Here’s a rhetorical fallacy for you. I’m calling it the “poor ignorant soul”. If it has been named and claimed before, let me know in a comment.
The Poor Ignorant Soul Fallacy is when one person claims that the other would agree with them, if only they knew what the claimant knows.
This is particularly keenly used with esoteric knowledge “If you only knew Jesus, you’d see I’m right.” But is also used as a kind of argument from authority “If you had spent as long studying this as I have, you’d see I’m right.”
It is a fallacy for two reasons:
a) It assumes that the claimant has more or superior knowledge: the target of the claim might be perfectly aware of everything the claimant knows, and more besides.
b) It assumes that both the claimant and the target are significantly deriving their positions from knowledge.
It is mostly used as a power grab. To avoid really discussing something, or really listening to another person’s views, you set yourself up rhetorically as their superior. Then you can smile sympathetically as they fumble to erroneous conclusions, a consequence of their unfortunate condition of ignorance.
It is attractive because, in many cases it is true: a person can hold an opinion based on ignorance. But the temptation becomes to assume ignorance because of their position.
This is a fallacy I am guilty of a lot. Just about every disagreement in the comments of this blog results in me pulling this one at some point. In this post, I did it deliberately, because I was responding to the fact that it is a hugely popular tactic for believers to pull. But perhaps the irony was actually lost on me, since I manage to display the tendency plenty without any conscious aim at satire.
Do you fall into this? If you genuinely do happen to be more knowledgeable than your interlocutor in a subject (say if I’m discussing evolution with a creationist) should you try to avoid it, if so how?