"Argument Stoppers"

People sometimes respond to moral arguments, and even just moral premises or conclusions, with what are called “argument stoppers.” These are, unsurprisingly, brief responses to try to stop the presentation or discussion of the argument or claim. Argument stoppers interfere with the attempt to evaluate arguments using rational methods like those in this book: they impede critical thinking and taking moral issues seriously. They are bad and are contrary moral progress. Being aware of them and knowing how to respond to them helps with moral progress.
Below is a list of some common argument stoppers. We first discuss each stopper and explain why it is bad, although this is often obvious. Our discussion often amounts to a modus tollens-patterned argument against the stopper like this:

1.     If that stopper is a good response to this issue (or claim or argument, etc.), then it’s a good response to other issues, such as ______. 
2.     But it is not a good response to those other issues, such as ____. 
3.     So it isn’t a good response to the initial issue.”

This argument against these stoppers shows not just that people aren’t sometimes inconsistent and arbitrary in their use of stoppers, but that stoppers-responses contrary to the rational evaluation of moral claims and arguments.
Some of these stoppers, however, do have a genuine point behind them: there is a moral insight behind them. When this is so, we observe this, and observe where this insight has gone wrong, and how this insight can be productively redirected.

Here are some common argument stoppers (with some repetition and a need for better organization!):

1.     “That’s just your opinion,”  or “That’s a matter of opinion.”

2.     “I’m entitled to my opinion,” “I have the right to my own opinion.”

3.     “That’s just your belief.”

4.     “But I feel this way…” and “But, they feel that way.”  

5.     “This isn’t wrong to me, or to us,” and “To them, it’s not wrong.” 

6.     “Most people think this isn’t wrong; most people are OK with this.”

7.     “This is a tradition; this is what we do; our culture is OK with this.”

8.     “We like doing this…” or “I like doing this…”

9.     “We should be tolerant.”

10. “We need to be open-minded.”

11. “We should be respectful of others’ actions and beliefs.”

12. “Doing this isn’t illegal,” or “Doing this is illegal.”

13. “We shouldn’t judge others.”

14. “How would you like it others judged you?”

15. “There are bigger problems than this problem.”

16. “This issue isn’t important.”

17. “Live and let live.”

18. “There are at least two sides to every story.”

19. “The person giving this argument is a hypocrite.”

20. “How could anyone think that?”

21. “Who’s to say? Who’s to judge?”

22. “You’re not perfect, so you shouldn’t judge.”

23. “Everything is controversial.”

24. “There are exceptions to every rule.”

25. “If you don’t like people doing that, then just don’t do it!’ 

26. “This doesn’t affect me, so I have no business judging or getting involved.”

27. “This doesn’t affect them, so they have no business judging.

28. ‘Is this wrong or “wrong”’?

29. “I have a right to do that.

30. “Let’s agree to disagree.

31. “But the Bible says…”

32. “But God says…”

33. “It is what it is.”

34. “That view (opinion, belief) is subjective”

35. “That’s personal,” or “That’s a personal choice.”

36. “Nobody is perfect.”

37. “LOL!”

38. “Who’s to say what's right or wrong?”

39. “You need to address your own problems before addressing anyone else’s.”

40. “If you think this is a problem, then YOU should do something about it.”

41. “You'll never be able to change peoples’ minds.”

42. “People are going to think what they think, and do what they do.”

43.  “Things have always been this way.”

44. “But where do you draw the line?”

45. “Nobody cares” or “Nobody is going to care, or do anything about this.”

46. The Bible says..

47. God says… (Divine Command Theory)

48. Revisited: “I feel this way…” and “They feel that way.” (Subjectivism)

49. Revisited: “This isn’t wrong to me, or to us,” and “To them, it’s not wrong.” (Cultural Relativism)

50. Revisited: “Most people think this isn’t wrong; most people are OK with this.” (Cultural Relativism)

51. Revisited: “This is a tradition; this is what we do; our culture is OK with this.” (Cultural Relativism)

Details forthcoming!



  1. "You have to be stupid to say that. Or, "The people who say that are stupid."
    "It's not right to tell someone that."
    "What if everyone did that?"
    "You are just saying that because you belong to group X."
    "Don't believe a word that person says."
    "You believe that because your parents taught you to believe that."
    "We don't have any other option."
    "If we follow what you are saying, then we will be on a slippery slope to a bad place."
    "Yes, and no."