Are you HAPPY with the fact that you just insulted the writer of this list?

      • Travis

        A) Why would that make me happy? and B) why would the author be insulted by something some random shmuck says online?

  • Dave

    Batman would kill Darth Vader? Yeah right. I could waste Batman..

  • daddyostjames

    is #10 john Edwards?

  • Tuffey

    Tu quoque is a good one as well – essentially it is trying to rebuke an argument because the person fails to live inline with their perceived beliefs, so by undermining a persons argument by suggesting they are a hypocrite – another logically fallacy.

  • Andrew Hallock

    The Star Wars gambling fallacy example is wrong. While it’s true that coins do not have a “memory” of previous events, and that it each coin flip is independent, humans DO have memories, and previous events do affect future ones. If the previous three films sucked, it’s reasonable to say that it is more likely the next will not suck because of their motivation to not alienate their fan base.

  • kl

    Guns don’t kill, bullets do. Sometimes the nirvana argument is correct. The author seems to believe that even if the “solution” doesn’t solve the problem at all, it’s better than doing nothing, because the perfect solution doesn’t exist, hence the absence of nirvana. The fallacy is correct, however it is incorrectly applied to the gun control argument which is a fallacy in its own right.

    Why should I make my bed mommy, it’s just going to get messed up again?

    Why fix those potholes in the street, they’re only going to come back again?

    Outlawing marijuana and drugs won’t stop drug use or even curtail it a little bit. Sometimes the nirvana argument is in fact the correct argument because it happens to be true.


      Guns, don’t kill…bullets don’t kill…. bullets do not propel themselves in mystical fashion to find a way to end life. It all falls back to the thing that caused action to happen, it this instance, it would be the entity that pulled the trigger. Cause and effect.

      Were there no guns, then people would use clubs, or bows and arrows, or rocks, or whatever tool came to hand.

      One thing is damned certain, the government itself is who the people need to be protected from, and they certainly won’t come fighting fairly… there is a reason that the government doesn’t want the civilians to posess arms to resist. It’s certainly not to protect all the good people from a few bad criminals….

      all the arguements that one can make, at least we are still RELATIVELY able to voice our opinions freely, although through control and strictures that are becoming ever more restrictive, those days of free opinion seem to be limited.

  • Richard Simpson

    Left out is one of the most common argumentation errors, and the author actually used it, notably, in #1… the non-sequitur. If the ‘ends’ do not follow logically from the ‘means’, that is a non-sequitur.

    Armed robbery is already illegal. Adding an extra charge to make it slightly more illegal by outlawing guns is unlikely to deter a criminal already willing to use violence to commit the first crime. Suggesting that it would actually do so, is the end which doesn’t follow the proposed means. While the argument against gun control in this case may be a ‘nirvana argument’, it is presented in light of the fact that the stated argument in favor of gun control is a non-sequitur.

    #2 is also illogical. A heterosexual person CAN say they enjoy watching heterosexual pornography, without anyone assuming they are either gay or homophobic. You might want to conceive of a better argument, in support of your deconstruction of the ‘loaded question’.

  • Richard Simpson

    The motivation to not alienate their fan base is a separate, and more valid argument. But if ppl just think Jedi suck, a new Jedi movie, no matter how well written or produced, is unlikely to win them over.

  • Eduardo Maal

    Very good article. Of course, it is a little biased, in the sense that it conveniently uses arguments the author seems to agree with, when showing the correct way to argue issues.

    Just wanted to point out that in the case of the gun debate and healthcare debate, you’re right, the main arguments used against them are incorrect. But I would like it if people would take an interest in these issues and see the full argumentation behind it.

