Irrelevant conclusion, also known as ignoratio elenchi (Latin for an ignoring of a refutation) or missing the point, is the informal fallacy of presenting an argument that may or may not be logically valid and sound, but (whose conclusion) fails to address the issue in question. It falls into the broad class of relevance fallacies.
Irrelevant conclusion should not be confused with formal fallacy, an argument whose conclusion does not follow from its premises.
Ignoratio elenchi is one of the fallacies identified by Aristotle in his Organon. In a broader sense he asserted that all fallacies are a form of ignoratio elenchi.
● Example 1: A and B are debating as to whether criticizing indirectly has any merit in general.
- A: There is no point in people ranting on social media about politics; the president is not going to read it anyway.
- B: But it is their social media. People can agree on making a petition or convey notice from many others that they will be signing one based on their concerns.
- A: Well, I do not keep up with it anyway.
A attempts to support their position with an argument that politics ought not to be criticized on social media because the message is not directly being heard by the head of state; this would make them guilty of ignoratio elenchi, as people such as B may be criticizing politics because they have a strong message for their peers, or because they wish to bring attention to political matters, rather than ever intending that their views would be directly read by the president.
● Example 2: A and B are debating about the law.
- A: Does the law allow me to do that?
- B: The law should allow you to do that because this and that.
B missed the point. The question was not if the law should allow, but if it does or not.
Dr Johnson's unique "refutation" of Bishop Berkeley's immaterialism, his claim that matter did not actually exist but only seemed to exist, has been described as ignoratio elenchi: during a conversation with Boswell, Johnson powerfully kicked a nearby stone and proclaimed of Berkeley's theory, "I refute it thus!"(See also argumentum ad lapidem.)
A related concept is that of the red herring, which is a deliberate attempt to divert a process of enquiry by changing the subject. Ignoratio elenchi is sometimes confused with straw man argument.
The phrase ignoratio elenchi is from Latin, meaning 'an ignoring of a refutation'. Here elenchi is the genitive singular of the Latin noun elenchus, which is from Ancient Greek ἔλεγχος (elenchos), meaning 'an argument of disproof or refutation'. The translation in English of the Latin expression has varied somewhat. Hamblin proposed "misconception of refutation" or "ignorance of refutation" as a literal translation, John Arthur Oesterle preferred "ignoring the issue", and  Irving Copi, Christopher Tindale and others used "irrelevant conclusion".
- Ad hominem
- Begging the question
- Chewbacca defense
- Evasion (ethics)
- Genetic fallacy
- List of fallacies
- Non sequitur (logic)
- Tone policing