Talk:Ad hominem

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search


I moved the opening definition to something more conventional rather than the 'Stuff I made up in the schoolyard' definition that was there before. Plus, it was contradictory. It's obvious that you can have an ad hominem argument that isn't strictly a response to a different argument. The later examples (which include citation) were contradicting this point. Has anybody got anything scholarly? I can only find pop-philosophy references. (talk) 06:57, 27 August 2009 (UTC)

I've just read through it again, and it's still pretty bad. There are entire sections which do not cite an authority and read like 'Stuff I made up in the schoolyard'. (talk) 07:59, 27 August 2009 (UTC)
I removed the repetition and the items which contradicted the sourced statements. Does anybody have a better source than (talk) 12:34, 31 August 2009 (UTC)
Somebody blanked a cited comment and replaced it with an unverified claim. I cleaned up some of the language, though a lot of it still reads like original research. (talk) 08:23, 16 October 2009 (UTC)

I did a doubletake upon seeing ad hominem described as a ′genetic fallacy′. Reading the talk section, it appears that the article has imprecision concerning eugenics and genetics, which are not the same thing at all. Therefore, I will change ′fallacy of genetics′ to ′fallacy of eugenics′. Lynxx2 (talk) 23:01, 7 February 2018 (UTC)

Argument that there no ad hominem fallacy[edit]

According to Wikipedia Fallacy, "By accident or design, fallacies may exploit emotional triggers in the listener or interlocutor (e.g. appeal to emotion), or take advantage of social relationships between people (e.g. argument from authority)" (direct quote). And, a previous edition of this page did indeed state that ad hominem is a logical fallacy. Thus, the claim that ad hominem has become something other than a logical fallacy cannot be claimed to be a "case-closed", and should not be presented as such on the main page (!). (talk) 14:04, 10 October 2009 (UTC)

I take the point that not all arguments 'to the person' are fallacious. In my experience, in science, arguments 'to the person' divert the us from the evidence. I suggest that 'ad hominem' is useful as a label for arguments that divert from the evidence. (talk) 23:42, 27 June 2008 (UTC)David Schneider

David Hitchcock presents an argument that there is no ad hominem fallacy:

Should the case against considering ad hominem as fallacious be included in the ad hominem entry?

Adam Geffen 13:16, 10 May 2007 (UTC)

A fallacy is a pattern of reason that it always or least most commonly wrong. I haven't looked at the link, but this means that there will be instances of the use of the fallacy of ad hominem which aren't fallacious but are actually valid. This will be the case with many other fallacies as well. -- Grumpyyoungman01 00:22, 11 May 2007 (UTC)
A fallacy is faulty reasoning, that is "drawing wrong conclusions". And AFAICS, the only time one could speak of an "ad hominem fallacy" is when an ad hominem argument, which in itself is not fallacious, is either presented or taken to disprove an argument. And Hitchcock's claim seems to be that this does not occur, or at least not often enough to justify a label, except in made up textbook examples, and that most if not all so-called "ad hominem fallacies" are not fallacies at all but perfectly valid "ad hominem arguments". -- (talk) 09:13, 14 December 2009 (UTC)
They use a wrong definition of fallacy: “By definition, a fallacy is a mistake in reasoning, a mistake which occurs with some frequency in real arguments and which is characteristically deceptive." - A fallacy is not always a mistake in reasoning, as the definition I put forward above demonstrates. Grumpyyoungman01 00:26, 11 May 2007 (UTC)
(nods) I agree the argument presented by Hitchcock hinges on the definition of "fallacy". It is not clear to me that they use a wrong definition of fallacy. For example the Oxford English Dictionary defines fallacy as: "A deceptive or misleading argument, a sophism. In Logic esp. a flaw, material or formal, which vitiates a syllogism; any of the species or types to which such flaws are reducible." Moreover they didn't simply make up a new definition for fallacy. Rather, they relied on Govier's summary of fallacy in western philosophy. (Though, I have not read the Govier article so I can't evaluate its merit.) Even if we assume arguendo that a fallacy could be valid in some cases, then Hitchcock's work is still noteworthy vis-a-vis this entry because it presents an illustration of when ad hominem is valid. Also Hitchcock's work does not stand alone. As Hitchcock notes, Brinton presented a defense of ad hominem as valid in some contexts: Brinton, A. (1985). A rhetorical view of the ad hominem. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 63, 50-63. It seems worth mentioning, at least briefly, the gist of these works and their cites. Adam Geffen 14:05, 11 May 2007 (UTC)
The Oxford English Dictionary definition seems to define a special case of fallacy, the sophism, an intentional or designed fallacy.-- (talk) 09:06, 14 December 2009 (UTC)
I suggest that you add a couple of paragraphs and maybe an example under a heading and summarise the article (with references). Be bold! and if someone doesn't like it we can sort it out here. Grumpyyoungman01 06:30, 12 May 2007 (UTC)
You are right that argumentum ad hominem is an argument that diverts from the evidence. However, there is already a label for fallacious arguments that divert attention from the evidence: red herring fallacies. Argumentum ad hominem is merely a special case of a red herring. --7Kim (talk) 02:39, 14 July 2008 (UTC)
An argument that diverts from the evidence is not a fallacy but a diversion. It only is a fallacy if this diversion is taken or presented as the refutation of another argument. -- (talk) 09:13, 14 December 2009 (UTC)

Those times when arguments are "valid", they're not fallacies. Fallacies are compelling, but not "valid". Ad hominem is a fallacy. A "valid" ad hominem suffers from the fallacy of equivocation because the word "valid" is being used in both syllogistics and in law. To say "fred is a liar " is not in and of itself fallacious. It is fallacious to say "Fred told me 2+2=4 and I know that Fred is a liar therefore 2+2 does not equal 4." It is also fallacious to say "Fred told me 2+2=5 and I know Fred is a liar therefore 2+2 does not equal 5." Although compelling, it is not "valid" that 2+2=5 is false because Fred is a liar. This is both a red herring and ad hominem. this is always a fallacy as being a liar doesn't "prove" anything. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:50, 1 July 2009 (UTC)

Ad hominem is a type of argument and not a fallacy. It might become a fallacy if it leads one to draw wrong conclusions, but, as Hitchcock argues, this does not occur in real life but only in made up textbook examples like the one presented above. And no one falls for or dares to present something like the given example. And only if actually someone would fall for it or present it as a valid argument it would be a fallacy. -- (talk) 09:06, 14 December 2009 (UTC)

My impression is that classic logic deals with true and false which leaves ad hominem as a fallacy. However in fuzzy logic it would be a valid form of argument. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:00, 30 November 2010 (UTC)

I'm quite troubled to see that the idea that there is no ad hominem fallacy has been injected into this article. The way that this idea is presented basically argues that because a person with personal deficiencies *could* also be wrong on that issue, the idea of an ad hominem fallacy itself is not foolproof and may not exist. IMO, this is nothing less than an insidious attempt to undermine the argument against one of the most prevalent logic errors today. In doing this, I would argue that the author(s) make a fundamental error in logic (if not simply a disingenuous argument) around the idea that "correlation does not imply causation," essentially arguing because sometimes correlation and causation align - all notions of an ad hominem fallacy should be viewed with some suspicion. The reality is, of course, that the inconsistent causal relationship between a person's beliefs and the merit of their stance on an issue is to be expected! The whole notion of an ad hominem fallacy is that there is no consistent and/or guaranteed causal relationship between the merits of messenger and message and therefore the merits of a person's stance should be weighed on its own worth - rather than on the worth of its carrier. I think the phrase in the definition portion of the article that attempts to devalue the mere notion of an ad hominem fallacy should be deleted. If someone wants to create a special section that discusses that idea, that would be appropriate. However, a fringe POV, even if held by a handful of experts, should not be allowed to undermine the very notion of an Ad Hominem Fallacy before it has even been properly defined in the article. Udibi (talk) 21:20, 12 November 2011 (UTC)
I would rather think that the core of the problem with the article is the sloppiness of the writing, rather than a malicious purpose (Hanlon's razor). In particular, there is very little distinction drawn between the term and its usage. Further, there is no distinction at all drawn between the usage of ad hominem in the logical context and in the fact discovery context. Further, Ad hominem is comonly used to discredit an opinion, rather than a logical argument (and often an opinion is masqueraded as an argument). And I completely agree with Udibi that the article must be clearly split along the line "Ad hominem fallacy" vs. "Ad hominem argument"; with the latter may or may not be a fallacy. Ladnadruk (talk) 15:56, 14 November 2011 (UTC)

Your definition of ad hominem is itself sadly ad hominem and therefore entitles you to a full refund for your supposed education. You use ad hominem instead of ad personam. ad hominem mead "as everyone knows" of "as every human knows". ad personam is a subset of ad hominem, but not the same thing. ad personam suggests that since something is wrong with the author, something must also be wrong with the argument. (cf Perelman New Rhetoric 1958 Notre Dame 1969 0-268-00446-3 pp 110-111) ad homine, false common knowledge is the scourge of the modern age. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:11, 24 July 2013 (UTC)

Important distinction[edit]

In judging the likelihood of accuracy of *data* supported only by the assertion of a person, the character of the person is relevant and useful to consider. However in determining the accuracy of an *argument* based on undisputed premises, the character or authority (or lack thereof) of the person making the argument is absolutely irrelevant. This article should make that vital (and one would hope obvious) distinction.

