Talk:Ad hominem/Archive1

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How to proceed?[edit]

The information here is at odds with authorities like Meriam Webster. It completely neglects older and (arguably more literate) usage of the phrase "ad hominem." Twice I have modified this entry, citing well-regarded authorities such as Merriam Webster. Twice my changes have been reversed. The first time, my grammar was called into question. The current version is not beyond reproach stylistically ("involves"?). But I am concerned with the content, not the style. The second time my changes were reversed, no reason was given. I would like to discuss with the moderator what we can do to reach an agreement or compromise. I tried to find the email address of the second person to reverse my changes, but I have come up empty. How shall I proceed?

-- Added later. I received helpful advice from Guinnog. For one thing, he says I should post at the bottom of the talk page, which I will do in the future.


I put verbage at the beginning to indicate that the meaning of "ad hominem" discussed here is recent. Personally, I think it came about on the internet, but I can't prove it. I tossed in a couple of authoritative sources.

German Physics[edit]

I removed the politically biased example of Deutsche Physiks. The movement was hardly reduced to such an innane logical fallacy. Keep the example free of politics.


Someone needs to link to his page, it's probably the best example of Ad hominem, evAr.--I'll bring the food 13:39, 5 August 2006 (UTC)

Political Correctness[edit]

I deleted the paragraph on "political correctness" as being NNPOV. I realize that some may disagree, but to me it just looked like a screed against current-day progressive politics. Enforcement of political uniformity by shaming is nothing new, yet there was no mention of historical or right-wing usage of the technique. Perhaps if there were examples added that were anything other than both (a) current issues and (b) progressive politics, it might not be as much of an attempt to persuade the reader that left-wing politics are bad. Ironically, an ad hominem attack against the political left by attempting to paint lefties as nasty "ad hominem users." Very clever.

I'm removing the gender section, I believe that this article is a logic article and should not contain political correctness.
Fine, but Ad feminam and Argumentum ad feminam still redirect here. The deleted section on gender-neutrality was specifically intended to deal with these redirects. I have no wish to re-insert the deleted material (which was only ever about debunking a misconception anyway), so I will make Ad feminam into a mini-article of its own (simply to explain why the term is a load of crap). Vilĉjo 23:32, 18 September 2006 (UTC)


I had minor objections to the following as examples:

"An ad hominem attack might go "Congressman Lieberman is a Jew. Don't trust him to preside over the banking committee.""

C'mon, we don't need even to mention anti-Semitism to illustrate the point.

"An ad hominem persuasion might be "How can you believe Johnson stole that money, he's a fellow Mason.""

I confess I don't see how this is an example of argumentum ad hominem. It resembles the circumstantial variety, but it isn't an attempt to discredit one's opponent. Maybe there's something called "ad hominem persuasion" that the article should explicitly describe, but I'd need to see evidence of such a thing.

"A defensive argument could be "Of course you believe Anita Hill, you're a woman.""

Again, let's not go there.  ;-) --Larry Sanger

Sorry about the italics, Larry, it just seemed over-italicized to me. I see your point, however. --Stormwriter
No problem of course, I appreciate someone who is concerned about over-italicization.  ;-) --Larry Sanger


I don't want to be overly negative, but this article is wildly inaccurate. Firstly "argumentum ad hominem" doesn't mean "argument against the man" but "argument to the man" (the original sense was flattery). "pro hominem" is hopeless: firstly "pro" takes the ablative, so this should be "pro homine", but anyway this type of argument is called "argumentum ad verecundiam" (literally, "argument to shame", used to refer to an appeal to authority). Where is this stuff coming from? --JohnKozak

I've never heard of "pro hominem" either. As far as I understand "ad hominem" means to the man, not necessarily positive or negative, as the above poster suggested. Though I see the point in mentioning that ad hominems can actually be positive and are not necessarily personal attacks, pulling some term out of thin air for it is not the right way to go about it. --Taak 04:11, 21 May 2004 (UTC)
Just something about the usage of Latin in this article.
User JohnKozak is wrong about "ad hominem": it does mean "against the man". "ad" + accusative is another way to tell "against"; it has indeed some slight difference if compared to "contra" + accusative, because it means more something like "directed to/against/in favour of somebody". Therefore "argumentum ad hominem" is proper.
Second note. The correct spelling of "female" in Classic Latin is "foemina", not "femina". "Femina" is Medieval Latin.
19:21, 3 February 2006

When ad hominems are valid[edit]

I was thinking of adding a couple of paragraphs about valid uses of ad hominem. Something like:

"Using the ad hominem form of argument is acceptable when it is impossible test the truth or falsity of some of an arguer's claims. In other words, the ad hominem attack is a logically valid form when "We can trust the arguer" is one of the necessary premises of the argument being criticized."

For example:

"Prof. Bainbridge collected evidence in favor of theory X. However, Bainbridge has been proven to falsify his evidence in the past, so I don't think the evidence he's collected this time ought to lend much support to theory X."

When it is merely impractical but not impossible to verify a particular premise of an argument like this, then it may be rational but not logical to accept an ad hominem argument. What do you guys think? --Taak 22:58, 9 May 2004 (UTC)

It's situational. How probable is it that Bainbridge has falsified evidence this time? Is it certain? Is it merely possible? What is at stake? etc.
The statement (I've inserted quotes) without qualification is ad hominem. The rationality of rejecting his evidence is influenced by the following statements: "We don't have time (or ability) to check his evidence and there is a good chance he is lying this time." "Bainbridge has been proven to falsify his evidence in the past and we've got time, let's look carefully to see if he has falsified evidence in this case." etc.
On a related topic, is there a pro hominem fallacy, where you accept someone's argument because of who they are, without reference or in spite of the facts? --M4-10 22:57, 14 May 2004 (UTC)
I would think that would be the inverse. "Prof. Bainbridge has a sterling reputation for always being completely honest and trustworthy. We can't verify his observations of a lunar eclipse in Antarctica on the exact moment of the commencement of the Age of Aquarius, so we will trust him." &etc. Really, we rely on this all the time: I've never done nor read the experiments proving that mercury causes brain damage, nor have I tested tuna fish for mercury. But I make sure I don't knowingly eat much mercury. --Maru (talk) Contribs 18:37, 29 November 2005 (UTC)
Your mercury example departs from "this." In the former example we are to guess about the truth of Prof. Bainbridge's unverifiable claims with no further evidence. Mercury poisoning is different, as it has been well-documented many times in history, and there doesn't seem to be any conflicting evidence that would suggest mercury is good for humans to eat. Yes, we do trust experts all the time, because nobody has time or resources to repeat every experiment and observation---but we don't trust individual experts, we trust the overwhelming consensus of many experts that we know to be checking up on each other carefully. --Teratornis 20:53, 6 January 2007 (UTC)
I've been thinking about ad hominem a bit and I'm not entirely satisfied with how it is presented. I'm not an expert in logic, and I know ad hominem is well documented. Therefore I'm not willing to make an edit at this time (I may later).
What is itching me is that I think ad hominem should only be applied to arguments, and not evidence. Evidence is an issue of credibility, and it is not a fallacy to reject evidence based on someone's lack of credibility if there is no way to prove it otherwise.
So: "John has frequently lied under oath, and therefore can't be trusted when he says he wasn't at the murder scene."
This would (under my definition) not be ad hominem because John has not given an argument, only (uncredible) evidence. Further, the speaker is making a full argument, with evidence ("John frequently lied under oath") leading to deductive reasoning ("therefore can't be trusted"). The above example may be a personal attack.
What is ad hominem then? Rejecting not evidence, but reason, based on the source of that reason.
"Ravens aren't pink because Bob says they are pink and Bob is blind."
Ravens aren't pink, but the reason they aren't pink is not because Bob is blind. The evidence is Bob's blindness, which can be true or false. But whether true or false, the argument is ad hominem fallacy.
The pro hominem fallacy can be illustrated by this example:

"Ravens are black because Bob says they are black and Bob is very smart."

