Title: Introduction to Logic

Philosopy Homepage » Logic Homepage » Informal Fallacies » ad Hominem

     

Quizzes
Tests
FAQ
Links
Search
Readings
Syllabus

“John W. Bricker Accuses Secretary Dulles,” Library of Congress, P&P Online, LC-USZ62-132247
Ad Hominem and Related Fallacies


Abstract: The ad hominem fallacy occurs whenever the character or circumstances of an individual who is advancing an argument is criticized instead of seeking to disprove the argument provided.

Ad hominem and related argument types including ad personam, tu quoque, ex concessis, ex aliquem, poisoning the well, guilt by association, ad feminam, and genetic fallacies are also studied, and examples are described in both their fallacious and nonfallacious uses.



  1. The Ad Hominem Abusive and Circumstantial Fallacies Described

    Ad Hominem Fallacy: (abusive and circumstantial): the fallacy of attacking the character or circumstances of an individual who is advancing a statement or an argument instead of seeking to disprove the truth of the statement or the soundness of the argument.

    Often the fallacy is characterized simply as a personal attack. However, a personal attack is a claim, not a fallacy. Thus, a character or a circumstantial attack simpliciter is not evaluated as an ad hominem argument or an ad hominem fallacy.


    Informal Guide to Ad Hominem Fallacy

    Person L proffers claim p.

    Person L's circumstances or character is unsatisfactory or L does not act in accordance with p.


    Claim p is implausible or unlikely.



    1. The Ad hominem abusive is the fallacy that that an agent's belief has not been proved (or is mistaken) because that person is somehow deficient as evidenced by some undesirable aspects of that person's character, personality, morality, or competence.[1] Consider this example:
      “After a 35-year career in agriculture, which took me to all corners of the world in segments ranging from animal productivity to plant protection, genetics, and biotechnology, I … reviewed Prince Charles' speech. I found foolishness and arrogant condescension.”[2]
      Rather than commenting on the content of Prince Charles' speech, the author attempts to discredit Prince Charles by stating his writing exhibits foolishness and arrogant condescension.


    2. The Ad hominem circumstantial is the fallacy that someone's belief has not been proved (or is mistaken) because that person's position is motivated by actions or personal circumstances which most likely bias that person's judgment. This is a fairly typical example:
      “[Alger] Hiss still has a ragtag remnant of defenders, historical illiterates who are disproportionately academics. They often are the last to learn things because they have gone to earth in the groves of academe in order to live in an alternative reality.[3]
      Rather than demonstrating mistakes made by defenders of Alger Hiss, the writer shifts from that issue to a claim that most of the defenders of such a view are situated as historically illiterate academics who seclude themselves from the everyday world.


    3. Since the circumstantial variety of the ad hominem fallacy can often be regarded as a special case of the abusive in that it is an indirect personal attack, the distinction between the ad hominem abusive and the ad hominem circumstantial is in some contexts an inconsequential distinction.[4] For example, consider the following argument wherein a politician defends objections to his bill before a municipal committee:
      “Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen of the Committee: I am the father of this bill, and I have listened with a great deal of attention to all that has been said against it. … The gentleman who last spoke has too good a reputation as a lawyer in Hudson County to lead me to believe that he believes what he has just stated.”[5]
      The lawyer's circumstances are used to establish his character in an effort to deprecate his objections to the bill. Notice, as well, that the appeal to character in an ad hominem fallacy need not always be abusive.


    4. An ad hominem argument can be a response to any multi-person advocate or agent, not just an individual. Consider this argument in defense of the U.S. Emergency Tariff Act of 1921:
      ”The Democrats have no right to attack a Republican protective tariff measure on the ground that it would increase the cost of living, for … [u]nder a recent Democratic administration the living cost was higher than at any other time during the history of the country.”[6]
      This argument is fallacious in that does not endeavor to prove the Democrats are mistaken in their claim that a protective tariff would increase the cost of living; instead, the argument diverts attention from consideration of the tariff to a previous failing of a Democrats. (The version of ad hominem in this argument is the tu quoque fallacy discussed below.)


    5. Occasionally, in the literature, the definition of argumentum ad hominem includes arguments that someone's belief is true or probable because that person's character or circumstances is eminent, authoritative or trustworthy.[7] Such virtue argumentation or positive ethotic arguments are relevant in the evaluation of evidence in witness testimony. [8]

      1. Christopher Johnson points out:
        [T]he stronger or more coherent the character portrait that develops from consideration of these virtues and traits, the more compelling the ad hominem appeal, and the less the objection of ad hominem fallacy, in making a decision between arguments.”[9]
        Honest persons are likely to speak truthfully.

      2. Indeed, often such arguments as these are non-fallacious since the premises of a reliable source of information provides evidence for the truth of conclusion.


    6. Many textbook accounts of ad hominem arguments assume all instances are mistakes in reasoning since the evaluation of arguments depends on the nature or the argument rather than the character of the arguer. On this view, the argument, itself, is to be evaluated, not the individual adducing the argument. However, an ad hominem argument can be transposed as Merilee Salmon has proposed into a (formal) inductive argument[10] :

      Most of what person L states about subject S is true.

      Person L states claim c on subject S.


      Claim c is probably true.


      Christian Dahlman, et al. have proposed an intriguing formal approach to the ad hominem arguments which provides a more consistent and thorough description its subtypes. They propose reconstruction of ad hominem arguments as deductively valid arguments with a false premise and then classify the kind of arguments in terms of the kind of false premise.[11]

      This approach works well as a principle of organization, but neglects the character of informal arguments as providing degrees of support and different standards of evidence rather than limiting informal logic to appraisal in terms of deductive inferences.[12]


    7. Informal logic is characterized by its lack of formal structure and can be viewed as an activity of discourse where an arguer's character or circumstances lend credibility to that individual's claims. So, on this point of view, informal logic is concerned with pragmatic analysis of dialectical interaction in discourse rather than the textual analysis of the logic of statements as is realized in deductive logic.

      Argumentative discourse, oral or written, is meant to resolve a difference of opinion, but when an ad hominem fallacy is used as a tactic to disqualify an opponent's arguments, the discussion is derailed.

Ngram graph showing historical frequency of ad hominem and argumentum ad hominem in Google books

FIG. 1. Historical Frequency of Use of “ad hominem” and “argumentum ad hominem” in Google Books 1775-2008

  1. The Question of Relevance in Ad Hominem Arguments

    Argumentum ad Hominem: reasoning by appealing to the character or circumstances of an individual who is advancing a claim in order to determine the plausibility of that claim. The argumentum ad hominem is not always fallacious; an individual's personal character and circumstances are sometimes logically related to the issues under discussion.[13] As Douglas Walton notes, “Evaluation of each individual case should be made in relation to the corpus of argument and the context of dialogue.”[14]


    1. The informal fallacy of argumentum ad hominem occurs when an examination of issues is discontinued in pursuance of an irrelevant personal attack against the advocate of the issues — e.g., impeaching the testimony of a reliable eye witness to a felony.

      1. When an examination of issues is logically benefited by reference to the character or circumstances of an individual, no informal fallacy occurs — such as impeaching the testimony of a visually impaired eye witness to a felony.

      2. Note that for the argumentum ad hominem fallacy to occur, (1) an irrelevant appeal is fabricated and (2) a logical argument must have been submitted.


    2. The commonsensical assumptions upon which the argumentum ad hominem is based generally include (1) the belief that flawed persons are not credible or logical or, as well, in a different case, (2) the belief that decent persons are trustworthy and reasonable.


    3. The fallacy version of ad hominem draws its appeal from the technique of “getting personal.” But the fallacy does not occur when unfavorable evidence adduced for the accused proponent is logically dependent on the argument being put forward by the proponent.

      1. If the grounds for the claim about character or circumstances are logically independent of the antagonist's argument itself, then the claim, not being relevant, can be to be assessed in accordance with other (relevant) reasons. But that would be to miss the point.

      2. But, with regard to monotonic reasoning, as James Cargile writes, “[E]vidence that the source of a claim is likely to be wrong is not evidence against the claim. The tendency to overlook this is the essential feature of the ad hominem fallacy.[15]


    4. Unfortunately, a criterion of relevance (or for that matter, a criterion of irrelevance) associating the circumstances and character of an arguer to the arguer's argument is extraordinarily difficult to establish for all types of ad hominem arguments.

      1. What is relevant to a particular argument depends upon the context within which the argument is proposed. Currently, difficult cases are hashed out in reasoned dialogue, although, it must be admitted, the fallaciousness of many individual occurrences of argumentum ad hominem is in dispute in the current informal fallacy literature.

      2. The defeasibility of ad hominem arguments is shown by the presence of other factors in some arguments which render exception to the charge of fallacious reasoning. In many textbooks, relevance in informal logic is taken to be undefined: a primitive term or an intuitive notion.[16]

      3. Simply criticizing an adversary as a digression from a controversy is not necessarily an ad hominem fallacy unless the personal attack is intended to dismiss the arguments which are unrelated to the adversary's character.[17]

        Stephen Toulmin states, ”[R]elevance is a substantive matter, to be discussed in science by scientists, in law by lawyers, and so on. There are very few ‘conditions of relevance’ of an entirely general kind that hold good in all fields and forums and apply to apply types of arguments.”[18]

  2. Some Varieties of Ad Hominem: Ad Personam, Ad Feminam, Tu Quoque, Two Wrongs Fallacy, Ex Concessis, and Ex Aliquem

    Although there is no generally accepted consensus, many logicians today distinguish several prevailing indistinct varieties of fallacies related to the argumentum ad hominem fallacy.


    1. In the ad personam fallacy the statement or argument at issue is dropped from consideration or is completely ignored, and the adversary's character or circumstances is subjected to personal attack.[19]


      Ngram graph showing historical frequency of argumentum ad hominem and argumentum ad personam in Google books 1700-2008

      FIG. 2. Historical Frequency of Use of “argumentum ad hominem” and “argumentum ad personam” in Google Books 1700-2008


      Recently in several logic sources, the ad personam is taken to be a name replacement for the traditional ad hominem because ad hominem, which means “‘to’ or ‘toward’ a human being (or the person),” might be misinterpreted if the Latin phrase is translated to mean “‘to’ or ‘toward’ the man.”

      1. This latter translation may well be part of the reason some recent writers have added the separate fallacy of ad feminam to their list of informal fallacies[20], a fallacy sometimes defined as an attack on a woman's character or circumstances in order to cast doubt on her claims.

      2. Consider this example of an ad personam (which can also be classified as either an ad hominem abusive fallacy or a name calling fallacy):
        “Secretary of State John Kerry says that there is less violence than usual in the world right now. Meanwhile the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, says the opposite, that terrorism is more violent and dangerous than ever. Since Clapper is Director of National Intelligence, maybe Kerry should have the title Director of National Stupidity.“[21]
      3. A well known ad personam example of the ad hominem (circumstantial) variety is Voltaire's criticism of Rousseau's Emile, or Treatise on Education by reason of Rousseau's dereliction of his own children:
        “Excessive pride and envy have destroyed Jean-Jacques, my illustrious philosopher. That monster dares speak of education! He abandoned his children and the tramp with whom he made them.”[22]
        Voltaire dismisses Rousseau's theory of education on account of Rousseau's hypocrisy in sending his children, on the occasion of their birth, to the Paris Foundling Hospital.

