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The Whole Person Fallacy (A Variant of the Generalization Fallacy)

Updated: 2 days ago

Perhaps one of the easiest fallacies when interacting with others comes from judging the nature of a person. It's a fallacy when the estimation is based on insufficient evidence to make such a judgment. Imagine the Death Star from Star Wars. A supreme battlestation that can only be defeated by a single shot into an exposed tunnel to the core. So is what I'd like to present as the Whole Person Fallacy, a variable to the generalization fallacy, which can be defined as "A hasty generalization."

It's a fallacy in which a conclusion that is reached is not logically justified by sufficient or unbiased evidence." (

Like with the Death Star, your image and progress in life, no matter how noble or accomplished, can be completely overshadowed by a single or a few more mistakes or even a minor inconvenience, thus rendering all your features unimportant, even as if they never existed, by external reception.

You can run a very successful, very customer-friendly air travel business, but have its entire reputation stained for life by an unexpected, embarrassing incident between a furious customer and one of your attendants.

This is particularly true when it comes to the "MeToo" movement, regardless of whether the case for doing so is justified or not. Has someone reported you, a public servant, for sexual harassment? It does not matter how much you contribute to your country and community. The door awaits you to exit through it without considering your service to society (assuming you did).

In today's world, it is unfortunately easy to crush someone's entire image based on a single case. I gave some examples of my own before, but should you, as a writer, write an inconvenient, not-particularly-liked article, then congrats. You're a terrible writer. A terrible one in the eyes of the easily troubled.

Have you written entire books before? Nope, it doesn't matter, because a certain response on FaceBook you wrote out of innocence will still make you appear incredibly stupid in the eyes of those who are not willing to see beyond the current evidence, which is very likely to be insufficient.

Hence, every action in the External World is some sort of gamble you have to take if you want to see said action executed. Any content you release to the world, regardless of intention, can leave a mark on your name permanently due to the common ability of the many to remember insufficient evidence for long, more than the uncommon ability of few, to do more research or thinking on the commented case.

The human brain (not necessarily every human brain, but in general) naturally seeks cognitive shortcuts in order to save unnecessary power by prioritizing efficiency over power-consuming actions that might waste us otherwise essential energy.

Perhaps this is why we generalize in the form of stereotypes, in the form of using the fallacy at hand, and so forth. Taking the time to doubt the initial conclusion and seek more counter-evidence to said conclusion, more often than not requires more brain power than some of us are willing to invest in, since it is much easier to be confident in a short-processed conclusion, rather than reaching a well-thought-out, post-doubted one.

Does someone criticize your work? Ah, they must be jealous, even though you might not know if that is indeed the case based on findable statistics about said person. Is there someone you know who dresses very religiously? Ah, they must be so into religion that they have no other interests. Although the way someone dresses does not indicate their true fields of interest.

It is easy to conclude when someone appears directly in your face, because that means you can allegedly move on with confidence in your assumptions.

The dry solution to this fallacy is, of course, to become a more curious and skeptical person, to the point where you will be willing to surpass your own immediate confidence in a certain theory you've reached.

Don't just accept its existence in your head once it has arrived or once you have found it. Ask yourself, "What else do I know about the person before me, and is what I already know about them sufficient for me to draw a conclusion that makes sense? Based on the available data and statistics, can I unlock this using a bit more time and effort?"

And indeed, it is easy to make yourself feel as if you know enough about the person in front of you, even if you've never met them offline, and even if you don't have all the required information that might topple your proposition. One time, for example, I was called a pseudo-intellectual for using a single word.

Does it matter if the insulter reads my books or not, or, at least, other of my articles? Probably not. And the point is, once a false proposition gets enough attention, whether it is a lie or not, it can easily get a considerable amount of agreement, based on the impression of the "authority" who proposed it. It is easy, for example, to get dozens if not hundreds of upvotes on a YouTube comment, even if it is false.

The sad reality of all of this is this: It matters less to many humans, whether or not the truth is the actual truth. For many, it matters more if the "truth" is widely accepted, because if you're skeptical about it, you'll likely receive some hate from those who disagree with you due to their confidence that they are indeed correct.

Perhaps this is what Plato was referring to in his "Cave Analogy", that some, if not many, are satisfied enough with the shadows they see in their cave, projected from the bonfire, instead of the intense light of the sun that waits for you just outside, with all that you're required to do being gather up some motivation to march a few steps forward.

And indeed, that "effort" is of the same difficulty as it is literarily, where today you can learn about just about anyone with an internet connection, to a degree, by looking them up. I wager some people are just too lazy to look up the person they are replying to, which is sad because it can be seen as a form of "Fake News", even if it is basic.

So, if you are to call someone, for example, a horrible writer, without even reading up any of the books they have published (or any other variable to this situation -- a YouTuber, a blacksmith, and so forth), then consider the possibility that you might not only be committing a fallacy, but also be spreading false information on someone without even trying much of what they have to offer, with payment or for free.

As an analogy, the Death Star was an extremely powerful ship in the Star Wars franchise, able to destroy planets with ease and be a significant force on its own against a large hostile fleet. But alas, due to a certain revealed weakness, it became some sort of joke by being defeated by a single person, with, what, two torpedoes?

While we cannot explode like the Death Star, our good name can, with the shot of an overly-hasty torpedo.

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Tomasio A. Rubinshtein, Philosocom's Founder & Writer

I am a philosopher from Israel, author of several books in 2 languages, and Quora's Top Writer of the year 2018. I'm also a semi-hermit who has decided to dedicate his life to writing and sharing my articles across the globe. Several podcasts on me, as well as a radio interview, have been made since my career as a writer. More information about me can be found here.

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