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.
I'm NOT a complete idiot, more like a half-wit.
The worst is when you click on a link to a debate site and get a pop-up ad homimem.
Only an idiot would misspell ad homimememen.
The main thing to keep in mind is the distinction between argumentation and testimony. The whole point of logic is to develop techniques for evaluating the cogency of arguments independently of the arguer’s identity.
If the truth of a matter can not be established without a person’s testimoney, then the credibility and character come into play with respect to their integrity. The integrity of a testifier is essential in evaluation of the veracity of one’s testiment.
However, attacking a person under such circumstances is an appropriate technique, although I guess as you say it’s not really a fallacy in such a case.
What I am suggesting is not just pointing out that they are using a fallacy, it’s destroying the validity of their authority, when that is appropriate.
Good for any source, of course, but degree of caution should increase as the known degree of reliability of the source goes down.
Agreed. Maybe several grains, particularly with anything that can be connected to political or cultural issues.
“Try disagreeing with a Birther, for instance. If you dont sip the kool aid, theyll immediately call you an Obama plant or a troll. Theyll have a few facts handy, but their appetite for more drops off fast if it contradicts what they want to hear.”
Congratulations - you have succeeded in committing an impressive number of fallacies in relatively few words. Let me help you clean this up.
Try for starters
A Practical Study of Argument
by Trudy Govier
Attacking Faulty Reasoning: A Practical Guide to Fallacy-Free Arguments
by T. Edward Damer
Theories of Truth: A Critical Introduction
by Richard L. Kirkham
liberals use ad hominems and the fallacy of irrelevant thesis
in order to avoid addressing the actual points of an argument on any issue.
It’s because they are incapable of forming a valid argument about these issues because they don’t examine any issue beyond the point of “this is something that makes me a good person for supporting/opposing it”.
Would that be like M&M’s made out of hominy?
I don’t think you’ll have a marketing winner there.
validity implies a conclusion that necessarily follows that can not be false if the premise is true.
Authority is an immaterial issue. Notice I didn't say irrelevent, because it may be relevent, its not germane to refuting an argument unless the argument is dependent upon an appeal to authority, and the person making the argument is claiming to be an authority.
Its sufficient to refute the conclusion by pointing out flawed reasoning, which essentially demolishes the argument. It is incumbent upon the asserter to come up with a new syllogism that is not fallacious.
Far better to acknowlege a valid conclusion and then attack it as being unsound, i.e., either of the premises are actually untrue. An attack on soundness essentially boils down to acceptance of facts.
People who have no discipline in logic usually resort to ad hominem when confronted with touche' on their argument. The first person resorting to ad hominem in a debate loses, or at the very least is evidentiary of their tenuous position. When pressed in such position, shallow thinking people usually implode and resort to vulgarity.
That's a sure sign of a small vocabulary and weak mindedness.
We may just have a differnce of semantics. I wouldn't characterize it as destroying the validity of their authority as much as destroying the idea that their authority validates the argument.