Ad Hominem Fallacy

Ad Hominem: Definition and Useful Examples of Ad Hominem Fallacy

Learn the Ad Hominem definition and examples. In the English language, there are a large amount of fallacies which we might notice in both spoken language as well as in a written context. One of these fallacies is the Ad Hominem fallacy which we commonly see being used, however, we may not always understand it. In this article, we are going to be taking a look at what the Ad Hominem fallacy is and how it works. We will also be looking at some examples of this type of fallacy in order to gain a greater understanding of its function.

Ad Hominem Definition

What Is The Ad Hominem Fallacy?

The Ad Hominem fallacy is one which is used to make remarks against your opponent in a personal capacity rather than to make an attack against his or her argument. The term Ad Hominem translates from the Latin for ‘against the man’ which shows us clearly what this type of fallacy is all about.

This type of fallacy is a way of countering an opposing point of view on a more personal level and when used makes remarks regarding topics which are completely irrelevant to the discussion which is taking place, therefore losing its logic. The Ad Hominem fallacy may make personal comments about the character of the opposition or it might attack their motives for having an argument in the first place, both of which have nothing to do with the argument itself. The main way that an Ad Hominem fallacy works is that it will undermine the argument and not give a valid or logical reason for being against the person’s claims.

In some cases the Ad Hominem fallacy is used purposefully as an underhanded way to win a debate or argument, however, there are times in which people resort to it unintentionally. When used intentionally, the speaker or writer might be attempting to win the trust of the audience by pointing out flaws in the opponent’s character. Quite often the arguer will believe the claims that he is making himself.

Types of the Ad Hominem Fallacy

Now that we have taken a look at what the Ad Hominem fallacy is and we have gotten a greater understanding of how it works, we are going to take a look at some examples of how it works within an argument. Before we look at these examples, we are going to look at the various types of the Ad Hominem fallacy.

Abusive Ad Hominem

This type of Ad Hominem makes a personal attack on the person, for example, ‘This is why women shouldn’t do men’s work.’

Circumstantial

This form tries to imply that the person’s own circumstances are the motivation for their argument, making the argument false.

Guilty By Association

When an argument has an association with something that is negative, the opposition will use this to discredit the claims being made.

Tu Quoque

The opposition will use the past actions of the arguer to discredit their argument, for example by committing a driving offence might be brought up when talking about a person’s ability to write a book on road signs.

Ad Hominem Examples

Now let’s take a look at some examples of Ad Hominem.

  • If a person were taking part in a debate surrounding veganism and was defending the rights of vegans but was a meat eater themselves, their opponent might use Ad Hominem to discredit their argument by saying something like “How can you argue for veganism when you had a steak for your dinner last night?”
  • When talking about a sportsman who has made bad choices, you might discredit his argument by using this technique. “You cheated on your wife and made another woman pregnant so how can you stand in the public eye as a sports role model?”
  • In the courtroom, many people will often used Ad Hominem, an example of this might be when the character of the defendant is attacked rather than referring to the crime that they have been accused of. “You have not held down a job for the last 20 years, and on top of that none of your employers before that would speak very highly of you.”
  • Quite often people will use racial abuse to dispute the opponents claims, for example, you might hear something like the following, “Those like you will never understand what it is like growing up in Black America, therefore you do not have the right to discuss gang violence.”
  • In the courtroom, we might also see Ad Hominem used as a way to attack the character of the defendant by way of comments such as the following, “You have cheated on your wife and lied to her and then you expect us to believe your innocence?”
  • Perhaps this type of fallacy might be used to attack someone’s faith. “You do not attend church every Sunday, so how can you claim to be a Christian?” You might also hear a sentence such as the following “If you were not Hindu, perhaps you might be able to see this in a different light.”
  • A common use of Ad Hominem is to attack the sexuality of an arguer, this can be seen in the following example “I believe that the only reason you are fighting for the rights of the LGBT community is because you are not being 100% upfront about your own sexual preferences.”
  • Ad Hominem might be used to attack the education level of a person, in a statement similar to the following. “You did not complete high school so how are you able to make a judgement on this subject?”

Conclusion

By looking a little more closely at the Ad Hominem fallacy we have seen that it is a type of argument which is used as a way of undermining the opponent by way of making personal attacks on either his or her character or on their motives for their argument rather than attacking the argument itself.

Whilst the Ad Hominem fallacy is often used accidentally by those who are not adept in taking part in logical arguments, it can be used intentionally by those who are looking to win the confidence of the audience through underhanded tactics.

Ad Hominem Fallacy Infographic

Ad Hominem Fallacy

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Mark
Mark
6 days ago

I call it “shoot the messenger” Way too common in commenters online.

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