Again, the evidence ("Bob is very smart") may be true or false, but the reason cited is fallacious ("Ravens are black because Bob says they are black.") --M4-10 07:20, 15 May 2004 (UTC)
Looking closer at the article, it more or less says what I said but the examples aren't very good.
"George W. Bush is a Republican; therefore, the argument he just gave is wrong."
"Another example is the rejection of a politician's proposal for health care reform simply because the politician "has never been sick a day in his life"."
"I obviously don't need to reply to Jones's arguments about creationism; everyone knows that he's a convicted felon."
"You needn't bother to listen to the trial arguments of the tobacco companies; after all, they're just defending their own multi-million-dollar financial interests."
All of these would be better served with actual arguments cited.
"You claim to be a fundamentalist Christian yet you support gay rights."
This one isn't an argument, it's just a statement.
Having gone through this mental exercise (thanks for reading!) I guess I can rightfully make some edits after all. Any logic masters can feel free to correct or augment me.
First of all - I'm sorry for my English, its not my mother language and I'm not very skilled in using it.
Now, I think the valid case is not explained well. It just gives examples, saying whenwithout really explaining why. The way I see it - the "truth" of claims is meaningless without being related to the properties of people. What we really say by "of course he'd say A - he is X" ("A" = claim, "X" = some property) - is that since most of the public is not X, and since A is true for X - then there is a large probability that A is not universally true for most of the public, and therefore our ad hominem claim (against A) is valid. In other words it relates to the probability of A being true, by showing that since A is true for some people even if its not "universally" true ("universally" being "true for most") - then there is a larger probability that A is not true (universally).
What do you think?

Just a thought, but it seems to me that there are some cases of undoubtedly valid ad hominems that are not covered in the article. Cf. the following.

-- I know this, I read it in der Spiegel.

-- How could you read it - you don't even know German?

In this case you aren't really using an ad hominem; instead you're pointing out a false premise. The person's argument was based on saying that he read something in german, however this is not possible because he doesn't know that language, so his statement about reading der Spiegel (the premise used on his argument) is false. It is important to point out that ad hominem is a fallacy of relevance; it seeks to confuse matters by inserting on the debate an issue that is irrelevant to it (such as a personal quality). In this case, the person's knowledge of a language is not irrelevant because one of the premises used on his argument is based on that.

As has been pointed out in the discussion above, section "Validity" mistakes the definition of ad hominem. An ad hominem argument consists in criticizing an irrelevant feature of the author of a statement rather than the subject of the statement itself. In the example cited in the article, it is by no means irrelevant to determine whether the person has commited perjury or not since its testimony will be taken into account during the trial; in other words, it will be one of the premises considered when a conclusion is reached. Other similar examples have been commented above.

"An ad hominem argument consists in criticizing an irrelevant feature of the author of a statement rather than the subject of the statement itself. In the example cited in the article, it is by no means irrelevant to determine whether the person has commited perjury or not since its testimony will be taken into account during the trial; in other words, it will be one of the premises considered when a conclusion is reached. Other similar examples have been commented above."

The above comment is wrong as far as concerns deductive logic. Technically speaking ad hominem is never valid from the standpoint of deductive logic as the person making the argument is irrelevant. The argument is faulty or valid on it's own merits. Any reference to credibility whether good (argumentum ad verecundiam), bad, or neutral is irrelevant. Therefore any mention of credibility is a fallacy in deductive logic. Other forms of logic may use it under the explanation above but deductive logic concerns itself only with premisses which are known to be facts.Quadzilla99 03:47, 18 August 2006 (UTC)

“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.]

Wpraeder 16:12, 20 January 2007 (UTC)

Common misunderstanding. There are actually several forms of logic, deductive, abductive, and inductive among others (such as Hegelian and the systems of countless other philosophers). Deductive logic refers only to things which can be proven beyond a doubt, and hence would never use a peron's character as a premise for obvious reasons. What I meant to say is that while that may be true in other forms of logic which attempt to approximate towards certain levels of truth, pure deductive logic would never use premisses such as a person's character or intellect as they cannot be a valid premise in deductive logic. Quadzilla99 09:44, 2 March 2007 (UTC)

Tu quoque[edit]

Is there anything to be written about the legal relevance of the tu quoque argument? Nuremberg Trials mentioned that the argument was "removed" but to me it seems as if no law could accept it. --Get-back-world-respect 22:51, 21 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Would the infamous retort "it takes one to know one" fall under this category of fallacy? --aspen 20:44, 8 Apr 2005 (UTC)

I made a technical correction. Perhaps I should have marked it as a "minor edit" but chose not to do so. The example given for the "You-too" form of the ad hominem tu quoque used the phrase "convicted of libel." I do not believe that libel has been made a crime in any U.S. jurisdictions and, therefore, one cannot be convicted of it. One can, however, be liable for libel or be sued successfully for libel in a civil proceeding. Any disagreement with this? --Ecoppola 17:20, 27 June 2006 (UTC)

Ad Hominem quiz for freshman writing classes[edit]

1. Is it an ad hominem fallacy to discredit a minister's argument about marriage on the grounds that he has never been married?
a. True
b. False

2. What is the literal translation of the Latin term Ad Hominem?
a. Against the man
b. Against the arguer
c. Contextless appeal that sound the same but has a different spelling.
d. Contextless appeal that sound the same but has a different meaning.

3. It still an ad hominem fallacy bring up some ones objectionable characteristics even when arguing over his qualifications for a task?
a. True, there is no pretence of rationality in logic.
b. True, a patter in a series is not a reasonable and suffichant basis for future events.
c. False, fallacies only apply to the clames of an argument not the argument it self.
d. False, people should be accountable for there past.

4. How is Ad hominem different than non-sequitor?
a. Every Ad Hominum is also a Non-sequitor, but not all Non-sequitor are Ad Hominum.
b. Ad Hominum is an illogical step between an arguer's undesirable traits and an arguer's clame, while non-sequitor is, specifically, unrelated statements put together quickly as to go unnoticed.
c. There is a lot of overlap. The type of fallacy a statement may be is purely a madder of argument for a person wishing to refute it.
d. The difference is completely semantic.

5. If two researchers have different results for the same experiment it is an ad hominem fallacy to assume the one from the less prestigious institute used sloppy methods?
a. False, It would be an unreliable source fallacy to assume both used correct methods.
b. False, ad hominum only applies to people not institutions.
c. True, assumptions based on factors, other than the research documentation, causes a self perpetuating cycle of scientific stagnation.
d. True, but only amongst researchers. If the statement was made by a person with no ability to judge the research, it would not be an ad hominum fallacy.

Article contains too much incorrect information[edit]

I'm going to rewrite large portions of this article some time soon because the authors who wrote them don't understand what ad hominem means. If there are any objections to this, please voice them here. There is a very common misconception going around, that ad hominem is simply an attack against the person you're arguing with, but that is not necessarily the case. Likewise, an 'attack' doesn't have to be name-calling or anything like that. It could simply be something like "you are wrong because you don't have a PhD in the subject."

There is a very important distinction that some, but not all parts of the article make between to types of attacks. Ad hominem attack: "Your argument is wrong because of [something about the person they are arguing with]."

  • "That piece of evidence may be true, but how could you possibly be right, you don't have any kind of degree or certification in this area."
  • "There's no way he could be right about this area of quantum physics, the guy dances around naked in his house!"

Non-ad hominem attack: "You're such a(n) [disparaging remark]. You are wrong because of [insert reasoning unrelated to the person]."

  • "These statistics from this highly credible polling agency clearly show that you're wrong about the prevalence of it. Why am I even arguing with this idiot? I should really learn to stop arguing with someone who couldn't even get a GED."
  • "That's it, you're too stupid to argue with, bye."
  • "Here's a comprehensive study showing why you're wrong. In the future I suggest that you take some courses in this before arguing about it."

See the distinction? If there's any confusion, I can clarify further.

