Skip to comments.Fallacy: Ad Hominem
Posted on 05/19/2011 7:48:20 AM PDT by jda
Translated from Latin to English, "Ad Hominem" means "against the man" or "against the person."
An Ad Hominem is a general category of fallacies in which a claim or argument is rejected on the basis of some irrelevant fact about the author of or the person presenting the claim or argument. Typically, this fallacy involves two steps. First, an attack against the character of person making the claim, her circumstances, or her actions is made (or the character, circumstances, or actions of the person reporting the claim). Second, this attack is taken to be evidence against the claim or argument the person in question is making (or presenting). This type of "argument" has the following form:
Person A makes claim X. Person B makes an attack on person A. Therefore A's claim is false.
The reason why an Ad Hominem (of any kind) is a fallacy is that the character, circumstances, or actions of a person do not (in most cases) have a bearing on the truth or falsity of the claim being made (or the quality of the argument being made).
Example of Ad Hominem
Bill: "I believe that abortion is morally wrong." Dave: "Of course you would say that, you're a priest." Bill: "What about the arguments I gave to support my position?" Dave: "Those don't count. Like I said, you're a priest, so you have to say that abortion is wrong. Further, you are just a lackey to the Pope, so I can't believe what you say."
(Excerpt) Read more at nizkor.org ...
We could call them "Ad Hominem Liberals/Socialists", but that would be redundant.
I'm glad the author tacitly accepts when there are a few cases in which the character, circumstances or actions of a person do have a bearing on a person's argument. IMHO, this is like a very special purpose tool in the rhetorical toolbox, that has its certain applications. Many on the right seem to have abandoned its use altogether, even on those rare occasions when it would be perfectly appropriate and devestatingly effective.
It is appropriate mainly when the person being attacked is speaking from a position of authority. IOW, he making the argument that we should believe what he says because HE is saying it.
One of the most common uses of this fallacy I see on FR is those who discard any evidence provided from a source they don’t like, such as Wikipedia or Snopes.
I agree that such sources should not be taken as Holy Writ, but they often provide good information when used with care.
If you have proof an argument is invalid, present that proof. That evidence you dislike is provided from an arguably biased source is not adequate reason to completely discard that evidence.
It is not an Ad Hominem attack to criticize a leader’s indecisive nature or arrogance. However, to argue, “What can you expect of the Amish?”, has little meaning and flies in the face of reality. If the leader exhibits racism like O, that is fair game and he must be taken to task for his bigotry.
Indeed. I enjoy the people who harbor nothing but scorn and contempt for the MSM...
...until they publish an article supportive of their values, arguments or beliefs.
That's a separate fallacy called "appeal to authority".
One of the most common uses of this fallacy I see on FR is those who discard any evidence provided from a source they dont like, such as Wikipedia or Snopes.
This one is "appeal to motive", slightly more specific than "ad hominem". Appeal to motive, while a fallacy, can still be useful because it notes that the source can be considered suspect, therefore data from that source should be treated with caution unless/until it is independently verified.
"Appeals to authority" is a logical fallacy of it's own, and pointing out that fallacy in an argument is is not ad hominem, since it is directed at the argument itself, rather than the person.
“Poisoning the Well” (Person “A” lies, therefore you can’t ever believe anything he says) is another logical fallacy popular with liberals, along with the Argument from Authority and the Appeal to Ridicule.
Glad you discovered and publicized that site. I’ve been using it for a long time now and find it very useful in understanding how to recognize and defeat illogical arguments.
“One of the most common uses of this fallacy I see on FR is those who discard any evidence provided from a source they dont like, such as Wikipedia or Snopes.”
Bingo! This is one of my pet peeves about posters here and on many other blogs.
Thanks for posting this - I’m glad to know about this site. How did you come across it?
Take "evidence" from either with a grain of salt. That's just good judgment.
Thus the expression, “Consider the source.”
It’s not just the left. Ad hominems are the domain of anyone with a poorly thought out or indefensible position that relies on faith, not facts.
Try disagreeing with a Birther, for instance. If you don’t sip the kool aid, they’ll immediately call you an Obama plant or a troll. They’ll have a few facts handy, but their appetite for more drops off fast if it contradicts what they want to hear.
It’s no different than ‘Lower taxes for the rich are racist’ argument I’ve heard from a liberal co-worker. There’s no intelligent way to argue this; either you believe it or you don’t. If you try to argue it, then your motives as a human being become suspect, and the Believer has no need to treat you or your words with respect.
It’s faith masquerading as intellectual laziness. That’s why they attack right away on a personal level. They know perfectly well that thinking the issue further through is not helpful to maintaining the logical integrity of their beliefs, and in fact leads to heresy.
Only a complete idiot would reply.
You've only been here since 2005 . . .
I was educated in public schools so I didn't have a computer until 2004 for fear of Y2K.
. . . have no capitals in your screen name!
I was educated in public schools and have very low self-esteem.