    It usually comes down to the Broken Window Fallacy (you can look this up on Wikipedia). For Universal Healthcare, its a nice idea, but when it comes to any product or service, when you separate the person who is buying the product or service, from the person who is paying for it, you have some very dire consequences. Well, first of all, lets not forget we all need to pay the bill for Universal Healthcare. But since we don’t have an immediate feedback of the cost, we are prone to get the best healthcare possible. Of course, that might seem like a good thing, but no economy can afford to give everyone the best healthcare possible. Imagine if food was handled that way, and everyone went in and decided to get US$ 400 bottles of wine, and the best prociutto, and caviar. This system would quickly go down, the same occurs with healthcare. If everyone decides to go to the hospital just for having a fever, or a cold, and get the most expensive treatment, you can see how this quickly becomes a question of scarcity. I mean, that’s why healthcare even has a cost, because there is scarcity. If there was enough healthcare for everyone, just like the air we breathe, it would probably be naturally free. Of course, the promoters of this will argue “look, it works in Britain and in Sweden. And Canada!” Well, if you look closely, all these countries have very serious problems. In Canada and Britain, the waiting lines are huge. In Britain, they are already starting to refuse healthcare in very difficult to cure cases, especially when it comes to babies and old people. In Sweden, there are many cases where the ambulance doesn’t get sent because there is a shortage of ambulances, and they pick the cases that they feel are really urgent. These arguments aren’t just about what you can see (oh, we are giving healthcare to the poor guy who didn’t have it). Its about what you can’t see, the increased cost of hiring someone, which will mean they’re out of work. The fact that if you don’t have a choice of whether to get healthcare or not, simply means the Insurance Companies (which are an oligopoly) can charge you whatever they want, because you can’t say no.

    The same goes for the gun debate. OK, I’ve already written a lot, so I’ll try to keep this short. A gun is a tool. Basically, one can say that the great benefit of a gun is that it puts a weak and a strong person on the same level, it matches their ability to cause agression. Of course, it also increases any person’s ability to cause agression. But doesn’t it also serve as a deterrent? What do you think will have a greater chance of stopping a criminal? The possibility of a well-trained gun owner, or the threat of the law, which already exists saying what he is doing will send him to jail (stealing, killing, etc.), except we want to add that his having a gun is also ilegal? Right now, the police can’t stop guns going into jails. The US has immense borders (if you consider only the borders of land), if you consider the water then, its impossible to stop contraband. So, who would a gun ban affect? Probably the law abiding citizens, and maybe a few potential crooks. OK, but you’re talking about banning assault weapons. Well, first of all, the AR-15 isn’t an assault weapon. But secondly, what would that accomplish? Only 4% of gun murders in the US are using assault weapons. Its even speculated that there is some media manipulation in the statement that most mass murderers use assault weapons. Honestly, its preferable for someone to go into an area with a concealed weapon, if their plan is to do something like that, because the targets are all close by, and there’s less of a chance of getting caught. Also, the fact that most gun murders happen in areas where guns are banned (gun free zones), or in cities with very strict anti-gun regulation. That must count for something.

    • JohnnyBrillcream

      I’m going to use the TL;DR read argument, an often overlooked one. Just kidding, good points.

  • David P

    To be fair, I think I see most nirvana fallacies committed in response to pure conjecture.

  • Richard Simpson

    Where’s the Broken Window Fallacy (the Seen vs the Unseen)?

  • Eduardo Maal

    The broken window fallacy in the case of healthcare is:

    What you see: people getting healthcare, who before didn’t have it.

    What you don’t see: healthcare costs go up. And companies need to pay for it. So the amount of money they must spend per employee goes up a bit to absorb part of it, and the amount of money the employee actually receives goes down, to absorb the other part. So companies will need to hire less employees (unemployment) – the company isn’t going to go broke because they passed a law. Also, healthcare costs go up, so people’s salaries don’t go as far as they’d like, and they spend less money, so the general economy suffers a slump. More unemployment. Inflation. Etc.

  • Charles Bronson

    In ‘Argument from ignorance’ , as author points out the burden of proof must not be transferred. But in the righteous sense , the burden of proof lies with the one who wants to prove something in the first place and not with the counter arguer who disapproves it.

    • Eduardo Maal

      Well, if you want to say “God exists”, you need to prove it. But if you want to say “there is no greater force, no greater being”, you also have to prove that.

      Any statement has to be proven.

      • Charles Bronson

        But whover tries to imply something ( true or false ) has the burden of proof and not with counter arguer who disapproves it.
        If every counter argument has to be proven there would be a stalemate in arguments. ( Initial implier of something would always ask the arguer to disprove it )

        • Eduardo Maal

          You’re right. If someone says “God exists”, they need to prove it. Until then, there is no definition to whether he exists or not.

  • Daniel

    A much better read:

    I didn’t care for this list.