      4. Unfortunately, the ad personam fallacy has not been consistently used and defined from an historical point of view. The ad personam is often defined as an abandonment of the object of argument for an appeal to personal interest or the interest of interested observers.

      5. Schopenhauer designates our contemporary sense of the “ad hominem” abusive informal fallacy, where the object of a dispute is cast aside and its proponent is attacked, an “ad personam.”[23] And James H. Hyslop defines the ad personam as any argument not directed correctly to the issue (i.e., it's not an argumentum ad rem, an argument directed to the point in dispute). Thus, Hyslop defines the ad personam as including these five types of traditional fallacies: the ad judicium, ad populum, ad hominem, ad verecundiam, and ad ignorantiam.[24]


    2. The tu quoque fallacy, where the proponent responds to an ad hominem attack with the same accusation against the person to whom the proponent is confronting, is a narrower form of the ad hominem circumstantial fallacy. In other words, rather than trying to disprove an accuser's proposed argument against one's own position, one responds by asserting that the same kind of argument applies to the accuser. The inconsistency of a claimant is shown by accusing the claimant of the same sort of allegation for which a proponent has been denounced. Consequently, what the accuser accuser does and what the accuser says are shown to be at variance.


      Informal Guide to Tu Quoque

      Person L proffers negative claim y against person M.

      Person M retorts the same negative claim y applies against person L.


      Person M is exonerated.



      Whenever the response in kind to an advocates' claim or argument does not involve a personal attack either of character or circumstances, the tu quoque fallacy would not be considered a type of ad hominem fallacy.[25]


      Ngram graph showing historical frequency of argumentum ad hominem and tu quoque in Google books 1700-2008

      FIG. 3. Historical Frequency of Use of “argumentum ad hominem” and “tu quoque” in Google Books 1700-2008


      1. In cross examination or in debate, the tu quoque fallacy is sometimes depicted as “My argument might be bad, but yours is worse.” Thus, the conversational implication is my argument is good by way of comparison. Note that this fallacy is usually only rhetorically effective in the presence of a third party.[26]

      2. If the basis of dispute is the criticism of a someone's argument, the fallacy can be summarized as “O.K., I understand your criticism of my contention, but the same criticism you point out applies to your thinking as well.” As Aristotle wrote, “[F]or it is the absurdity of impudence to arraign others for the very same things of which we ourselves have been guilty,”[27] and again, “The second way is, when a defender discredits his accuser, by retorting his own accusations.”[28]

      3. By way of example of the fallacy of tu quoque, consider this anecdote told by an early feminist social reformer:
        “In the discussion after a Forum lecture in Boston, an address on some aspect of the Woman question, a man in the gallery, who evidently took exception to a dull rose fillet I wore in my hair, demanded to know how women could expect to equal men ‘so long as they took so much time fixing up their hair and putting ribbons in it’? There was some commotion, and cries of ‘Put him out!’ but I grinned up at him cheerfully and replied, ‘I do not think it has been yet established whether it takes a woman longer to do her hair than it does a man to shave.’ This was not an answer at all, but it seemed to please every one but the inquirer.”[29]
        Notice how the lecturer recognizes the irrelevancy of her response to the audience member's impertinent remark.

      4. The imputation of tu quoque can be defended by pointing out essential differences between the accusation of the arguer and the accusation of the critic. However, the supposed difference of transgressions can only be determined individually by sorting out the transgressions.

      5. A fallacy closely related to tu quoque is the fallacy of two wrongs make a right — in fact, some logic texts equate the two fallacies. The two wrongs-fallacy attempts to rationalize the rightness of a wrong action on the basis that the action is merely a justified response to a previous occurring wrong action of another or of a similar kind.

        1. Since the relationships among the ad hominem circumstantial, the tu quoque and the two wrongs fallacy are classified differently in the current logic literature, it's perhaps prudent not to insist upon distinct definitions.

        2. Usually, however, in the two wrongs fallacy, the first wrong is not taken as an ad hominem recrimination, whereas in the tu quoque fallacy, the initial wrong is taken as an ad hominem attack.[30]

        3. A fairly typical example of the two-wrongs fallacy is that reported of a London music dealer who was brought before the London Magistrates' Court charged with pirating music:
          “His excuse, such as it was, had not even the merit of novelty, although he pleaded that he sold pirated music on principle and not for profit! He said that there was a music right in London, which certainly paid royalties to authors who could command their prices, but they said nothing of the small authors, whom they bled for all they were worth. The charge for music was extortionate and exorbitant, but he had no wish to rob an author, who had a right to the value of his work.[31]
          The music dealer pleaded that since the publisher paid composers so meagerly and sold the music so substantially, he was justified in freebooting. The magistrate noted the two-wrongs fallacy that robbing a music publisher does not benefit the author of the music and so ruled guilty and imposed a fine.


    3. The argumentum ex concessis is, generally speaking, an argument composed only from declarations or admissions by an opponent (and not from statements generally considered acceptable). The several varieties of ex consessis include comparison of the opponent's concession with another statement either by the opponent or by the proponent of the argument and is not always fallacious.


      Informal Guide to Ex Concessis

      Person L proffers claim c.

      Person L previously held view d inconsistent with claim c


      Claims c and d cannot both be true.



      Historically, the wide adoption of the ex concessis as a method of argumentation based on an opponent's own premises was anticipated by Aristotle:
      Moreover, as in rhetorical arguments, so likewise also in refutations, you ought to look for contradictions between the answerer's views and either his own statements or the views of those whose words and actions he admits to be right, or of those who are generally held to bear a like character and to resemble them, or of the majority or of all mankind.[32]
      The fallacy occurs whenever an opponent is charged with taking a position or acting in such a manner (in which case ex consessis converges with ad hominem circumstantial) inconsistent with, or conflicting with, a previous position the opponent accepted. The fallacy is usually based on the comparison of two conflicting positions of the opponent. The charge of mistaken reasoning is supported by any resulting logical inconsistency.

      In Biblical scholarship, for example, the use of argumentum ex concessis is used to evaluate consistency between the Old and New Testaments.[33]

      1. Here's a typical example of the ad hominem ex concessis fallacy:
        “[An] octogenarian professor from the University of Texas named Lino Graglia … dutifully informed the committee that ‘a law ending birthright citizenship should and likely would survive constitutional challenge.’ But consider the source: [he is] a man who by his own account takes ‘a very limited view of the power of the Supreme Court‘ and breezily dismisses contrary precedents.”[34]
        As noted above, this particular type of ex concessis may also be appraised as an ad hominem circumstantial argument. Also, note that the argument does not prove anything with respect to the object of the dispute (i.e., ending birthright citizenship); the argument only points to the opponent's purported inconsistency.

      2. Nevertheless, in many of the first historical uses of the argument, the argumentum ex concessis is composed upon the statements of the opponent, whether they be true or false: the argument is designated an ad hominem or “personal argument” and is not necessarily fallacious. Revealing an inconsistency in an opponent's claims in a dialectical exchange is, of course, in itself, a legitimate argument.

        For example in 1689, John Locke characterizes a way of reasoning in order “to press a man with consequences drawn from his own principles, or concessions.” Locke describes this kind of reasoning as a type of argument rather than as a type of fallacy.[35]

        In the early 1700's Isaac Watts describes (without naming) argumentum ex concessis:
        “When it [i.e. an argument] is built upon the profest [i.e., professed] Principles or Opinions of the Person with whom we argue, whether these Opinions be true or false, it is named Argumentum ad Hominem, an Address to our profest Principles.”[36]
        In 1826, Richard Whately defines the argumentum ad hominem in terms of ex concessis and only as a fallacy when “unfairly used” as a “personal argument” rather than an “argumentum ad rem.” Yet, it can be allowed, he says, “in order to silence those who will not yield to fair general argument” and can be allowed in “shifting the burden of proof.”

        Whately further points out:
        “[T]he conclusion which actually is established, is not the absolute and general one in question, but relative and particular; … that ‘this man is bound to admit it, in conformity to his principles of Reasoning, or in consistency with his own conduct, situation,’ &c.”[37]
        He adds that such an argument will often justly shift the burden of proof to the opponent.

        1. This form of the argumentum ex concessis occurs when someone is accused of being hypocritical and is personally accused of not believing in, or not acting in accordance with, commitments he has taken on another occasion.

          For example, in his “An Essay on Miracles” David Hume points the inconsistency in the everyday believer by describing supposed miraculous events he presumes no person would presently accept and then submits that it is so likewise reasonable to conclude such incredulous events would not have occurred in the past either.[38]

        2. Interestingly, in the 1850's, William and Robert Chambers argued that this variety of argumentum ad hominem can be viewed as nonfallacious in cases where the conclusion is the legitimate exception to a rule. E.g., a foundational “commitment” is expressed in the book of Exodus, where God says to Moses:
          “Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore: for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people.”[39]
          Yet, in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus justifies to a group of Pharisees (religious leaders who based Judaism in part on the Laws of Moses) his task of healing on the Sabbath as follows as an exception to the law:

          2 And, behold there was a certain man before him which had the dropsy.

          3 And Jesus answering spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day?

          4 And they held their peace. And he took him, and healed him, and let him go;

          5 And answered them, saying, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightaway pull him out on the sabbath day?

          6 And they could not answer him again to these things.”[40]

          Thus, in suggesting the practice of healing does not violate the precept of the Pharisees that work defiles the Sabbath, the practice is seen as being in accordance with their beliefs. The practice is seen as acceptable to the Pharisees, but not proved to be acceptable in itself.

        3. So, in this use of ex concessis argumentum ad hominem, Moses Stuart points out in 1829, “[W]hat is called the argumentum ad hominem or the argumentum ex concessis … the argument is not conclusive in itself, its conclusiveness would be admitted by those who admitted what is implied in the premises.”[41]

    4. Obviously, a simple inconsistency in thought or action is not a fallacy unless the inconsistency is part of the same argument under consideration. The ex concessis variety of the ad hominem fallacy occurs when the previous commitment or position is not specifically germane to the specific subject under consideration.

      1. The ex concessis form of the fallacy is committed when an interlocutor states that his opponent's argument must be mistaken because his opponent has previously given an argument or taken a position which is inconsistent with the present argument or position. But the fact that the opponent might, at one time, have believed something different from what the present argument provides, does not necessarily imply the present argument or claim is mistaken as a matter of fact.

      2. Schopenhauer clarifies another variant of this form of fallacious reasoning: “Should your opponent be in the right, but luckily for your contention, choose a faulty proof, you can easily manage to refute it, and then claim you have refuted his whole position. This trick … is, at bottom, an expedient by which an argumentum ad hominem is put forward … ” [42]

      3. Another traditional type of ad hominem which can be considered as ex concessis occurs in the course of convincing an opponent when the proponent's view can be shown to be a conclusion of an opponent's prejudices or questionable beliefs.

