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6rant6's avatar

Is there a Fluther equivalent to "denying the premise"?

Asked by 6rant6 (13672points) December 27th, 2010

In improv, there is a phrase, “Denying the premise” which essentially means that one player contradicts a circumstance postulated by another. For example, one says, “What will we do about our children?” and the other responds, “We have no children!” It’s a very ungenerous way to play.

I see this in Fluther where some humorless git answers a question, “If you were expelled from a hotel in the middle of the night for having too many dachsunds in your room, where would you go?” and they start their answer with “I would never be expelled from a hotel room for having to [sic] many dachsunds because I was raised to respect blah blah blah…”

I hate it. I mean, if someone doesn’t want to play, sit down and shut up. But to neigh say the question that is obviously somewhat tongue in cheek… Ag!

So anyway way do you have a name for what that is in Fluther?

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21 Answers

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

“Neffie.” ;)

SavoirFaire's avatar

Isn’t that just called “completely missing the point”?

absalom's avatar

I saw this recently and it sort of annoyed me. Someone took the time to enter a question and then write that s/he would not answer that question, as if on a matter of principle (and an already tenuous principle, too). How silly.

But, then, I’m sure I’ve also been guilty of something similar.

Sometimes ‘denying the premise’ can contribute by exposing incongruities in the question, but more often it simply fails to communicate anything meaningful. I view it as part of the performative aspect that develops in a community where answers are public and publicly rewarded for being interesting or original or even contrarian. ‘Denying the premise’ in this case is like a cheap way to ‘transcend’ the question and demonstrate that you are above answering it and above the others that are answering it.

You might call it modus tollens, but that’s a valid form of argument and not really what you’re getting at, I think.

augustlan's avatar


In the General section, an answer like that would be removed for being unhelpful, but in the Social section, folks are free to answer any way they like, so long as it isn’t a personal attack, terribly written, or spam.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

The second example does bug me, because it’s a totally hypothetical situation meant to be fun. The first I just find funny – I have a policy that if you make me laugh, you’re forgiven.

BarnacleBill's avatar

Answers to questions like that sort of separate the literal from the fanciful. It can be easy to fall into feeling as if you’re expected to answer every question on Fluther, rather than being selective.

Cruiser's avatar

I was raised to never deny the premise of questions on social Q & A sites and to always give GQ’s to one I might feel an urge to sully with an answer that would directly do so.

ucme's avatar

One theory is that they’re of the (sad) mistaken belief that those answers are, well….“crowdpleasers” is one word that springs to mind.

marinelife's avatar

I think that it is “silly” to expect to control the types of answers that you receive. People can answer a question any way that they want (in social).

janbb's avatar

For example, WTF?

CyanoticWasp's avatar

Whaddaya mean ‘denying the premise?’ I would never… oh, wait a minute… never mind

But the question reminds me that I drove out to Michigan late in June to visit my estranged wife because of some health problems that she was having, and I took Willow with me.

I got to town after midnight and headed for one of the local motels to get a room. I didn’t ask “do you allow dorgs?” because I didn’t want to risk a negative answer. So I left her in the car, took the room, and then took her upstairs as quietly and unobtrusively as I could. (Fortunately there was another entrance to my room than past the front desk.) She was pretty good, too, but she has this thing about doorbells (they drive her nuts) and ‘voices that aren’t mine’ (when they’re not on a television).

So I’m watching television in the room to unwind, and wouldn’t you know it but there’s a doorbell scene. Willow went slightly nuts and barked her head off announcing to whoever was ringing a doorbell at 1 AM that she wasn’t having it. Fortunately, a glass of water in her face quieted her right down. (Maybe the people in the next room thought that I was watching a TV show with a barking dorg.)

Then the Friday night party crowd came upstairs to their rooms at 2 AM when Willow and I were sleeping, and even though they weren’t really ‘noisy’, they did speak a bit, and Willow… well, she told them loudly that they’d better not come in to our room, and it took me a few seconds to find that glass of water in the dark. Fortunately they just laughed and went to their rooms; apparently no one else complained, either.

But I would never consider doing that with a roomful of dachshunds.

bob_'s avatar

That doesn’t happen here, since we adhere to a very high debate level.

Also, I’m rubber, you’re glue.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@absalom You might be thinking of denying the antecedent, which is a logical fallacy.

HungryGuy's avatar

There are a number of people here who like to derail questions by doing that. I just want to strangle people like that!

OTOH, a question like your example, “If you were expelled from a hotel in the middle of the night for having too many dachsunds in your room, where would you go?” would be moderated and wouldn’t live long on Fluther anyway. But I guess that’s denying your premise :-p

wundayatta's avatar

Sure there is. It’s called “scooching the jelly.”

CyanoticWasp's avatar

@SavoirFaire if you’re going to try to introduce logic and good reasoning skills to Fluther, well, “good luck” is all I can tell you. Try not to burn out on that.

6rant6's avatar

@wundayatta Okay, scooching the jelly it is. You may have to back me up on this.

wundayatta's avatar

@6rant6 It’s an honorable tradition, it is.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@CyanoticWasp Mentioning these things is a reflex I’ve picked up from teaching, but so is controlling my expectations. Still good advice, though.

absalom's avatar


I’ll totally adopt that.


I appreciate the didacticism, but that’s unfortunately not what I was thinking of.

There is nothing formally fallacious about ‘denying the premise’ (or ‘scooching the jelly’) in this case. (To scooch the jelly doesn’t even make an argument, really; if it denies anything then it denies not the antecedent (assuming the question even contains one) but the question, thus precluding or attempting to preclude ‘argument’ in the first place.)

@people talking about the social section et al.

I understand that all answers are welcome in the social section. And I would not attempt to ‘control’ the answers to any question, @marinelife. It seems halfway unsocial to me, however, to imply (via very dour jelly-scooching, e.g.) that the discussion at hand is already invalid or inappropriate. Paraliptic – and I use the term lightly – paraliptic participation isn’t exactly ‘social’ participation, after all. It’s like coming to a party and telling the partiers they shouldn’t be partying. Maybe it’s a school night, but why bother?

Of course we accept unsocial answers in the social section, but we still judge each answer and notice when someone’s said something backhanded or funny or unnecessary. That’s all I’m saying.


It’s interesting to me, though obviously not a big deal. The pith of it, as @6rant6 mentions in the question, is often humorlessness. There is humorous scooching, too, but then it’s performant or ‘crowdpleasing’, like @ucme says. But the real phenom is humorless crowdpleasing scooching, which may get great answers from other unfunny people, thus becoming a celebration of humorlessness, an orgy of genophobes and asexuals. (Those are the guys I feel bad for.)

SavoirFaire's avatar

@absalom I just thought that might be the term you were thinking of, since a different logical term came to your mind. I wasn’t saying it was the answer to the question posed. That’s why I called it “missing the point” in my response, though I do like “schooching the jelly.”

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