Good point. Data can be lied about, and it is the only thing in a logical argument that can be lied about. Data can still be argued valid or invalid based on how it was collected, but those facts are more "data" that can be lied about.
Thus it behooves a person to use his opponent's data to make his argument whenever possible.

When is this possible (or likely)? Where there is agreement on what is and isn't data, there are rarely ad hominem attacks. And "data" that is supported only by the assertion of one side in a dispute simply isn't data yet.

It is also important to consider WHO is doing the judging of character. This example - in some circumstances - would need to have the roles of "police" and "criminal" reversed to be faithful to reality...

"You claim that this man is innocent, but you cannot be trusted since you are a criminal as well."
This argument would generally be accepted as reasonable, as regards personal evidence, on the premise that criminals are likely to lie to protect each other. On the other hand, it is a valid example of ad hominem if the person making the claim is doing so on the basis of evidence independent of their own credibility.

The logical flaws are numerous and deep. 1. if there is a claim of innocence, presumably there hasn't been a conviction yet - and therefore no "criminal" to distrust on principle. 2. is there any concrete evidence (yes, I am EXPLICITLY excluding anectode) that "criminals", assuming you can group them together in the first place, are less reliable than other witnesses? If so, why are criminal informers used so much, and questioned so rarely? 3. where is the CONTENT of the claim "this man is innocent"? Is it "in my opinion, he didn't do it" or "I was with him and fifty other people partying when the crime happened"? If the content is "factual", then it can be checked, presumably like every OTHER "fact" in the situation. 4. presumably the "trusted" ones are police. Can you offer any evidence (again, evidence, not anecdote) that they lie LESS then the average person? (talk) 19:56, 3 June 2008 (UTC)

Latin translation[edit]

Given as "argument to the person", "argument against the man" in the article, shouldn't the awkwardness of the former and the sexism of the latter be avoided by translating as "argument against the person"?--Rfsmit 23:53, 11 June 2007 (UTC)

Transliterated, it is "Argument to the man", where "man" is the non-gender-specific generic form. "Argument against the person" may be a reasonable translation, but both of the given quotes seem to be bad compromises -- PaulxSA 11:49, 15 November 2007 (UTC)

Ad hominem generale = ?[edit]

attributing a described behaviour to a condition or property of mankind; to a species-wide, or cultural trait. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:58, 15 October 2007 (UTC)

Eugenics: Good example?[edit]

While it may be a good journalist's style to use examples that are very disputed, it seems a little inappropriate within an encyclopedia. The example of using eugenics as an argumentum ad hominem creates the unfortunate impression that someone is trying no only to demonstrate the meaning of the term, but rather to sneak in a world view. On the page on eugenics, this is part of a neutral discussion, here it is simply a bad example.

It is better to use something that does not distract from what is the purpose of this article and that does not bring its authors under suspicion of abusing NPOV for their aims. Atoll 23:49, 18 October 2007 (UTC)

However, it is a common real-world example, ie, something the reader may have actually seen. Whenever any kind of eugenics/social-darwinism type argument is raised, it is immediately attacked as Nazi-ist. The point about ad hominem is that if social darwinism is evil, which it probably is, it is not evil because the Nazis believed in it; it would still be evil even if the Nazis were wildly opposed to it. -- PaulxSA 12:03, 15 November 2007 (UTC)

I agree wholeheartedly with these comments. The tiny text line "Note that this does not imply that the contention "eugenics is a bad idea" is false, merely un-supported by the pattern of reasoning below it." is insufficient to reduce the damage to the argument that this particular example makes because of it's extreme nature. Eugenics is a poor example to use in this topic because of the moral ambiguity in the example of eugenics. This example smacks of Double-Speak and covert social conditioning. It's usage in this very important article subverts the content and causes confusion because of the intrinsically volatile nature of the example. I would request that someone create a different example that is less disruptive to the content of the article and replace this example. Chris Taylor May 15, 2009 —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:37, 15 May 2009 (UTC)

I'm torn. Using a controversial topic helps the reader see the value of understanding fallacy beyond pure academics. The example is accurate and it may be argued that this helps both sides of the issue remove the bloat of fallacious arguments. On the other hand, it might be better to add an accurate example from the other side of the issue to restore nuetrality (if one can find an example). I too am concerned that people reading these examples have not internalised the problem of the fallacist's fallacy. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:10, 1 July 2009 (UTC)

I'm going to change this example if no one else will, it is a bad example because it isn't clear morally. A better example is something simple such as x is right wing, z is socialist, z is a homosexual therefore z's opinions on politics are invalid.

The way it is currently worded makes it seem as though the author is saying that eugenics might be a good thing. Eugenics is never a good thing.

This is bothering me a lot because I am using the wikipedia to help define a term and its definition has this shitty example in it.

C. Taylor —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:25, 11 August 2009 (UTC)

Why we use ad hominems[edit]

I noticed that the intro discusses judging evidence by the character of the witness. This is an important tool in court cases, yet nothing is mentioned about it in the article proper. Since the article is essentially "ad homs are bad", this implies that the use in court is also bad. I thought this would be a good place for someone to discuss the legal use (and abuse) of character judgements in court. -- PaulxSA 13:01, 15 November 2007 (UTC)

(I added such a section, plus some other things, then Blax reverted the entire uglified article to an earlier clean version. Since it was my first admin-level reversion, I got angry and scared and confused... but I'm okay now :) -- PaulxSA (talk) 12:54, 12 January 2008 (UTC) )
In the legal issue above the question is whether or not to trust someone's honesty. Assessment of character applies there. --Roger Chrisman (talk) 03:47, 18 December 2007 (UTC)

I'd take your suggestion more seriously, Paul, if you hadn't just committed an Ad Hominem statement yourself. To wit: You summed up the article in four words, took that summation and expected us to assume that it's valid, and then offered it a value judgement you think the article is making. You were OK up until then, but then you jumped to the conclusion that that value judgement you just assigned is actually being assigned by the article. Sorry, that's not how you construct an argument. Ohh, and if you thought this article had something to do with legalities, you thought wrong. This is philosophy, not legality. You want the next wiki down the hall, turn right, and make a left turn at Albiquirky. --Allthenamesarealreadytaken (talk) 14:56, 10 January 2008 (UTC)

Yeah, I shortened "fallacy" to "bad", shoot me. And just to be pedantic, falsely shortening an argument, then attacking the shortened version as if it were the full argument is a straw man, not an ad hominem.

The article is primarily philosophical, but the wiki isn't. There is a Colloquial use section living here quite happily in spite of much of the colloquial use of ad hom being wrong. (Ie, "if you believe X you are stupid," is merely an insult not an ad hominem.) Since people do correctly make character judgements in the real world, as well as getting it horribly horribly wrong, I don't see why mentioning it in the article somehow harms the article, let alone wikipedia. Particularly, it explains why we are so vulnerable to using, and believing, ad hominem arguments. -- PaulxSA (talk) 12:54, 12 January 2008 (UTC)

Inverse ad hominem[edit]

I've redirected this to appeal to authority, though the term is a little broader in scope. Should it have its own article, or perhaps a section here? Is a redirect of any sort useful in Wikipedia's present state? Richard001 (talk) 08:54, 22 January 2008 (UTC)