Please note that there is an exception of sorts, if the person you're arguing with IS the subject of the argument, then you can attack the characteristics of the person which are relevant to the argument. Although I'm not sure if that's really an exception or just not considered ad hominem to begin with. It depends if you define ad hominem as "attacking the person as a basis for your argument" OR "attacking the person as a basis for your argument in place of attacking their argument." The latter definition has the exception built-in, since you'd be attacking the person in addition to (not in place of) their argument. --Nathan J. Yoder 6 July 2005 17:08 (UTC)

Inverted Ad Hominen is non-notable[edit]

When I correct the ad hominem article later, I'm zapping the 'inverted ad hominem' term. It is completely non-notable (86 hits in google) and was invented and inserted into the article by User:Layman. Heck, the article itself even attributes it to Layman, a random web user, as having said it.

There's a reason why the term wasn't invented by logicians too, because "inverted ad hominem" is still ad hominem. There's no "inverse" about it. The so-called "inverse ad hominem" is just a case of ad hominem where someone says "my qualifications are better than yours" instead of directly saying "your qualifications suck." The meaning is the same and there is no reason for another term.
I really don't think there is any question that this and the silly thing about it being coined should be removed. --Nathan J. Yoder 6 July 2005 17:19 (UTC)


It is true that I violated the neutrality principle in this case. It is also true that I have made my self-interest in this matter obvious. I have the deepest respect for the principle and for the Wikimedia project generally. Informal Logic is the only place I would be prepared to do so. My reasons and justifications for doing so are clearly expressed by the very content I have contributed. I believe this embedded self-reference makes the subject truly engaging and as such is aligned to the philosophic aims of Wikimedia. I maintain that the relationship between Ad Hominem and Appeal to Authority is significant and somewhat enlightening in regards to the nature of Informal Logical Fallacy. When I first committed this "crime" I expected an immediate reaction. I have been as surprised as anyone that my work here has stood for seven months. I had come to understand that this reflected the soundness of the logic involved. Is the logic flawed? Is there a way to appeal to higher authorities for an exemption to the rigid application of the neutrality principle in this particular case? If so; my contribution to the article stands as my case! --Layman 7 July 2005 02:44 (UTC)


Further: It only seems not-notable because it has not yet been notably noted. I maintain that the work/logic wrote itself and only the way it did based on the pre-existing context. The strong relationship between the two fallacies in question is well noted by recognizably credentialed logicians. You yourself noted it in your complaint except ironically concluded that; the thin disguise of an 'ad hominem' as an 'appeal to authority' is not an inversion of 'ad hominem' because it is still an 'ad hominem' ("The meaning is the same..."). I note here that it is an inversion because the same thin disguise is found in the other direction i.e. an 'appeal to authority' is often obviously only thinly disguised as an 'ad hominem' too! Of course, what is obvious depends on the observer in question.

Both fallacies are only the same 'red-herring' (a diversionary tactic which takes us to an irrelevant sub-argument about the arguer and not the argument itself) but that doesn't stop us distinguishing each as a useful sub-category! --Layman 8 July 2005 01:52 (UTC)

The rules are not going to be bent for you and they most certainly shouldn't. The term is non-notable no matter how you look at it, even you admit that you just invented the term yourself. In order for a term to be notable, there needs to be more than a very tiny number (mostly just you) of people using it. It's not helpful, it just serves to confuse people since "inverse ad hominem" implies that it's opposite to ad hominem, which it's not. It's just saying "I have superior credentials" instead of saying "You have inferior credentials." There is no difference as far as logic is concerned. --Nathan J. Yoder 8 July 2005 01:20 (UTC)
See "silly" above (we had a conflict in editing). Your right; the rules should not be bent for "me". I ask that they be bent for the sake of logic. --Layman 8 July 2005 01:53 (UTC)
No, the example of ad hominem at play here does not necessarily mean the person considers themselves an expert and it involves a direct comparison between the two arguers. An appeal to popularity is simply citing some expert as reason that you're right without regard to who your arguer is. A term is, by definition, non-notable if it's by practically no one. I'd like to know of which "credentialed logicians" have used that terms, because I've never seen it before. You can't add a new term just because you think it makes sense either, aside from neologisms not being allowed, that would also be along the lines of original research. --Nathan J. Yoder 8 July 2005 02:19 (UTC)
The Inverted Ad Hominem, imo, is a good one. I have had to use such a thing earlier on a discussion board. The argument went: "X is a nice guy and spent all his money on his research, therefore X's research should not be cast into doubt". Besides the apparent illogic of such an argument, I called it an "anti ad hominem" before I saw that this line of reasoning was called an "inverted ad hominem" here. Perhaps the term is nonsense, but it is a rather common logical fallacy these days, and as such needs to be defined in some way. Perhaps a logician classed this fallacy under another category, I don't know. But the fact of the matter is that it is doing the opposite of the ad hominem, rather than attacking someone based on something non-relevant to the discussion, it is defending someone based on something non-relevant to the discussion. But then again, we all do this everyday, stick up for our friends because their "a good friend" whether that has anything to do with the matter at hand. It is in our nature I suppose. -Xaira
That's just an appeal to emotion and appeal to authority. Nathan J. Yoder 8 July 2005 17:38 (UTC)
Isn't an ad hominem also an appeal to emotion and to (non) authority? Instead of saying "x is wrong because of y" it is "x is right because of y" when y has nothing to do with the issue at hand. They both appeal to our emotional sense of right and wrong. Both "You can trust his research, because he is an atheist" and "You can not trust his research, because he is an atheist" appeals to our own personal views on the unbiased/biased nature of atheists. Making a positive statement about somebody's moral character as an argument is as illogical as making a negative statement against somebody's moral character. In a debate the "inverted ad hominem", or whatever it should be called, is as much a logical fallacy as the regular ad hominem. --Xaira

A square is rectangle, but a rectangle is not necessarily a square. Please demonstrate that this term is notable. --Nathan J. Yoder 8 July 2005 19:41 (UTC)
Nathan, regarding your entry at 8 July 2005 02:19 (UTC). I must say I am starting to have a little trouble following you. I think there are several issues at play here and they are confusing each other. It would be nice to be able to whittle it down to a core issue but I'm not at all sure that will be possible. No harm in trying though, right?
I made no claim that credentialed logicians have used the term. What I did say was; "The strong relationship between the two fallacies in question is well noted by recognizably credentialed logicians." You have asked me to back this up with some evidence and I will. However, it was you who first made claims about logicians' reasoning processes. In particular you claim to know their reasons for not inventing the term. Quid pro quo!
You keep telling me what I can't do. I say simply; what's done is done! What you have not done is tackle what I thought were some clear questions on my part. Perhaps I wasn't clear enough!
Let me now be clear:
Will you and/or can you show me the rule that says; No relaxation of the rules can ever occur!?
The rule that says; How, when and by the authority of whom this may occur!? --Layman 9 July 2005 02:59 (UTC)
Please read Wikipedia:Neologism and take note of the google test. This fails miserably. The only exception that could be made is if it were just different a form of the same word/term, one that would be easily recognized, but it's not. It's claiming to be some sort of opposite, but it's not. Your argument that appeal to popularity and ad hominem have this relation is Wikipedia:No original research, which is also not allowed.
The opposite of ad hominem would be saying that the person is wrong because of a problem with their argument, which is not a logical fallacy. How the opposite becomes praising yourself is beyond me, since praising yourself is logically identical to denigrating the other person. Lastly, I'd like to say the meaning of "inverted ad hominem" is NOT self-evident, so to create a new term that even the top logicians would not only not recognize, but not understand, is silly. --Nathan J. Yoder 9 July 2005 18:51 (UTC)
You are simply not answering my questions, ignoring my points and counter points and generally being obstinate. I sympathize with your confusion but you are obviously not prepared to consider you may be confused at all. You are the first person who has expressed to me that its meaning is not self-evident and I have displayed it widely for seven months now. The term itself is irrelevant and I have noted that you have taken to saying "inverse ad hominem". Personally, I would be happy for it to be called as such. Then you might claim credit for the coinage - would that help?
Note; I edited a part of something I earlier wrote - it was slightly off. Check the history if you are curious. BTW, I'm not sure that it actually is a neologism, and in the sense that it might constitute original research I would say that all of Wikimedia is original research - we are after all talking about its very fabric and what that may be! --Layman 03:05, 10 July 2005 (UTC)
If your position in this argument is inverted are you now in a non-position or just a different one? Layman 18:34, 11 July 2005 (UTC)

