Ad Hominem

Another common distraction fallacy is the ad hominem (Latin for "against the person"). Instead of arguing against a topic, the topic is rejected because of some unrelated fact about the person making the argument. In other words, the person who makes a claim becomes the issue, rather than the claim he or she was making. If you are not thinking critically, you might be persuaded by such an argument, especially if you agree with the information given about the personality.

For instance, a celebrity athlete is endorsing a car model, explaining its great gas mileage and service record. Your friend interrupts, saying, "who would believe anything that jerk says? He can't throw a ball to save his life."What if you agree that his ability as an athlete is lousy? It might make it more difficult for you to spot your friend's illogical distracter. The athlete's ability to throw a ball is not important here. What is important are the facts about the car.

Ad hominem arguments look like this:

1. Person A argues issue G.

2. Person B attacks person A.

3. Person B asserts that G is questionable or false.

Ad hominem arguments are made in three ways, all of which attempt to direct attention away from the argument being made and onto the person making it.

1. Abusive: an attack is made on the character or other irrelevant personal traits of the opposition. These attacks can work well if the person being attacked defends himself and gets distracted from the issue at hand.


■ Your professor may have given a great lecture on the expansion of the universe, but the word around campus is that he is an unfair grader.

■ She is giving you stock tips? I would not listen to her advice; just look at that horrible outfit she is wearing.

2. Circumstantial: irrelevant personal circumstances of the person making the claim are used to distract attention from the claim and used as evidence against it. This fallacy often includes phrases like "that is what you would expect him to do."


■ Representative Murray's speech about getting rid of the estate tax is ridiculous. Obviously, he is going to benefit from it!

■ Don't pay attention to what the power company is saying; they get their funding from the nuclear energy industry.

3. Tu quoque: argues that the topic at hand is irrelevant, because the person presenting it does not practice what he or she preaches or is in some other way inconsistent. Like the abusive ad hominem fallacy, tu quoque can be effec tive because the person being attacked often drops her argument in order to defend herself.


■ Why should I listen to you? You tell me to stop buying lottery tickets, but you go to Atlantic City and gamble away thousands in just one night!

■ His speech about the new prison reforms was pretty convincing, if you can forget that he is an ex-con.

Friendly Persuasion

Friendly Persuasion

To do this successfully you need to build a clear path of action by using tools if necessary. These tools would be facts, evidence and stories which you know they can relate to. Plus you always want to have their best interests at heart, in other words, you know what is good for them

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