Have created a section here. A summary of appeal to authority might also be appropriate. Richard001 (talk) 04:15, 18 February 2008 (UTC)
Isn't there another form of inverse ad hominem? Rather than 'Person X is good, person X supports Y, therefore Y is true' which is the simple form presented, it seems to me there's another form. Notably, an inverse ad hominem circumstantial... Effectively, situations in which a person says what they would not be expected to say are often used to bolster an argument.
For instance, comtrast the presented ad hominem circumstantial example: "He's physically addicted to nicotine. Of course he defends smoking!”.
It's very common to hear an inverted form of this argument, in the following form: "He's physically addicted to nicotine, yet he believes smoking should be outlawed. This proves that smoking should be outlawed, because even the people one would expect to support it do not.”
Of course, this gets a bit grey as to whether it stands distinctly or sort of segues into a form of argument by authority. For instance, the following statement:
"He used to be a Satanist, but has since stopped being one. He alleges several socially unacceptable practices of Satanists, and argues that said religion is bad, and he would know because he used to be one".
An argument of this form could be considered sort of the mid point between an inverted circumstantial argument ad hominem and an appeal to authority. Of course, it's also a very potentially weakly weighted argument as well, which hinges on what 'he' has become since--if he became someone commonly opposed to Satanism, such as a Christian or an Atheist (both of whom oppose Satanism for seperate reasons) the weight perceived in 'his' opinion would likely be weaker, easily falling prey to circumstantial argument ad hominem in a non-inverted sense (i.e. "Well, someone who gave up Satanism for an opposing point of view would be against Satanism"). On the other hand, if he converted to a religion not opposed to Satanism but merely with different beliefs which do not oppose or negate Satanism's stance and which may be accepting of Satanism, such as Temple of Set, then maintaining a stnace against Satanism would not easily fall prey to a circumstantial argument ad hominem.
Anyway, just some thoughts that there's a whole area that might be nice to see explored if people can find references other than obviousness. After all, seeing that the sky is blue is no reason to say it is (at least acpording to Wikipedia's draconian definition of OR). (talk) 22:29, 6 March 2008 (UTC)
That's a good example. We certainly need more on this section. I will have to look into the sky being blue. Richard001 (talk) 08:04, 7 March 2008 (UTC)

Clarification of Terminology[edit]

Wikipedia states: “The argumentum ad hominem is a genetic fallacy and red herring, and is most often (but not always) an appeal to emotion.” Is this statement entirely accurate? Is an ad hominem argument always a genetic fallacy and red herring? Note the article does seem to differentiate an ad hominem argument from an ad hominem fallacy. I believe the issue is appropriately covered in the article but the opening statement says an argumentum ad hominem is a genetic fallacy and red herring. It is a concern only for greater accuracy and consistency of definition that some authors of critical thinking texts (such as Bruce Waller) have tried to clarify through terminology.

An excellent lay description of the ad hominem argument can be found with Waller, Bruce N. Critical Thinking, Fifth Edition. New Jersey: Person Education, Inc., 2005. Chapter 10: 180-209. A useful discussion of the various treatments of this topic can be found with Walton, Douglas. Ad Hominem Arguments, Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama Press, 1998. Chapter 2: 44-103. “The ad hominem fallacy is committed when one attempts to discredit an argument by attacking the source of the argument. But not all ad hominem arguments involve the ad hominem fallacy; in fact, most ad hominem arguments do not commit the ad hominem fallacy. (Many people regard all ad hominem arguments as automatically fallacious. That has the advantage of being easy; it has the disadvantage of being wrong.) An ad hominem argument commits the ad hominem fallacy only if it attacks the source of an argument and claims that because of some flaw in the source of the argument the argument itself is flawed” [Bruce N. Waller, Critical Thinking: Consider the Verdict Fifth Edition (New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2005) 181.]

“So not all ad hominem arguments are fallacious. To the contrary, in one situation ad hominem arguments are quite valuable. When a claim is based on testimony - rather than argument - then ad hominem arguments are an appropriate and important means of challenging the claim.” [Bruce N. Waller, Critical Thinking: Consider the Verdict Fifth Edition (New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2005) 182.]

“The results and quandaries that I have presented in this paper indicate that it would be worth to revising the fallacious character of the ad hominem way of argue from a dialectical conception of argument.” [Chichi, Graciela Marta. “The Greek Roots of the Ad Hominem-Argument.” Argumentation 16 (2002): 342.] Since post approximately 1995 (See [1] ) the idea that an ad hominem argument is a logical fallacy is likely to be challenged, it needs a reliable contemporary set of sources. “The typical glib dismissal of the argumentum ad hominem as fallacious threatens our understanding of the important nuances of actual arguments, particularly in matters of practical reasoning where there are no incontrovertible ‘facts’ available to the disputants." [Metcalf, R. “Rethinking the Ad Hominem: A Case Study of Chomsky.” Argumentation 19 (2005): 47.] “Far from being a fallacious mode of argument, asking who supports a particular argument forms a valuable and crucial rational life skill. Unfortunately, the ad hominem argument has come to represent an idealised caricature of how this argument form can be abused or used wrongly. Due to the need for simplification, logic texts have erroneously characterised this mode of argument as always (or very nearly always) a serious rational misperformance.” [de Wijze, Stephen. Complexity, “Relevance and Character: Problems with teaching the ad hominem fallacy.” Educational Philosophy and Theory 35 (1), (2003): 31.] The burden of evidence lies with the editor who adds or restores material.

“In argumentation we respond to the argument, not to the person behind the argument. That rule is broken when the argument is ignored and the person responsible for the argument is deliberately attacked. When that happens the ‘ad hominem fallacy’ is being committed.” [ D.Q. McInerny, Being Logical: A Guide to Good Thinking (New York: Random House, 2004) 115. ] Wpraeder (talk) 13:18, 12 April 2008 (UTC)

Note that name-calling by itself is not an ad hominem argument. Rather, the attack on the arguer must occur as an ostensible attack on the arguers’ claim. The mere presence of a personal attack (such as sarcasm, personal abuse, or name-calling) does not indicate ad hominem: the attack must be used for the purpose of undermining the argument, otherwise the ad hominem argument isn't there. It is not a ad hominem argument to attack someone; the ad hominem argument comes from assuming that a personal attack is also necessarily an attack on that person's arguments. So all ad hominem arguments can be considered personal attacks but not all personal attacks can be considered ad hominem arguments. Wpraeder (talk) 12:27, 1 January 2010 (UTC)

‘The argumentum ad hominem, meaning “argument directed to the man,” is the kind of argument that criticizes another argument by criticizing the arguer rather than his argument. Basically, this type of argument is the type of personal attack of an arguer that brings the attacked individual’s personal circumstances, trustworthiness, or character into question. The argumentum ad hominem is not always fallacious, for in some instances questions of personal conduct, character, motives, etc., are legitimate and relevant to the issue.’ [Walton, Douglas. Informal Logic: A Pragmatic Approach, Second Edition, Cambridge University Press, 2008, p. 170.]Wpraeder (talk) 20:37, 29 May 2010 (UTC)

Ad hominem versus Ad personam[edit]

"Ad personam" redirects to this article, which is OK for one meaning of "Ad personam",but leaves at least two other meanings unmentioned in Wikipedia: (1) Ad personam laws - laws explicitly affecting named individuals, such as those that are currently the subject of controversy in Italy; (2) Ad personam appointments - posts created for named individuals, such as professorships given to distinguished scholars at certain universities (maybe only in continental Europe?). I may be the only person who's ever tried to look up "ad personam" in Wikipedia, but I doubt it. Shouldn't there be an article on it, or at least a brief reference in this article?

=> actually, in my opinion this article addresses "ad personam" due to a common anglo-saxon confusion between the meaning of "ad personam" and "ad hominem". "Ad hominem" means that is taken into pertinent consideration the particular reasoning of a speaker (and there may be a succession of "ad homines" in a response to a group), while "ad personam/as" are considering non pertinent issues related to the person(s). cf. Shopenhauer's "Art of Being Right quated below. Jefsey (talk) 01:12, 9 September 2017 (UTC)

Here's hoping ... —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:41, 19 November 2008 (UTC)

Argumentum ad personam should have an article of its own (see french and polish WP). Argumentum ad personem refers to 38th stratagem of Shopenhauer's "Art of Being Right" (also named "The art of controversy").
"A last trick is to become personal, insulting, rude, as soon as you perceive that your opponent has the upper hand, and that you are going to come off worst. It consists in passing from the subject of dispute, as from a lost game, to the disputant himself, and in some way attacking his person. It may be called the argumentum ad personam, to distinguish it from the argumentum ad hominem, which passes from the objective discussion of the subject pure and simple to the statements or admissions which your opponent has made in regard to it. But in becoming personal you leave the subject altogether, and turn your attack to his person, by remarks of an offensive and spiteful character. It is an appeal from the virtues of the intellect to the virtues of the body, or to mere animalism.
Argumentum ad hominem refers to the 16th trick. Praticien (talk) 19:05, 29 December 2012 (UTC)

Stupid Idiot?[edit]

As oppose to a smart idiot? -- (talk) 19:41, 14 August 2009 (UTC)

Article Rewrite[edit]

Thank you to whoever rewrote this article to help with the removal of the hitler-eugenics example. It was a bad example in an important topic The rewrite is excellent, and I like the expansion of the topic. Chris Taylor. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:38, 24 August 2009 (UTC)

Clarity and usefulness reduced via revisions?[edit]

The process of revision has greatly reduced the clarity/readability/usability of this article since the last time I looked at it -- particularly regarding the basic definition of ad hominem. I once found this article considerably more useful than I do now.

