Abusus Non Tollit Usum

Abusus non tollit usum is a Latin expression, which articulates a fundamental principle, both of life in general and in law.  It means “abuse does not take away use.”

This is a very obvious principle, which essentially states that we should not get rid of a good or useful thing because said thing can also be misused—since literally everything that can be used can be misused in some way.

A hammer or a screwdriver can be used to commit a murder. This is not an argument for banning hammers or screwdrivers.  Words can often be misapplied; this is not an argument to stop using the word in its proper, useful application.

This principle is so obvious that it shouldn’t need to be said.  But I have learned from experience that a favorite fallacy of certain ideologues is the “argument to abuse,” which goes:

  1. Some case of X did something bad.
  2. ∴ All X are bad.
  3. ∴ We should get rid of X.

Among anarchist-libertarians, it looks like this:

  1. Some governmental actions are bad.
  2. ∴ Government as such is bad.
  3. ∴ We should get rid of all government.

Among feminists it looks like

  1. Some men are bad.
  2. ∴ All men are bad.
  3. ∴ We should get rid of men, either literally or by forcing men to stop being men.

Among the Politically Correct word police it looks like

  1. Word W can be used as a hurtful insult or a “microagression.”
  2. Word W is bad.
  3. We should ban the use of word W

The fallacy should be obvious. It’s an argument from “some” to a conclusion about “all,” containing the hidden, self-evidently false premise that “Whatever is true of some Xs is true of all Xs.”  This doesn’t work unless you can demonstrate that in all cases the thing in question is bad—but of course this is just what pointing to only some cases fails to do.

I once again apologize for insulting your intelligence with ridiculously simple graphics, but some people seem to need them:



4 comments on “Abusus Non Tollit Usum

  1. […] Abusus Non Tollit Usum Abusus non tollit usum is a Latin expression, which articulates a fundamental principle, both of life in general and in law. It means “abuse does not take away use.” […]


  2. […] “ethnic” group. They hold that this is not racist. They argue this under the logic of Abusus non tollit usum, which is Latin for “abuse does not take away […]


  3. […] not insignificant stupidity problem raised by the Jesus paradox, of course, is its classic use of abusus non tollit usum principle. Christianity is constructed on God’s lynching and murder, or the error of His lynching and […]


  4. […] With respect to JPs example, @petemohanty absolutely nailed it: Abusus non tollit usum […]


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