An informal fallacy

hypothesis: If a doctrine gains widespread acceptance, our account of its historical progress needs to include an account of how it is rationally persuasive; and if it either loses or fails to attain this, our account must include an account of how it is not rationally persuasive.

The hypothesis is in the domain of logic because it concerns the formal structure of the account we give of a subject. If we grant the hypothesis, then we recognize an informal logical principle, the corruption of which would therefore count as an informal fallacy. (Now all we need is one of those snappy names.)

So Scholastics can no longer speak of Nominalism or Cartesianism as though they were infections, nor can others speak of the rise of Christianity as mere toadying to Constantine, nor can Christians themselves deal with the widespread abandoning of the faith in Europe and Canada as mere wickedness.

A thing does not have to be true to be rationally persuasive, but widespread acceptance counts as presumptive evidence that needs to be acknowledged and addressed.

1 Comment

  1. thenyssan said,

    June 27, 2014 at 12:15 pm

    So the principle is something like “no doctrine gains widespread acceptance without being considered minimally rationally persuasive by the accepting population.” The reverse would be loss or failure based on failing to meet that minimal level.

    Fallacy: The Meme Fallacy. Ideas propagate with no reference to perceived minimal rational persuasion. Coined by Richard Dawkins.


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