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Moralistic fallacy

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From Mary Mapes Dodge[wp].
Part of the series on

Logic and rhetoric

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A moralistic fallacy (often, wishful thinking) is a logical fallacy that occurs when someone asserts that the way things should be is in fact how they are.

While cognitive dissonance (e.g. as in the fable of The Fox and the Grapes[wp]) describes the suffering experienced when holding an internally inconsistent worldview, utilizers of the Moralistic fallacy solve this discomfort by simply overwriting everything with how it should be, case closed - ta-daa, suddenly the world adds up.

It is an inversion of the naturalistic fallacy. Wishful thinking is often synonymous with denial.

The fallacy is an appeal to consequences and an informal fallacy.


[edit] Alternative names

  • wishful thinking
  • appeal to hope
  • ought-is

[edit] Explanation

Wanting something to be true is irrelevant to its truth. However, if this belief were true, our wishes would always come true. Clearly, this is not the case.

Don't believe us? A toddler can't desire a cookie into existence; 6 million Jews couldn't desire themselves out of death camps.

[edit] Examples

  • PETA and other animal rights activists have argued that milk is less healthy than alcohol, and even causes autism in the unborn.
  • Some feminists may go beyond merely saying men and women ought to have equal opportunities to asserting that they do everything equally well, or that women do everything better.
  • Infidelity is viewed as immoral by many, and so it must not be natural to desire other people than one's monogamous partner.
  • Some fundamentalists' statements about Darwinism or homosexuality (which, in that latter case, also use the reverse).

The concern has been that evidence contradicting such moral values will lead to people justifying this behavior, since it is "natural". While understandable, this has led to instances in which research that contradicts them caused people uncomfortable with it to engage in denialism. In the realm of religion it can take the form "God is good, therefore He does not support X, which I view as bad." Alternately, it would be theoretically possible for an atheist to make the opposite fallacious argument (as they are alleged to by some theists) that "I view God (or His commands) to be bad, therefore He does not exist."

[edit] In public policy

Wishful thinking may characterize popular consensus on other important public policy issues. For example, American space policy is now in the grip of the belief that private firms will finance the exploration of outer space. That seems unlikely, but feels good because it offers an escape from spending the large sums necessary for human space exploration.

However, billionaire Elon Musk has apparently serious plans to found a human colony on Mars by 2040, with a population of 80,000. Unfortunately, his projections indicate this will cost about half a million US dollars per ticket (in 2012 dollars).

Also, Planetary Resources[wp] and Deep Space Industries[wp] are two companies founded to (eventually) do asteroid mining and ship the products around the solar system to where they can be used to build more space hardware. Planetary Resources plans to focus on the mining itself, and Deep Space Industries on the manufacturing in space. And unlike with Elon Musk and his Mars colony plans, they have already raised significant sums from investors on the basis of their ideas.

[edit] Positive outcome bias

Even qualified peer reviewers were more likely to rate a study favourably if it appeared to give positive results rather than if the results appeared neutral or negative. [1]

[edit] Positive thinking versus wishful thinking

Wishful thinking is not the same thing as "positive thinking," or the idea that by thinking positively, one will experience better outcomes. Thinking positively can help a person achieve a particular goal, in much the same way that thinking negatively can be a demotivating factor; thinking positively can conceivably help someone to maintain their focus on getting some task done. Wishful thinking, on the other hand, is more about changing reality to match your perceptions, or thinking that reality would be swayed by what you think.

An apt analogy can be found in medicine. Thinking positively about a course of treatment can improve a patient's outlook on life, helping the patient to feel better and maybe even having a placebo effect. Meanwhile, wishful thinking would entail denying that one had an illness, or that God would cure it, and assuming it would go away just because of that.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] Footnotes

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