        1. Obviously, even if the opponent concedes the view, the view has not been proved to be the case. In this form ex concessis, the argument is directed to the opponent, but the opponent is not being attacked.

        2. For example, W.E. Taylor notes Bishop Joseph Butler's analogies are an “argumentum ad hominem in defense of miracles and Biblical inconsistencies as they “show indeed that his own conclusions are capable of valid proofs even on the principles laid down by his [naturalistic] opponents.”[43]

  3. Evaluating Ad Hominem Arguments for Relevance

    Several considerations for evaluating ad hominem passages deserve comment:

    1. In the examination of scientific, literary or philosophical works, looking at the author's character or circumstance can sometimes provide insight into that individual's standpoint. In other words, ad hominem considerations can show motives and can sometimes provide a frame of reference for deeper comprehension. However, these perspectives do not ordinarily demonstrate the truth or falsity of the ideas. Consider the following passage:
      “John Stacy … made the connection between the radical power of Byron's poetics and his Satanic as well as melancholic genius. Accusing Byron of a ‘misanthropy run mad,’ of trying ‘to make the world believe he is miserable, and to persuade it to be as miserable as himself’, the author writes ‘I grant him genius …, an eloquence of poetry …’”68]
      The suggestion that the brilliance of Lord Byron's poetry might be due to his manic-depressive illness is a literary insight into the possible literary effect of specific characteristics of Byron's personality. No fallacy occurs here because no argument is present.


    2. The character of a person is often relevant for an evaluation of the sincerity of views being offered and so can be relevant for pragmatic decision-making.

      E.g., D. M. Varisco explains the necessity of having awareness of Edward Said's circumstances in order to make sense of Said's 1978 polemical book Orientalism objecting to the presumption of Western superiority in its patronizing description of the Eastern World:
      “From the start the reactions to Orientalism, ranging from the ad hoc to the ad hominem, read into Said the critic as well and as poorly as into what the critic was saying. Said's origins and political activism as an Arab-American intellectual can hardly be left out of analysis.”[69]
      The claim, here, is that understanding Edward Said's writing requires knowledge of Edward Said's past circumstances.


    3. A fallacy might occur in passages such as these if the work were to be considered misguided and discredited solely because of the degenerate character and circumstances of the author. The essential question in judging whether or not an ad hominem argument is a fallacy is whether or not the author's character and circumstances are logically relevant to the assertions or the arguments in the work itself.
  4. Non-Fallacious Uses of Ad Hominem Arguments

    Non-fallacious uses of the ad hominem can occur in diverse descriptive and rhetorical contexts. When evidence about a person's character or circumstances is adduced to disclose the motive for that person's assertion, rather than to dispute the assertion itself, such instances often involve the presence of a causal explanation rather than the presence of an argument.

    1. In arguments where the character or circumstances are relevant to the substance of the argument, no fallacy occurs.

      1. E.g., the following passage is not fallacious:
        “If [Thomas] Jefferson's relationship with [Sally] Hemings began in the late 1780's, it would mean that he began to back away from a leadership position in the anti-slavery movement just around the time that his affair with Sally Hemings started. Jefferson's stated reservations about ending slavery included a fear that emancipation would lead to racial mixing and amalgamation. His own interracial affair now personalizes this issue, while adding a dimension of hypocrisy.”[70]
        The hypothesis is proposed that Jefferson's relationship with Hemings abated his reservations toward the anti-slavery movement.

      2. E.g., John F. Cragan and Craig W. Cutbirth argue when Adalai Stevenson was called a wimp in the 1982 Illinois gubernatorial Election, the ad hominem charge is relevant to the issue of his fitness for office and so is not a fallacious appeal. Cragan and Cutbirth rightly conclude that adducing evidence of unfitness for office is not always a fallacy.

        However, Cragan and Cutbirth mistakenly proceed to criticize a number of logicians for proclaiming that any attempt to show a candidate's personal unfitness for office is an ad hominem fallacy. They cite this typical example from S. Morris Engel:
        “Turning attention away from the facts in argument to the people participating in them is characteristic not only of everyday discussions but of many of our political debates as well. Rather than discuss political issues soberly, rivals may find it easier to discuss personalities and engage in mudslinging.” [71]
        Cragan and Cutbirth mistakenly conclude from this passage:
        “The implication is clear. Attacking one's opponent is by definition a fallacy.”[72]
        But this is not correct as Engel states prior to this passage that the fallacy is “an argument that diverts attention away from the question” — i.e., ad hominem qualifies as a fallacy only if it is an irrelevant to some other claim being made.


    2. Moreover, if a speaker merely responds to an accusation pertaining to his character or circumstances by retorting that the accuser also has the same or similar character or circumstances, no fallacy necessarily occurs if there is no (logical) argument present. In other words, if a disputant's rejoinder of the same non-argumentative accusation exhibits the rhetoric of tu quoque, it is not necessarily an instance of the tu quoque fallacy unless the claim is implicit that the rejoinder is intended to disqualify some sort of argumentative criticism from the accuser.

      Consider this example of a non-fallacious tu quoque and simple name-calling from the play Twelfth Night in Young England:

      “BLONDEL (indignantly).—You are not one of my century, or you would not be so discourteous. Sir, you are an anachronism.

      TELL.—Sir, you are another.”[73]

      In this exchange, there is just an exchange of incivility: no tu quoque fallacy is present.

    3. The truth or falsity of a what is said does not depend on the character of the person saying it, unless what is said is directly applicable to the person saying it. E.g., William James famously distinguishes two philosophical temperaments:
      “The history of philosophy is a clash of human temperaments. … Of whatever temperament a professional philosopher is, he tries, when philosophizing, to sink the fact of his temperament. … Yet his temperament really gives him a stronger bias than any of his more strictly objective premises. …I think you will practically recognize the two types of mental make-up that I mean … by the titles ‘tender-minded’ and ‘tough-minded’ respectively.”[74]
      If James were to claim that all philosophers were either tender-minded or tough-minded, but as a philosopher, he is not in either camp, then the argumentum ad hominem against him would not be deemed fallacious on account of the inconsistency of his claims.


    4. Under the U.S. Federal Rules of Evidence and Case Law there are seven proper methods of impeachment in cross-examination:

      1. Bias, interest, and motive
      2. Prior inconsistent statements
      3. Contradictory facts
      4. Prior convictions
      5. Character for untruthfulness
      6. Conduct probative of untruthfulness
      7. Learned Treatises (other admissible statements, e.g. testimony of an expert witness)[75]

      Circumstances such as these would ordinarily be relevant factors in judging the veracity of an individual's statements.


    5. In brief, if the characteristics of a person constitute a disconfirming instance of what that person claims, then an argumentum ad hominem is not a fallacious. If the person making a claim individually embodies a counterexample which disproves that person's own claim, then it is not a fallacy to point out this fact to that person. At the same time, many ad hominem arguments provide some evidence and in those cases cannot be considered completely irrelevant arguments.

  5. The Ad Hominem Argument in Rhetoric

    A number of logicians have argued that the argumentum ad hominem is never a fallacy. They argue the ad hominem has been thought fallacious since its instances do not meet the conventional logical standards of deductive validity or inductive correctness of probability.

    1. On this view, in most everyday contexts of reasoning, validity or formal inductive plausibility is thought out of place. Nevertheless, ad hominem considerations, it is argued, do render some evidence, however weak, and so should not be thereby presupposed to be impertinent.[76] This standpoint serves to emphasize the constitutive contextual nature of informal fallacy identifications.


    2. As mentioned before, when the character or circumstances of an individual are relevant to what that person advances as a claim, the fallacy of ad hominem does not occur. For this reason, Douglas N. Walton has proposed re-naming the ad hominem abusive as the ad hominem direct to reflect the fact that the argumentum ad hominem describes both fallacious and non-fallacious arguments.[77]

      Again, as Cummings aptly notes:
      An inquiry that assumes a hierarchical structure, in which reasoning proceeds linearly from propositions that are well known to propositions that are less well known, is ill-equipped to accommodate the reasoning strategies that occur in contexts of knowledge deprivation and epistemic uncertainty.[78]
      Upon occasions of having to make a practical decision in situations of everyday uncertainty, Alan Brinton argues for a rhetorical rather than a logical approach to ad hominem arguments. In these situations, he states ad hominem arguments involve a rhetorical appeal based upon the speaker's character or personality He writes:
      “[T]he most appropriate occurrences (and probably most actual occurrences) of the ad hominem — especially in the public sphere — are to be found in contexts which are in the appropriate ways analogous to the contexts of classical oratory. It is most obviously (although not exclusively) in deliberative contexts that the ad hominem has a place and should be regarded as an acceptable form of argument. These are contexts in which there is a concern with matters of policy and practice.”[79]
      Consequently, the context in which ad hominem occurs is an essential factor in its evaluation.

  6. Ad Hominem Examples with Explanation

    The following examples of the argumentum ad hominem are fairly straight-forward and suggested answers are explained. In each case, note whether or not the character and/or circumstances of the individual being depicted are germane to the claims made.


Ad Hominem Examples

  1. “Condoleezza Rice, former U.S. Secretary of State, responding to a question about former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's criticism of her in his memoir: ‘Don can be a grumpy guy. We all know that.’”[80]

    Comment: Rather than addressing Mr. Rumsfeld's criticism, Ms. Rice ignores the question, imputes ill-temper to him, and thereby commits the ad hominem fallacy.

  2. “[W]hen consultant/pundit/Democrat Hilary Rosen commented on CNN that Ann Romney had never held a job (and therefore was ill-suited to advise her husband on women's employment concerns), … the Catholic League … tweeted: ‘Lesbian Dem Hilary Rosen tells Ann Romney she never worked a day in her life. Unlike Rosen, who had to adopt kids, Ann raised 5 of her own.’”[81]

    Comment: The allusion as to whether reared children are adopted or not is not directly relevant in the context provided for the purpose of deliberating women's employment concerns; thus, the ad hominem fallacy occurs.

  3. “In America, the go-to guy on ADHD is Dr. Russell Barkley … Barkley is on record saying that although behavior therapy (behavior modification) can be a useful supplementary treatment, no approach to ADHD has ever or is probably ever going to completely replace pharmaceutical therapy. In this regard it is significant to note that Barkley has had ties to … the developer of the popular ADHD drug Strattera.”[82]

    Comment: Normally the evidence for the truth or falsity of the claim would be, strictly speaking, independent of Dr. Barkley's past connections. However, Dr. Barkley's expertise cannot be entirely disregarded since his testimony and experience is relevant to the issue being discussed. Although biased innuendo is expressed against Dr. Barkley in the original dialogue, this does not necessarily result in an informal fallacy being committed since the fact of much of Dr. Barkley's background is relevant. Nevertheless, this consideration does not entirely justify Dr. Barkley assessment. The best that can be said is that calling attention to Dr. Barkley's association with the developer of an ADHD drug is uncharitable without explaining what those ties are.