I've answered all of your questions, please point to a single one that I have ignored. You haven't cited a single Wikipedia policy here to back you up, so I'm wondering on what basis this should actually be kept in. I may be the first to say the meaning is not self-evident, but has anyone actually said that it is self-evident in the first place? You're the only one I've seen who says it is self-evident. It surviving for 7 months doesn't mean that it's valid, it just means that no one has known enough or cared enough to bothering changing it. And no, it wouldn't help if I also received credit for it, do you really think this is a matter of my ego? I'm removing it because it simply shouldn't be there. Did you read the avoid neologisms and no original research pages yet? I really don't think you understand what they mean. If you really, REALLY want to keep it, I suggest putting up an RFC, but if you don't after a week I'll just nuke all the 'inverted ad hominem nonsense.' --Nathan J. Yoder 10:48, 18 July 2005 (UTC)

Tsk, Nathan: I'd've thought for sure you would've nailed him for arguing the seven months bit- that's obviously an argument from silence. --Maru (talk) Contribs 18:37, 29 November 2005 (UTC)

Oh dear[edit]

I'm afraid your argument is all over the shop. Now you seem to be attacking the IAH for undermining the credibility of Wikipedia by undermining that very credibility yourself. No, your right, the seven months don't necessarily mean it is valid, but nor do they necessarily mean that "no one has known enough or cared enough to bothering [sic] changing it". A conclusion you assert with extreme confidence. I'm afraid you confuse confidence with objectivity! Are you sure you want to go down this path? Wikipedia's very strength is also its very weakness. I tell you, this is unavoidable if Wikipedia is to be more than merely another authoritarian encyclopedia. I cite all the Wikipedia policies or "guidelines" to back me up, or more accurately, to back up the IAH! None of them ought to be taken in isolation. In particular, I cite; Point three in Wikipedia:Policy trifecta - "as a wiki: Ignore all rules - the suggested personal policy - Corollaries: Be bold, avoid instruction creep" and; Pillar Five of Wikipedia:Five pillars "Wikipedia doesn't have firm rules besides the four general principles elucidated above. Be bold in editing, moving, and modifying articles, because the joy of editing is that perfection isn't required." "Ah-Ha", I now here you saying. Pillar five clearly states "...besides the four general principles elucidated above". In particular, I am guessing, you will want to emphasize the first two, namely: Pillar one; Wikipedia is an encyclopedia. and Pillar two; Wikipedia uses the "neutral point-of-view". But, before we can argue effectively about the relevance (or 'irrelevance' as I would have it) of these two Pillars where it comes to matters of Informal Logic, I need you to understand what IL is! Do you firstly understand that IL is about “natural language”? Do you understand, for example; how the very capitalization of the term itself makes it effectively oxymoronic? Do you understand why even Logicians can't agree about a method for resolving differences of opinion in the Abstract-Sciences? Especially, where it comes to arguments about the methods for doing so! Do you understand why the very article in question states; "Regarding a logician's last argument it would seem that his/her status is only as relevant and valid as is her/his last argument"? Do you understand how a tool like Wikipedia might play a crucial role in overcoming these problems? Ed Poor sums the situation nicely on the Wikipedia:Appeal to authority article discussion page, where he says; "The appeal to authority is fallacious because Quine says so!" Personally, I would see that whole article consist only of this very paradox! Do you now understand why ‘authority’ generally only works if it is – quite paradoxically – subservient to it’s subordinates. Do you now understand why Logic is the issue here? Why logic itself is the only true authority, and why the question I most want answered of the ones you haven't yet - despite your firm assertion to the contrary - is; "Is the logic flawed?" Also, am I now to understand that you finally understand the official meaning of the word "inverted"? Do you now understand that; if your shirt is inverted it is simply, inside out, upside-down, back-to-front or some such, but certainly not a non-shirt? No, I didn't mean to suggest that your ego is the problem here. But that, maybe you felt mine was! I was saying; I will be happy to compromise on the apparent self-credit. Particularly, I'd be happy for the line about the IAH being a new term coined by yours-truly, to be changed. You have managed to convince me that IAH is in fact not a neologism. I have been asking myself why for example; you have been insisting that IAH represents the neologism “crime” to you, but you don’t seem to have the same problem with the word combination “Regular Ad Hominem”. Nor for that matter do you seem to have a problem with other obvious neologisms in the article i.e. “fallacy-monger”. I have only been able to guess that it is my self-reference which is really bothering you. The apparent focus of your otherwise scattered attacks would seem to bare this conclusion out. I assure you, I included the self-reference for the obvious reasons yes, but only justified, to myself, doing so because it seemed the honest thing to do, and because I believed that doing so would add positively to the message of the article. I must say in closing though, that your offer of a week's grace to allow for me to act on your suggestion of "putting up an RFC" seems reasonable. Even if I can't quite work out why this should be my responsibility, I am now planning on doing just that. --Layman 05:24, 20 July 2005 (UTC)

This has nothing to do with the credibility of anything. This isn't the time nor the place to debate philosophy. The "policy trifecta" page isn't a policy and it doesn't support you anyway. If you look at the five pillars, specifically pillar one, it specifically mentions not using original research and not inserting your opinions/arguments. That's exactly what you're doing here, you're conducting what is essentially original research and inserting your own views into the article. Look at pillar two, it links to Wikipedia:Cite your sources, which you aren't doing.
You really need to get off the "lets debate the philosophy of informal logic" bandwagon. It just doesn't cut it for an encyclopedia. An encyclopedia is not the place to invent completely new terms that are completely unrecognized by people in a field.
I can't answer you question because it's totally ambiguous and all you're spewing out here is tons of pseudo-philosophical fluff. Is WHAT logic flawed? Is ad hominem flawed logic? Yes. Is appeal to authority flawed logic? Yes. I failed to see what your point is.
You still have been completely unable to demonstrate that this is anything other than a neologism and that anyone beyond a tiny group of people understand what this term means. Any other neologisms in the article should be removed as well, but I thank you for that ad hominem attack against me. --Nathan J. Yoder 19:07, 20 July 2005 (UTC)

Sorry Nathan[edit]

But if, "[t]his has nothing to do with the credibility of anything", then I completely fail to see how anyone (barring mental handicap of course) whosoever could not completely fail to see how any rules (including Wikipedia's very own) are relevant to anything at all. As Dan Dennett points out in Darwin’s Dangerous Idea - "Either the net stays up, or it stays down." What he is explaining is how an argument can only descend to absurdity if your opponent refuses to play by the rules of logic. In fact, you have now crucially contradicted yourself and I claim total victory in this particular argument. I urge you to concede gracefully or go away quietly. I will await your successor with much anticipation. BTW, thank you for drawing our attention to yet another version of the fallacy of Changing The Subject – namely the Irrelevant Fallacy fallacy. Of course now, I too have committed this fallacy by pointing out your own effort. However if either of us had rested our case crucially on doing so or crucially claimed the other had, then we would have had the Irrelevant Fallacy Fallacy fallacy. Cheers! --Layman 14:28, 21 July 2005 (UTC)

Uhm, what? Wikipedia's rules exist to make a good encyclopedia, if you can't see that then you really shouldn't be contributing to Wikipedia at all. Wikipedia exists to be a good encyclopedia, regardless of what others think, so it's not an issue of whether others think it's credible or not. This isn't the whatever-layman-says-goes-un-encyclopedia.
If you don't understand the purpose of rules, then I really can't help you. I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about w/r/t to me refusing to play with the rules of logic, what rules of logic am I not obeying? Where exactly have I contradicted myself? You're not making the slightest bit of sense. It seems you're also intent on making up other fallacies, there is no "irrelevant fallacy fallacy" and there is no general "fallacy of changing the subject." Ignoring for a moment that I never changed the subject, it's not a fallacy to change the subject and it at your own admittance you're being a hypocrite by violating your own self-invented fallacy, so I'm not really sure what the heck your point is.
You really aren't making any sense here. --Nathan J. Yoder 17:33, 22 July 2005 (UTC)
Well of course, if you say so Nathan, that must be the case! (That was sarcasm in case you couldn't work it out) So, this is about goodness but not credibility? Give me a break! --Layman 07:53, 23 July 2005 (UTC)

