"Even an ignorant man will not blunder in a true story -- nor can an artful man keep a false story straight." —  Thomas Paine

A compendium of handy free graphics for ready interjection towards indication and definition of various fallacies of relevance as typically and frequently arise in discourse  

Just the FAQ
          What is there in all the world  
more tedious and tiresome than  
Ad Hominem Abusive?







A. There is a great quantity of argument online, but the quality thereof may oft transpire as, shall we say, inconsistent. And, personally, I have found the most malignant also somewhat repetitive and predictable. But in the hierarchy of logical validity there are always by far the more relevant methods HOW TO DISAGREE.

Indeed, beyond simple Empathic Failure, underestimation of situational factors often engenders Fundamental Attribution Error (also known as correspondence bias or overattribution effect) motivating, in turn, such blanket rationalizations as the Hostile Attribution Bias typical of the reactive victim type bully, and, in specific, Anti-Critical Bias, Ad Hominem Abusive and dishonest peer pressuring emotional extortion against controversy expressed in the perceived right never to be challenged in any views or statements whatsoever, as a quite frankly loony hyper-fragile imperative of personal comfort.

And so:

If you, gentle reader, have been urgently directed to this page, it was probably by someone, anyone, who is making some manner of point of order, requesting, in sheer exasperation, not to further discuss with you, and that you desist from pressing, any question of, or appeal to, whatever conceivable ulterior motives on their part, much less issues of their character or worse, while only making themselves available for discourse strictly on whatever the issues themselves, on an emphatic take-it-or-leave-it basis. -Standing upon their right to that boundary and demanding of you to respect it...

After all, character or veracity otherwise, are only relevant as regards witness testimony or expertise, for which we are all well admonished to consider the source. Otherwise, however, all such will tend to be Epistemologically and Methodologically quite irrelevant, reciprocally. Because, after all, bad people can, nevertheless, advance good, sound arguments and good people fall back on bad unsound arguments and err. Hence, evidence may be either trusted and accepted or else doubted or rejected based on the source for reasons of credibility, but to credit or believe a logical deduction based upon the source is the irrelevant Pro Hominem or Appeal to Authority and to doubt or reject a logical deduction based on the source is likewise sheer PSEUDOREASONING and frenzied fallacies, only trickery of logic or language, the Ad Hominem logical genetic (but nothing to do with Darwin or Mendel) fallacy of Relevance orred herrings, digression changing the subject, as if howsoever by to impute guilt by association to a person. Pro Hominem Appeal to Authority and Ad Hominem, opposite though they may be, likewise and nevertheless constitute the very same Genetic (but nothing to do with Darwin or Mendel) association fallacies of an irrelevant red herring changing the subject, included among the various fallacies of Relevance (non sequiturs, wherein premise in no way actually necessitates whatever conclusion) indexed and clarified among the categories of standard logical fallacies, in turn included among other classifications of error.

Hence, the principle of fair play that assertions in their own right, while remaining fair game, should not legitimately open the way to just any diversionary insult or slander whatsoever, abuse or flaming, against whosoever expresses or argues whatever position, and the aggravation with those who seek to frustrate pointed discourse with incessant personal hostility.

And among other tactics of misrepresentation, is to simply put words into the mouth of another:  "one commits the straw man fallacy when one misrepresents an opponent’s position in a way that imputes to it implausible commitments, and then refutes the misrepresentation instead of the opponent’s actual view." (Johnson, R. and A. Blair (1983: 71). Logical Self-Defence. 2nd ed., Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson.)

Not that the Genetic Fallacy of Ad Hominem is, by any means, that personal criticism or grievances of whatever kind are all automatically false or illegitimate entirely in their own right, any more than any straw man arguments entirely alone and in their own right, only that validity (logical internal consistency) and/or truth value (correspondence to external objective reality) of any assertion or argument is speaker independent and does not, by any magical contiguity, fluctuate like the headline on tomorrow's newspaper in 'Back to the Future,' depending upon who says so or even why, on any whatever given occasion. Whatever faults of the individual simply do not automatically attach themselves to whatever he or she says )nor for that matter, do their virtue, as in the fallacy of inverse ad hominem e.g., he or she only says that because he or she is simply too nice). Whatever faults (or virtues) of whomever the person are one thing but the defects in whatever he or she says, quite another. Indeed, even specific arguments must stand on their own merits, regardless of anyone's position or bias over all.

Motive as in dialogue lends dramatic context to plot, but not to assertions.

Hence, as the saying goes, don't kill the messenger!