  4. ”President Trump is apparently convinced that his son-in-law, who serves officially as a senior adviser, can fix anything. Make that everything. … Kushner is supposed to bring the mindset and practices of the business world to the public sector. Given that his father went to jail for crimes including tax evasion, and that his boss declared four businesses bankruptcies, we can only hope Kushner looks far afield for role models.”[83]

    Comment: The implicit argument is that Jared Kushner is unlikely to be successful in his duties by the reasons that his father is a felon and Donald Trump declared bankruptcies. Hence, the ad hominem circumstantial fallacy (guilt by association) is committed.

  5. “Once he [Benjamin F. Butler] was cross-questioning a witness in his characteristic manner (with him politeness, or even humanity, was out of the question). The judge interrupted to remind him that the witness was a Harvard professor. ‘I know it, your Honor,’ replied Butler; ‘we hanged one of them the other day.’”[84]

    Comment: Mr. Butler argues that his rude cross examination of a Harvard professor is unexceptional since a Harvard professor was hanged recently — implying the witness' character is determinable by association with other Harvard professors. Again, the ad hominem circumstantial fallacy (guilt by association) is committed.

  6. ”[The New York Times] chronicled the enormous benefits French citizens receive. Paid child care, free higher education, free health care, a mandatory five weeks of paid vacation, monthly government payments for each child … There comes a point when ideology has to be put aside and what's good for the country must be embraced. France is a selfish nation that is going down the drain economically because the folks there want stuff and economics be damned.”[85]

    Comment: Although the author of this passage, Mr. O'Reilly, provides cogent reasons that government regulation and high taxes are part of an unsustainable economy, assessing reasons for this conclusion by attacking the character of the French people as wanting stuff, not caring about economics, and being selfish, is not directly relevant: ad hominem abusive.

  7. “Marvin Greenberg … spent many painful years in the garment business. As he sees it, consumers willing to pay more for better — and American — made clothes will remain a definite minority. The vast shopping public demands basement-scraping prices on two-for-one deals. Patriotism ends at the cash register. He's seen it happen. ‘Back in the '50's there was a union protest in Fall River (Mass.) about saving jobs, stopping imports,’ Greenberg recalls. ‘People carrying signs were wearing imported clothes.’”[86]

    Comment: Assuming an implicit argument, the conversational implication is that Americans will not pay more for American apparel good because even American garment workers themselves do not do so. Also the reasoning is based on one group of workers to a conclusion about all Americans and the fallacy of converse accident is suggested. Nevertheless, the implicit argument qualifies as a weak inductive argument rather than a clear fallacy.

  8. “The recent hype about global warming comes from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Most of its members are serious scientists. But reporters don't realize that those scientists, like bird flu specialists, have every incentive to hype the risk. If their computer models (which so far have been wrong) predict disaster, they get attention and money. If they say, “I'm not sure,” they get nothing.”[87]

    Comment: The ad hominem fallacy occurs since Mr. Stossel ignores the empirical issues relating to global warming by claiming that the conclusions of the scientists on the Intergovermental Panel are not as much based on empirical evidence as they are based upon scientists attempting to secure recognition and government funding.

  9. “Actress Salma Hayek has just been honoured at Equality Now's ‘Make Equality Reality’ event, for co-founding ‘Chime for Change’, which fights for women's rights around the world. At the ceremony, which also honoured Gloria Steinem, Hayek said: ’I am not a feminist. If men were going through the things women are going through today, I would be fighting for them with just as much passion. I believe in equality.‘ … This is about the astonishing persistence of what I'd term small-f feminist-woman. … The kind of woman, such as Hayek, who accepts an award for helping women at an event also honouring Gloria Steinem (Gloria Steinem!) and then has the graceless gall to use it as an opportunity to announce that she isn't a feminist … You have to wonder — what's with these women and their seemingly all-consuming need to distance themselves from feminism? An unworthy thought crawls through my brain: is this a man-pleasing exercise … Or does it go yet deeper, darker, than that, into the realms of female self-hatred? … While some may view this as an overreaction to some red carpet waffling, to me, this is about small-f feminist-woman and how her unique brand of self-hatred is taking far too long to die out.”[88]

    Comment: In addition to the verbal disagreement concerning the meaning of feminism, Ms. Hayek is accused of either “man pleasing” behavior or “female self-hatred” for her statement that she is not a feminist. That restriction, in itself, poses a false dilemma. The journalist commits an ad hominem abusive attack decorated with a persuasive definition and the fallacy of complex question.

  10. “Norman Vincent Peale, a broadcast preacher and author of The Power of Positive Thinking … said [Adlai] Stevenson was unfit to be president because he was divorced. Stevenson said: “I find the Apostle Paul appealing and the Apostle Peale appalling.”[89]

    Comment: Mr. Peale and Mr. Stevenson both commit the fallacy of ad hominem. Mr. Peale's personal attack turns on a non causa pro causa (that being divorced is a cause a being unfit for the presidency), and Mr. Stevenson's attack turns on name-calling.

  11. Huey Long (Louisiana senator, 1935): “[L]et us take a look at this NRA [Roosevelt's 1933 National Recovery Administration] that they opened up around here two years ago. They had parades and Fascist signs just as Hitler, and Mussolini. They started the dictatorship here to regiment business and labor much more than anyone did in Germany or Italy. The only difference was in the sign. Italy's sign of he Fascist was a black shirt. Germany's sign of the Fascist was a swastika. So in America they sidetracked the Stars and Stripes, and the sign of the Blue Eagle was used instead. And they proceeded with the NRA.‘[90]

    Comment: Huey Long, politician and populist, poisons the well by associating the Roosevelt administration with Fascists Hitler and Mussolini in order to castigate the National Recovery Administration, a New Deal agency. However, Long's analogue is not totally misguided as in the same year this speech was broadcast, the Supreme Court ruled the NRA unconstitutional since it violated the Constitution's separation of powers.

  12. “Traditional empiricism insists that the social identity of the observer is irrelevant to the ‘goodness’ of the results of research. It is not supposed to make a difference to the explanatory power, objectivity, and so on of the research's results if the researcher or the community of scientists are white or black, Chinese or British, rich or poor in social origin. But feminist empiricism argues that women (or feminists, male and female) as a group are more likely than men (non-feminists) as a group to produce claims unbiased by androcentrism, and in that sense objective results of inquiry. It argues that the authors of the favored social theories are not anonymous at all: they are clearly men, and usually men of the dominant classes, races, and cultures. The people who identify and define scientific problems leave their social fingerprints on the problems and their favored solutions to them.”[91]

    Comment: Certainly the claim that feminists as a group are more likely than nonfeminists to be unbiased by androcentrism (i.e., taking a masculine point of view) is trivially true. Nonetheless, the conclusion drawn that feminists are more likely to produce objective claims of inquiry than those produced by traditional empiricism does not logically follow from this tautology. Further evaluation of this argumentative passage depends to a great extent on the context of the presentation and the background assumptions upon which the argument is based. Nevertheless, the author argues that feminists, unlike nonfeminists, are not androcentric and thus produce claims which are objective results of inquiry. Since the adequacy of scientific theories is measured in part by comparison of observed results to expected results (an independent confirmation whose veracity is not dependent upon whether or not the originators of the hypotheses in question happen to be androcentric or gynocentric), the genetic fallacy occurs in this quoted selected passage. Note that biased selections of empirical observations in order to present specific points of view, whether complied intentionally or unintentionally, are precluded by traditional empiricism as improper scientific method. Additionally, scientific theories and hypotheses are repeatedly experimentally tested in accordance with procedural methods in observation and experiment as part of the normal course of scientific development. Thus, there is a justifiable “logical distinction between the psychological processes which occur when a scientist thinks of new ideas and the logical argument which exhibits the degree to which those ideas are supported by the facts and other evidential considerations.”[92]


Links to Ad Hominem Online Quizzes with Suggested Solutions

Test your understanding of ad hominem arguments with one of the the following quizzes:

Ad Hominem Examples Exercise
Fallacies of Relevance I
Fallacies of Relevance II
Fallacies of Relevance III


Some judge of authors' names, not work, and then
Nor praise nor blame the writings, but the men.

Alexander Pope, The Works of Alexander Pope, vol. II, An Essay on Criticism (London: Longman Brown, and Co. 1847), 357.


Notes

Note: Most text hyperlinks below reference exact page

1. Many textbooks state the argumentum ad hominem fallacy as concluding the opponent's case is false, but the non-deductive intent of such arguments makes the ad hominem “an inferential failure” whether the opponent's claim is called unproved or thought to be false. John Woods, ”Lightening Up on the Ad Hominem,” Informal Logic 27 no. 1 (2007), 124-125. doi: 10.22329/il.v27i1.467

2. Alan Koepcke, “Aristocratic Agriculture,” Baron's 92 no. 43 (October 22, 2012), 54.

3. George F. Will, “The Man Who helped Kill the Soviet Union with Information,” The Index-Journal 98 no. 164 (August 10, 2015), 6A.

4. E.g., see Irving M. Copi and Carl Cohen, Introduction to Logic, 13th ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2009), 130-131.

5. Charles W. Fuller, “Argument of Col. Charles W. Fuller,” Arguments on Assembly Bill No. 366 Before the Committee on Municipal Corporations Transcript of Stenographer's Notes 66. (New York: Burgoyne, 1888), 66.

6. Warren Choate Shaw, The Art of Debate (Boston: Allyn and Bacon 1922), 116.

7. E.g., see Patrick Bondy, “Virtues, Evidence, and Ad Hominem Arguments,Informal Logic 35 no. 4 (2015), 450-466. doi: 10.22329/il.v35i4.4330

8. Douglas Walton, Witness Testimony Evidence: Argumentation, Artificial Intelligence, and Law (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 23-4. doi: 10.1017/cbo9780511619533.002

9. Christopher Johnson, “Reconsidering the Ad Hominem,Philosophy 84 no. 2 (April 2009), 265. (via registration access) doi: 10.1017/S0031819109000217

10. Merilee Salmon, Introduction to Logic and Critical Thinking, 5th ed. (Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth, 2007), 121. (preview)

11. Christian Dahlman, David Reidhav, and Lena Wahlberg, “Fallacies in Ad Hominem ArgumentsCogency 3 no. 2 (Summer 2011), 105-124. Also in C. Dahlman, E. Feteris, eds, Legal Argumentation Theory: Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives Law and Philosophy Library vol. 102 (Dordrecht, Netherlands: 2013), 57-70. doi: 10.1007/978-94-007-4670-1_4

12. See, for example, David M. Godden, “Deductivism as an Interpretive Strategy: A Reply to Groarke's Recent Defense of Reconstructive Deductivism,” Argumentation and Advocacy 41 (Winter 2005), 168-183. doi: 10.1080/00028533.2005.11821627

13. Note that this definition of argumentum ad hominem departs from most current logic and critical thinking textbooks which still follow Roy Wood Sellars' influential and originating definition: “In this fallacy the argument is directed against the character of the man who is the opponent instead of adhering to its proper task of proving the point at issue.” Sellars insightfully points out, “[S]uch arguments … are more non-logical than illogical.” Roy Wood Sellars, Essentials of Logic (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1917), 153.

