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Argument by assertion

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Logic and rhetoric

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Argument by assertion is the logical fallacy where someone tries to argue a point by merely asserting that it is true, regardless of contradiction. While this may seem stupid, it's actually an easy trap to fall into and is quite common.

"A lie told often enough becomes the truth" —Lenin
"If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth" —Goebbels

This is not the same as establishing initial axioms on which to build a framework of logic or ideas.

Contents

[edit] Form

It is a very simple formal logical fallacy that has the following structure:

X is true.

It may take a longer form, such as:

X is true. I say it's true. Nothing you do can convince me otherwise. If you don't believe in X you have a closed mind. I like it at least. It's true. Oh, shut up and have an open mind! Of course it's true!!

[edit] Rhetoric

It is also well known as rhetoric, because an assertion itself isn't really a proof of anything, or even a real argument - assertion only demonstrates that the person making the statement believes in it. An inability to provide anything other than an argument by assertion may be the result of brainwashing, basing ones belief on blind faith or ignorance as to what forms a proper argument. Those who argue by assertion often do think that they're making a real argument. They might simply not realise where they haven't provided a full argument. The point of constructive debate or discourse is to draw attention to this sort of thing, and for people to further develop and evolve their arguments in response. A truly fallacious argument by assertion is when someone continues to assert without advancing their argument, even after it has been pointed out.

A repeated argument by assertion can also take the form of non sequitur that requires little effort to make and is therefore often used to fatigue people who make actual arguments - sometimes combined with the infamous Gish Gallop. They will then bow out of the debate, usually exhausted, having lost faith in humanity and muttering "how the hell do you reason with these people?!?!" through grinding teeth - at which point the individual making the assertive argument simply declares victory.

[edit] Examples

[edit] Denial-like example

In this exchange, A makes an argument by assertion:

A: X is not true.
B: [argument C]; therefore X is true.
A: X IS NOT TRUE!!!

[edit] Circular example

Or sometimes they will address the counter-argument as such:

A: X is not true.
B: [argument C]; therefore X is true.
A: argument C this is nonsense, because X is not true.

[edit] Argumentum ad lapidem

A subset of the argument by assertion is the argumentum ad lapidem ("argument to the stone"), in which a statement is dismissed as absurd or otherwise false without any reasoning or other justification.

[edit] See also

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