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It Applies in Theory, But Not in Practice

 

Techniques General persuasion > The Art of Being Right > It Applies in Theory, But Not in Practice

Description | Example | Discussion | See also

 

Description

"That's all very well in theory, but it won't do in practice." In this sophism you admit the premisses but deny the conclusion, in contradiction with a well-known rule of logic. The assertion is based upon an impossibility: what is right in theory must work in practice; and if it does not, there is a mistake in the theory; something has been overlooked and not allowed for; and, consequently, what is wrong in practice is wrong in theory too.

Example

Nice idea, but this is the real world, you know.

Sorry, but you just don't have the experience, otherwise you'd know that that just wouldn't work.

Discussion

This approach is a common counter to a well-argued proposal, discounting it as impractical, and is typically used when the subject is unable to counter-argue, but has superior direct experience of the area in question.

It is also a response that can be used to any form of generalization, which abstracts away from specific reality. By reframing the problem as grounded in complex and messy reality, the simplified abstract solution, though logically sound is implied to to be based on inadequate grounds.

'It Applies in Theory, But Not in Practice' is the thirty-third of Schopenhauer's stratagems.

See also

Only theory, Generalization, Reframing

 

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