The “If you walk away I win” Fallacy (The Incompetent Impasse)

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(I wrote this in a comment yesterday, and I’ve decided to bring it out here for future reference.)

“If You Walk Away I Win” — Even If His King Is In Checkmate

There’s a situation in chess called an “impasse:” an ending in which a player who is not in check cannot make any legal move. The game is over, but no one has won or lost. It’s a form of a draw, a tie, so to speak.

Consider the opposite: the player has lots of legal moves he could make with every piece but his king, which is in check and has nowhere to escape. That’s checkmate. The game is over and the player has lost.

Now imagine that player saying, “Hold on, the game is still on. I can move my knight! I can move my bishop!”

That would be a case of a player acting as if he were playing chess, not knowing enough about the game to recognize that he didn’t know enough to know he didn’t know how to play.

The player who doesn’t know he doesn’t know how to play may very well sit there and move his knight and his bishop. If the other player gets up and walks away, he’ll probably declare himself the winner.

But his king is still in checkmate.

“If You Walk Away I Win” — Even If He Doesn’t Know What He’s Talking About

Sometimes the same kind of kind of thing happens in arguments here: the person has no idea that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Sometimes I’ll get up and walk away.

The other person may declare himself the winner.

His king is still in checkmate.

Update October 5: I’m thinking the best name for this might be the Fallacy of the Incompetent Impasse.

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10 Responses to “ The “If you walk away I win” Fallacy (The Incompetent Impasse) ”

  1. Another thing that sometimes happens is that it is clear that someone wants to disagree no matter what, so they will criticize every single point. This means that continuing the discussion will involve multiplying it exponentially, since you keep having to respond to more and more points. And you know in advance that it is pointless, because the person is interested in disagreement for its own sake: whether you are right or wrong and whether your arguments are good and bad is not relevant to their responses.

    And of course you don’t have time to devote your life to such a meaningless discussion, so you walk away.

  2. I think that most of the drive-bys and trolls who stop by this site are either (A) stupid or (B) they think that Christians like me (IOW all committed Christians) are stupid. I don’t see that there is any other option.

    Well let’s for the sake of argument give them the benefit of the doubt and say that it’s B. I still am not so stupid that I am going to be convinced by logically fallacious arguments—strawmen, non sequiturs, begging the question etc. If they are not stupid they should be able to give me some valid arguments which aren’t fallacious, shouldn’t they?

    Well, maybe there is a third option. Maybe they are really as smart as they pretend to be. If that’s the case, then they are just being plain lazy. However, from my perspective, being lazy is not any better than being stupid. I can’t tell the difference. I guess I’m stupid about things like that.

  3. I guess you have to rationalize it someway and this is as good a way as any.

    Congratulations, you won again!

  4. There’s another pattern I’m beginning to see more often. Usually by people who (as mentioned in the first comment above) will disagree no matter what, and criticise every single point. This pattern I’m seeing is where they quote back parts of what you said.

    Now I know one reason for doing this is to prevent the other guy from deleting his comments, iow, it is a way of ensuring the other guy’s “embarrassing” comments are preserved.

    When this pattern is applied by a person who wants to disagree for the sake of disagreeing… it gets very tiresome very quickly. It definitely feels like someone reminds you of all the times you moved your knight or your bishop, while showing how he himself can move any of his pawns… and completely miss the point. I too have walked away twice in the last two weeks.

    In both cases, the response was: So you really don’t have any evidence then? Didn’t think so!

  5. I think I have discovered another strategy that sometimes comes into play here. Instead of admitting or denying he lost, our interlocutor begins talking about hypothetical set-ups where he would have won. Keeping with the chess analogy: “If my knight had been here and my rook had been there and this pawn just a space back not only would I not be in checkmate but you would be in trouble. What would you do then?”

    However, bluffing only works in poker, where you can’t see your opponent’s cards.

  6. Greetings friends! I have found that sometimes I have to end the conversation because the other side has dissolved (usually quickly) into name-calling or nonsense, and since I realize that they will not be educated by chasing every rabid rabbit they send currying across my blog, I figure maybe they can learn why they have failed to make an argument. So I say, “Look, here is a short list of the logical fallacies you have used. Here is where you have been answered and then tried to change the subject instead of paying any attention to the answer provided for your questions. In short, you seem to be arguing merely to argue, and if what I say means nothing to you, then I don’t need to be involved. If you want to fight, then go somewhere else. If you want to learn, ask me anything,” And often that ends the conversation, presumably because they were merely looking to fight. But instead of merely walking away, do the next Christian the favor of teaching them why the conversation was no longer worth the effort, so that maybe next time they can communicate better, or at least be told why you are ending the dialogue. If you’re like me, you don’t merely dump a conversation because you’re too lazy, but because the answers are not wanted. Point out where they have failed to dialogue, and then tell them WHY you are done. And then, there are those lovely little buttons that mute or block. I love those buttons. Anyhoo, My two cents. God bless you all.

  7. Bryan, I’ve looked at your blog and at this advice here. I suggest you think very carefully about Col. 4:6 and Eph. 4:15,29, and pray through what they mean to your outreach.