The Nirvana fallacy, is the fallacy of rejecting solutions to a problem because another solution may be better. It effect it creates a false dichotomy between a real world solution and a theoretical solution that may be better. It’s closely related to a concept named the “perfect solution fallacy” where the non-perfect solution is argued against on the basis that it will not solve every single aspect of the problem. The Perfect solution fallacy on the other hand, is an example of black and white thinking, where complexity is overlooked.
So, when MHRA (Men’s human rights activists) argue that there needs to be advocacy groups for the rights of men and boys, and feminists counter with that feminism is the perfect solution (and that they will get to male suicide rates, divorce rape and imbalanced family courts once they are done with the important things like women being able to walk around naked at 3am without fear), they are committing a perfect solution fallacy.
On the other hand, when MHRA groups argue that there needs to be help for male victims of domestic violence, help lines for suicidal men, and such things, and feminists argue that domestic violence and male suicide is a result of Patriarchy, which won’t be fixed by setting up the equal support system for men that women already have, they are committing the Nirvana fallacy.
The goal of either, is to dismiss practical solutions, either on the grounds that the solution is not perfect. A great example is that “we have helmet laws, yet people still die in motorcycle accidents, thus helmet laws do not work” alternatively “Come on baby, condoms are only effective in like 70% of cases… let me hit it bareback”
How do you spot when someone is engaging in this fallacy? There are 2 major questions you can ask yourself:
- Does their argument against your solution seem to be highly theoretical, with no seeming connection to reality?
- Does their argument against your solution, seem like they are doing the equivalent to arguing that you should not put a piece of plywood over a broken window, because then you can’t look out for a few days?