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Not an argument

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Ben Garrison depicting Donald Trump and Stefan Molyneux as truth warriors.
Part of the series on
Logic and rhetoric
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General logic
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Remember, folks, saying "that's racist" is not a refutation.
Sargon of Akkad[1]

The phrase not an argument fallaciously dismisses arguments that are phrased as bald assertions. For example, the following exchange is common:

Ann: "Trump is racist. "
Bob: "That's not an argument."

Takes one to know one[edit]

The "not an argument" response is usually incorrect, because the claim that purportedly is "not an argument" is itself a shorthand or implicit argument.[2]

In the above example, the phrase "Trump is racist" is likely short for the following syllogism:

P1: (unstated) If Trump did [X], Trump is racist.
P2: (unstated) Trump did [X].
C1: Trump is racist.
P3: (unstated) Racism is bad.
C2: (unstated) Trump is bad.

As should be clear, this is an argument.

If this is what the speaker is implying, then the assertion that this claim is "not an argument" is logically incorrect. And if so, the response that "this is not an argument" does not actually refute any of the syllogisms' points.

I know you are, but what am I?[edit]

Instead, a proper response to the above argument would be one of the following:

  • [X] is not a racist act (to disprove P1), or:
  • Trump did not do [X] (to disprove P2), or:
  • Racism is not bad (to disprove P3), or even:
  • What is your argument?

Because "not an argument" fails to engage with the original syllogism, the argument of "not an argument" is itself not an argument.


  2. These unstated arguments are called enthymemes, and can themselves be fallacious.