Often, a good and simple rejoinder to incessant Ad Hominem postings will be the concise retort:
"Ad Hominem, much?"  And frequently, that will be provocative enough to at all help clear the air of whatever hither to unstated grievance behind the Ad Hominem.

Alas, however, sheer entrenched bad faith is often simply more slippery then that, seldom subjecting itself to honestly or fair play..

For, contrary to common misconception, Ad Hominem Abusive or personal attack in that sense of the usage, insults and provocation worst of all, is but one of the three major forms of Ad Hominem fallacies among various forms, the term originally coined by John Locke in 'An Essay Concerning Human Understanding,' in 1690. Because the Genetic Fallacy of Ad Hominem need not be at all abusive, so deeply personal, needling, flaming, Poisoning the Well or even Appeal to Humor or Ridicule let alone Spite or sly temptation to evil (all classic malignant non sequitur propaganda devices), simply to constitute, never and none the less, quite irrelevant, diversionaryred herrings changing the subject. The terms 'argumentum ad personam'  and  'ex concessiswhere coined by Arthur Schopenhauer in 'The Art of Controversy,' in 1896, to distinguish what is now more commonly referred to as Ad Hominem Abusive specifically, but has degenerated into usage indicating Circumstantial Ad Hominem impugnation or even appeal to motive, among other Genetic Fallacies of Ad Hominem. Although, at the risk of Ad Hominem attack upon Ad Hominem itself, perhaps most egregiously abusive of all Ad Hominem Abusive, are such as motivated by the entrenched Fundamental Attribution Error (also known as correspondence bias or overattribution effect) and Hostile Attribution Bias of Anti-Critical Bias

Hence, to vehemently deny and defend from the charge of Ad Hominem Abusive personal attack when only taken to task for Ad Hominem at all, is in and of itself, at best a most frustrating misunderstanding, or else further additional irrelevant diversionary distortion,red herrings straw man argument changing the subject.


                          no less than as with polemical styles of persuasion employed in plot logic, any argument or persuasive appeal my be directed and tailored to the target person or audience, one way or another.

Hence, the argumentum ad hominem is classified by Noah K. Davis under the heading of "Modified Forms," because much criticism takes the form of Ad Hominem, openly, explicitly and deliberately, rather than deviously, argument against the person rather than merely claims, in the sense of imminent critique defined as critique from within, such as to demonstrate or reveal whatever internal self contradiction, inconsistency, bias, or even outright hypocrisy and bad faith of another's position as stated or practiced. -Even by beginning from any premise that another already believes and reaching logically consistent conclusions that necessarily follow, so as to demonstrate inconsistency in any of their current beliefs otherwise, all Socratic Dialectic enlightenment by refutation.

And so, ad hominem as under the heading of "Modified Forms" is legitimate, only to a somewhat different purpose or question. Because inconsistency between words and deeds remains entirely distinct from inconsistency between claims themselves, let alone objective reality.

Indeed, there is also argumentum ad hominem where argument is meant in the sense of persuasive appeal to a person and their own feelings or interests. Hence, arguably, such an appeal may be just or unjust, depending upon whether one appeals to better or baser human nature, by whatever standard.

For beyond the sheer distortions of Sophistry alone, much of what generally constitutes false and irrelevant appeal to any audience, instead of genuine controversy arguing any actual points of disagreement, simply plays upon and panders to the personal preferences and worse, dislikes, misguided prejudice, darker passions or weaknesses of those one wants to convince. But one may also appeal to conscience, compassion and self interest, reasonably.

For indeed, if one cannot simply impose one's beliefs upon others, then one may still impose upon them their own beliefs, but only if they even care about and are also capable of confronting, manifest inconsistency. In short, they must first already embrace the premise that logically mutually exclusive assertions are at all the less likely to be true simultaneously. And not everyone does, believe it or not.

Indeed, whether the interlocutor actually shares those beliefs of the target audience or person is then irrelevant non sequitur. And so, disqualification thereby will then constitute Ad Hominem logical genetic (but nothing to do with Darwin or Mendel) fallacy of Relevance or red herrings changing the subject. Because one needn't believe the inconsistencies one points out in the beliefs of others in order for them to be, indeed, inconsistent, or simply to point out such inconsistencies.


Never the less, irrelevant Ad Hominem fallacies often, though not by absolute necessity, entails the non sequitur appeal to or imputation or attribution of whatever ulterior motive, abusively or not, in turn including Circumstantial Ad Hominem wherein the supposedly disqualifying motives are, specifically, personal interests or circumstances, again, ranging from the benevolent, the utterly benign and reasonable to the most malignant and malevolent, depending if it is also abusive or not.

