Suppressed correlative

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Suppressed correlative or lost contrast is a semantic logical fallacy in which the arguer attempts to redefine two contrasting terms in such a way that one encompasses the other. As such, it is a form of straw man argument.


Opponent: "All things are either X or not X."
Response: "I define X in such a way that all things you say are not X are included in X."

Even if the definition used to redefine X is a more technically correct definition, it is still this fallacy, because it is still an attempt to avoid the opponent's actual argument which is based around two contrasting possibilities.


  • This is commonly used in debates about whether things are "art"; the question "is it art?" requires some possibility that something might not be art. The common response, that art is defined as an ineffable quality or a method of human expression, removes any possibility that something created by humans could not be classified as art, and therefore cannot possibly be addressing the opponent's actual argument.[note 1]
  • Often used in attempts to classify science or atheism as religious beliefs; the substitute definition of "religion" will typically be so broad that almost any human association would qualify as a religion.
  • "I don't view humanity as the same species because we're not all the same" — Stefan Molyneux.[1]

External links[edit]


  1. If one wants to avoid over-defining "art" (and thus excluding things that may very well be art), but also want to avoid this trap, one could just define art as "anything created with the intention of creating or causing an emotional or other mental response in humans". This definition has the advantage of short-circuiting such things as Duchamp's UrinalWikipedia since that was intended to provoke discussion about "what is art", it counts.


  1. Molyneux: 'I don't view humanity as a single species' [MIRROR], 20 August 2014.