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Informal Fallacy: Ad hominem - by Mike Moum  

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15/07/2018 3:56 pm  

An ad hominem fallacy occurs when one attacks the person rather than the argument. For example:
Person 1 is claiming X.
Person 1 is a moron.
Therefore, X is not true.

For example, 
A says that 2 + 2 = 4.
A is a moron.
Therefore 2 + 2 does not equal 4.

Here are some common ad hominem subtypes.

"Poisoning the well" is a smear tactic, a preemptive attack against someone in order to bias the audience against the person from the start in order to make your claim more acceptable, or to discount the credibility of your opponent's claim. The argument has the following form. Unfavorable information about person A is presented. Therefore any claim that A makes will be false.

  • Don't listen to him, he's a scoundrel.
  • Before turning over the floor to my opponent, I want you to remember that anyone who opposed my plans doesn't have the best interests of the country at heart.

Abusive fallacy - substituting abusive remarks for evidence when attacking another person's claim or claims. The attack is directed at the person making the claim and not the claim itself. If is fallacious because the truth value of a claim is independent of the person making the claim.

  • The claim that she has found a cure for cancer is being made by a [banned] feminist, therefore we shouldn't let her speak at the conference.
  • That claim can't be true because David made it, and we all know how morally repulsive he is.
  • He claims that we shouldn't cut social programs, but we know that he just has a soft heart and softer head.

Appeal to motive is a challenge to an argument by calling into question the motives of its proposer, often just hinting at the motive without providing evidence that it exists. And if the motive does exist, it must be shown that the motive had a role in formulating the argument.

  • She's done research showing the GMOs are medically safe, but we all know that she works for ****, therefore her research can't be trusted.
  • His research shows the global warming is caused by humans, but we all know that his university requires him to publish periodically, so all that he's really doing is making stuff up to get published.

Tone policing occurs when an argument is dismissed or accepted based on the tone and style of its presenter, ignoring whether the argument has merit or is true. It is often used against those on a lower rung of the privilege ladder.

  • Calls for civility when the person making the call has more power than the person they are calling uncivil. It's really a dominance move in disguise.
  • Objecting to grammar or dialect instead of responding to the point being made.

Traitorous critic occurs when someone responds to criticism by attacking the person on the grounds that they are ungrateful of the values and customs of the group, and should thereforestay away from the issue or leave the group. It is a fallacy because it does not address the merits of the criticism.
Critic: "I think we need to adopt Canada's health system". Reply: "Well, if you don't like the way we do it here, why don't you just move to Canada!"


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