Monday, July 31, 2017

The Goldfish Bowl Fallacy, aka The Lived Experience Fallacy

The Goldfish Bowl Fallacy: the idea that a local knows a situation better than an outsider, and a person who has lived an experience knows it better than people who have researched it.

This fallacy appears regularly in the writings of people who want to justify their local customs—defenders of slavery and apartheid claimed outsiders couldn't know what was best in their land.

The name comes from the old observation that relying on subjective experience leaves us like goldfish in a glass bowl, with no understanding of what limits us and no idea what may exist beyond it.

This does not mean our experiences are worthless. But without researching them, we have no way to know if our experiences are common or unique, and we have no way to test the conclusions we draw.

The fallacy might also be called the Flat Earth Fallacy. Flat-Earthers can honestly say they've never experienced the curvature of the Earth. By rejecting outside evidence, they do not have to be troubled by the idea they might be wrong.

ETA: This might also be called the Satan Fallacy: Just because you credit the worst things you've experienced to Satan does not mean Satan is the cause

ETA: Or this could be the Inverted Ad Hominem Fallacy. Ad Hominem assumes you are wrong because of your identity; the Lived Experience Fallacy assumes you are right because of your identity.