The logical fallacy of experience

Experience does not always teach

Experience only teaches what you actually choose — or are able — to learn from it. There are no end of people who have done something for decades and still don’t know how to do it properly; people who have experienced something but still have no idea about it or how it works.

You don’t need to experience something to know about it

Let’s think of an obvious example of something we know without experience. You may be sitting in a chair right now reading this article. How do you know your chair doesn’t taste like chicken? Have you tried eating it?

  • We know that wood and metal are very difficult or impossible to chew, we learned in biology that we can’t digest them
  • We know from wooden and metal utensils what they taste like, etc, so we know they don’t taste like chicken

You can often make correct (limited) conclusions from incomplete data

The fallacy of “you must have experienced something to know about it” can be disproven relatively easily in many scenarios where the statement or fact in question is of a broad scope.

Experience frequently gives incorrect knowledge

All throughout history, before the advent of the scientific method, experience was frequently our worst enemy in discovering knowledge.

The more dangerous side of experience

Most of the examples I have given, thus far, are relatively harmless. Today, however, there is an extremely malicious and harmful version of this problem around: what is sometimes called the “post-truth” era.

Conclusions

The point of this article is not to suggest that everyone is an expert on everything. It is to suggest two things:

  • A lack of experience doesn’t necessarily equal a lack of knowledge or competence

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