"Inverted Ad Hominem"[edit]

Layman is right and so including “Inverted Ad Hominem” and it’s definition in the encyclopedia is completely justified. --karl 22:13, 21 July 2005 (UTC)

Thanks for the support, karl, but I wouldn't want to claim quite as much just yet. --Layman 07:01, 22 July 2005 (UTC)


I want to see the fun in this little argument so I thought I just let you know my opinion. There are obviously various variations of “Ad Hominem“ arguments, and while you two are going through some actually applying them while you go along you might as well define them with various terms. Doing that shows there is a use for the particular term in question and that justifies the entry in this encyclopaedia. --Karl 07:47, 22 July 2005 (UTC)

Huh? You're saying that because there are different versions of Ad Hominem that we should automatically put in any other version of AH that someone decides to make up? How the heck does using other versions of Ad hominem that are well established justify using this "inverted ad hominem"? Following your strange logic, I can just make up a new one on the spot and include it in the article. It's called Footastic Ad Hominem. Whenever Karl suggests that njyoder is wrong, Karl is using Footastic Ad Hominem, I think I'll go insert it into the article now! --Nathan J. Yoder 17:38, 22 July 2005 (UTC)
Well, I don’t think we should automatically invent new definitions in these cases. Only when there seems a real need for it. Lets debate whether there is a need for it or not. But that kind of flexibility and openness is one of the great assets of Wikipedia, don’t you think?
In some other little argument I once (jokingly) called something similar to what you just did a “reflexive ad hominem”. You say that I imply you were wrong, but I don’t. I actually think you are a quite sensible person and you are doing a great job here. Nevertheless you state I were using a “Footastic Ad Hominem“ argument against you. :-) And just that is a “reflexive ad hominem”. I never said you were wrong Nathan, I never said anything about you at all apart from that you were exchanging various ad hominem arguments with Layman.
And as for the “Inverted Ad Hominem” I still think it is a precise definition for a very special way of argumentation and so it seems perfect to be added including it’s example. But then, I’m happy either way it is dealt with.
Don't worry Nathan, I will not add the “reflexive ad hominem” to the encyclopedia. :-) --karl 13:35, 25 July 2005 (UTC)
I've already discussed this, the so-called "inverted ad hominem" is really just ad hominem. There is no difference between saying "I'm right because I'm smart" and "You're wrong because you're not smart." The latter would supposedly be inverted ad hominem, even though they are logically equivalent. In step 2 of inverted ad hominem it even says there is a direct implication that it's a criticism of something that the person is lacking, which fits the definition of ad hominem perfectly. The only possible inverse you could argue is a grammatical one, not a logical one. I could say "I'm right because I'm not a complete blithering moron" and it would be inverted ad hominem despite there being absolutely no difference between that and just explicitly saying "you're a complete blithering moron." --Nathan J. Yoder 16:43, 25 July 2005 (UTC)

Inverted Ad Hominem (RFC)[edit]

A google search for "inverted ad hominem" -wikipedia -encyclopedia [to eliminate most wikipedia mirrors] yields only 40 results. Only 18 of those results are unique (Google omitted overlapping results that are very similar). There are 99 results without eliminating wikipedia mirrors, with only 27 if you exclude overlapping results.

As explained above, the term is coined by the guy who inserted it into the article, it's recognized practically nowhere and its meaning is not self-evident.

The user who inserted it into the article (User:Layman) has also decided to start recruiting people from 'the brights' forum to come to this article to defend him to produce a skewed result. Neither Layman nor the people he's recruiting (including Karl above) seem to understand Wikipeda guidelines and policies. the-brights forum post recruiting people --Nathan J. Yoder 17:58, 22 July 2005 (UTC)

I can assure you that this added confusion by recruitment was not my intention. Karl, as far as I can tell, can do what he likes.
Nathan, am I to deduce that you would like to start another argument about this? because I can assure you your first effort is finished! Will you agree, to start with this time, that integrity - specifically the integrity of IAH, the AH article and Wikipedia, - is the issue you have? --Layman 07:39, 23 July 2005 (UTC)
Actually, I've changed my mind. You couldn't deal with 'credibility' so what hope have we got with 'integrity'?! (those two symbols-together mean the question is rhetorical so please don't answer that) I've been trying to walk you slowly back through this but I've had to face the truth - It seems I can't go slow enough for you! Let's cut to the chase. The rules go directly to structure, which goes directly to integrity, which goes directly to credibility. That's where you lost it last time.
You want to talk about the rules?! (again rhetorical) Let's talk about the rules! Answer me this:
Did and/or do the rules apply to the people who wrote/write them when they wrote/write them? --Layman 10:44, 23 July 2005 (UTC)
Sigh, you just don't get it and you never will. Your term is stupid and doesn't make sense, but no amount of reasoning will make you get that. You don't seem to want to obey the rules either, which were put there for a reason and were made for this kind of situation, there is nothing exceptional about this. The rules applied de facto to the people when they wrote them, once they wrote them they applied de jure.
But hey, if you want to ignore the rules which make perfect sense and apply very precisely to this situation go ahead. Insert a term which doesn't make sense, which practically no one knows, which is actually just regular ad hominem and whose meaning is not self-evident. Go ahead and see where that gets you.
Oh and I suggest you drop the pseudo-philosophical nonsense, it might cut it in your high school philosophy club, but not here. --Nathan J. Yoder 14:35, 23 July 2005 (UTC)
It is a simple question Nathan! Yes, no or maybe? I'll take it as somewhere between yes and maybe and assume that you've anticipated my next question. You seem to be saying that you don't expect those people to have needed to cite their sources. They just kind of know what rules make sense, yes? --Layman 16:50, 23 July 2005 (UTC)
I already answered you, read more carefully next time. I'm not going to repeat myself because you're too clouded with emotions to read properly. --Nathan J. Yoder 14:28, 24 July 2005 (UTC)
Nathan, you are the only person in the whole world who is arguing with me about this. You do a lot of this sort of arguing don't you? Are you familiar with the Gambler's Fallacy and the Inverse Gambler's Fallacy? --Layman 01:45, 25 July 2005 (UTC)
I'm not sure the relevance of me being the only person in the world arguing with you about this is. There are only a total of 3 people who have ever discussed this on Wikipedia, so that's a rather meaningless statement, ignoring the fallacy behind it if it were used as evidence of me being wrong. I'm familiar with both of those, but they have nothing to do with this. --Nathan J. Yoder
And, many more who have viewed the article. Yet still only one interlocutor regarding it after all this time. That doesn't mean he's wrong, but I still fail to see why he is right. I have been trying, but have lost hope that he could recognize a rational argument if it bit him. Perhaps he should go back again, this time without his dogmatic authoritarian views, and try to understand the article. Perhaps he should also try to understand that Wikipedia is a poor hunting ground for politically ambitious, so minded fascists. Your own behavior my friend is at best self-defeating around here. The IAH makes its own case for its very inclusion! However, I no longer have any hope that him doing so is actually possible! Unless you can come up with at least one rational person to support you in this argument, it is finished! --Layman 02:50, 26 July 2005 (UTC)
P.S. Not to mention all those who have actively participated in editing the article in the meantime! You are merely one ignorant bully! --Layman 03:04, 26 July 2005 (UTC)
We'll ignore for a moment that this is an appeal to popularity (despite you pretending it's not actually part of your argument--I know you're trying to slip it in there as being relevant). Regardless of how many people have viewed the article, there are still only 3 people who have discussed it, EVER. You have consistently made incredibly dumb arguments and managed to be incoherent over and over again. The only one being ambitious here is you, by ignoring all logic, reason and rules and trying to insert your term just to satisfy your own ego that your idea here is anything other than a poorly thought out idea. So far you have had no rational people to come support you here, so I'm not sure why you're demanding I do the same. All you've done is repeatedly ignore my arguments and spew pseudo-philosophical/pseudo-intellectual nonsense to cover up for your utter inability to defend yourself. --Nathan J. Yoder 09:13, 27 July 2005 (UTC)
Here from RfC: The Latin translation is indeed "argument to the man." Based on that and what I've read of logical fallacies I agree with User:Njyoder. What -[User:Layman]] is calling "inverse ad hominem" is simply ad hominem. --KathL 14:34, 27 July 2005 (UTC)

comment from FuelWagon[edit]

