What is DASH

What is DASH

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Logical Fallacies 101: Ad hominem

Being an atheist, secularist, and humanist society, DASH is committed in using reason when developing arguments. Reason differs from belief in the sense that it is a secure way to truth - or how philosophers would call it: 'the way things are'. And, as the Great Tyson (Neil, not Mike - though he is also great) said: "'The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."

However, we all sometimes fall into the trap of committing logical fallacies when arguing, fallacies which may convince but they are not based on firm sound grounds. DASH will weekly present one logical fallacy in an attempt to promote arguing with reason and developing sound arguments.

Ad hominem fallacy

Ad hominem is Latin for "to the person". It is a personal verbal attack to the person making an argument, rather than to the argument itself. Person B presents a fact about person A that is supposedly related to the argument A is trying to make, and rejects A's argument on that particular fact. 

The structure of the fallacy is this:

1. Person A makes claim X
2. Person B disregards the claim and attacks person A.
3. Thus, claim X is false.

The reason this is a fallacy is that any fact about A is unrelated to claim X. Claim X is or is not true, irrespective of who is the person arguing for it.

A different form of this fallacy is the circumstancial ad hominem. This is an attack on the person making a claim, on the grounds of that it is in his own interests to make a claim.


1. Person A: Decreasing the interest rate would be a good thing for the economy.
2. Person B: Ofcourse you would say that. You are a banker! And definitely bankers are expected to promote such views.

A's argument's truth is irrelevant to any fact about A; in this case his job. Even if A supports that claim because he is a banker, B should attack the argument using economic, financial, or other relevant, terms. The key is that in such terms, B is able to objectively criticize A's claim.

"Are ad hominem arguments always fallacious?" you may ask. Yes, in most cases. However, there is an exception. The above cases are cases in which person A was making an argument. A's credibility was irrelevant. In cases of a statement of fact, however, that is when A is making a testimony, A's credibility is of utmost importance and needs to be assessed. 

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