A non sequitur is a fallacious statement of logic. Basically, non sequitur logic follows the format, because this, then that – where this and that are unrelated or disconnected. Yet, appear to me to be related.
Consider that your mind tries to make sense out of everything. When faced with a situation or event, my mind tries to connect data dots into logical conclusions.
When a situation is inexplicable or when faced with insufficient data, my mind does its best. It tries to connect whatever dots it can find – and makes up the rest to suit my appetite for justification. This can result in false equations I defend.
Below are some examples of non sequitur equations. They follow the format, “Just because [ fact/perception ], it doesn’t necessarily follow that [ conclusion ].” These often use “so” or “therefore” to connect one or more questionable facts to one or more questionable conclusions. These may look familiar:
- I can/am, so I should.
- You agree with me, so I must be right.
- I feel afraid because it’s dangerous.
- I know it, so it must be true.
- You’re going a different direction than me, so you must be lost.
- Something didn’t work out as I expected, so I must have failed.
- We disagree, so you must be wrong.
- I lost, so I must be a loser.
- You did something I don’t like, so you must not love me.
- I can’t find a solution, therefore no one can.
- I like it, so it must be good/right for me.
- Because I think I understand/comprehend something, I must [understand/comprehend].
- It has always been that way, so it must continue that way.
- Because what you did hurt me, you must have intended to hurt me.
Non sequiturs are sometimes logic level leaps between BE, DO, and HAVE. For example, one might leap from DO to BE, DO to HAVE, or HAVE to BE, and etc. That is, one part of the non sequitur connects one logical level to another. For example, a DO logical level connects to a BE logical level in, “I failed to DO something, therefore, I must BE an idiot! ”
To challenge a non sequitur, one might challenge its premise or conclusion, “Is it true?” and, “What if my fact/conclusion is not true?” I might inquire into presuppositions with questions like, “What would a person have to believe in order to connect those facts with that conclusion?”
Non sequiturs can be useful once exposed. That is, I can play with my associations to bust up false, hurtful, or useless ones.
For example, connecting DO to BE in the equation, “I failed my science test, so I must be a failure,” is a non sequitur. It’s also a false equation. Just because I failed a test doesn’t necessarily equate to I’m a failure. I could just require more study time or a different understanding of the subject.
Because my mind has the false equation, I’ll continue to prove failure even where there is no or refuting evidence. Eventually, I so believe I really am a failure that I seek out or make up “evidence” to prove it. “See! I was right! I AM a failure!” Thus, a non sequitur proves a confirmation bias.
What if I assume that one or both aspects of my non sequitur equation are untrue or incorrect? Assuming my facts are untrue means my conclusions are suspect. Assuming my conclusion is false means my facts could be suspect, too. In either or both cases, I’m challenging my non sequitur. Thereby offering myself new possibilities, new perspectives, and new opportunities.
That can be quite useful, indeed.