14. Douglas Walton, “The Ad Hominem Argument as an Informal Fallacy,” Argumentation 1 no. 3 (1987), 320. doi: 10.1007/bf00136781

15. James Cargile, “Two Fallacies.” Logos & Episteme 1 no. 2 (2010), 267. doi: 10.5840/logos-episteme2010124 . Frans H. van Eemeren and Rob Grootendorst rightly point out that in the standard treatment of fallacies, “[T]he notion of logical relevance is left undefined and its connection with logical validity remains unexplained.” [Frans H. van Eemeren and Rob Grootendorst, “Argumentum Ad Hominem: A Pragma-Dialectical Case in Point,” Fallacies: Classical and Contemporary Reading eds. Hans V. Hansen and Robert C. Pinto (University Park: Penn State Press, 1995), 223]. Argumentum ad hominem examples are not deductive arguments, and logical validity needs no explanation. Even so, an adequate explanation of relevancy remains a genuine problem for the standard treatment of informal fallacies. Eemeren and Grootendorst also distinguish ad hominem arguments as being rhetorical rather than dialectical since their effectiveness depends upon the presence of an audience “in order to silence the other party.” [Frans H. van Eemeren and Rob Grootendorst, Speech Acts in Argumentative Discussions (Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Foris Publications,1984), 191. doi: 10.1515/9783110846089.177]

16. A number of approaches for a theory of relevance in informal logic is discussed in the Derek Allan's section “Assessing Arguments” in New Essays in Informal Logic, eds. Ralph H. Johnson and J. Anthony Blair (Windsor, ON: Informal Logic, 1994), 51ff. And Frans H. van Eemeren and Bob Gootendorst develop an understanding of argumentative relevance within a pragma-dialectical approach to the argumentum ad hominem in “Relevance Reviewed: The Case of Argumentum ad Hominem.” Argumentation 6 no. 2 (May 1992), 141-159. doi: 10.1007/BF00154322. Here, relevance in oral or written discourse is described as a functional relation of elements among the interactional intention of disputants as is evident in interrelated speech acts, rather than as a relation among the statements in the discourse, itself, as is normally regarded in the traditional logo-centric view of informal logic.

17. E.g., Douglas Watson writes,“It is a requirement of an argument being an ad hominem argument, that it be a personal attack used to undermine the argument of the other party … Attacking someone's integrity, or even calling that person a liar or a hypocrite, for example, is not necessarily an ad hominem argument.” Douglas Walton, Character Evidence: an Abductive Theory (Dordecht, The Netherlands: Springer, 2006), 99. doi: 10.1007/1-4020-4943-9

18. Stephen Toulmin, Richard Reike and Allan Janik. An Introduction to Reasoning (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co.: 1997), 117.

19. The characterization of the argumentum ad personam has a checkered history:

(1) In this example use from a parliamentary debate in 1884, the phrase is employed as a synonym for argumentum ad hominem: “… the speech of the honourable member for Selwyn, which was nothing but a constant application of the principle of the argumentum ad hominem, or the argumentum ad personam. It is nothing but a tissue of sneers and jeers and ridicule …” [J. Holmes, “Supply: Resumed Debate,” New Zealand Parliamentary Debates: Legislative Council and House of Representatives 48 (Wellington: New Zealand: G. Didsbury, 1884), 502.]

(2) Schopenhauer states in reference to the ad personam, “[I]n becoming personal you leave the subject altogether, and turn your attack to his person, by remarks of an offensive and spiteful character.” [Arthur Schopenhauer, The Art of Controversy and Other Posthumous Papers (London: Swan Sonnenschein, 1896), 46.]

(3) Schopenhauer, however, regards the Ad personam and the ad hominem as different fallacies. Few logicians and rhetoricians today follow his separation of these two fallacies. He restricts the ad personam to the personal attack and the ad hominem to the ex concessis. Schopenhauer, “Art of Controversy,” 46.] Bentham terms this version of the argumentum ad personam the argumentum ad odium. [Jeremy Bentham, Plan of Parlimentary Reform in The Works of Jeremy Bentham ed. John Bowring III (Edinburgh: William Tait, 1838), 499.]

(4) The ad personam fallacy also has been occasionally defined as appealing to the personal interests of someone in order persuade someone to accept an argumentative claim. I.e., rather than directing an argument towards the issue at hand (argumentum ad rem), the argument is directed toward an issue which might influence a particular opponent (argumentum ad personam. In this regard, as stated in the text above, J.H. Hyslop includes the ad judicium, ad populum, ad hominem, ad verecundiam and ad ignorantiam arguments as five forms of the argumentum ad personam [James Hervey Hyslop, Logic and Argument New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1907), 176]. J.L Mackies simply defines ad personam as “an appeal to personal interest.” [J. L. Mackie, “Fallacies,” The Encyclopedia of Philosophy ed. Paul Edwards (New York: Macmillan, 1967), 3: 178].

In general use, today, however, ad hominem and ad personam are used synonymously. See for example Douglas N. Watson, Informal Fallacies: Towards a Theory of Argument Criticisms (Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins Publishing, 1987), 6.

Writers citing ad personam for this reason include Richard Fulkerson,Teaching the Argument in Writing (National Council of Teachers of English: 1996) 119; Elmar Waibl and Philip Herdina, Dictionary of Philosophical Terms (K.G. Saur—Routledge, 1997), I:21; and Oxford Latin Dictionary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1968), 800.

20. Historically, the phrase argumentum ad feminam has been used in several different ways.

Ngram graph showing historical frequency of ad feminam and argumentum ad feminam in Google books

FIG. 4. Historical Frequency of Use of “Ad feminam” and “argumentum ad feminam” in Google Books 1775-2015

(1) The argumentum ad feminam was sometimes used in a neutral manner (i.e., applying reference to either consistency or inconsistency of statement or character) in the 18th and 19th century as an argumentum ex concessis in the sense of adapting an argument to the person. For example, in discussing the essential value of the habit of attention in knitting and reading at the same time, the writer, Elizabeth Hamilton, concludes, “[A]ny grave philosopher [may] smile at this simple illustration, which he may, if he pleases call argumentum ad feminam … ” [Elizabeth Hamilton, Letters on the Elementary Principles of Education 3rd ed. (Bath: R Cruttwell, 1803), 71.]

George Berkeley uses the ex concessis argumentum ad hominem in much the same manner when he points out St. Paul's argument that since baptism does not help in this life but is for the sake of the next life, “Lycon allowed it [i.e., the argument] to be argumentum ad hominem to those who had sought baptism.” Thus, such an argument is only plausible to a person of faith and does not prove anything ad rem since the premises of the argument are not acceptable to the opposing party. [George Berkeley, Alciphron in The Works of George Berkeley: Philosophical Works ed. Alexander Campbell Fraser (1732 Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1871), II: 233.]

(2) However, with the exceptions just pointed out, most uses before 1940 refer to the methods of special pleading used to persuade a woman to accept some claim or point of view.

(3) According to the OED the earliest use for ad feminam as a means of discrediting a woman by reference to her character or circumstances is 1970. More recently the OED changed the first use to the mid 19th century. The OED entry for “ad feminam” is “after ad hominem adv. and adj., where this is (erroneously or facetiously) interpreted as a gender-specific term requiring a feminine analogue.” [“ad feminam, adv.,” (draft entry September 2006) Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009)]. See also the online entry from English Oxford Living Dictionaries at https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/ad_feminam.

(4) There are references to the ad feminam in the sense of “attempting to discredit a woman” before the mid-19th century, however. E.g., in Sir Walter Scott's novel, Redgauntlet: “the argumentum ad hominem, the last to which a polite man has recourse, may, however, be justified by circumstances, but seldom or never the argumentum ad fœminam“ [(Boston: Samuel H. Parker, 1824), 114-115] where this definition is provided in the glossary of a later edition of that same work:

argumentum ad hominem, ad feminam, lit. ‘the argument to a man, to a woman,’ refutation of a man's argument by an example drawn from his own conduct.” Sir Walter Scott, Redgauntlet (London: Oxford University Press, 1912), 501.

In accordance with the proliferation of fallacies in the last fifty years, the argumentum ad feminam in the sense of attempting to discredit a woman's claim by appeal to her character or circumstances may well become mainstream. If so, then recognition might follow, as it has recently with the ad hominem, that the ad feminam argument would not be necessarily fallacious by definition.

21. Thomas Sowell, “Random Thoughts on the Passing Scene,” Index-Journal 97 no. 14 (March 5. 2015), 6A. This example of the abusive ad hominem is sometimes called the name calling fallacy.

22. T. Besterman, “Voltaire to d'Alembert, 17 June 1762,” Voltaire's Correspondence XLIX (Geneva: Institute et Musée Voltaire, 1953-1977), 34.

23. Schopenhauer, Art of Controversy, 27-8.

24. James H. Hyslop, Logic and Argument (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1899), 174.

25. Although tu quoque is normally classified as a version of the ad hominem, Douglas Walton points out that not all tu quoque arguments are subspecies of ad hominem arguments. [Douglas Walton, The Place of Emotion in Argument (University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, 1992), 212.] However the niceties of sharp distinctions and subtypes existing between informal fallacies cannot be maintained. The content of arguments is not subject to precise distinction, and intrinsically some degree of vagueness and open texture of expression always persists.

26. Tu quoque arguments are intrinsically rhetorical rather than dialectical since their effectiveness depends on the presence of spectators. F.H. van Eemeren and R. Grootendorst, Speech Acts in Argumentative Discussions (Dordrecht; Cinnaminson, N.J., Foris Publications: 1984), 191.

27. Aristotle, A New Translation of Aristotle's Rhetoric, trans. John Gillies (London: T. Cadell, 1823), 339.

28. Aristotle, Rhetoric, 339.

29. Charlotte Perkins Gilman, The Living of Charlotte Perkins Gilman: An Autobiography (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1935), 328.

30. For more on the distinction between the two wrongs fallacy and tu quoque see Douglas Walton's illuminating discussion: Douglas Walton, Ad Hominem Arguments (Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 1998), 17-20, 26, 61, 69-70, 90-91, 230-237.

31. “Comments on Events,” Music News, 32 no. 846 (18 May 1907), 486.

32. Aristotle, On Sophistical Refutations: On Coming-to-Be and Passing-Away 174b19-23 (trans. Loeb).

Aristotle also anticipates the consistency aspect of ex concessis arguments in several places in his discussion of examination arguments, dialectical disputation (later termed disputatio temptativa in the Medieval thought). [Sophistical Refutations165a39-165b8 (trans. Loeb) and Topics 101a25-7; 161a1-5 (trans. Robin Smith)] The adversary infers an objectionable consequence from a proponent's claim.

Douglas Walton has termed this argument “the argument from commmitment” and is, essentially, a purported proof relative to a specific person's previous behavior or beliefs. [Douglas Walton, Ad Hominem Arguments (Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 1998), 23.

Schopenhauer, for example, writes, “Another trick is to use arguments ad hominem or ex concessis. When your opponent makes a proposition, you must try to see whether it is not in some way — it needs be, only apparently — inconsistent with some other proposition which he has made or admitted …” For Schopenhauer “Ad hominem” and “Ad concessis” are interchangeable terms. Art of Controversy, 27-8.

