8
$\begingroup$

I'm not sure "false justifications" is the right term, but it's the closest I can think of. I'm referring to a situation in which a person has already made up his mind for reasons he won't publicly disclose, then tries to justify using specious excuses that don't hold up under scrutiny.

For example, let's suppose a new manager wants to fire an employee for reasons that would be illegal. Instead, he comes up with a laundry list of legal reasons (tardiness, improper dress, poor attitude, lack of productivity). Taken as a whole and unexamined, the list seems overwhelming and thus the dismissal justifiable. But if given the opportunity, the employee could refute each reason individually (has never actually been late, dresses the same as others in the office, is meeting all quotas and agreements, etc).

Similarly, in political conversations a person's argument may be based on a conclusion driven by passions and beliefs, but not data. Then data is cherrypicked to prove the argument rather than forming an argument based on the data.

I'm looking for ways to describe this sort of pre-determination. Is there a language for this?

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Not sure if this fits better here or on ELU. $\endgroup$ – WBT Oct 23 '15 at 4:51
7
$\begingroup$

I think the examples refer to a variety of possible terms.

In cognitive science, there is much interest in cases where justification is triggered unconsciously. The general tendency to justify one's decisions - especially the bad ones - is called self-justification:

Self-justification describes how, when a person encounters cognitive dissonance, or a situation in which a person's behavior is inconsistent with their beliefs, that person tends to justify the behavior and deny any negative feedback associated with the behavior.

When someone makes a decision they know is bad, and uses rational-sounding excuses to obfuscate this, it is called rationalization:

In psychology and logic, rationalization or rationalisation (also known as making excuses) is a defense mechanism in which controversial behaviors or feelings are justified and explained in a seemingly rational or logical manner to avoid the true explanation, and are made consciously tolerable – or even admirable and superior – by plausible means.

If scientific-sounding data is added to make a decision seem more objective than it is, then it is called intellectualization:

Intellectualization is a defense mechanism where reasoning is used to block confrontation with an unconscious conflict and its associated emotional stress where thinking is used to avoid feeling.

Cherry-picking data to support an argument is an example of confirmation bias:

Confirmation bias, also called myside bias, is the tendency to search for, interpret, prefer, and recall information in a way that confirms one's beliefs or hypotheses while giving disproportionately less attention to information that contradicts it.

A common view in psychology is that most explanations of decisions made are actually "post-hoc rationalization", or "post-rationalization" (see for example self-perception theory).

Sometimes justification is done consciously / intentionally. The term you used, cherry picking, is perfectly valid in this case. Another example is spin.

$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

Dereistic Thinking: Failure to take the facts of reality into account, so that thoughts derived mainly from fantasy rather than experience and logical inference."

Dereism

Mental activity that deviates from the laws of logic and experience and fails to take the facts of reality into consideration. In many schizophrenic states, psychic activity is largely expressed without respect to the realities of life. When a patient firmly believes that, as the Redeemer, he cures all illnesses by simple gesture, his or her thinking is said to ebb out of harmony with facts, that is, dereistic. “The separation of associations from experience naturally facilitates dereistic thinking in its highest degree, which is actually based on the very fact that natural connections are ignored" (Bleuler, E. Textbook of Psychiatry, 1930).

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

Maybe (from wiki)

  1. Loopholes

A loophole is an ambiguity or inadequacy in a system, such as a law or security, which can be used to circumvent or otherwise avoid the intent, implied or explicitly stated, of the system. Loopholes are searched for and used strategically in a variety of circumstances, including taxes, elections, politics, the criminal justice system, or in breaches of security, or a response to one's civil liberties.

Example: In 2005 Wal-Mart planned a store in Calvert County, Maryland. While a law in the county restricted the size of a retail store to 75,000 square feet (7,000 m2), Wal-Mart considered a plan that would dodge this restriction by building two separate smaller stores. Though Wal-Mart later withdrew this controversial plan, the plan highlighted a legal loophole.[2]

  1. Rationalisation

In psychology and logic, rationalization or rationalisation (also known as making excuses1) is a defense mechanism in which controversial behaviors or feelings are justified and explained in a seemingly rational or logical manner to avoid the true explanation, and are made consciously tolerable – or even admirable and superior – by plausible means.[2] It is also an informal fallacy of reasoning.[3]

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

fait accompli, also done deal.

fait accompli ‎(plural faits accomplis)

An accomplished fact, something that has already occurred; a (colloquial American) "done deal".

Usage: Often said of something irreversible and/or performed without going through standard procedure.

Does it fit here? I'm also looking up for the same word.

$\endgroup$

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.