This "inverted ad hominem" seems like an invented term. The description given sounds like an appeal to authority or an appeal to the people, or even a subtle ad hominem. All logical fallacies have some overlap, so this could even be considered to be a false cause fallacy, or a red herring. None of the standard sites I use for explaining logical fallacies mention "inverted ad hominem". The term appears to already be covered by a number of different, already existing fallacies. I see no legitimate reason to give such a marginal term equal credit with a standard definition as "ad hominem". If removing the term complete causes a revert war due to editor insistence of this term being mentioned, then, at the very most, put one sentence at the bottom of the article mentioning "inverted ad hominem" and give a URL to a site that defines it. Don't define it. Just mention it is a marginal term and give a URL. That's my opinion. --FuelWagon 20:12, 27 July 2005 (UTC)

The one and only site (aside from Wikipedia and its mirrors) that defines it is a web forum on "the brights" website. That is the forum where the guy who invented the term created it (User:Layman) and it is also the same guy who inserted it into the article. The only support given on Wikipedia for it, other than by Layman himself, is another person who he recruited from that same forum. This is definitely not a term you'd find in a book or website about logical fallacies. --Nathan J. Yoder 15:06, 28 July 2005 (UTC)

Comment from Gkhan[edit]

I can't believe this is still being discussed. Inserting inverted ad hominem is a CLEAR breach of policy. Here is the relevant equation:

Layman invents term + Term is virtually unknown + Layman inserts it into article = WP:NOR breach

Now, I am not saying this is the only policy it breaches, clearly the topic is non-notable and therefore not encyclopedic. I am just saying that it is the most obvious one. I am 100% behind Njyoder in this. Layman's argument that just because nobody is discussing with him except Njyoder therefore he is right is ridiculous (you could say it is an Inverted Argumentum ad populum. Hey, look at that, now I have invented a fallacy). --gkhan 10:17, July 29, 2005 (UTC)

Another comment[edit]

This is original research. It appears to be a new word for argumentum ad verecundiam, or something close. --Christopher Parham (talk) 01:04, 2005 July 30 (UTC)

Indeed - credit to Nathan for being so patient - i also fail to see any difference between 'inverted' and common-or-garden ad hominem - should be removed completely. --Petesmiles 03:24, 30 July 2005 (UTC)


You're clearly correct on the points you've made. And you've been promising to fix it for three weeks now. I just went ahead and edited it, more along the lines of a clearer, simpler, and more correct earlier version. Feel free to rewrite or improve as you see fit. We really could use some references and external links here, too. --Acerimusdux 07:16, 30 July 2005 (UTC)

Thanks for making the edits. I do admit I'm a bit lazy, but I didn't change it sooner because I thought that Layman himself would have made the RFC and responses (for consensus--to avoid a revert war) would have been quicker. I'm glad this is over with. Just so I don't come off as totally lazy, I promise that sometime between the next week and 10 years I'll insert some references into this article. --Nathan J. Yoder 09:48, 30 July 2005 (UTC)

comment from SaltyPig (against "inverted ad hominem")[edit]

for years i've been bemoaning the never-ending permutations (or even just examples) of classic fallacies which some logic sites attempt to quantify with needless, official-sounding terms. similarly, i loathe the attempts by User:Layman to noodge his invented and, IMO, distorting, cutesy, and unnecessary term into the article. but fortunately for this discussion, my opinion of the term is irrelevant, as User:Njyoder correctly concluded; it's an obvious violation of wikipedia standards. argument for or against the term's value should take place somewhere other than article talk pages. thanks to nathan for taking the time to fight this battle he never should have had to.

BTW, i propose that what Aristotle called ad hominem henceforth be known as reverse polarity inverted ad hominem, and that this article be moved to that more modern title. --SaltyPig 10:41, 2 August 2005 (UTC)

comment from Saxifrage[edit]

Clearly this term is novel and supported by only original research. There should be no debate—it does not belong in the article. User:Layman, use your considerable logical faculties to see how this inevitably follows from the premises laid out in WP:NOR.  — Saxifrage |  22:18, August 15, 2005 (UTC)

comment from Ajax1973[edit]

Layman's term is correct and instead of ganging up on him and making fun of him you guys should at least acknowledge it's something that's not covered in the article as it is now. I came here looking almost explicitly for the concept he defined as Inverted Ad Hominem and was disappointed not to see it until I saw this discussion, which was pretty horrifying to read. Inverted Ad Hominem is not solely confined to "appeal to authority":

"When senator Zell Miller went up to the podium at the RNC last year, the fact that he was a Democrat made his endorsement of Bush, a Republican, more compelling regardless of the points he was making."

Being a Democrat does not mean one has more "authority" in politics, hence it is not an "appeal to authority". Rather, "appeal to authority" is a special case of Layman's Inverted Ad Hominem. The example above operates as the same device that Layman's neologism describes. In addition, the term "ad hominem defense" turns up 322 times on Google, including an arbitration dispute on wikipedia.

Argument from Intimidation[edit]

I haven't seen this particular form of Ad Hom included, but then I don't even know if it is worthy of inclusion. I read about it reading Ayn Rand. It consists of insulting a third party.

X people support idea Y. You're much smarter than X people, surely you don't support idea Y.

She called it Argument from Intimidation, that you would be intimidated away from idea Y because you don't want to be associated with people X. --Harvestdancer 22:42, 4 August 2005 (UTC)

Are you sure that wasn't that danish guy who wrote that story about a king or emperor or something :P? --gkhan 11:26, August 8, 2005 (UTC)
It's probably the same idea, but I read about it in a Rand essay. She gave it the name "Argument from Intimidation" and described it instead of telling a story about it. --Harvestdancer 20:44, 9 August 2005 (UTC)
That's an appeal to vanity, not argument from intimidation. Trying to sway the person on the basis that they're "smarter than that" is the classic example. --Nathan J. Yoder 04:36, 4 October 2005 (UTC)

Attacking the messenger[edit]

I added this synonym, although I am aware of some confusion and cross-usage of two similar phrases with different meanings:

  • "Attacking the messenger" usually refer to the logical fallacy of saying we should reject an argument because of the person speaking on it's behalf.

--StuRat 14:03, 29 October 2005 (UTC)

Pre-emptive ad hominem[edit]

Is there such a thing as "pre-emptive ad hominem"? I'm not sure what it is (or should be) called. But you see it all the time. For example: "Only an idiot would think that marijuana is dangerous." This statement attacks any potential opponents before they even speak up. Anyone who disagrees is then afraid to speak their mind because to do so would be to automatically get labelled as an idiot. - Is there a name for that kind of statement? I'm pretty sure "pre-emptive ad hominem" isn't it. -- 18:19, 7 November 2005 (UTC)

I don't know how to classify that, but do have another example: "Only traitors would oppose the war in Iraq". The same argument could be made against any opponents of any war in which the country in question is currently engaged. --StuRat 18:31, 7 November 2005 (UTC)

"Pre-emptive ad hominem"? I like it! Layman 00:09, 5 December 2005 (UTC)

can we add some examples?[edit]

can we add some examples?

