A factoid that is neither true nor false

Assuming that Bob Smith has never beaten his wife:

“Bob Smith has stopped beating his wife.”

What is the best word to characterize the accuracy of that statement? It is neither true nor false. I can think of a few that get the idea across: inaccurate, irrelevant, etc., but none of them are precisely correct.

I’m sure it’s something obvious and I just can’t think of it.

If Bob Smith has never beaten his wife, then he’s never stopped beating his wife.

I have never given up smoking tobacco – that’s because I’ve never smoked tobacco.

It’s 100 percent false, you cannot stop doing something unless you do it to begin with.

The word “Stopped” requires that the activity actually happened. It could not have “stopped” if it never occurred. Therefore, the sentence is false.

It might be more accurate to say, “Bob Smith did not beat his wife today.” It’s absolutely true but it implies (or makes an allusion that ) Bob Smith beats his wife regularly.

I would agree that technically the statement false, although the facts also contradict a sloppy negation of that statement, “Bob Smith is still beating his wife.”

I’m not sure that a word exists to describe this type of misleading statement… I’m tempted to coin one, “Impremised.” (pronounced IMM- as in imprecise and
-premised like premise with a quiet t sound at the end.)

Because the phrasing implies a premise that is factually incorrect.

Contains a False Premise seems right.

Hmm… impremised… like it, but afraid it sounds like it could mean empremised as in empaneled. I.E. made to contain a premise, rather poorly premised, which is what we want. How about “malpremised”?

I would call the sentence meaningless because it has a false presupposition. Another famous example is “Is the present king of France bald?”. There is no present king of France, so the question is meaningless. Suppose these questions were converted to statements like so:

Bob Smith has stopped beating his wife.
The king of France is bald.

There’s two different common treatments of the truth value of these sentences. One is to say that they are meaningless because they contain a false presupposition. The other is to say that they are false because they contain a false presupposition. It doesn’t matter which convention you use as long as you understand that the problem is that there is a false presupposition.

“The king of France is bald” asserts at least two things: that there is a person who is king of France, and that that same person is bald. So it’s false, since no person is king of France.

However, a statement saying, “Every king of France since 2000 has been bald” is vacuously true.

The current king of France is a total bastard.

Okay, I would say that ‘the king of france is bald’ might actually qualify as meaningless, neither true nor false, because it is specifically referring to an entity that is completely nonexistent. I agree with the universal-quantifier aspect being true… if you existentially quantified it and said ‘a king of france is bald’, then it would be false because there is no king of france at all. But since the intent of the original is to specify a particular entity who does not exist, that kicks it out of the true/false area entirely in my opinion.

Not sure you can extend that back to the Bob example. Assuming that Bob exists, and that he is indeed married, the two entities mentioned are real enough. The relationship itself, ‘to stop beating’ seems to be clear enough as well. To stop doing something, you have to be doing it in the first place. If you didn’t ever do that action, then you have not stopped.

(I’m kind of waiting for the first wag to come in here and insist that Bob Smith is beating his wife.) :wink:

I have often seen this posed in a slightly different way. Not as a statement which is neither true nor false, but as a question that has no correct answer. If you have never beaten your wife, then the question,

Have you stopped beating your wife yet?

cannot be answered with a yes or no.

Those of us who are unmarried, or who have a husband rather than a wife, or who have an unbeaten wife, can confidently answer “No” to this question without incriminating ourselves.

It’s called a loaded question: http://www.fallacyfiles.org/loadques.html

Or would have been, if it had been a question rather than a statement. :smack:

But the problem with answering “No” to that question is the same as that with saying that my example statement is false: as chrisk noted. Doing so, while technically correct, implies something that is incorrect.

I’ll vote for “completely false” due to “containing a false premise”.

Ah, but you must admit to personal prejudice there, given your violent history with him! :stuck_out_tongue:

According to Discordians the correct answer to such questions is mu pronounced moo, see the Zen question “does a dog have buddha nature?”

Yes, has the current king of France stopped beating ultrafilter yet?

It can be correctly answered “no”, though not without giving some listeners who are less than fully logical the wrong impression.

A longer and clearer form of the correct answer would be “No - to have stopped beating her, it would be necessary for me to have started.”