English Language
Missing the Point

Missing the Point

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Understanding the Fallacy of Missing the Point

During discussions, you may often hear someone say, "But you're missing the point." But what does this phrase truly mean? To miss the point is to commit a logical fallacy, where an error is made in reasoning. This informal fallacy occurs when a person attempts to counter a point that is not relevant to the argument at hand. Let's delve into the definition and significance of missing the point, as well as ways to avoid and rectify this flaw in reasoning.

Defining Missing the Point

In simple terms, missing the point means not addressing the main focus of an argument. This type of fallacy can occur in single claims or arguments involving multiple people. For instance:

Person A: The punishment for murder should be death, as it is the most heinous of crimes.

Person B: But was the accused man actually the one who committed the crime?

Here, Person A misses the point by not addressing the main question of the argument, which is the accused man's guilt.

Why Missing the Point is a Fallacy

The significance of this fallacy lies in the fact that it cannot effectively counter the original point. By failing to address the main focus, the argument becomes flawed and illogical. In other words, it attempts to refute a point that does not exist. This can lead to a counter-argument that is irrelevant and lacks logical reasoning.

In an ironic twist, even arguing that an argument that misses the point can still be valid is itself a fallacy. This is because it attempts to refute the original argument based on its own logic, instead of the opposing argument's logic. Ultimately, missing the point results in reshaping the original argument and derailing the discussion.

Examples of Missing the Point

Here are two examples of missing the point that demonstrate how a good point can still be fallacious:

Example 1:

Person A: They should keep teaching kids that Pluto is a planet, because that's what I was taught when I was their age!

Person B: But the scientific definition of a planet has changed.

While Person B's counter may seem valid, they are also missing the point of Person A's argument. Person A is not arguing about the scientific accuracy of Pluto's designation, but rather personal experience and belief.

Example 2:

Person A: We should continue teaching the Sun orbits the Earth, as it was taught hundreds of years ago.

Person B: What we teach our kids should be based on the most recent scientific understanding, not just what was previously taught.

Here, Person B directly addresses Person A's logic, effectively countering the argument without missing the point.


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