The genetic fallacy (also known as the fallacy of origins or fallacy of virtue) is a fallacy of irrelevance that is based solely on someone's or something's history, origin, or source rather than its current meaning or context. This overlooks any difference to be found in the present situation, typically transferring the positive or negative esteem from the earlier context. In other words, a claim is ignored in favor of attacking or championing its source.
The fallacy therefore fails to assess the claim on its merit. The first criterion of a good argument is that the premises must have bearing on the truth or falsity of the claim in question. Genetic accounts of an issue may be true, and they may help illuminate the reasons why the issue has assumed its present form, but they are not conclusive in determining its merits.
From Attacking Faulty Reasoning by T. Edward Damer, Third Edition p. 36:
You're not going to wear a wedding ring, are you? Don't you know that the wedding ring originally symbolized ankle chains worn by women to prevent them from running away from their husbands? I would not have thought you would be a party to such a sexist practice.
There are numerous motives explaining why people choose to wear wedding rings, but it would be a fallacy to presume those who continue the tradition are promoting sexism.
- Ad hominem – Typically, a fallacious argumentative strategy that attacks the character of the person making the argument. Alternatively, a valid strategy basing arguments on the opponents' own commitments, without endorsing those commitments
- Appeal to accomplishment
- Appeal to nature – Argument or rhetorical tactic
- Appeal to novelty – The argument that a newer idea is superior
- Chronological snobbery – The argument that an older idea is inferior
- Appeal to tradition
- Argument from authority – Logical fallacy of using a high-status figure's belief as evidence in an argument
- Association fallacy
- Bulverism – Type of logical fallacy
- Etymological fallacy – A fallacy of assuming that the historical meaning of the word is the base of its true meaning
- "Not invented here" – A dismissal of "foreign" ideas because they did not originate from the speaker's country, social group, or organization
- Reactive devaluation
- "A List Of Fallacious Arguments". Retrieved 6 October 2012.
- Attacking Faulty Reasoning: A Practical Guide to Fallacy-Free Arguments (Third Edition) by T. Edward Damer, chapter II, subsection "The Relevance Criterion" (pg. 12)
- With Good Reason: An Introduction to Informal Fallacies (Fifth Edition) by S. Morris Engel, chapter V, subsection 1 (pg. 198)
- Honderich, Ted, ed. (1995). "Genetic fallacy". The Oxford Companion to Philosophy. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-866132-0.