Bay's Logic Rule[edit]

Layman's argumnts make my head hurt; Nathan's do not. Therefor Nathan is right. Ooh, I'll go write a wiki article about it! Kuroune 06:05, 10 February 2006 (UTC)

Ad Hominem used to discredit testimony[edit]

Just because it can legitimately be used to cast a shadow of a doubt on testimony doesn't mean that the usage is not logically fallacious. It doesn't PROVE the testimony wrong, which is what logic needs to do. -Raijinili 01:55, 13 February 2006 (UTC)


My Latin is nearly non-existent, wht is the plural for ad hominem? From the text on the page, and reason, an attack can be mae agianst more than one person, or a class of people, rather than an individual. In another page the assertion was made that the argument could not be ad hominem because it applied to a whole profession, which I take to be incorrect, except as to grammar. Midgley 00:24, 14 February 2006 (UTC)

The Latin plural is ad homines; however, I have never heard the term used (in English), and would expect ad hominem to be used even where the reference is to more than one person, or an entire group (e.g. a profession). Vilcxjo 01:52, 4 March 2006 (UTC)
For what it's worth, the Latin plural for argumentum ad hominem (multiple attacks, each against a single person) would be argumenta ad hominem. For a single attack on multiple people, it would be (as Vilcxjo said) argumentum ad homines. For multiple attacks on multiple people: argumenta ad homines. --Malirath 20:24, 12 July 2006 (UTC)

Ad Feminam[edit]

The opening paragraphs discuss "Ad feminam" more than they discuss "Ad hominem". I would suggest moving the paragraph beginning "The derived neologism ad feminam..." somewhere else in the article (possibly the subtypes section?). It seems confusing that so much space is given over to a topic that is not the subject of the article so early on. Or, if any one thinks the term warrants it, they could make an article for it, and just add a link.

Thoughts anyone? MartinRobinson 21:22, 3 March 2006 (UTC)

Absolutely agree. Though the ad feminam "variant" is indeed a complete nonsense, it hardly merits its current prominence, even if the prominence is for the purposes of debunking. (Is it really used? are people really that ignorant? – OK, rhetorical question …) Vilcxjo 02:00, 4 March 2006 (UTC)
I don't know where it should go, though – it's not really a subtype, as it has no distinguishing characteristics (other than its users' inability to understand the terminology). It really just needs to be relegated to a footnote (hopefully a scornfully dismissive one.) Vilcxjo 02:21, 4 March 2006 (UTC)
I would agree that it is unclear as to where the section should go, which is what's holding me back in moving it somewhere. On one hand, if the term originates from the term "ad hominem" and enjoys even limited popular usage, then I guess there is an argument for mentioning it somewhere within the article. On the other hand though, "sexist prejudice" on its own is hardly a logical fallacy (which is what this page relates to), and just because a term originates from another, it does not necessarily mean that it should be mentioned. For instance, the page History makes no mention of the neologism Herstory.
The more I think about it, the more I feel that it might not have a place in this article. MartinRobinson 03:22, 4 March 2006 (UTC)
I have moved it down the page and rewritten it somewhat, in the "Usage" section with a subheading of "Abusage". If any one can think of a better way to handle it, by all means do so! BTW, I have removed references to its use for describing sexism, since (as Martin points out) that has nothing to do with the subject of logical fallacy. Vilcxjo 18:33, 4 March 2006 (UTC)
I like it. I'm not sure if "Abusage" is the correct term to use (perhaps "neologisms"?), but the intention is clear for both the reader and any editors who can think of a better way to phrase it. I'm still unconvinced it belongs in the article at all, but I guess it does no harm, and it's there incase anyone ever comes looking for it. I wonder if anyone ever does? Both ad feminam and Argumentum ad feminam redirect here, and the only other instance in Wikipedia is in the middle of a long list of Latin phrases - surely anything that's written in Latin is a "latin phrase"? So, I would argue its appearance there hardly adds to its validity. MartinRobinson 20:52, 4 March 2006 (UTC)
I too doubt whether it should be here at all, but given the redirects, it is hard to avoid some mention of the term. As to the heading: it seems to me to be a "usage" issue more than anything else, but a mistaken one, hence the (perhaps slightly obscure) implied reference to Partridge's Usage and Abusage. Not especially elegant, I grant you, but the idea was to flag up in the title that it was a misunderstanding, not a (legitimate) neologism. As usual, suggested improvements are welcome … Vilcxjo 01:06, 5 March 2006 (UTC)
Section re-designated "Gender neutrality" (and slightly re-written.) Vilĉjo 17:52, 21 March 2006 (UTC)

Clarification of Terminology[edit]

Wikipedia states: “An ad hominem argument, also known as argumentum ad hominem (Latin, literally "argument to the man") or attacking the messenger, is a logical fallacy that involves replying to an argument or assertion by attacking the person presenting the argument or assertion rather than the argument itself.” Is this statement entirely accurate? Is an ad hominem argument always a logical fallacy? In that light I pose this linked pondering [1] for your consideration. Wpraeder 12:30, 5 March 2006 (UTC)

Isn't this covered in the article?
"Ad hominem is fallacious when applied to deduction, and not the evidence (or premise) of an argument. Evidence may be doubted or rejected based on the source for reasons of credibility, but to doubt or reject a deduction based on the source is the ad hominem fallacy.
Premises discrediting the person can exist in valid arguments, when the person being criticized is the sole source for a piece of evidence used in one of his arguments."
Or have I misunderstood your concern? MartinRobinson 15:11, 5 March 2006 (UTC)

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 ad hominem argument is a logical fallacy. It also appears later to say it is not fallacious when applied to evidence (or premise). The only concern is - is an ad hominem argument a logical fallacy by definition or must we insert the concept of relevance? It is a minor 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. Wpraeder 16:41, 5 March 2006 (UTC)

Yes, I see your point. However, I would argue that the opening statement "An ad hominem a logical fallacy that involves replying to an argument or assertion by attacking the person presenting the argument or assertion rather than the argument itself." is compatible with the later assertion that "Ad hominem is fallacious when applied to deduction, and not the evidence (or premise) of an argument.". Certainly, the opening statement makes no mention of ad hominem being valid when applied to evidence, but I don't feel it's inconsistent. An ad hominem argument is surely always fallacious when used to respond to an argument (as opposed to responding to the premise for an argument)?
Regardless, it could maybe do with being stated somewhat plainer. MartinRobinson 15:17, 6 March 2006 (UTC)

I agree the opening statement could be stated in a more easily understood fashion. I'm fine with your suggested approach. A more detailed review of the topic of ad hominem terminology can be found at the following link [2]. Wpraeder 00:50, 7 March 2006 (UTC)

I have added a caveat onto the end of the first paragraph. It is not an elegant solution by any means, as it is solely an attempt at removing any confusion caused by the preceding sentence, as opposed to an attempt at clarifying that sentence. If anyone can think of a way to phrase the sentence in such a fashion that the caveat is no longer required, they should feel free to do so. MartinRobinson 20:36, 8 March 2006 (UTC)

Thank you for adding the useful qualification. I think it is an improvement. We still have an interesting challenge for the Wikipedia community where we essentially say that the ad hominem argument is a logical fallacy that does not always involve fallacious reasoning. There is no hurry, but I would encourage discussion on further clarification of the surrounding terminology. Note 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. Wpraeder 09:44, 9 March 2006 (UTC)

I've had another attempt at clarifying things. Your thoughts are both encouraged and welcome. MartinRobinson 17:06, 21 March 2006 (UTC)
Current version a huge improvement, IMO. Vilĉjo 17:52, 21 March 2006 (UTC)

Other definitions include: “ad hominem [L. 'to the person'] is shortened from the LATINISM argumentum ad hominem (= an argument directed not at the merits of an opponent’s argument but to the personality or character of the opponent).” [ Brian A. Garner, The Garner’s Modern American Usage Second Edition (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003) 17. ]

“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 21:03, 20 January 2007 (UTC)

Pointing out fallacy as ad hominem?[edit]

I'm a bit perplexed by:

Ironically, accusing an opponent of ad hominem can itself be an example of ad hominem if it is worded as an insult: "I'm not going to stand here and let him insult me!" or "My opponent is resorting to logical fallacy to win." or "Since he is out of good argument, he's attacking me." (partial Argument from silence)

I get it, except for the "My opponent is resorting to logical fallacy to win" bit being an example of ad hominem. Is it the "to win" part that makes it so? Surely pointing out that your opponent is using fallacious reasoning is not always ad hominem? Would that not result in all logical arguments being ad hominem, since they are but steps away from implying that the other person is using fallacious reasoning? --TreyHarris 23:05, 2 April 2006 (UTC)

That paragraph should be edited out since it's incorrect. Ad hominem is an invalid type of argument, therefore a phrase can only be used as an example of it in case it has premises and a conclusion, which is required to form an argument. The examples above ("I'm not going to stand here and let him insult me!" and “My opponent is resorting to logical fallacy to win.") are just statements, and therefore can't be used as examples of ad hominem. Notice that saying: "My opponent is using an ad hominem (premise), THEREFORE (indicates a transition from premises to conclusion --> an argument) he is WRONG (conclusion)." is indeed a logical fallacy, since it's an appeal to logic (argumentum ad logicam). The conclusion is not necessarily incorrect because it has been achieved with an absurd argument; it is possible that the correct conclusion has been found by accident. When a conclusion is found using incorrect arguing, it is impossible to say whether it is true or false, it is only possible to state that the conclusion cannot be achieved in that way.


