The “If You Walk Away I Win” Fallacy (The Incompetent Impasse)

(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 draw, or a tie, so to speak.

Another, opposite situation occurs much more often. The player has lots of legal moves he could make with every piece except his king, which is in check with no way out. 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!”

In that case he’d be acting as if he were playing chess, without knowing enough to realize he has no clue what the game is about.

He might sit there and move his knight and his bishop. When the other player gets up and walks away, he might even declare himself the winner. “What’s wrong with you? Afraid to play? Afraid I’ll embarrass you? You surrender, I win!”

But his king is still in checkmate.

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

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 it’s because their answers are logically incompetent, and even after consistent attempts to clarify and explain and even teach, they don’t get it.

Sometimes the person disengages even while acting engaged. I’m talking about those all-too-frequent times when they’ll ignore questions asked of them or points directed toward them. They say what they want to say, treating others in the conversation as their audience rather than as participants in a mutual conversation. Soon you realize there’s no point saying anything, they’ll just ignore it like they’ve ignored everything else. This, too, is incompetence on their part: They can’t hold up their end of a reasoned conversation.

Some people are too rude to want to spend time with. That’s incompetence of a different sort: They think rudeness is a form of argument. It isn’t.

When that kind of thing happens, I’ll get up and walk away. The other person may declare himself the winner. His king is still in check.

If I’ve tried hard to explain and he still doesn’t get it, then there’s nothing left to do but walk. He’ll shout his triumph, no doubt. I’ll just leave a link to this article for the sake of onlookers. They’ll get it, even if he doesn’t.

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