For those who care about this topic, I suggest looking back and attempting to reintroduce some of the lost content/language, because while I once cited this article, I now find it too skeletal and oblique to be of much use. Remember that the article is not designed for the obscurantist. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs)

  • The problem with the article is that it is mostly original research and unverified. For whatever reason, editors have removed academic citations in order to push their own barrow (NPOV problems). The rest of the edits seem more interested in squabbling over fairly substandard 'examples'. So that's the problem with the article as it stands. If you'd like to contribute, I highly recommend it because the article needs a lot of work. (talk) 12:23, 16 October 2009 (UTC)

Revised 'Guilt by association' example needed?[edit]

   Source A makes claim P.
   Group B make claims P and Q.
   Therefore, Source A makes claim Q. 

Examples:"You say the gap between the rich and poor is unacceptable, but communists also say this, and they believe in revolution. Thus, you believe in revolution."

This example seems incongruent with what is trying to be explained. A 'belief in revolution' doesn't seem to be the same as an additional claim that would hold no consistent relation to the first claim. nkife (talk) 05:21, 7 October 2009 (UTC)

Distinguishing from Ad populum[edit]

Rather than step again into a flurry of changes, I'll note the problem here: the current state of the page has lost the ability to help those who read a bit of Latin but are unfamiliar with the terms for logical argumentation. We are likely to confound Ad populum with Ad hominem without first translating each into English. Nadiatalent (talk) 14:33, 2 December 2009 (UTC)

There are many arguments/fallicies with a Latinate name of the form Ad blah. I think it's a stretch to say they're all confusable for each other and don't see why "hominem" and "populum" would be more liable to be confused than any of the other combos to someone who doesn't know Latin. At least in English I could kinda see people/person and appeal/argument getting mixed up. --Cybercobra (talk) 22:04, 2 December 2009 (UTC)

Can Ad Homs be Positive?[edit]

For example, would this qualify as an ad homenim? "The guy running for mayor has such great political ideas because he donated thousands to charity!" —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:14, 4 June 2010 (UTC)

See the "Inverse ad hominem" section of the article. --Cybercobra (talk) 07:39, 30 November 2010 (UTC)


Ad hominem is always a logical fallacy. That it is allowed under law as Character evidence, in politics as Conflict of interest and on WP as WP:COI does not change that fact. Full discussions of not only Ad hominem but those other subjects must include the fact that this lower standard of fact is allowed, but not an exoneration or obfuscation of the logical flaw in those allowances. I also wonder whether such an aside belongs in the lead paragraph. Anarchangel (talk) 15:55, 22 February 2011 (UTC)

why did article degrade[edit]

Here are 2 random versions from the past: [2] [3]

Although I didn't compare 3 versions in detail, it does seem that current version lacks quite a bit of useful examples and information. (talk) 14:26, 4 March 2011 (UTC)

Looked at both and agree. Version 3 preferred, but in both cases the opening paragraphs give a better & clearer definition. I like the brevity of the current page but find the openign paragraphs infinitely LESS helpful! --gobears87 (talk) 22:44, 25 April 2011 (UTC)


I'm not an expert on Latin but I believe that although the literal translation of "ad hominem" could be considered to be "to the man", isn't "to the person" perhaps a more accurate translation that reflects the meaning better? The online version of Merriam-Webster supports this translation, and it is in fact also mentioned in the article itself. Kombucha (talk) 11:21, 30 August 2011 (UTC)

I've added the second translation of "to the person" as no one has yet commented. Kombucha (talk) 22:13, 3 September 2011 (UTC)


Examples involving a John or Mary are tolerable even if unreferenced, but the examples of statements about Jimmy Hendrix must come from sources, otherwise their demonstrative efficiency is greatly devaluated: the probability that someone would say that music of Jimmy Hendrix is worthless may seem low, unless there are live examples of this kind of putting down. And I am sure one can find ones. Ladnadruk (talk) 04:06, 28 September 2011 (UTC)

ad feminam[edit]

"ad feminam" is just a very particular case of the ad hominem abusive. This is typically not mentioned in the vast majority of Logic books. Frankly, it's not noteworthy. I hope nobody thinks that mentioning "hominem" and not "feminam" is sexist, that would verge on insanity. (talk) 12:36, 3 November 2011 (UTC)

It is worth mentioning because it is a particular case of this fallacy used against a particular group (i.e. women), and is common enough that it has a unique term to describe it. I'm not aware of any other similar variants on this phrase. Frankly, ad feminam ought to have its own article - there'd be enough to say about it - but it seems there was a consensus to merge it into this one. Robofish (talk) 21:22, 17 November 2011 (UTC)

Look, the same could be said of using the ad hominem fallacy against thousands of other groups: every existing political alignment/ideology/whatever, every nationality, and many other personal characteristics that are commonly used to setup an argument against the person. There is no doubt that denying a proposition because its author is a woman in fallacious. My point is that there is no difference in doing this and citing any other personal trait, rather that addressing the subject of the proposition. If we were to cite every single case, there would be an overwhelming number of sections in this article. In my opinion, what's important to do here is to mention the general mechanism of the ad hominem fallacy, rather than citing every possible particular case. (talk) 12:09, 18 November 2011 (UTC)

Thinking a bit more about this, I do agree that the term is noteworthy: it has a history and has been discussed by people, and there's even a political importance to it, since it seems that the idea has been part of the still ongoing struggle against sexism. What I can't agree with is listing it as a type of ad hominem, because it's not a type, it's a case. For instance, the association fallacy, which is typically mentioned as a type, has a different mechanism when compared to the ad hominem abusive, since the criticism is directed at a third party and not at the arguer himself. Circumstantial is again slightly different, as it's not directed at a personal trait, but at the bias. However, there's no difference in method between arguing "you're wrong because you're a woman" and other cases of the ad hominem abusive, such as "you're wrong because you're rich/poor" (sometimes mentioned as "argumentum ad crumenam" and "argumentum ad lazarum") or "you're wrong because of the color of your skin" or whatever else. I feel that having an article to discuss the history and political importance of ad feminam is in order, but I don't see why it should be listed amongst the various types of the argument against the person. (talk) 13:30, 18 November 2011 (UTC)

The term isn't notable. It lacks both significant coverage and reliable sources (note that the cited sources merely use the term, they do not indicate that it's a widely used term). If one person in a book used "ad Republican", "ad Marxim", "ad Derrida", or "ad Nova Yorka", it wouldn't be grounds for creating a new section discussing that term. (talk) 11:53, 11 September 2013 (UTC)

"Common misconceptions" section?[edit]

I question the validity and necessity of the "common misconceptions" section in this article. First, few of the links come from reputable sources. Second, there is only one misconception stated; does it really deserve its own place in the article? Beyond that, however, is that in most cases of "verbal abuse," ad hominem designed to discredit the author. Could this not be seen as a sort of red herring, and thus still be illogical? SweetNightmares (awaken) 04:19, 22 December 2011 (UTC)

The connection with ad personam & ad feminam should be mentioned in the intro.[edit]

Ad personam & Ad feminam redirect to Ad hominem, which article mentions the first not at all and the second only once in the middle section somewhere. A brief paragraph explaining their connection to ad hominem and then perhaps contrasting a few of their more important individual nuances & connotations would round out the intro.

Sorry that all I can do at the moment is mention this and ask for help. Thanks in advance! --Geekdiva (talk) 07:24, 29 February 2012 (UTC)

How can we make the 2nd message box on this talk page useful? Should it be removed?[edit]

Between the Ad feminam-merge message box and the WikiProject Philosophy message box, there's another message box with text that begins, "Text from [[{{{from}}}]] was copied into [[{{{to}}}]] with..." This makes no sense, so we should either figure out its purpose by something like examining diffs or delete the box.

Thanks! --Geekdiva (talk) 00:44, 1 March 2012 (UTC)

Removed as it probably largely duplicates T:Afd-merged-from. --Izno (talk) 04:40, 1 March 2012 (UTC)

Ad mascunam?[edit]

If ad feminam refers to attacks on women as women, and ad hominem is gender-neutral, what term refers to attacks on men as men?

