Argumentum Ad Hominem is an argument which states that a person is wrong because of something that amounts to a personal attack and is completely unrelated to the persons position.

It roughly translates to Argument by attack on the man.

Ad Hominem is a fallacy that is frequently misunderstood and confused with being rude or insulting while presenting an argument.

Being rude or insulting while presenting an argument is not a fallacy and while some may not appreciate that approach, it doesn't take away from the correctness or incorrectness of the argument presented.

For eg. the following are insulting or rude but not Ad Homs.
1. Person B is a dick.
2. Person B believes X and that's a stupid thing to believe so they're a moron.

The following is a correct formulation of the format of the Ad Hom.

"Ad hominem" is an association fallacy. It relies on a flaw regarding the logical association. Simply put, ad hominem works like this:

(1) Person A's argument is X.
(2) Person B makes an irrelevant attack on person A
(3) Therefore, person A's argument is false.

Source: Ad Hominem

Essentially Person As argument becomes false because of the personal attack.

Eg. You're an immoral atheist so what could you know about the Bible or morality.

Note that the above statement is an Ad Hominem but doesn't contain swearing or direct insults or direct rudeness.

The term "immoral atheist" is what constitutes the personal attack. It constitutes an unwarranted negative assumption about atheists.

This personal attack is then fallaciously associated with "ignorance of morality and the bible".

Here are some more variations on Argumentum Ad Hominem:

"Another variation is attack by innuendo: "Why don't scientists tell us what they really know; are they afraid of public panic?"

There may be a pretense that the attack isn't happening: "In order to maintain a civil debate, I will not mention my opponent's drinking problem." Or "I don't care if other people say you're [opinionated/boring/overbearing]."

Attacks don't have to be strong or direct. You can merely show disrespect, or cut down his stature by saying that he seems to be sweating a lot, or that he has forgotten what he said last week. Some examples: "I used to think that way when I was your age." "You're new here, aren't you?" "You weren't breast fed as a child, were you?" "What drives you to make such a statement?" "If you'd just listen.." "You seem very emotional." (This last works well if you have been hogging the microphone, so that they have had to yell to be heard.)

Sometimes the attack is on the other person's intelligence. For example, "If you weren't so stupid you would have no problem seeing my point of view." Or, "Even you should understand my next point."

Oddly, the stupidity attack is sometimes reversed. For example, dismissing a comment with "Well, you're just smarter than the rest of us." (In Britain, that might be put as "too clever by half".) This is Dismissal By Differentness. It is related to Not Invented Here and Changing The Subject.

Ad Hominem is not fallacious if the attack goes to the credibility of the argument. For instance, the argument may depend on its presenter's claim that he's an expert. (That is, the Ad Hominem is undermining an Argument From Authority.) Trial judges allow this category of attacks."

Source: List of Fallacious Arguments.

Does anyone have any other good examples of Ad Hominem?

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Replies to This Discussion

Funny you should post this, as I just posted a defense of unapologetic atheism and 'in-your-face' tactics at Wonderism and activism. We must have been thinking the same thing, but wrote different things on it.
It's been ages since I took logic, so I'm rusty when it comes to formal discourse. My recollection was that ad hominem arguments were based on appeal to respected authority, or the inverse of respected authorit. In other words, "this was said by a respected authority, so it must be true" or "that was said by a christian nutjob, so it must be false".

However, if Linus Pauling viewed Vitamin C as a preventive for cancer, that doesn't mean it's so. And if Glenn Beck says the sky is blue, that doesn't mean it ain't so.

So I went to the font-of-all-knowledge wikipedia. I figure, wikipedia is well respected, and the text layout is sharp, so it must be correct. According to that reading,

"An ad hominem argument, also known as argumentum ad hominem (Latin: "argument to the person" or "argument against the person") is an argument which links the validity of a premise to an irrelevant characteristic or belief of the person advocating the premise.

The ad hominem argument is not a fallacy despite there being fallacious instances of the argument. Fallacious instances of the ad hominem argument are presented below."


Reading further into the reference, apparently an argument based on positive characterists is an "inverse ad hominem" - a refinement on my faulty memory of the terminology.

AN additional point that is relevant to some discussions on A|N, "Gratuitous verbal abuse or "name-calling" itself is not an argumentum ad hominem or a logical fallacy.[. The fallacy only occurs if personal attacks are employed in the stead of an argument to devalue an argument by attacking the speaker, not personal insults in the middle of an otherwise sound argument or insults that stand alone.
That's argument from authority, Daniel. : )

And the fallacy comes in the irrelevant association between the personal attack and the claim.

So, it's a form of Association fallacy.

Like I said, it a very misunderstood argument :-(.

So while it's a form of Argument and not a Logical Fallacy in and of itself, it contains a logical fallacy, the association fallacy.
To clarify one point.

Using the Ad Hom to refute an Argument from Authority is actually the one time that it's use is valid.

If a person claims to be an authority on something then it's legitimate to question the credibility of that claim which would amount to an "attack on the man".

My recollection was that ad hominem arguments were based on appeal to respected authority, or the inverse of respected authorit.

The above is an Argument from Authority and not an Ad Hom.

The following example you gave, however, is a correct Ad Hom, so you while you're not remembering the definition correctly you do appear to know what one is. Lol.

"that was said by a christian nutjob, so it must be false".

The Wiki explanation you provided is correct and consistent with my post.
You're making my head spin. Somebody should send this guy a group invite. I've made his "block user" list.
He would be able to give us a lot to work with. I'm not sure he has the balls to join.
This only applies if the person is actually not committing a fallacy. That is, that you simply want to imply they are in order to discredit the argument.

If they are committing a fallacy it's legitimate to point it out and it's not a fallacy to do so.

There are appropriate places to use certain types of arguments.

For example, it's appropriate to use the Ad Hom to refute an Argument from Authority.

In addition, if they are committing a fallacy and you make the claim that they are, you are then obligated to state the fallacy and demonstrate exactly how the claim fits into that category of fallacy.

Whether or not the argument is a fallacy would then be debated and they would be required to refute your claim.

This one made me think, but you're right. It's a great example. The key word being "No" which implies the person's argument is wrong because their "face is a logical fallacy". (chuckle).
All this stuff reminded me of a quote -

"I prefer the company of peasants because they have not been educated sufficiently to reason incorrectly." -- Michel de Montaigne
We had a guy on our debating group for a while that could barely speak english and worked at a minimum wage job but could point out every theist logical fallacy and rip their arguments to shreds in two sentences. Lol.

I was in total awe of him ;-).

Unfortunately, he pissed one of the theists off so much that the guy tracked him down, found out where he worked, lied to his employer that he was abusing his Internet access and despite our efforts to let the employer know the theist was lying, managed to get him fired. Apparently the theist threatened to ruin the employers company's reputation if he didn't fire him.

Some people really can't handle losing an argument (understatement intended).
This is just awful...I am going to have to change my whole life.

I attack Christianity with stories that I present as true...they cast dark shadows over Christianity while I represent it as fact and personal experience.

At Landover Baptist Church they pretend to be a Bible oriented church and use the Bible to justify their rude and insulting behavior towards other Christians, claiming that "it says so in the Bible" and insisting that the King James (original) 1611 version is the ONLY Bible and so on. They are hilarious...are they committing a sin here?

I have a bumper sticker that says: "There is Nothing Greater than a Thinking Mind" Should I remove it?

So many conundrums...this is so upsetting...I think all you tweeps should post an apology...laughter




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