What is Half-Concealed Qualification?

In a half-concealed qualification, the words themselves express a limited claim, but the stress and construction is such that the qualifications are glossed over. Although the limits are stated, the audience barely notice them on the way to a discussion about a more general statement.

Practically every single case of monetary expansion is followed within months by an attendant general price rise of the same proportions.

(This is the classic statement of sado-monetarism. Note the first word – nobody else does.)

 

In this example, the qualifying word ‘practically’ is half-concealed by the stress given to ‘every single case’. Should embarrassing cases turn up which do not follow the rule, one can always retreat to the qualification and point out that the assertion did not claim to cover all instances.

There is a fallacy inherent in making a restricted claim and then engaging in discussion as if it were a general claim. The important information that the assertion does not apply to all cases is omitted from consideration. The fact that the limitation is expressed does not remove the fallacy. It is the fact that the qualification is half-concealed which causes it to be unnoticed, and which excludes relevant information.

 

The link between poltergeist phenomena and psychological troubles is now clearly established. In almost every case of unexplained breakages and moving objects, there is a disturbed youngster in the household.

(And since no one noticed the ‘almost’, we don’t need to talk about the other cases.)

Half-concealed qualification is widely used to support half a case. When there is a gap in the evidence supporting a complete link, the fallacy papers over the crack. Science and philosophy do not admit unexplained exceptions. Newton would not have got very far by telling us that objects are usually attracted towards each other by a force which varies inversely with the square of the distance between them. In daily life, however, we are less rigorous, and the fallacy finds room to make a partial case seem like a complete one.

Palm trees don’t normally grow in England, so it must be something else.

(Normally he’d be right; but there are exceptions.)

Social engineering is often proposed on the basis of incomplete assertions governing how humans generally behave.

Most crime is caused by juveniles, and nearly all young offenders c from broken homes. The answer to rising crime is not more police more family counselling centres.

(Maybe it is. Let’s hope the staff have as many qualifications as the argument does.)

There is a common character trait which will help you to get away with half-concealed qualifications. It expresses itself in a readiness to think of cases which do fit, rather than of cases which do not. On being given a limited statement, such as ‘Most bosses flirt with their secretaries’, many people will find themselves thinking of cases which they have known. Few find their thoughts led immediately to bosses who do not do this. You can use this propensity to have more read into your assertions than they are really claiming.

Just about every Cambridge man working in the Foreign Office or s services in the late 7940s has turned out to be a spy and a traitor. don’t we cut our losses, fire the rest, and not hire any more?

(‘Just about every’ seems in this case to mean a handful, or maybe three; but everyone will think of the ones they have read about who were exposed, rather than about the others who were not.)