Example could be a woman complaining to her sister about her husband’s inability to clean the house properly: "What did I except out of him, he’s a man."
--Atikokan (talk) 17:43, 10 April 2012 (UTC)

Is there a broad trend, in any culture, of discrediting men's opinion simply because they are men? No. Like User said, it's really technically an example of Ad Hominem, (as 'Ad Mascunam' would be). The term emerged as a way to refer to the broad, normalized trend of Ad Hominem arguments against women, not really to expand the meaning of Ad Hominem. Air (talk) 17:55, 30 June 2012 (UTC)
Someone's now added 'ad homines' to this article, claiming it's the specific term for dismissing men's opinions because they are men. I can't say I've heard of that one, so I'd say it should only stay if someone can find mention of it in a reliable source. Robofish (talk) 21:45, 25 August 2012 (UTC)


Abusive ad hominem attacks are inherently unconstructive and absurd. Therefore, deleting an example that demonstrates these facets as "vandalism" is inappropriate. I have now been forced to revert these improper edits close to a half-dozen times. Each time I have explained in the edit notes, but somebody still reverts and gives the exact same "unconstructive vandalism" reason that I already refuted.

If you would like to present an argument, please do so here. My edits were NOT vandalism! This has been made abundantly clear. If you dislike the example, discuss it here and wait until a consensus is reached before unilaterally reverting legitimate edits. I sincerely hope this is the last time I have to repeat myself on this matter. (talk) 19:23, 12 September 2012 (UTC)

The example(s) added are at best unsourced original research. Repeatedly re-adding material that is contested (and has been reverted) is disruptive, and while being disruptive is not necessarily vandalism it is still a detriment to the project. Please provide reliable sources for your additions, and do not use the revert function to re-add contested material. --Tgeairn (talk) 19:41, 12 September 2012 (UTC)
In that case, I propose that ALL of the examples included be removed because not a single one of them is sourced. What's disruptive is undoing legitimate edits as "vandalism" repeatedly even after that claim has been refuted and you've been asked to present your argument for discussion. If you want to remove all of the examples, I'll support that. Otherwise, they all stay. You can't selectively apply the standard to one of them but ignore the rest. (talk) 19:45, 12 September 2012 (UTC)
I considered that upon first seeing the article. As a compromise, I have tagged the section for now. Hopefully, interested editors will source the examples or replace them with sourced ones. The use of examples does improve the article, but examples are not excluded from being verifiable. Thanks! --Tgeairn (talk) 19:55, 12 September 2012 (UTC)

Just a suggestion: The common argument against people who oppose surveillance "If you're not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about." is an excellent example of circumstantial ad hominem. It's a back-handed suggestion that the opposition is motivated by personal fears. And is also a disguised form of character assassination, since it implies that the person is involved in something outright illegal, or has personal characteristics that the general public would find either contemptible or offensive. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:07, 7 September 2014 (UTC)

Always Negative?[edit]

I am reminded in reading this article of Cicero's phrase "Ipse dixit," - a superficially related fallacy that appeals to doctrine or the special status of the person being appealed to. However, when I read in an article "Thanks goodness that X, a calm and dignified professor of philosophy, has addressed this problem by..." I sense a positive ad hominem appeal that is just as fallacious as a negative attack; i.e., because Professor X is habitually sober, well-dressed and kempt, his argument should carry more weight - even when, as in this case, the subject is not one of philosophy. Is there any basis for asserting a fallacious "positve" ad hominen, as the example I cite cannot strictly be construed as an appeal to authority? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:22, 18 October 2012 (UTC)

Definition is wrong, the source, West's Encylopedia of American Law DOES NOT define ad hominem that way.[edit]

The current definition of the ad hominem fallacy as cited by West's Encyclopedia of American Law (source #1), "is an attempt to negate the truth of a claim by pointing out a negative characteristic or unrelated belief of the person supporting it." is not true. I am looking at this entry in the West's Encyclopedia of American Law right now.

On page 81: "[Latin, To the person.] A term used in debate to denote an argument made personally against an opponent, instead of against the opponent's argument."

That's it. Nothing more, I can upload a screenshot if necessary. It was me who corrected that entry anonymously. I have logged in and created this discussion as I see for some reason, it was reverted.

To be clear...the source attributed to that definition does not define the fallacy that way at all. The current definition in the entry is inaccurate. Please change this to what it actually says, it's highly misleading and only hurts the reputation of Wikipedia. — Preceding unsigned comment added by ApokalupsisODN (talkcontribs) 02:01, 29 October 2012 (UTC)

  • Undid revision 520261688 by Gareth Griffith-Jones (talk) Explained to me on my Talk page. Thank you for taking the trouble. Done
Cheers! -- Gareth Griffith-Jones/The Welsh Buzzard 07:35, 29 October 2012 (UTC)
Unfortunately, that "correction" was incorrect. I've corrected it (see below). - Embram (talk) 15:49, 11 October 2013 (UTC)

Definition was still wrong; now corrected[edit]

The error I corrected today appears to have been introduced on 29 October 2012 in which "an attempt to negate the truth of a claim by pointing out a negative characteristic or unrelated belief of the person supporting it" was changed to "an argument made personally against an opponent, instead of against the opponent's argument," thus changing the emphasis from an attack on the argument by attacking its supporter, to an attack on the person himself, which is incorrect. This error, which changed the definition, was introduced without changing the citation that supported the original version. Additionally, the definition from the law library used to make the 10/29/2012 change was not the definition of argumentum ad hominem, but was only the transliteration (from page 81 of the reference) of the Latin phrase ad hominem itself. This page is primarily supposed to reflect the definition of the argumentum ad hominem argument, not the translation of the underlying Latin phrase. Finally, even the previous definition had been taken from an Internet "Answers" page that cited the law dictionary, not from the reference itself, so we were using an indirect citation. I've replaced that with a direct reference to a published explanation from a scholarly work on logical fallacies. The corrected definition complies with Paul Graham's Hierarchy of Disagreement as shown in the "triangle" illustration already on the page. - Embram (talk) 15:56, 11 October 2013 (UTC)

Because of the likelihood of an editor again making a similar mistake because the title of the page is the simple phrase instead of the logical fallacy this page is trying to explain, I've added a clarification sentence that the subject of the page is the latter, not the former. Please do not remove it. Someone did so yesterday, saying "yes we may discuss the phrase itself," but my clarification does not stop discussion of the phrase (in fact, the meaning of the phrase itself is discussed at the very beginning of the page), but is merely a reminder of the subject matter of the page, a reminder that is obviously needed because of the above-mentioned mistake that resulted in the wrong definition being listed for a year. Additionally, the definition is now supported by the citation. Please do not modify the definition in a way that changes the plain meaning as given by the underlying citation. Thank you. - Embram (talk) 14:01, 17 October 2013 (UTC)

Why is the title in italics?[edit]

Why is the title of this article in italics? I see no reason for that (actually this is the first time I've even noticed that "{{Italic title}}" template/tag exists) and so I changed it to normal (without style) font. --Wayfarer (talk) 15:57, 31 July 2013 (UTC) (originally posted in November 2012)

