Loki's Wager

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Loki's Wager, a form of logical fallacy, is the unreasonable insistence that a concept cannot be defined, and therefore cannot be discussed.[1]

Loki is a Jötunn or Áss in Norse mythology, who, legend has it, once made a bet with some dwarves. It was agreed that the price, should Loki lose the wager, would be his head. Loki lost the bet, and in due time the dwarves came to collect the head which had become rightfully theirs. Loki had no problem with giving up his head, but he insisted they had absolutely no right to take any part of his neck. Everyone concerned discussed the matter; certain parts were obviously head, and certain parts were obviously neck, but neither side could agree exactly where the one ended and the other began. As a result, Loki keeps his head indefinitely (although in the specific example, he got his lips stitched shut as payback for getting out of the bet with tricky wordplay).

The fallacy's focus on over-specification makes it in some ways the opposite of hasty generalization and could be considered an extreme form of equivocation. One may overcome the fallacy either by establishing a reasonable, working definition of the term in issue, or by showing that the other party is being unreasonable and avoiding the argument.[2]

See also[edit]

  • Draupnir
  • Brokkr
  • No true Scotsman
  • The Merchant of Venice — A similar argument over a pound of flesh erupts at the end of the play, wherein a character who had been promised a pound of flesh is allowed to collect only on the condition that he sheds no blood, which was not part of the bargain
  • Quibble — the use of the fallacy as a plot device
  • Vagueness

References[edit]

  1. ^ Mills, Michael S. (2010). Concise Handbook of Literary and Rhetorical Terms. Lexington, KY: Estep-Nichols. p. 126. ISBN 978-0-615-27136-1. 
  2. ^ "Loki's Wager". Toolkit For Thinking.