Special pleading

Special pleading

Special pleading is a form of spurious argumentation where a position in a dispute introduces favorable details or excludes unfavorable details by alleging a need to apply additional considerations without proper criticism of these considerations themselves. Essentially, this involves someone attempting to cite something as an exemption to a generally accepted rule, principle, etc. without justifying the exemption.

The lack of criticism may be a simple oversight (e.g., a reference to common sense) or an application of a double standard.

A more difficult case is when a possible criticism is made relatively immune to investigation. This immunity may take the forms of:

* reference to vocabulary that is "owned" by a distinct community with sole rights to assess meaning and application:Example: "If you do something illegal it is right for the government to arrest you."
* unexplained claims of exemption from principles commonly thought relevant to the subject matter:Example: "I'm not relying on faith in small probabilities here. These are slot machines, not roulette wheels. They are different."
* claims to data that are inherently unverifiable, perhaps because too remote or impossible to define clearly:Example: "Cocaine use should be legal. Like all drugs, it does have some adverse health effects, but cocaine is different from other drugs. Many have benefited from the effects of cocaine. "
* assertion that the opponent lacks the qualifications necessary to comprehend a point of view:Example: "I know you think that I should be giving my money to the poor, but you've never been rich before. There are things about wealth that you don't understand."
* assertion that literally nobody has the qualifications necessary to comprehend a point of view:Example: "I know the idea that ball lightning is caused by ghosts makes no sense to you, but that's only because you're human. Humans cannot understand supernatural phenomena."

In the classic distinction among material, psychological, and logical fallacies, [This division is found in introductory texts such as Fallacy: The Counterfeit of Argument, W. Ward Fearnside, Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1959.] special pleading most likely falls within the category of psychological fallacy, as it would seem to relate to "lip service", rationalization, and diversion (abandonment of discussion). Special pleading also often resembles the "appeal to" logical fallacies.

In philosophy, it is assumed that wherever a distinction is claimed, a relevant basis for the distinction should exist and be substantiated. Special pleading is a subversion of this assumption.


External links

* [http://www.fallacyfiles.org/specplea.html Special pleading at the Fallacy Files]
* [http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/special-pleading.html Special pleading at the Nizkor Project]
* [http://www.earlham.edu/~peters/courses/inflogic/onesided.htm The One-Sidedness Fallacy] by Peter Suber.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Special pleading — Special Spe cial, a. [L. specialis, fr. species a particular sort, kind, or quality: cf. F. sp[ e]cial. See {Species}, and cf. {Especial}.] 1. Of or pertaining to a species; constituting a species or sort. [1913 Webster] A special is called by… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • special pleading — n. 1. Law a pleading which is more than a mere denial of the charges or allegations, as one introducing new matter justifying an otherwise culpable act 2. an argument or presentation that leaves out what is unfavorable and develops only what is… …   English World dictionary

  • special pleading — n [U] when someone tries to persuade you to do something by giving you only those facts that support their argument …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • special pleading — noun uncount 1. ) LEGAL the introduction of new evidence in a trial 2. ) an unfair attempt to influence someone in authority to do something that will be of benefit only to you …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • special pleading — ► NOUN ▪ argument in which the speaker deliberately ignores aspects that are unfavourable to their point of view …   English terms dictionary

  • special pleading — N UNCOUNT If someone is using special pleading, they are trying to persuade you to do something by only telling you the facts that support their case. The Secretary of State has already given in to special pleading by interested parties …   English dictionary

  • special pleading — A pleading required for presentation of special matters of defense, that is, matters going beyond a mere denial of plaintiff s allegations. 41 Am J1st Pl § 144. A pleading in excuse or justification; a pleading in confession and avoidance.… …   Ballentine's law dictionary

  • special pleading — 1. Law. pleading that alleges special or new matter in avoidance of the allegations made by the opposite side. 2. pleading or arguing that ignores unfavorable features of a case. [1675 85] * * * …   Universalium

  • special pleading — /spɛʃəl ˈplidɪŋ/ (say speshuhl pleeding) noun 1. Law pleading that alleges special or new matter in avoidance of the allegations made by the opposite side. 2. pleading or arguing that ignores unfavourable features of a case …   Australian-English dictionary

  • special pleading — spe′cial plead′ing n. 1) law Law. pleading that avoids allegations against a client by alleging new or special matter 2) law arguing that ignores unfavorable features of a subject • Etymology: 1675–85 …   From formal English to slang

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