It is Latin – not English.
Please sign your posts.
I have un-done your edit. -- Gareth Griffith-Jones/The Welsh Buzzard 08:57, 6 November 2012 (UTC)
Sorry, I usually (99%) do sign them. This time it's true, I totally forgot about it (I was editing several articles at once). --Wayfarer (talk) 16:06, 6 November 2012 (UTC)
Sure. Do you understand about the italics? -- Gareth Griffith-Jones/The Welsh Buzzard 16:09, 6 November 2012 (UTC)
Oh sorry for such a delay. Yes I do understand about the use of italics in the titles now. --Wayfarer (talk) 02:27, 10 May 2013 (UTC)  Done
I got rid of the italic title as Wayfarer either doesn't understand the intent of your question or is dodging it. Ckruschke (talk) 17:44, 10 May 2013 (UTC)Ckruschke
Ehm sorry Ckruschke, but what are you talking about? I replied to Gareth Griffith-Jones two times, the second time saying, quote: "Yes I do understand about the use of italics in the titles now." (in this case because it's a Latin phrase). So why are you saying that you got rid of the italic title because I don't understand something (it was Gareth who said it must be in italics), and secondly, why are you saying that I am dodging it? What was the question again?! --Wayfarer (talk) 01:02, 28 July 2013 (UTC)
Sorry about how you perceived my tone, but it was pretty clear there was a breakdown in communication (which apparently remains) as Gareth was asking "you" why the title was in italic. The point I was making was that the title shouldn't have been in italic and I fixed that. Ckruschke (talk) 13:31, 29 July 2013 (UTC)Ckruschke
You know, except for the fact that the conclusion above was that the title should be in italics, and that both Gareth Griffith-Jones and Wayfarer agreed that it should be in italics, so what you've actually done is made an inaccurate and snide comment about Wayfarer and then undone the consensus edit.IcarusPhoenix (talk) 16:56, 29 July 2013 (UTC)
I made the edit two months ago - TWO MONTHS. If the edit was wrong, which it appears to be - and I say appears as there also appears to be alot of confusion going on - "someone" should have restored the italics. If I was so wrong, how about one of you "fixing" the page and restoring the italics rather than telling me what an inconsiderate idiot I am? I'm not saying I wasn't - it could have been a bad day for me, but lets focus here - I'm being dumped on for screwing up but meanwhile the page is still "wrong"... Ckruschke (talk) 18:01, 29 July 2013 (UTC)Ckruschke
We did fix the page; admittedly, Wayfarer came back to this thread after a rather long delay, but he's (nor I, nor Gareth) are the ones misunderstanding the conversation, accusing other contributors of dodging questions, or launching personal attacks against other contributors for having the temerity to disagree with you. Calm down, slow down, and learn that maybe - just maybe - it's alright to treat other contributors with a modicum of respect and not get quite so childishly bent out-of-shape over simple disagreement.IcarusPhoenix (talk) 20:39, 29 July 2013 (UTC)
"Childishly Bent Out of Shape" - Guilty as charged! I was mostly just finding it amusing that as I was receiving so much angst, the topic at hand was ignored. Thanks for restoring the italics! Ckruschke (talk) 19:06, 30 July 2013 (UTC)Ckruschke
Ckruschke and IcarusPhoenix, you know where the original "problem" lays? It's that it was in fact me who created this entry but forgot to sign the post, so it appeared to Ckruschke as if Gareth Griffith-Jones was asking the question. That's what I noticed only now! And/or I thought that it was obvious (e.g. Gareth's text is indented and he added "Please sign your posts." so Ckruschke you could notice that). Anyway, correctly it should be: "My question" (why in italics?) -> "His answer" (because it's in Latin) and so on. So I am correcting the confusing entry and adding my sign to the initial post. Cheers to both of you! :) --Wayfarer (talk) 15:57, 31 July 2013 (UTC)

Article subject[edit]

You cannot arbitrarily tell people what article says and what's not. In fact, it is customary in wikipedia articles have section "Etymology" which specifically discuss origin and meaning various latin and greek words. Staszek Lem (talk) 01:20, 18 October 2013 (UTC)

I am not telling people what the article says; I am clarifying that the article was about ad hominem arguments, not about the Latin phrase. This was necessary because someone was changing the definition to reflect the translation of the Latin phrase, rather than the logical fallacy. This is all discussed in the section of this Talk page entitled Definition was still wrong; now corrected. It's perfectly fine to discuss the etymology; in fact, the article begins with discussing what the phrase means in Latin. If you'd like to set up a special "Etymology" section go ahead and do so. That does not dismiss the need to prevent disambiguation, since the title of the article is actually an abbreviation of argumentum ad hominem, and the confusion of that caused a problem previously. However, if you feel strongly that the disambiguation statement should be left off, go ahead and delete it; I won't replace it. - Embram (talk) 04:37, 18 October 2013 (UTC)
I understand your point (you want to focus on one aspect of the phrase) but do not agree with it. I will explain later, in a separate section. Staszek Lem (talk) 17:01, 18 October 2013 (UTC)
Thanks. - Embram (talk) 18:17, 18 October 2013 (UTC)

As for definition, I din't change it. I rephrased it, for clarity. And it is still supported by references, and, as I see now, some more refs mentioned in the talk page above. If you really think that the phrase "an argument that attempts to undermine an argument based on an irrelevant fact about the person making the argument" is an unmovable pinnacle of argument, then I have a couple questions for you. And conversely, what exactly wrong in my version: an argument that attempts to undermine an opponent's argument basing on an irrelevant fact about the opponent. IMO it says much clearer about which argument is which. Staszek Lem (talk) 02:26, 18 October 2013 (UTC)

The definition that is there now is directly supported by the cited reference, and it is perfectly clear. The only problem with your definition is that you have apparently introduced the requirement for an opponent. An ad hominem argument does not require an "opponent." But in any case, the definition that should be used is one from the cited reference. - Embram (talk) 03:47, 18 October 2013 (UTC)
May be my usage of English language was poor, but the reason of my change is that contrary to what you've written above, an ad hominem is impossible without a homo (the very target of the argument). And since ad hominem is an attempt of refutation, the deliverer of the argument to be refuted is the opposing side in the dispute, i.e., an opponent. Staszek Lem (talk) 17:01, 18 October 2013 (UTC)
I understand what you're saying, but I must disagree. To a native speaker of English, the word opponent has, aside from its denotation, a very particular connotation, in this case that you are talking about the specific person with whom you are arguing. But that is not necessarily the case. In many, perhaps most arguments, and ad hominem argument is made not against one's opponent in the argument, but against the statement, policy, or argument of a third party, e.g., some other person or organization who has made an argument or statement now being used to support your opponent's argument. In that case, you are not attacking a personal attribute of your opponent, but of someone else on whose statement or argument your opponent may be relying. For example (for the purpose of illustration), I have (elsewhere) posted a list "George Orwell's 1946 rules for effective writing." An opponent arguing that against my contention that those are good rules for writing might attack them with an "ad hominem" by accusing George Orwell of being a communist, or a socialist. In that case I, not George Orwell, would be the speaker's opponent, but the ad hominem would be directed against George Orwell, not against the person's opponent in the argument. Other examples might be "You're saying the same thing that the Tea Party does" or "Your anti-smoking argument is the same that Adolf Hitler made. He was also against smoking."
So my point is that opponent would be the wrong word to use in defining what an ad hominem is, since that would seem to limit the definition only to irrelevant comments about the actual opponent in the argument, whereas ad hominems also include irrelevant comments about third parties and historical personages who said things or held beliefs that would tend to support the argument of one's opponent. Do you see what I mean? - Embram (talk) 18:17, 18 October 2013 (UTC)

Oh, by the way The very first reference for the definition comes from an irrelevant source: NIZKOR project is about Holocaust, not about logic. And the author of the definition is unknown. Therefore I am going to remove this reference per WP:RS. Staszek Lem (talk) 02:30, 18 October 2013 (UTC)

No, the publisher of the webpage may have been writing about the Holocaust, but that's irrelevant – you appear to be making an ad hominem argument against the statement regarding the definition, based on the purpose of the main website that published the logical fallacies section. The source and the definition are not unknown, but are stated clearly in the citation. The author is Dr. Michael C. Labossiere (1995) and the definition comes from his tutorial on fallacies. NIZKOR merely had quoted it in a convenient format. However, responsive to your objection, I've now changed the link to be direct to the work by the author, Dr. Labossiere. The definition is the same. - Embram (talk) 04:00, 18 October 2013 (UTC)
I am afraid you are making a logical error yourself in classifying my claim. I was not making a statement against the definition. I am making a perfectly valid statement against the source of the definition specifically referring to a wikipedia policy about admissible sources. I hope you understand the difference. If not, I may explain in further detail. The author was not indicated in this link given as a reference hence my objection. Anyway, this issue is resolved now. Staszek Lem (talk) 17:01, 18 October 2013 (UTC)
Thank you for your clarification. The author's name was given in the footnote, and although the author's name was not mentioned on the particular page that was being linked, it was given on the root page of the link's website that contained the list of logical fallacies, explaining whence they obtained their definitions. But as you say, the issue is resolved since the citation now points directly to the author's source. - Embram (talk) 18:17, 18 October 2013 (UTC)
Finally, thank you for talking about this on the Talk page this time. Last time you just deleted what I added without discussion, although I had explained here on the Talk page what I had done and why. I'm happy to work with you; let's not fight. - Embram (talk) 04:06, 18 October 2013 (UTC)
I disagree with your limiting of the article scope. As I wrote above, I explain the reason in more detail in a separate section. Staszek Lem (talk) 17:01, 18 October 2013 (UTC)
That would be interesting. And as I said, I will not contest your deleting the one-sentence attempt at disambiguation. I just hope that does not lead to another instance of someone's inaccurately changing the definition for ad hominem in the article. - Embram (talk) 18:17, 18 October 2013 (UTC)

Paul Graham hierarchy graphic[edit]

Image:Graham's Hierarchy of Disagreement1.svg has come and gone a few times lately, one IP arguing that "it does not reflect a serious view in the fields of informal logic or rhetoric" and another saying "Though the pyramid graphic is popular in some portions of the internet, particularly among programmers and the like, I have been unable to locate any reference (much less any approving reference) to it in any notable, authoritative, or peer reviewed source on argumentation theory."

