24 June, 2011

Fallacy Week: Form Over Function Fallacies

Hi guys it's FALLACY WEEK! Every day you get some fallacy action from a post I made a super long time ago at LOVE-NOS.

Form Over Function Fallacies
I guess that all fallacies of relevance kind of are form over function, but these fallacies are ones in which stuff that is just incredibly, incredibly content-free gets used to win an argument. Again, these are difficult to separate and define, and parts of them are familiar, so I won’t be overlong in describing them.

1. John has an intellectual disability. John and Mary are having an argument about something important to John, and he starts crying. Isaiah, who is also present, concludes that John is obviously too fragile to be thinking about this stuff or having these conversations, or is too childlike to understand the issues being discussed.
2. John and Mary are having an argument about something important to Mary, and she starts crying. John feels bad for being insensitive or being too fixed on a particular point of view. Or if he doesn’t feel bad automatically, Mary or Isaiah tells him that he should feel bad.
3. John has autism. He and Mary argue. Mary tells him that he is too fixed on his own point of view, because of his autism.
4. John can have many different developmental or psychiatric disabilities, but he usually has autism. He and Mary argue. Mary tells him that he can’t understand the experiences of other disabled people, or their families and staff, because his disability makes him insensitive and unempathetic.
5. The way John talks is unusual and/or impaired, and boy do Mary and Isaiah talk about that after he’s gone. He talks in a very rehearsed way or blanks out when asked a complicated question, so Mary and Isaiah figure that he’s either lying or has been trained by someone else and doesn’t really understand what he’s saying. He uses the wrong words a lot, or rambles, so he doesn’t really know what he’s talking about. He uses very simple words, so he isn’t being serious. Infinite examples.

I can’t really deconstruct these because they just are awful and if you don’t understand why, you never will. Anyway, it's the end of Fallacy Week! Go forth and argue.


  1. Thanks for all of these fallacies and rebuttals, Amanda! You should consider writing these in a book and giving it to a Disability Studies professor.

  2. Oh, I agree with Catatab! I sorta wish these were commonly known rhetorical terms, so I could say stuff like, "Well, Joe, it looks to me like you're using a classic example of the form over function fallacy to dismiss Gregory's point of view without engaging any of his actual arguments. Not cool, Joe."