The term 'argumentum ad personam' was coined by Schopenhauer  in ''The Art of controversy,' in 1896, to distinguish what is now more commonly referred to as Ad Hominem Abusive specifically, but has degenerated into usage indicating Circumstantial Ad Hominem specifically, and, indeed, any other Ad Hominem logical genetic (but nothing to do with Darwin or Mendel) fallacy of Relevance or red herrings changing the subject.

Hypocrisy and bias are also personal and circumstantial grounds for pseudorefutation, all such remaining quite distinct from whatever assertion in and of itself standing or falling entirely upon intrinsic merits. Only inconsistencies between assertions are logically relevant. The Latin term tu quoque (meaning "you're another" or, more loosely, "look who's talking") is sometimes used to name the above common variety of Circumstantial Ad Hominem argument.

Another more narrowly specific variant is Argumentum Ad Hominem Hypocriticum, the fallacious rejection of an entirely valid argument or assertion advanced hypocritically. For example, it was vastly hypocritical of the Chauvinistic profiteering European politicians to accuse the megalomaniacal and corrupt Manichean President George Bush Jr. of cynical and selfish disregard of the interests of the rest of the world, and yet is certainly remains sadly no less precisely true. The reciprocal mudslinging raises no logical inconsistencies and affords neither any defense. Yet neither acknowledges culpability. Hence, nevertheless, conceivably, exposition upon hypocrisies in context, may possibly somehow imply some manner of lies by omission and therefore important half-truths to be pointed out explicitly if and as at all directly relevant


 The fallacy AdSPAManim

Indeed, one particularly irrational and mendaciously irrelevant and ubiquitous appeal to or impugnation of motive or circumstance is Ad SPAManim, the virulent accusation of ulterior promotional intent! (As in, for a blatant if hypothetical example of the Ad SPAManim fallacy, simply posting a perfectly topic pertinent link to this very page on my website, in reply into a discussion upon pertinence even in self promotion or the precise nature of Ad Hominem, only to get flamed for my trouble! )  By the illogic of Ad SPAManim, you or I may post frequently citing the works of Aristotle, but not Aristotle himself. After all: For should even Aristotle himself ever dare persist in the utter temerity to flout mod warnings to desist, he'd be banned for life, the arrogant poser!  [MORE]


Pathetic Fallacy?

It is generally advanced that, for example, that simply to call any idea stupid infers that only a stupid person or, at any rate, a person being stupid, would ever believe such a thing. Hence, covert Ad Hominem and abuse in disguise. But this is by no means clear.  It is argued that assertions cannot embody human character, that, literally speaking, arguments cannot be cruel or stupid and more than they can be happy or sad or fall in love and go dancing!

The above literalistic position simply treats expressions as inanimate objects, because ideas are not people after all. So what else might ideas and expressions be? In truth, however, ideas and expressions are not physical objects at all, either, let alone living breathing people. Indeed, arguments are abstract ideas and intangible, qualitative, perhaps viral and even infectious if not discretely viable, yet memetic and no more substantial than computer code. And so there may be room to qualify what it might actually mean for arguments to embody, or at lest express, human characterization, even without animate life and awareness of their own, intrinsically.

Nevertheless, at very best, name calling even against an argument, strictly,  generally amounts to a vague and unsupported attack, even without intentionally undertaking diversionary tactics of personal provocation. Hence every legitimate question of relevance. Indeed, there are all manner of unsupported name calling and pseudorefutation, including attack upon the argument that simply omits presentation of any refutation or pertinent inconsistency between claims, especially if because there actually isn't any to present. And such includes Ad Hominem not regarding the speaker but, indeed, disqualification of whatever argument or assertion itself by some manner of allegedly intrinsic adverse characterization or allegation directed against said argument or assertion. Nevertheless, often a cynical mean-spirited and scornfully misanthropic argument or assertion might be valid or true, and a kindly humanitarian argument or assertion might be logically invalid and quite simply inaccurate. Characterization of an argument or assertion, let alone adversely, can only be at all valid towards refutation, if said characterization is of some larger howsoever logically flawed or inaccurate untrue position, and also given explanation, as needed, precisely as to how so. Likewise, adverse characterization of any proposed plan of action might indeed obtain in arguing that whatever measures may be ill advised or even immoral, if indeed it will be arguable how like consequences indeed logically follow as to be expected given such categorization and the supportability thereof or how it might constitute a misdeed, respectively.





FoolQuest.com: frequently Ad Hominemed!




Copyright 2004- 2012 by Aaron Agassi