Does it matter that the actual graphic isn't Graham's? His original article explicitly defines a hierarchy with ad hominem only one step up from name-calling, so this doesn't seem like WP:OI. Apart from the crude explanation of name-calling, I don't see a problem with representing this visually as a stacked triangle, particularly in an article which would otherwise have no images. --McGeddon (talk) 22:21, 9 December 2013 (UTC)

I see a point in your argument. Indeed, the picture faithfully represents the article, hence there is no extra research. I'm going to restore the pic and answer to the anon. Staszek Lem (talk) 01:56, 10 December 2013 (UTC)

About caption: the anon has some point: the pic is a cute but oversimplifying description of types of disagreements, kinda "10 worst things to do in an elevator". While it provides some illustration, it should not be used to draw specific conclusions (what is second worst or third best, etc.). The "pyramid" can be extended both below and above, and sideways as well (not to mention 4th and 5th dimensions :-) (ha-ha only serious). Staszek Lem (talk) 19:35, 10 December 2013 (UTC)

I think it's clear enough that we're presenting ad hominem as the second worst in a list of seven compiled by Graham, rather than being the second worst of all time, but if that's not clear enough, it'd be more helpful to the reader to clarify the caption than to cut it back to "here's a hierarchy, but we won't tell you anything about it".
If anything, the biggest problem with the pyramid diagram is that it can be misread as a Maslow-style "you can only have the higher-up thing when you have the lower foundation in place"; a clear caption avoids that. --McGeddon (talk) 20:13, 10 December 2013 (UTC)
"here's a hierarchy, but we won't tell you anything about it". - exactly. As I said, it is a nice picture, but nothing else. If anything, we may say "it is the second weakest in opinion of Graham". But then a legitimate question pops up, who the heck Graham is? - answer: - a successful businessman and essayist. Is his opinion important enough to be propagated in wikipedia in places other than his bio article? Probably not: he is neither an expert in psychology (or logic or whatever "disputology" science may be), not his opinion is widely discussed and accepted as good or reasonable description of argument typology.
Concluding: At this moment I am reluctant to accept Graham's essay as a source of wisdom for this article, but the pyramid itself is a harmless embellishment, lacking anything better. Staszek Lem (talk) 01:39, 11 December 2013 (UTC)
P.S. A funny thought: WP:RS is kinda ad hominem, isn't it? In wikipedia we accept information into an article basing on the judgement about its source (eg its author). WP:TRUTH rules! Staszek Lem (talk) 01:39, 11 December 2013 (UTC)
Authority of source is a logical fallacy called "Appeal to authority". His pyramid is just a summary of fallacy description. This even can be made by you, or any anonymous guy. The only problem I see, that this pyramid made by his article, and I believe we need someone to draw a pyramid by this wikipedia article. Any volunteers? — Preceding unsigned comment added by Holms (talkcontribs) 16:56, 12 December 2013 (UTC)
No, Graham's original article doesn't include (or mention) a pyramid - the image in question was originally drawn for a blog and then redrawn by someone else for Wikimedia Commons.
Wikipedia sourcing is all about appealing to authority! We couldn't have "here are seven types of argument ranked in terms of credibility in the view of John Q Editor", but we could use the same ranking if made by a sufficiently respected authority. --McGeddon (talk) 12:46, 13 December 2013 (UTC)
Graham's Hierarchy of Disagreement lists ad hominem as the second lowest type of argument in a disagreement.
I vote for keeping the Paul Graham hierarchy graphic. As it visually shows ad hominem strategy within context of the various types of disagreement. I propose this box and this description. Which would be aligned to the right side of article intro. Francewhoa (talk) 22:11, 20 February 2018 (UTC)

Article was accurate, now is not[edit]

This article has become massively unbalanced and inaccurate since I last looked at it. As Staszek Lem notes above, WP:RS could be criticised as "ad hominem" based on the description here. The poitn is that there is nothing fallacious about criticising the authority and reliability of someone being called on as a source of evidence. For example, Mandy Rice-Davies was making an entirely valid point, that a denial from someone who was in no position to say anything else has no evidentiary value. I'd suggest reverting to a version from, say, 2011 and working from there JQ (talk) 11:07, 7 January 2014 (UTC)

It looks like the damage was done around 12/12/13 by an IP editor. I've reverted to that version. JQ (talk) 05:59, 12 January 2014 (UTC)


There certainly is nothing illogical about insulting the author of an argument. It would just have nothing to do with the topic of "ad hominems." It would be a rather silly thing to bring up here.

"Ad" in ad hominem means "to," not "at." An ad hominem is an argument to the biases or position of its audience, not at the character of anyone involved. "Your cat has lovely fur; here, let me sell you some expensive champagne flavoured cat-food" is an ad hominem. Nobody is insulted, nor is there any logical fallacy.

My friend Albert Szent-Györgyi once said to me "An IQ difference of thirty points means that one person can solve by inspection a problem which no amount of explanation can make clear to the other -- and we meet people across three of those thirty-point bridges in a normal day." We certainly meet people on the bottom end of one or two of those "bridges" whenever the meaning of language comes up for discussion on Wikipedia. Chasms might be better than bridges.

David Lloyd-Jones (talk) 11:08, 21 August 2014 (UTC)

Please clarify[edit]

Under "Types", 1.1 "Abusive", what does "otherwise sound stands" – in the sentence, "Ad hominem abuse is not to be confused with slander or libel, which employ falsehoods and are not necessarily leveled to undermine otherwise sound stands with character attacks" – mean? Who wrote that, a bad lawyer? -- (talk) 15:44, 25 December 2014 (UTC)

Stands (positions) that are otherwise sound, I suppose. If you are asking which these are, then I suppose any stands thought to be sound other than via the credulous consumption of irrational arguments. The article history will show you who wrote this; you will then have the ability to use this contributor's talk page to ask the contributor if he or she is a bad lawyer, although it would be discourteous to do so. -- Hoary (talk) 05:30, 29 May 2015 (UTC)

Ad feminam[edit]

This article says that ad feminam "is a proposed variation of the ad hominem fallacy offered by some proponents of feminist philosophy". This may be; but if so, who are these proponents and where do they offer it? (A quick look in Google Books showed the phrase used in literary criticism and within Ulysses.) -- Hoary (talk) 05:30, 29 May 2015 (UTC)

Yes, it is used by neofeminists, but dictionary attests its usage since 1965, and sources say who suggested/proposed it and who uses it most. So I changed the text accordingly. Staszek Lem (talk) 01:44, 30 May 2015 (UTC)
Google's ngram viewer shows uses of the phrase all the way back to the early 19th century though they are mostly in latin only until much later. [4] Winner 42 Talk to me! 02:00, 30 May 2015 (UTC)

David Duke example[edit]

Maybe I'm just objecting to an example that offends my liberal tastes but I don't think this is a valid example of ad hominem fallacy. the example statement (about blacks and whites) is a fact, not an argument. Therefore someone could be justified in doubting whether david duke would be truthful in presenting facts about racial issues and it wouldn't be a fallacy. the fallacy only makes sense with analytic deductive arguments, not synthetic probabilistic statements of facts, where context and authority (and interests and bias) are important to believing something to be true. Plus this is stated again in a later section of the im going to delete it but if this is wrong then it can be put back. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:58, 20 August 2015 (UTC)

Ad hominem is not what is written here[edit]

Ad hominem is simply an attack on the person who makes the argument rather than the argument itself. It has nothing at all to do with "persons associated with the argument", and it is always a logical fallacy. One can make an argument about the character of any people or persons without it being an Ad Hominem - Ad Hominem only applies when the target of the attack is specifically towards the arguer. As it is defined, it seems to suggest that *any* argument against the character of *any person* is a logical fallacy, which is completely wrong. This would mean that even arguments specifically about a person's character would be fallacious. After reading other contributors comments above, I agree that this article needs to be revised.— Preceding unsigned comment added by Windigo77 (talkcontribs) 04:01, 19 June 2016 (UTC)

I agree that the lead could be improved, but it would help to understand better your objections.
Here's the relevant snippet from the source being used
Dr. Michael C. LaBossiere
An ad Hominem is a general category of fallacies in which a claim or argument is rejected on the basis of some irrelevant fact about the author of or the person presenting the claim or argument. Typically, this fallacy involves two steps. First, an attack against the character of person making the claim, her circumstances, or her actions is made (or the character, circumstances, or actions of the person reporting the claim). Second, this attack is taken to be evidence against the claim or argument the person in question is making (or presenting).
Current text Proposed text
Ad hominem, short for argumentum ad hominem, is a logical fallacy in which an argument is rebutted by attacking the character, motive, or other attribute of the person making the argument, or persons associated with the argument, rather than attacking the substance of the argument itself. Ad hominem, short for argumentum ad hominem, is a logical fallacy that consists of making an attack on an unrelated or irrelevant aspect of the opposing party in an argument, as a rhetorical move, instead of addressing the opponent's claim directly.
By fallacy, we mean that an argument using this step is invalid. Some ad hominem attacks may actually be relevant to the argument, so as a matter of rhetoric, there is no prohibition on making them. This distinction between relevant or not can often be the crux of disputes over the validity of arguments involving ad hominem attacks.  —jmcgnh(talk) (contribs) 06:30, 26 June 2016 (UTC)
I think Lane, S. D., Abigail, R. A. & Gooch, J. 2016. Communication in a Civil Society could be useful in giving a brief and straightforward description of ad hominem and to make the connection to the logical fallacies. As the source puts it:

ad hominem A logical fallacy in which a speaker attacks the character of the opposition rather than address the substance of the other side's position.

