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5 Examples of the Nirvana Fallacy

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The nirvana fallacy is an invalid argument that compares the realistic to the idealized. The following are common variations.

False Dichotomy

A false dichotomy is the false assertion that there are only two choices in a particular situation. This is often crafted with one side being perfectly ideal or perfectly flawed.
If we can't stay at a five star hotel we might as well sleep in the street.


Evaluating results against a standard that may be impractically high.
Your desk is spotlessly clean but it could have more of a polished shine.


A tendency to focus on the negative and overestimate risk. The nirvana fallacy is often applied to support pessimistic arguments that small improvements are worthless because they don't completely solve a problem.
Cleaning up a few tons of plastic from beaches isn't going to solve all the environmental problems facing the ocean.


Making unfair or unrealistic comparisons in order to criticize.
Edison developed 1,093 patents in his life and your team has only developed 2 in the past 3 years.

Magical Thinking

Imagining that things that you don't understand are more wonderful than they are in reality. For example, ascribing magical powers and characteristics to distant cultures based on your lack of knowledge and experience. This may lead to unrealistic or non-actionable arguments.
In Japan they live in holistic harmony with nature. If we just did that all environmental problems would be solved.
Overview: Nirvana Fallacy
An invalid argument that compares the realistic to the idealized.
Related Concepts

Faulty Reasoning

This is the complete list of articles we have written about faulty reasoning.
Abilene Paradox
Bait & Switch
Beg the Question
Catch 22
Cognitive Biases
Complexity Bias
Creeping Normality
False Analogy
False Balance
False Dichotomy
Hindsight Bias
Nirvana Fallacy
Red Herring
Sour Grapes
Survivorship Bias
More ...
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