The Fallacy of the Hidden Major Premise

The Fallacy of the Hidden Major Premise

This fallacy is the presentation of a minor premise and conclusion without stating the inconvenient major premise involved. It’s a type of enthymeme, though highly problematic. Here is a popular example.

Minor premise: In the New Jerusalem there will be many tribes, tongues, and nations.

Conclusion: The earthly city should therefore have many tribes, tongues, and nations (i.e., multiculturalism or “principled pluralism”).

It seems all nice and good. But what is the necessary major premise?

Major premise: The earthly city ought to be like the New Jerusalem.

(Putting this syllogism in proper form would make the language clunky.)

When the major premise is fully revealed we see that the principle involved is bringing heaven down to earth. The problem is that there are tons of true minor premises that would make a sound syllogism (given the major premise), such as that the New Jerusalem will not have marriage and childbirth.

So if you accept the major premise, you get this valid and sound syllogism:

(1) The earthly city ought to be like the New Jerusalem.
(2) The New Jerusalem does not have marriage or childbirth.
(3) The earthly city ought not to have marriage or childbirth.

(2) could also be about the absence of families and households or about gender/sex irrelevance and many others.

Since the conclusion is absurd, the minor premise is true, and the syllogism is valid, the problem lies with the major premise. It must be rejected. Ultimately, the fallacy is the concealment of a problematic major premise by asserting only true minor premises.

This fallacy is, to my mind, the central problem with neo-calvinist political theology.


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