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Fallacies I See: “You ALWAYS Have An Answer!”

The Preemptive Strike Fallacy:

This fallacy is committed when someone assumes they’ve discredited your rebuttal to their arguments simply by forecasting the fact that you would dare to have a response at all. It’s usually expressed in the form of sarcastic statements like “I’m sure you’re going to have a response to this because you always have an answer for everything.” Then when you actually have a response, they say “SEE. I KNEW you’d have a response.” You are thus refuted by the sheer force of their predictive powers. By invoking this fallacy, your opponent in debate is free from having to address your actual arguments. Why should they? After all, they knew you’d have SOMETHING to say. The mere fact that you even had a response becomes evidence of its own invalidity.

Possible Underlying Concern:

Perhaps the person committing the fallacy has a legitimate concern that their conversational partner is an unfair debater who’s determined to have the last word no matter what. There are certainly cases in which this concern is justified. There are two things we should keep in mind, however, if we find ourselves feeling this way about the person we’re debating: 1) If we can’t presume sincerity on behalf of the person we’re debating, why argue with them at all? Why not just end the conversation as soon as evidence for their unfairness emerges? What does it say about us when we persist in arguing with people whose sincerity we mistrust? 2) Even if we’re correct in our judgment that the person with whom we’re debating is always going to have a response, that doesn’t mean their response in this particular instance is incorrect. No one is right all the time, but it’s still possible that they may be right this time. Dismissing people’s claims, based on the charge that they’re not as interested in truth as we are, is a very inefficient way of getting through to people. It’s far more effective to listen charitably, ask thoughtful questions, and explore the possibility of achieving a bit of clarity on the topic at hand.

Suggested response:

Well, I do tend to think quite a bit about the things I believe. So it’s not entirely unlikely that I’ll have some kind of response to many of the objections people raise about my points of view. But that doesn’t mean I’m closed to the possibility that I’m capable of being mistaken about things. If I am mistaken, however, I’ll need you to be patient if you wish to play a role in helping me see my errors. Since my beliefs are based on reasons that make sense to me at this time, I don’t want to hastily assume that I am wrong based on blind faith. If you wish to continue in our dialogue, I’ll do the best that I can to be open-minded towards the possibilities you suggest. I can’t promise that we’ll see eye to eye, but I can promise a stimulating and respectful exchange that will make us better thinkers and communicators in the process.

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