Appeal to Novelty

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Also Known as: Appeal to the New, Newer is Better, Novelty

Description:

Appeal to Novelty is a fallacy that occurs when it is inferred that something is better or correct because it is new. This sort of reasoning has the following form:

 

Premise 1: X is new(er).

Conclusion: Therefore, X is correct or better.

 

This is fallacious because the novelty or newness of something does not make it correct or better than something older. That this is true is shown by this absurd example: Joe has proposed that 1+1 should now be equal to 3. When asked why people should accept this, he says that he just came up with the idea. Since it is newer than the idea that 1+1=2, it must be better.

This sort of reasoning is appealing for many reasons. First, many cultures include the belief that new things must be better than old things. Second, the notion of progress (which seems to have come, in part, from the notion of evolution) appears to imply that newer things will be superior to older things. Third, advertising often sends the message that newer must be better. Because of these three factors (and others) people often accept that a new thing (idea, product, concept, etc.) must be better because it is new. Hence, Novelty is a common fallacy, especially in advertising.

It should not be assumed that old things must be better than new things (see the fallacy Appeal to Tradition) any more than it should be assumed that new things are better than old things. The age of a thing does not, in general, have any bearing on its quality or correctness (in this context).

Obviously, age does have a bearing in some contexts. For example, if a person concluded that his day-old milk was better than his two-month-old milk, he would not be committing an Appeal to Novelty. This is because in such cases the newness of the thing is relevant to its quality. Thus, the fallacy is committed only when the newness is not, in and of itself, relevant to the claim. While it might be tempting to think that this fallacy would not occur when it comes to something like technological products, it can still occur. While newer technology can be better, it would be better for reasons other than simply being new.

 

Defense: The defense is to keep in mind that in most cases the newness of a thing has no bearing on it being true or correct. While something new can be better, more is needed than simply how new it is. This fallacy can be self-inflicted, although it is often used against others.

 

Example #1:

The Sadisike 900 pump-up glow shoe. It’s better because it’s new.

 

Example #2:

James: “So, what is this new plan?”

Biff: “Well, the latest thing in marketing techniques is the GK method. It is the latest thing out of the think tank. It is so new that the ink on the reports is still drying.”

James: “Well, our old marketing method has been quite effective. I don’t like the idea of jumping to a new method without a good reason.”

Biff: “Well, we know that we must stay on the cutting edge. That means new ideas and new techniques must be used. The GK method is new, so it will do better than that old, dusty method.”

 

 

Example #3:

Prof: “So you can see that a new and better morality is sweeping the nation. No longer are people with alternative lifestyles ashamed. No longer are people caught up in the outmoded moralities of the past.”

Student: “Well, what about the ideas of the great thinkers of the past? Don’t they have some valid points?”

Prof: “A good question. The answer is that they had some valid points in their own, barbaric times. But those are old, moldy moralities from a time long gone. Now is a time for new moralities. Progress and all that, you know.”

Student: “So would you say that the new moralities are better because they are newer?”

Prof: “Exactly. Just as the dinosaurs died off to make way for new animals, the old ideas must give way for the new ones. And just as humans are better than dinosaurs, the new ideas are better than the old. So newer is literally better.”

Student: “I see.”

Originally appeared on A Philosopher’s Blog Read More

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