A common thing that I see is people trying to wall off arguments they don’t like by stating a slogan, like “you shouldn’t push your moral rules on other people” or “that’s true for you, but not for me”. Those slogans are meant to get the person out of having to be reasonable about respecting moral obligations, or having to consider how the world really works when choosing what to do.
Here is a fine article by Aaron, who writes at Apologetics Junkie.
A self-defeating (or self-refuting) statement is one that fails to meet its own standard. In other words, it is a statement that cannot live up to its own criteria. Imagine if I were to say,
I cannot speak a word in English.
You intuitively see a problem here. I told you in English that I cannot speak a word in English. This statement is self-refuting. It does not meet its own standard or criteria. It self-destructs.
The important thing to remember with self-defeating statements is that they are necessarily false. In other words, there is no possible way for them to be true. This is because they violate a very fundamental law of logic, the law of non-contradiction. This law states that A and non-A cannot both be true at the same time and in the same sense. For example, it is not possible for God to exist and not exist at the same time and in the same sense. This would violate the law of non-contradiction. So if I were to say, “God told me He doesn’t exist” you would see intuitively the obvious self-refuting nature of this statement.
Aaron goes on to explain how to deal with self-refuting statements in the article.
Here are 20 examples of self-refutation, just to encourage you to click through and read it:
1. There is no truth.
2. You can’t know truth.
3. No one has the truth.
4. All truth is relative.
5. It’s true for you but not for me.
6. There are no absolutes.
7. No one can know any truth about religion.
8. You can’t know anything for sure.
9. You should doubt everything.
10. Only science can give us truth.
11. You can only know truth through experience.
12. All truth depends on your perspective.
13. You shouldn’t judge.
14. You shouldn’t force your morality on people.
15. You should live and let live.
16. God doesn’t take sides.
17. You shouldn’t try to convert people.
18. That’s just your view.
19. You should be tolerant of all views.
20. It is arrogant to claim to have the truth.
Have you ever heard any of those? It’s amazing how often I hear statements like that when discussing interesting things like moral issues and politics with young people. The trick to being prepared to answer these is to learn lots of them. Then you recognize them when you hear them.
Add yours in the comments!