Ten Common Self-Refuting Statements to Avoid

by Kenny Strawn

Some visitors to my blog have noticed my references to self-refuting ideas in the past, but what exactly are they? Simply put, a self-refuting claim is a claim that contradicts the idea that it is supposed to advance. A self-refuting statement sounds reasonable on the surface, but as soon as you apply the claim to itself, it collapses under its own weight. My infamous “Fallacious Politics” post has thus far received a lot of positive responses, and just as fallacies have political implications, so too do self-refuting statements… and just like fallacies, self-refuting statements in politics are almost exclusively left-wing.

1. “There is no truth”

You might think that leftists care a lot about truth — or at least they claim to. I mean, they’re marching for it all the time. But do they? Some leftists, especially left-wing atheists and/or secular humanists, will often attempt to cop out of debates with Christian apologists like Frank Turek, Sean McDowell, J. Warner Wallace, and myself by making this statement. So, how is this statement self-refuting? You can find out by simply asking “Is that true?” If the person says “yes” then at least one truth exists and therefore the claim is false. If the person answers “no” then they admit that their claim is false. Either way, it is false.

2. “Truth is subjective”

Another claim that is almost exclusive to left-wing ideologies like secular humanism is this one. The claim that truth is subjective actually has its roots in Marxism and other forms of Communism — that’s why the official newspaper for the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was called “Правда”, the Russian word for “truth”: they believed the ultimate source of truth to be the Communist Party, not objective reality. So, how is this claim self-refuting? Simply ask someone who makes it the question “Is that truth subjective?” If the person answers “yes” then the claim that truth is subjective is itself subjective; if so, then why should the recipient believe it? If the person answers “no” then there is one objective truth out there — namely, the claim that truth is subjective — and thus, the claim that truth is subjective is false.

Trying to cop out of this claim by tacking “and that’s the only truth” onto the end of it only makes the self-refuting nature of this claim more obvious. How? Because that addition is an assertion that “truth is subjective” is an objective truth. Truth cannot be both subjective and objective at the same time…


Strawn.04: Ten Common Self-Refuting Statements to Avoid