Recently Stéphane Muras explains the justified use of ex concessis showing, “there is an incompatibility between the thesis the adversary is now defending and the thesis he was able to defend previously [in] his words or in his concrete acts.” Stéphane Muras, Manuel de Polémique (Paris: Editions du Relief, 2013), 314.

33. E.g., see George R. Noyes, ed., A New Translation of he Book of Psalms and of the Proverbs 5th ed. (Boston, American Unitarian Assoc., 1874), 10.

34. Dana Milbank, “ House Republicans Want to Gut Key American Principle,” Index-Journal 97 no. 69 (1 May 2015), 9A.

35. John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding Vol. 2 (London: Printed for A. Bettesworth …, 1735), IV, Chap. 17, 306.

36. Isaac Watts, Logick: or, The Right Use of Reason in the Enquiry After Truth 3rd. ed.(London: Bible and Crown, 1729), 311.

By 1743, Isaac Watts describes this type of ad hominem as follows: “[Y]et if from the principles and concessions of your opponent, you can support your argument … this has been always counted a fair treatment of an adversary, and is called argumentum ad hominem, or ratio ex concessis.” Isaac Watts, The Improvement of the Mind, 2nd. ed. (London: J. Brackstone, 1743), 165-6.

Gabriël Nuchelmans in his otherwise very useful early history of the ad hominem notes that David Hartley views the argumentum ad hominem as being “built upon the professed principles of opinions of the person which whom we are arguing” [Nuchelmans, “On the Fourfold Root of the Argumentum Ad Hominem,” in Empirical Logic and Public Debate: Essays in Honour of Else M. Barth eds. Erik C.S. Krabbe et al. (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1993], 42]; however, this is quite a stretch from Hartley's brief mention of the terms. Hartley describes two arguments depending upon the nature of a human being and “not the natural way of treating the subject” and not a “real argument.” These explicitly named ad hominem arguments are offered in terms of in terms of the generalization of logic from other sciences [David Hartley, Observations on Man, Part 1 (London: J. Johnson, 1749), 359] and in terms of the consistency of national belief from historical writings [David Hartley, Observations on Man, Part 2 (London: J. Johnson, 1749, 85].

Other philosophers describing the ad hominem in terms of the consistency or inconsistency of a person's statements as ex concessis include the following:

(1) Augustus De Morgan broadly describes “argumenta ad hominem” recrimination of a person advancing an argument and a charge of inconsistency. [Augustus De Morgan, Formal Logic: Or, The Calculus of Inference, Necessary and Probable (London: Taylor and Walton, 1847), 265.]

(2) Jeremy Bentham regards the proposition “that men are bound by contracts” and “if one performs not his part, the other is released from his” as an argumentum ad hominem. Jeremy Bentham, A Fragment on Government (London: W. Pickering, 1823, 36.]

(3) John Stuart Mill describes an “argument [which] … proves directly the reverse” [John Stuart Mill, An Examination of Sir William Hamilton's Philosophy (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1877), 56] and argues the inconsistency of reasons provided by the Southern white slave-owners in their rebellion against the North with respect to the thirteen colonies in their rebellion against England as ad hominem arguments [John Stuart Mill, The Contest in America, (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1862), 21].

(4) Alexander Bain defines the ad hominem in terms of ex concessis:

It is sometimes shown that an opponent is precluded, by something in his own special position, from the benefit of a principle appealed to by him; a special mode of Refutation by Inconsistency, called the Argumentum ad hominem.

Alexander Bain, English Composition and Rhetoric (New York: D. Appleton, 1867) 240].

And, yet, for Bain, an argumentum ad hominem in this sense can hold good but be fallacious because it relies on presumptive assumption [Alexander Bain, The Minor Works of George Grote (London: J. Murray, 1873), 357].

(6) Charles Sanders Pierce points out, “[An] argumentum ad hominem [is] merely something a man is obliged by his personal interest to admit” [Charles Saunders Peirce, “James's Psychology,” in Writings of Charles S. Peirce vol. 8 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010), 231]. So, for example, when discussing true continuity in pure mathematics when he assumes a hypothesis independently of its accordance with fact and attempts to avoid the argumentum ad hominem that a conception of true continuity is not, for that reason, a definite conception [Charles S. Pierce, “Topical Geometry,” in The New Elements of Mathematics vol. 2, ed. Carolyn Eisele (The Hague: Mouton Publishers, 1976), 483].

(7) Bertrand Russell defines the ad hominem argument as not necessarily being fallacious since one “assume[s] premisses granted by … opponents, and to show that, granting these premisses, it is possible to deduce consequences which … opponents must deny.” He gives the example of Zeno's arguments manifesting contradictions from the supposition of change as ad hominem arguments which might be valid or sophistic depending on “the tacit premissses” and the person “at whom they were aimed” [Bertrand Russell, Our Knowledge of the External World (Chicago: Open Court, 1914), 168)].

(8)Jean-Jacques Robrieux who describes an “argumentum ad hominem as argumentum ad concessis” as:

“á raisonner avec un interlocuteur ou un auditoire sur la base de ses convictions propres, de ses préjugés, et non sur celle des jugements universels,”

[I.e., “reasoning with an interlocutor or an audience on the basis of his own convictions, his prejudices, and not on that of universal judgments.”]

Jean-Jacques Robrieus, Éléments de Rhétorique et d'Argumentation (Dunod, 1993), 143.

37. Richard Whately, Elements of Logic 2nd. ed (London: W. Clowes, 1827), 191-2.

38. For example, “Upon reading this book [the Pentateuch], we find it full of prodigies and miracles. … I desire anyone to lay his hand upon his heart, and, after a serious consideration, declare, whether he thinks that the falsehood of such a book, supported by such a testimony, would be more extraordinary and miraculous that all the miracles it relates: which is, however, necessary to make it be received according to the measure of probability above established.” David Hume, An Essay on Miracles (London: J.B. Bebbington, 1861), 19-20.

39. Exodus 31:14 Scofield Reference Bible (New York: Oxford University Press, 1945).

40. St. Luke 14:2-6 Scofield Reference Bible. The example appears in William and Robert Chambers, Chamber's Information for the People 5th ed. (Philadelphia: Jas. L. Gihon, 1858), 371.

This sense of an argumentum ad hominem not as a personal attack but as an argument tailored to another person's own beliefs was used not only as a criticism but also as a support for that other person's contentions in the 17th and 18th century. On the one hand, for example, James Jurin criticizes Sir Isaac Newton's notion in the calculus that infinitesimally small increments initially exist but after forming mathematical expressions they vanish and later do not exist when he concludes:

”[I]t will surely furnish a fair argumentum ad hominem against men, who reject that very thing in Geometry which they admit in Logick. It will be a proper way to abate the pride, and discredit the pretensions of these Logicians and Metaphysicians, who insist upon clear ideas in points of Mathematicks, if it be shewn that they do without them in their own science.“ [italics deleted]The Minute Mathematician: or, the Free-Thinker No Just-Thinker, by Philalethes Cantabrigiensis(London: Printed for T. Cooper, at the Globe in Pater-Nolter-Row, 1735), 95. Also here: Trinity College, Maths]

So the argumentum ad hominem alleged here is that the method of Newton's calculation where the increments vanish is inconsistent with his original assumption of the existence of increments in the first place.

On the other hand, an example of argumentum ad hominem as support for a consistency of belief is shown in this letter to Lord Mansfied by Henry Home:

“[I]f a purchaser from an heir of provision, for example, be secure, why not a purchaser from a gratuitous disponee [the person to whom any property is legally conveyed]? What objection should lie against the purchaser is not obvious, considering that a purchaser even from a notour bankrupt is, in the practice of the court of session, held to be secure; which is at least a good argumentum ad hominem.” [Henry Home, Principles of Equity (Edinburgh: Printed for A. Millar, London, and A. Kincaid & J. Bell, Edinburgh, 1760), 322.]

Henry Home here is arguing that since a purchaser from legitimate heir is just as secure as a purchaser from a bankrupt person who failed to discharge his debt, so likewise a purchaser from a receiver of a gift of the subject of a deed should be just as secure as if he purchased from a person whose property was legally conveyed. The reasoning is consistent with past decisions of the course of sessions and so for this reason, Home concludes, is a “good argumentum ad hominem. (italics in original)”

41. Moses Stuart, “Review of Stuart on the Epistle to the Hebrews,” in The Quarterly Christian Spectator 1 no. 1 (New Haven: A.H. Maltby, 1829), 137.

42. Schopenhauer, The Art of Controversy, 45. This mode of argumentation emerged from a different form of ex concessis where one uses the self-same prejudices of an individual in order to convince him something else is true even though one does not recognize the truth of that individual's assumptions.

43. W.E. Taylor, The Ethical and Religious Theories of Bishop Butler (Toronto: Bryant Press, 1908), 59.

44. Hayim Gordon and Rivca Gordon, Heidegger on Truth and Myth: A Rejection of Postmodernism (New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 2006), 42. (no access)

45. Eugene Robinson, “Surrender to the Inevitable,” Index-Journal 96 no. 132 (8 Oct. 2014), 8A.

46. John Stossel, “On Parasites: Or, About Lawyers and Politicians,” Index-Journal 95 no. 354 (February 7, 2015), 9A.

47. Just as in all fallacies of relevance, there are times when the recognition of an opponent's deeply rooted prejudice would be a relevant factor in discontinuing an open dialogue. E.g., there would be little advantage in attempting an open and honest political debate with someone espousing the following fixed opinion:

“[W]e must be closed to compromise. No one need try to convince me otherwise. The effort is futile; my conviction is absolute.”

Charles M. Blow, “The Death of Compassion,” The New York Times (February 23, 2017)

A stance such as this one leads credence to the ad hominem charge of bias since the author is so deeply entrenched in a partisan issue that he refuses to consider any possible evidence for an opposing view.

Even so, to some extent, everyone has deeply rooted fixed opinions:

“There is still another kind of prejudice similar to that just considered — namely, the judgments which are born of other minds and which, nevertheless, we come to appropriate as our own. the reasons in which such judgments are grounded we have never examined ourselves — possibly we could never understand even if they were presented to us with elaborate explanation; and yet the second-hand judgments cannot be eliminated wholly from our body of knowledge without an incalculable loss.”

John Grier Hibben, “A Defence of Prejudice,” Scribner's Magazine 43 no. 1 (Jan. 1908), 118.]

48. Douglas Walton argues that poisoning the well, even though having much in common with ad hominem arguments, is best analyzed in terms of argument schemes as as a distinctive fallacy type. He concludes that poisoning the well is a sophistical method associated with several different informal fallacies but is not itself an informal fallacy. Instead, he sees it as a dialectical fallacy in that its function is to obviate further argument. Douglas Walton, “Poisoning the Well,” Argumentation 20 no. 3 (September 2006), 273-307. doi: 10.1007/s10503-006-9013-z

49. Ms. Toynbee initiates distrust of Baron Tebbit in advance of his arguments. Polly Toynbee, “The Lords Exposed the Government's Hypocrisy After Protecting EU Citizens,” The Guardian. (March 2, 2017).

