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“Ab absurdo” is a Latin phrase that translates to “from the absurd” in English. It is a legal principle used to argue that because a particular position leads to a ridiculous or absurd conclusion, it must be incorrect. Lawyers often use this principle to demonstrate the illogical or absurd implications of an opponent’s argument, thereby undermining its validity.
For instance, consider a case where a defendant is accused of stealing a car. The defendant argues that he cannot be guilty because he was at home during the time the theft occurred. However, the prosecution presents evidence that the defendant’s home is only 5 minutes away from the scene of the crime. The defendant then argues that even if this is true, he cannot be guilty because he doesn’t know how to drive.
In response to this argument, the prosecution could use the principle of “ab absurdo” by stating: “The defendant’s argument leads to an absurd conclusion. If we were to accept that every person who doesn’t know how to drive is incapable of stealing a car, then no car would ever be stolen by a non-driver – an obvious absurdity given the evidence of car thefts committed by non-drivers. Therefore, the defendant’s argument must be flawed.”
In this way, the “ab absurdo” principle can be used to highlight the irrationality of an argument and strengthen one’s own position.