What are fallacies?
Fallacies are defects that weaken arguments. By learning to look for them in your own andothers' writing, you can strengthen your ability to evaluate the arguments you make, read, andhear. It is important to realize two things about fallacies: First, fallacious arguments are very,very common and can be quite persuasive, at least to the casual reader or listener. You can finddozens of examples of fallacious reasoning in newspapers, advertisements, and other sources.Second, it is sometimes hard to evaluate whether an argument is fallacious. An argument mightbe very weak, somewhat weak, somewhat strong, or very strong. An argument that has severalstages or parts might have some strong sections and some weak ones. The goal of this handout,then, is not to teach you how to label arguments as fallacious or fallacy-free, but to help you look critically at your own arguments and move them away from the "weak" and toward the "strong"end of the continuum.
Fallacy: Ad Hominem
Description ofAd Hominem
Translated from Latin to English, "
" means "against the man" or "againstthe person."An Ad Hominem is a general category of fallacies in which a claim or argument isrejected on the basis of some irrelevant fact about the author of or the personpresenting the claim or argument. Typically, this fallacy involves two steps. First, anattack against the character of person making the claim, her circumstances, or heractions is made (or the character, circumstances, or actions of the person reporting theclaim). Second, this attack is taken to be evidence against the claim or argument theperson in question is making (or presenting). This type of "argument" has the followingform:1. Person A makes claim X.2. Person B makes an attack on person A.3. Therefore A's claim is false.The reason why an Ad Hominem (of any kind) is a fallacy is that the character,circumstances, or actions of a person do not (in most cases) have a bearing on the truthor falsity of the claim being made (or the quality of the argument being made).
Example of Ad Hominem
1. Bill: "I believe that abortion is morally wrong."Dave: "Of course you would say that, you're a priest."