50. Herbert Grosshans, Web of Conspiracy (White Bear Lake, MN: Mélange Books, 2011), 8.

51. For more on reflexive poisoning-the-well arguments see Douglas Walton, Ad Hominem Arguments (Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 1998), 231.

52. See Joseph Grcic, “The Halo Effect Fallacy,” E-Logos 15 no. 1 (October, 2008), 1-6, for a brief application of E.L. Thorndike “A Constant Error in Psychological Rating,” Journal of Applied Psychology 4 no. 1 (January, 1920), 25-29. doi: 0.1037/h0071663

53. Stuart Chase, “Language and Loyalty,” The Train Dispatcher 32 no. 7 July 1950), 514.

54. Cal Thomas, "Suppose Bachmann Is Right?" Index-Journal 94 no. 95 (2 Aug. 2012), 8A.

55. According to the Oxford English Dictionary (2nd. ed. 1989) Cohen and Nagel first designated the genetic fallacy and classified it as a failure to make proper discrimination between values of the truth of a belief and its origin. [Morris R. Cohen and Ernest Nagel, An Introduction to Logic and Scientific Method 1934 rpt. (New Delhi: Allied Publishers, 1968), 88.] According to Steve Fuller, the occasional cause of Cohen and Nagel's stipulative definition is in response to John Dewey's notion that the historical career of an idea is relevant to its evaluation. Steve Fuller, Thomas Kuhn: A Philosophical History for Our Times (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 83 fn.

Nevertheless, versions of the genetic fallacy are described throughout the history of philosophy. John Locke, for example, states:

“For the cause of any sensation, and the sensation itself, in all the simple ideas of one sense, are two ideas; and two ideas so different, and distant one from another, that no two can be more so.”
[John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human[e] Understanding (London: Thomas Baffet, 1690), 199.] And in the late 1880s Henry Sidgwick writes,
“I cannot see how the mere ascertainment that a certain class of apparently self-evident judgments has been caused in certain known and determinate ways, can be in itself a valid ground for distrusting such cognitions. I cannot even admit that those who affirm the truth of such judgments are bound to show in their causes a tendency to make them true.” Henry Sidgwick, The Methods of Ethics: A Supplement to the Second Edition (London: Macmillan and Co., 1884), 105.
Most current textbooks state a definition of the genetic fallacy similar to this one:
“When someone gives an account of what led someone (or a group) to a view and argues that since this (the account) is true, the view is false, this is called the Genetic Fallacy.” [J.D. Carney and R.K. Scheer. Fundamentals of Logic (New York: Macmillan, 1964), 32.]

Even so, usually the claim is not that the view under consideration is false — only that the claim has not been proved.

56. Norwood Russell Hanson, “II. The Genetic Fallacy Revisited,” American Philosophical Quarterly 4 no.2 (April 1967), 101.

57. James William Lett, Science, Reason, and Anthropology: The Principles of Rational Inquiry (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield: 1997), 65.

58. Willaim R. Klemm, “Starting Points for Agency Research,” in Constraints of Agency: Explorations of Theory in Everyday Life ed. Craig W. Gruber, et al. (Cham, Switzerland: Springer, 2015), 127. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-10130-9

59. Barbara Montero, On the Philosophy of Mind (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2009), 70.

60. Peter Godfrey-Smith, “Not Sufficiently Reassuring.” London Review of Books 35 no.2 (24 Jan. 2013), 20.

61. Hans Reichenbach, The Rise of Scientific Philosophy (1951 Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1968), 231. The distinction between discovery and justification extents to other disciplines as well. In law, for example, Jaap Hage writes, “The context of discovery deals with the psychological side of legal reasoning, while the context of justification concerns the justification of legal conclusion. Jaap Hage, “Legal Reasoning,” in Elgar Encyclopedia of Comparative Law, ed. J.M. Smits (Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 2006), 407. doi: 10.4337/9781847200204.00043

62. Karl Popper, The Logic of Scientific Discovery (1959 London: Hutchinson, 1974). 31.

63. Take, for instance, Charles Darwin's evolutionary explanation of the religious or moral belief in conscience:

“I do not wish to maintain that any strictly social animal, if its intellectual faculties were to become as active and as highly developed as in man, would acquire exactly the same moral sense as ours. … If, for instance, to take an extreme case, men were reared under precisely the same condition as hive-bees, there can hardly be a doubt that our unmarried females would, like the worker-bees, think it a sacred duty to kill their brothers, and mothers would strive to kill their fertile daughters; and no one would think of interfering. Nevertheless, the bee, or any other social animal, would gain in our supposed case, as it appears to me, some feeling of right or wrong, or a conscience.”
Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man, vol I (London: John Murray, 1871), 73.

64. W. V. Quine, “Two Dogmas of Empiricism,” The Philosophical Review 60 no. 1 (January 1951), 20-43. The original and revised 1961 edition, with alterations, are fully provided on the Web by the Foundation for Information Technology, Logic and Mathematics, Warsaw, Poland: Two Dogmas of Empiricism

65. Richard F. Kitchener, “Is Genetic Epistemology Possible,” The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 38 no. 3 (September 1987), 283-299. (preview) Kitchener states the genesis vs. justification distinction as follows:

“Questions about the genesis of an idea (belief, concept theory) is one thing (an empirical question for psychology, sociology or history), whereas questions about the validity and justification of an idea is a different question (a normative question for logic and epistemology).” Kitchener, 285.“

He cites this distinction as one kind of the fact-norm distinction which “provides the underlying rationale of the notorious genetic fallacy.” Further, he concludes, “What is clearly being ruled out, thererfore is the very possibility that a question about the ‘genesis’ of an idea could have some relevance towards evaluating its epistemic adequacy.” (Kitchener, 286).

66. Ledger Wood, “Genetic Fallacy” and “Genetic Method,” in Dagobert D. Runes, Dictionary of Philosophy (Paterson, NJ: Littlefield, Adams, 1962), 116.

67. Kim Sterelny, “Escaping Illusion?"American Scientist 94 no. 5 (September–October, 2006), 461. doi: 10.1511/2006.61.461

68. Dino Franco Felluga, Perversity of Poetry (Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 2005), 84-85.

69. Daniel Martin Varisco, Reading Orientalism: Said and the Unsaid (Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 2007), 36. doi: 10.1093/jis/etp012

70. Eric S. Lander and Joseph J. Ellis, “News and Views: Founding Father,” Nature 396 no. 6706 (November 5, 1998), 14. doi: 10.1038/23802

71. S. Morris Engel, With Good Reason: A Guide to Informal Fallacies (New York: St. Martins Press, 1976), 108-109.

72. John F. Cargan and Craig W. Cutbirth, “A Revisionist Perspective on Political Ad Hominem Argument: A Case Study,” Central States Speech Journal 35 no. 4 (December, 1984), 228-237. doi: 10.1080/10510978409368192

73. Sophia Grace Toplis, Twelfth Night in Young England (London: Young England Office, 1833), 121.

74. William James, Pragmatism (New York: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1910), 6-11.

75. Thomas A. Mauet, Trial Techniques and Trials, 10th ed. (New York: Wolters Kluwer, 2017), 547-548.

76. See for example David Hitchcock, ”Why There Is No Argumentum Ad Hominem Fallacy,” ISSA Proceedings 2006 in The Rozenberg Quarterly Magazine doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-53562-3_26. See also John Woods, “Lightening Up On the Ad HominemInformal Logic 27 no. 1 (2007), 111. doi: 10.22329/il.v27i1.467]

77. Douglas N. Walton, “Argumentation Schemes and Historical Origins of the Circumstantial Ad Hominem Argument,” Argumentation 18 (2004), 359-368. doi: 10.1023/B:ARGU.0000046706.45919.83

78. Louise Cummings, “ Reasoning Under Uncertainty: The Role of Two Informal Fallacies in an Emerging Scientific Inquiry,” Informal Logic 22 no. 2 (2002), 121. doi: 10.22329/il.v22i2.2578

79. Alan Brinton, “A Rhetorical View of the Ad Hominem,” Australasian Journal of Philosophy 63 no. 1 (March 1985), 55. doi: 10.1080/00048408512341681

80. “Briefing,” Time 177 no. 19 (May 16, 2011) 177, 9.

81. Kathleen, Parker, "Girl Fight," Index-Journal 93 no. 355 (April 19, 2012), 8A.

82. John Rosemond, “ ADHD: You Are What You Eat,” Index-Journal 97 no. 187 (September 5, 2015), 7A.

83. Eugene Robinson, “Expected to Save the World, Kushner Will Surely Fail,” Index-Journal 99 no. 20 (April 2, 2017), 7a.

84. Francis L. Wellman, The Art of Cross-Examination (New York: Macmillan, 1903), 29.

85. Bill O'Reilly, “The French Way,” Index-Journal 95 no. 191 (November 18, 2013), 6A.

86. Froma Harrop, “Will Americans Pay for American-Made?” Index-Journal 95 no. 204 (December 9, 2013), 9A.

87. John Stossel, “Earth Daze,” Index-Journal 95 no. 331 (April 14, 2014), 9A.

88. Barbara Ellen, “Faint-Hearted Feminists? What's Salma Hayek's Problem?The Guardian US edition (November 9, 2016).

89. George Will, “The Apostle Mike Huckabee,” Index-Journal (May 12, 2015) 97 No. 79, 6A.

90. Huey P. Long, “Share Our Wealth: Radio Speech, 1935,” in Gerald D. Nash, ed., Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Great Lives Observed 2nd. ed (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1967), 109.

91. Sandra Harding, “Conclusion: Epistemological Questions,” in Feminism and Methodology: Social Science Issues, ed. Sandra Harding (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1987), 183-184.

92.Thomas Nickles, “Introductory Essay: History of the Idea of a ‘Logic ’ of Discovery,” in Scientific Discovery, Logic, and Rationality, ed. Thomas Nickles (Dordrecht: Holland: D. Reidel Publishing Company, 1978), 8. doi: 10.1007/978-94-009-8986-3

Herbert Feigel explains, “It is one thing to ask how we arrive at our scientific knowledge claims and what socio-cultural factors contribute to their acceptance or rejection; and it is another thing to ask what sort of evidence and what general, objective rules and standards govern the testing, the confirmation or disconfirmation and the acceptance or rejection of knowledge claims of science.” Herbert Feigel, “Philosophy of Science,” in Philosophy, eds. R. M. Chisholm, et al. (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1964), 472.


Readings: Ad Hominem

Andrew Aberden, “Commentary on Patrick Bondy, ‘Bias in Legitimate Ad Hominem Arguments,’” OSSA Conference Archive 11, 7 (2016), 1-5.

Scott Aikin, “Tu Quoque Arguments and the Significance of Hypocrisy,” Informal Logic 28 no. 2 (June 2008), 155-169. doi: 10.22329/il.v28i2.543

E. M. Barthand and J.L. Martens. “Argumentum Ad Hominem: From Chaos to Formal Dialectic,” Logique & Analyse 20 no. 77-78 (March-June 1977), 76-96.