Cheers! Jayaguru-Shishya (talk) 15:26, 26 June 2016 (UTC)
Thanks. The problem I see with that source is that it's almost too simple and ignores the situations where an attack on the character, credibility, or motivations of the opponent is relevant to the argument. Can you express some text in your own words that captures what you think is missing from the text already proposed?  —jmcgnh(talk) (contribs) 20:37, 26 June 2016 (UTC)
Sorry, I intended to propose the source as an additional one to confirm that ad hominem belongs into the family of logical fallacies, something that the current source doesn't really mention. I'm okay with the points you brought up earlier by all means; I wasn't suggesting to simplify the statement too much.
For example, what you are saying is supported by this source: Trapp, R. 2005. Discovering the World Through Debate: A Practical Guide to Educational Debate for Debaters, Coaches and Judges. The source goes as follows:

Not all ad hominem arguments are fallacious - only those used when the attack is not relevant to the arguer's claim. [...] Consider a completely hypothetical example: suppose someone presents highly credible evidence accusing a candidate for Minister of Health and Welfare of cheating on her medical exams. Such an attack is unquestionably an attack on the candidate but is clearly relevant to her potential role as head of the ministry.

Cheers! Jayaguru-Shishya (talk) 14:57, 27 June 2016 (UTC)

I am afraid that both wikipedia article and the sources cited (or wikipedians interpreting them) are rather sloppy. One major blunder is failure to distinguish the concepts of an argument and a claim. And argument is also a claim, but the one made in support of another claim. As a consequence, failure to draw clear lines between distinct types of the usages of the phrase. A logical fallacy is when the logic of the reasoning is violated. A demagoguery is a rhetorical device, which, in part, attempts to influence emotions and hence decision-making capabilities. Questioning opponent's integrity is to raise the awareness to opponents' arguments", e.g whether they are truths, but only half-way, etc. Questioning opponents' expertise may raise legitimate doubts in opponents' logic or even correctness of facts produced by the opponent. And so on. Neither the definition nor the examples given are clear in this respect. in order to be instructive, the structure of the examples must be clearly exposed:

  • What is claimed
  • What is a supporting argument
  • What is a counter-argument
  • Whether the counter-arg is to invalidate the claim or to invalidate the arg

Consider the last example about the Minister of Health: I cannot parse it at all (I mean, I can make some reasonable guesses, but this will be my guesses, not an instruction of wikipedia how to read this case). In particular the phrase "only those used when the attack is not relevant to the arguer's claim" is dubious. If taken by its face value, the argument "because she has an ugly haircut" is 'ad hom' fallacy, but "because he is a moron" in not, because it is directly relevant to 'arguer's claim' (clearly, moron's claims are dubious). However in the latter ('moron') case the decision whether it is fallacy or not depends on the claim itself: namely, whether the validity of the claim depends of the claimant's expertise. I can continue 'ad nauseam', e.g., the same problem is with the tu quoque example.

The second problem is failure to clearly consider a special case when the claim or an argument is about the opponent themselves. Clearly, this will require even more hair splitting.

the third one is failure to distinguish the cases when 'ad hom' is against an immediate opponent in the dispute or agains a third person

And yet another, the case when the term 'ad hom' is used to describe a statement against a person regardless any specific dispute. Staszek Lem (talk) 19:13, 27 June 2016 (UTC)

Staszek Lem: That seems too technical for the lead paragraph, but worth addressing later in the article. What's the next step towards improving the article?  —jmcgnh(talk) (contribs) 22:06, 7 July 2016 (UTC)

Original meaning[edit]

I notice that many people are unaware that a.h. ever meant anything other than what it is currently taken to mean. It was be nice to know when the change occurred: I remember, from when I was at school in the '60s (in England), a bunch of us children using it in the current sense, and the teacher's contradicting us with the original…

Paul Magnussen (talk) 18:31, 31 March 2017 (UTC)

Opposite definition in French language[edit]

The definition of Argumentum Ad Hominem in French is completely different, if not opposite:

The Latin phrase "Argumentum Ad Hominem" is used to designate a rhetorical argument which consists in confusing an opponent by opposing his own words or his own actions.

This is quite different than a personal attack (Ad Personam). And it goes on:

This Latin phrase should not be confused with an "Ad Personam" attack or an "Ad Personam Argumentum" which is frequently regarded as an unfair maneuver aimed at discrediting his opponent without answering him on the merits.

The argument ad hominem, or ex concessis, is the 16th stratagem identified by Arthur Schopenhauer in his book The Art of Being Right. "If, for example, he favors suicide, one must immediately exclaim: "Why don't you hang yourself, then?"

Francoisaleta (talk) 10:29, 13 December 2017 (UTC)

Has this been addressed in any way in the history of this article?
If not I propose adding this definition in the French usage of this term. פשוט pashute ♫ (talk) 07:34, 20 June 2018 (UTC)

Ad mulierem[edit]

Ad mulierem redirects here but isn't mentioned in the article, leaving the reader who searches for the term none the wiser as to its meaning. This obviously isn't ideal. Can we include the term and its definition in the article? Or would taking the redirect to RfD be a better solution? – Arms & Hearts (talk) 16:56, 27 May 2018 (UTC)

The name is occasionally used by news venues as a parallel to ad hominem in the context of feminism and/or governing women (see an example.) I would like to include a mention in the article, but I can't find enough references for it. As such, I think there's enough evidence to support the redirect per WP:R#KEEP, as it "aid searches on certain terms"; someone who found the term online will be redirected to the article that describes its meaning (even if under a different term), which is what redirects are for. This wouldn't work at a disambiguation page, but redirects, they are cheap. Diego (talk) 08:51, 28 May 2018 (UTC)
It's worth noting that Ad feminam (which I didn't create) also exist as a redirect; they should probably share the same fate. Diego (talk) 09:07, 28 May 2018 (UTC)
Thanks for your reply. I'm inclined to disagree though. Think of the reader who comes across the term in a book and, not knowing much Latin, searches for it and ends up at this article. The article tells the reader nothing of use, beyond the fact that "ad mulierem" is presumably related to "ad hominem" in some unspecified way. It could be a synonym, or it could be a term related in some completely different way – it could even mean the complete opposite. Redirects are indeed cheap, but we also have to consider whether a given redirect is useful or confusing, and I think this is the latter. I'll give it a few days to see if anyone else has any thoughts on whether we can incorporate the term(s) into the article before taking it to RfD. – Arms & Hearts (talk) 20:05, 28 May 2018 (UTC)
The default assumption when a redirect is not mentioned in the lede of the target article is that it's an alternate name for the same concept, otherwise it would have been mentioned, and the specific relation with the subject, explained. Someone who follows the redirect and reads this article will leave with the knowledge of what the fallacy means. I would prefer that the terms "ad mulierem" and "ad feminam" were mentioned with a source, but I don't think that's indispensable to keep the redirect. Diego (talk) 14:39, 29 May 2018 (UTC)

may regret it cannot be argued with[edit]

The smoking example with the father claiming that the son may regret it may never be argued with. Also the son telling his father off as a bad example is very relevant to the claim and to the logical argument since the claim involves an 'attack', invoking guilt and fear due to common knowledge, while the son contests the father's claims and reduces the fear and guilt by bringing him into the group being attacked.

So it may be a bad example. פשוט pashute ♫ (talk) 07:44, 20 June 2018 (UTC)