The Verbal Cheap Shot Artist Part 4: The Non-Sequitur

by Ron Haynes


This is part four of a 12 week series where, on Mondays, I plan to explore the tactics of verbal cheap shot artists – people who can’t, or won’t use valid arguments to present their case, but instead resort to verbal cheap shots. To make sure you don’t miss a single article, be sure and sign up for my RSS feed or subscribe by email (both are free!) so you can get a new article each day! Check out my other articles in the Verbal Cheap Shots category.

Non Sequitur Sign

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Non-sequitur is Latin for “it does not follow.” In formal logic, an argument is a non-sequitur if the conclusion does not follow from the premise. I should stress that in a non-sequitur, the conclusion can be either true or false, but the argument is a fallacy because the conclusion does not follow from the premise. All logical fallacies are actually just specific types of non-sequiturs when you examine them!

The basic non-sequitur follows this pattern:

  • If X, then Y
  • X is true
  • Therefore, Y must also be true

Two classic examples are:

  • If I am a cat, I am a mammal
  • I am a mammal
  • Therefore, I am a cat

Even if the premises and conclusion are both true, the conclusion is not a necessary consequence of the premise. This sort of non-sequitur is also called affirming the consequent.

Another, a reverse non-sequitur is:

  • If I am in Montreal, I am in Quebec
  • I am not in Montreal
  • I am not in Quebec

I could be in another city in Quebec! This type of non-sequitur is called denying the antecedent.

Non-sequiturs are implied in all sorts of advertising.

  • Take these vitamin supplements and you’ll get in great shape. You take them, but for some reason, the 6 pack you were promised still resembles a 3 liter.
  • Drive this car and you’ll get a supermodel girlfriend. You buy the car, but the girlfriend isn’t included — and doesn’t appear to be in sight.
  • If you use this shampoo, your hair will be perfect. You use the shampoo, but your hair doesn’t seem to appreciate it.
  • If you remodel your kitchen, your home will increase in value. You go for the remodel, but the home increases in value less than the amount you spent on the remodel.
  • If you invest in this brand of mutual fund, your retirement is guaranteed. You invest only to realize that nothing is guaranteed.
  • If you bake this brand of cake, your family will love you. If a cake is all it takes, you really have a different sort of problem.
  • If you drink this beer, you’ll live life to the fullest. Personally, I’m not sure it’s life these advertisers are full of.

The problem with most logical fallacies is that they all contain some small element of truth. To contest the non-sequitur, ask if the conclusion is always true, given the premises. If it isn’t, that doesn’t necessarily mean the entire argument is faulty, it simply means you need to more closely examine the entire argument. It may be true that you’re NOT in Quebec!

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About the author

Ron Haynes has written 1003 articles on The Wisdom Journal.


The founder and editor of The Wisdom Journal in 2007, Ron has worked in banking, distribution, retail, and upper management for companies ranging in size from small startups to multi-billion dollar corporations. He graduated Suma Cum Laude from a top MBA program and currently is a Human Resources and Management consultant, helping companies know how employees will behave in varying situations and what motivates them to action, assisting firms in identifying top talent, and coaching managers and employees on how to better communicate and make the workplace MUCH more enjoyable. If you'd like help in these areas, contact Ron using the contact form at the top of this page or at 870-761-7881.


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{ 3 comments }

Alan

Your article on this blog is fantastic.
Well done! I’m a big fan of your blog and be sure to keep up the great work.
I plan on returning and linking to your site.
Sincerely,
Alan H.
http://www.alanhaft.com

Phi

Great post! This takes me back to high school and “Animal Farm” where we had to find all of the logical fallacies.

Ron

Ha! I got out of reading that one — we had to read Brave New World instead. Waste of time back then, but it’s odd how Aldous Huxley predicted a lot of what’s happening with our society. He and Orwell were more accurate than even they would have believed.

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