Heather Battaly, “Attacking Character: Ad Hominem Argument and Virtue Epistemology,” Informal Logic 30 no.4 (2010), 361-390. doi: 10.22329/il.v30i4.2964.

Patrick Bondy, “Bias in Legitimate Ad Hominem Arguments,” In Argumentation, Objectivity, and Bias. Eds. P. Bondy and L. Benacquista OSSA (May 2016), 1-8.

Patrick Bondy, “Virtues, Evidence, and Ad Hominem Arguments,” Informal Logic 35 no. 4 (2015), 450-466. doi: 10.22329/il.v35i4.4330.

Alan Brinton, “A Rhetorical View of the Ad Hominem,” Australasian Journal of Philosophy 63 no. 1 (March 1985), 50-63. doi: 10.1080/00048408512341681. (paywall)

Alan Brinton, “The Ad Hominem,” Fallacies: Classical and Contemporary Readings. Eds. Hans V. Hansen and Robert C. Pinto. (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University, 1995), 213-222. (preview)

Maarten Boudry and Fabio Paglieri and Massimo Pigliucci. “The Fake, the Flimsy, and the Fallacious: Demarcating Arguments in Real Life,” Maarten Boudry Google Scholar. https://sites.google.com/site/maartenboudry/teksten-1/fake. Argumentation 29 no. 4 (November 2015), 431-456. doi: 10.1007/s10503-015-9359-1

Katarzna Budzynska and Chris Reed. “The Structure of Ad Hominem Dialogues,” Computational Models of Arguments Series: Frontiers in Artificial Intelligence and Applications vol.245 (2012), 410-421. doi: 10.3233/978-1-61499-111-3-410

James Cargile, “Two Fallacies,” Logos & Episteme 1 no. 2 (2010), 257-268. doi: 10.5840/logos-episteme2010124

Graciela Marta Chichi, “The Greek Roots of the Ad Hominem-Argument,” Argumentation 16 no. 3 (September 2002), 333-348. doi: 10.1023/A:1019967112062 (paywall)

Margaret A. Crouch, “A ‘Limited’Defense of the Genetic Fallacy,” Metaphilosophy 24 no 3 (July 1993), 227-240. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9973.1993.tb00900.x (paywall)

Stephen De Wijze “Complexity, Relevance and Character: Problems with Teaching the Ad Hominem Fallacy,” Educational Philosophy and Theory 35 (2003), 31-56. doi: 10.1111/1469-5812.00004 (paywall)

S. Morris.Engel, “The Five Forms of the Ad Hominem Fallacy,” Inquiry 14 no. 1 (Autumn 1994): 19-36. doi:10.5840/inquiryctnews199414123 (paywall)

T. A. Goudge, “The Genetic Fallacy,” Synthese 13 no. 1 (1961), 41-48. doi: 10.1007/BF00485935 (paywall)

Ulrike Hahn and Mike Oaksford, Adam J.L. Harris. “Testimony and Argument: A Bayesian Perspective,” Bayesian Argumentation ed. Frank Zenker (Dordrecht: Springer, 2013), 15-38. doi: 10.1007/978-94-007-5357-0_2

Norwood Russell Hansen, “The Irrelevance of History of Science to Philosophy of Science,” The Journal of Philosophy 59 no. 21 (Oct. 1962), 574-586. doi: 10.2307/2023279 (paywall)

David Hitchcock, “Is There an Argumentum ad Hominem Fallacy?,” in On Reasoning and Argument. Ed. David Hitchcock (Springer International, 2017), 409-419. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-53562-3_26 (preview)

David Hitchcock, “The Pragma-Dialectical Analysis of the Ad Hominem Fallacy,” In Considering Pragma-Dialectics.. Eds. Peter Houtlosser and Agnès van Rees. (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaus Associates, 2006), 109-119. (preview)

David Hitchcock, “Why There is No Argumentum Ad Hominem Fallacy,” In Proceedings of the Sixth Conference of the International Society for the Study of Argumentation. Eds. F.H. van Eemeren and B. Garssen. 1 (Amsterdam: Sic Sat, 2007), 615-620.

John Hoaglund, “Argumentum ad Hominem: Aut Bonum aut Malum?,” Informal Logic 4 no. 3 (July 1981), 7-9. doi: 10.22329/il.v4i3.2773

Gary James Jason, “Is There a Case for Ad Hominem Arguments?,” Australasian Journal of Philosophy 62 no. 2 (1984), 182-185. doi: 10.1080/00048408412341381 (paywall)

Christopher M. Johnson, “Reconsidering the Ad Hominem,” Philosophy 84 no. 2 (April 2009), 251-266. doi: 10.1017/S0031819109000217 (paywall)

H.W. Johnstone, Jr., “Philosophy and Argumentum ad Hominem,” Journal of Philosophy 49 no. 15 (17 July 1952), 489-498. doi: 10.2307/2021667 (paywall)

Kevin C. Klement, “When Is Genetic Reasoning Not Fallacious,” Argumentation 16 no. 4 (December 2002), 383-400. doi: 10.1023/A:1021132731699

Erik C.W. Krabbe and Douglas Walton, “It's All Very Well for You to Talk! Situationally Disqualifying Ad Hominem Attacks,” Informal Logic 15 no. 2 (1993), 79-91. doi: 10.22329/il.v15i2.2475"

T. Z. Lavine, “Reflections on the Genetic Fallacy,” Social Research. 29 no. 3 (Autumn 1962), 321-336. (paywall)

Stephen Law, “Thinking Tools: The Genetic Fallacy,” Think 5 no. 13 (June 2006), 23-24. doi: 10.1017/S1477175600001500 (paywall)

P.T. Mackenzie, “Ad Hominem and Ad Verecundiam,” Informal Logic 3 no. 3 (1980), 9-11. doi: 10.22329/il.v3i3.2792

John. McMurtry, “The Argumentum Ad Adversarium,” Informal Logic 8 no. 1 (Winter, 1986), 27-36. doi: 10.22329/il.v8i1.2678"

Moti Mizrahi, “Take My Advice — I Am Not Following It: Ad Hominem Arguments as Legitimate Rebuttals to Appeals to Authority,” Informal Logic 30 no. 4 (2010): 435-456. doi: 10.22329/il.v30i4.2990

B. Meuffels, and F.H. van Eemeren, “Ordinary Arguers' Judgments on Ad Hominem Fallacies,” Advances in Pragma-dialectics. Ed. F.H. van Eemeren (Amsterdam: Sic Sat/Vale Press, 2002), 45-64. (no preview)

Gabriël Nuchelmans, “On the Fourfold Root of The Argumentum Ad Hominem,” in E.C.W. Krabe, R.J. Dalitz and P. Smith (eds.), Empirical Logic and Public Debate (Amsterdam-Atlanta, Rodopi,1993), 37-47.

Jon Pashman, “Is the Genetic Fallacy a Fallacy?,” The Southern Journal of Philosophy 8 no. 1 (Spring 1970), 57-62. doi: 10.1111/j.2041-6962.1970

H.J. Plug, “Parrying Ad-HominemArguments in Parliamentary Debates.” Proceedings of the 7th Conference of the International Society for the Study of Argumentation. Eds. F.H. van Eemeren, et al. (Amsterdam: Rozenberg/Sic Sat.), 1538-1546. https://pure.uva.nl/ws/files/1830340/128194_138_Plug.pdf

Yvone Raley, “Character Attacks: How to Properly Apply the Ad Hominem.” Scientific American Mind. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/character-attack/

van Eemeren, Frans H. and Rob Grootendorst. “Argumentum Ad Hominem: A Pragma-Dialectical Case in Point.” In Fallacies: Classical and Contemporary Readings. Eds. Hans V. Hansen and Robert C. Pinto (University Park PA: Pennsylvania State University Press: 1995), 223-228.

Frans H. van Eemeren and Rob Grootendorst. “Relevance Reviewed: The Case of Argumentum ad Hominem,” Argumentation 6 no. 2 (May 1992), 141-159. doi: 10.1007/BF00154322

Douglas N. Walton, “The Ad Hominem Argument as an Informal Fallacy.” Argumentation 1 no.3 (1987), 320. doi: 10.1007/bf00136781

Douglas N. Walton, Ad Hominem Arguments, (Tuscalooosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 1998). (preview)

Douglas N. Walton, “Argumentation Schemes and Historical Origins of the Circumstantial Ad Hominem Argument.” Argumentation 18 no. 3 (September 2004), 359-368. doi: 10.1023/B:ARGU.0000046706.45919.83

Douglas N. Walton, “The Ad Hominem Argument as an Informal Fallacy,” Argumentation 1 (1987), 317-331. doi:10.1007/BF00136781

Douglas N. Walton, Character Evidence: An Abductive Theory (Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer, 2006). doi: 10.1007/1-4020-4943-9

Douglas N. Walton, “Formalization of the Ad Hominem Argumentation Scheme,” Journal of Applied Logic 8 no. 1 (March 2010), 1-21. doi: 10.1016/j.jal.2008.07.002

Douglas N. Walton, “On a Razor's Edge: Evaluating Arguments from Expert Opinion,” Argument & Computation 5 no. 2/3 (2014), 139-159. doi: 10.1080/19462166.2013.858183

Douglas N. Walton, “Poisoning the Well,” Argumentation 20 no. 3 (September 2006), 273-307. doi: 10.1007/s10503-006-9013-z

Douglas N. Walton, “Searching for the Roots of the Circumstantial Ad HominemArgumentation 15 no. 2 (May 2001), 207-221. doi: 10.1023/A:1011120100277

Douglas N. Walton, “Witness Testimony as Argumentation.” Witness Testimony Evidence (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 12-61. doi:10.1017/CBO9780511619533.002

A.C. Ward, “The Value of Genetic Fallacies.” Informal Logic 30 no. 1 (2010), 1-30. doi:10.22329/il.v30i1.1237

Wikipedia contributors, ”Ad hominem,” Wikipedia (accessed June 23, 2020).

John Woods, “Lightening Up on the Ad Hominem.” Informal Logic 27 no. 1 (2007), 109-134. 10.22329/il.v27i1.467

Audrey Yap, “Ad Hominem Fallacies, Bias, and Testimony,” Argumentation 27 (2013), 97-109. doi: 10.1007/s10503-011-9260-5.

Return to Logic Homepage

 
to Ad Verecundiam    to Ad Populum

Send corrections or suggestions to larchie[at]philosophy.lander.edu
Read the disclaimer concerning this page.
1997-2020 Licensed under GFDL and Creative Commons 3.0

GNU General Public License Creative Commons 3.0 License

The “Copyleft” copyright assures the user the freedom to
use, copy, redistribute, and make modifications with the same
terms. Works for sale must link to a free copy.

The “Creative Commons” copyright assures the user the
freedom to copy, distribute, display, and modify on the same
terms. Works for sale must link to a free copy.

 

Arguments |  Language |  | Fallacies| |  Propositions |  Syllogisms |  Translation |  Symbolic