"This form of the argumentum ad hominem is..."

It is unclear which particular form this statement refers to. Previous versions of this sentence simply states "The argumentum ad hominem is a...". The sentence could also use a citation. Shawnc 03:27, 10 April 2006 (UTC)

this article needs revision[edit]

As it is, the article here is a heaven for hack logicians, the sort who don't understand what role emotion plays in arguments between human beings. We need to stress that ad hominem attacks aren't the Devil, but a pitfall in rational arguments. By rational arguments, I mean significant and sensible rational arguments, not schoolyard debates like the sort I'm used to leading, where the parties opposite me neither have any empathy for anything but themselves nor wish to produce any. (That has happened...) --VKokielov 14:34, 26 April 2006 (UTC)


The two sentances attributed to the American Heritage Dictionary provided clarity. It was deleted with a comment "appeal to authority," which is sort of funny that someone would so mischaracterize a logical argument in an article largly about logic. However, apart from the silly comment, some editors may feel uncomfortable with the heavy referencing from another source. I haven't reverted it to allow others to weigh in and make their choice. The sentances were: The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language reported[3] that 65 percent of its usage panel found the following sentence to be acceptable: "It isn't in the best interests of the nation for the press to attack him in this personal, ad hominem way." They further report that the phrase ad hominem has also "acquired a use as a noun denoting personal attacks," and is "gaining ground in journalistic style" as in the following quote from The Washington Post: "Notwithstanding all the ad hominem, Gingrich insists that he and Panetta can work together." 16:57, 3 August 2006 (UTC)

Before anything else, please notice that we are trying to cooperate to write an article together. As for the paragraph in question, it failed to explain the reasons why "The American Heritage Dictionary Of The English Language" supports its position. The citation merely consists in repeating several times a conclusion: that the expression "ad hominem" (notice: not "argumentum ad hominem", the logical concept) is often used as a synonym of "personal attack". This may certainly be true, but not because "The American Heritage Dictionary Of The English Language" says so; perhaps if one would specify why it says so, it would be possible to find a good reason for this. The only attempt to do so is to state that 65% of its board agrees with this conclusion, but again the reason why they agree with it is not commented, neither are we presented to the reason why 35% of it does not agree with the same conclusion. This is solely based on the number of people who support the position, a clear case of the ad numerum fallacy. Returning to the paragraph, to cite a source merely on grounds of its credibility rather than the reasons it presents to support its conclusion is a clear case of appeal to authority. It is legitimate to discuss whether this interpretation is correct or not, but doing so only by stating that the editor who noted this is "funny", does not comprehend logic ("mischaracterizition", while not explaining why it is so) and is "silly" is a clear example of the argument against the person (please refer to ad hominem) and does not prove it is not an appeal to authority. Also, the major part of the section in question consisted in citing sources; the only thing to learn from it was that the expression "ad hominem" may mean "personal attack" in common language. In this case, it would seem better to open a "bibliography" section to cite sources rather than writing a section that mostly consists only in citations. 21:32, 3 August 2006 (UTC)

I think you just passed "silly." Your argumentum verbosium aside, Argumentum ad populum is only a fallacious argument when the question is NOT one of widespread acceptance. Language, however, is all about numerosity. If you want to try to convince linguists that they should no longer use linguistic descriptivism for usage debates, be my guest. I, however, am done with this distraction from the actual point of this sub-section. 00:47, 4 August 2006 (UTC)

In his first comment in this discussion, my fellow editor - or should I say my enemy, as he seems to prefer - made several (unprovoked) personal remarks, attempting to discredit me enough to push his views on the subject at hand. He received a reply where I refrained from any kind of personal comments, hoping that this would steer the discussion back into civilized terms. My opponent, however, was not satisfied by this, and decided to insult me once again ("I think you just passed silly"). Then he leashes out and accuses me of committing some random fallacy, a claim to which he offers no justification whatsoever. He states that ad numerum is not a fallacy in some cases, and dictates that "language is all about numerosity", but as usual we don't have the pleasure of learning why we should believe that truth comes from number rather than from reason. He comes up with yet another appeal to authority (with the linguists comment). As usual, he has attempted to discuss the other editor instead of offering reasons to support the inclusion of his two sentances(sic) to this article. 15:59, 4 August 2006 (UTC)

It's clear that argumentum ad hominem and personal attacks are two different things. Not all arguments against the person consist in personal attacks; they can use several other strategies as well, as covered in the article. In the other hand, not all personal attacks are part of arguments, since they are often just statements. Therefore, merging both articles seems incorrect. They have an area in common, however, so I do believe the articles should link to each other. I'm removing the merge proposal. 01:13, 19 August 2006 (UTC)

Simply wrong[edit]

"Ad hominem" in New Latin means "to the person," not "at the person." There should be no argument there. The meaning of "ad hominem argument" that is discussed here is a new one. I think it probably came about on the internet. The article here should include the original (and arguably "correct") definition. I added such text, including two authoritative sources. Someone removed it entirely, citing poor grammar, and saying also that it added nothing new. If the grammar was bad, it would have been helpful to correct it. The claim that it added nothing new is plain wrong. Nothing in the current text indicates that there is an older definition that is still used by educated people. The current text also mistranslates the Latin for "to the person" as "at the person," which is an easily corrected mistake.

I cut it down to its essentials, and I have attempted to use good grammar.

If you are unfamiliar with using the wiki software, feel free to propose the changes on the talk page here, and more experienced editors can migrate your suggestions over. It's just that if your edit makes the article look rather untidy, esp the beginning, it's likely to be reverted. enochlau (talk) 12:17, 9 November 2006 (UTC)

Thanks. I was typing the following paragraph as you typed yours.

Where does this stuff come from?[edit]

I first learned about argumentum ad hominem in high school, some 40 years ago. I was taught that the phrase meant literally "argument to the person," and it was an argument crafted to appeal to the emotions or prejudices of the person to be persuaded. I knew of no other meaning until the phrase became a common one in internet flame wars in the nineties. Those writers used the phrase to mean an argument that merely seeks to discredit or impugn a person who holds a differing viewpoint. Today I find both definitions in authoritative dictionaries, along with notes that the newer meaning is displacing the older one. In no case have I found an authoritative source that translates the Latin preposition "ad" to mean "at" rather than "to."

I suspect that some of the Latin tags for various logical fallacies described here are also neologisms. The Latin gives a patina of antiquity and implies scholarly respectability. Where are the references? All of those Latin names have been in a list that has been floating around the internet for several years. Is that the original source? Who invented these categories, and when? When I google looking for citations, I come up empty. There are no citations in the Wiki article other than a smattering of web pages - no books.

I do not have the time nor inclination to research it all. I twice added text to the beginning of the article noting only that there is an older meaning. I gave two references. I also corrected the translation from "at" to "to." Twice my changes have been removed, the second time with no reason given.

I may suggest that in the past when I have had questions about such things, the etymology editor of Merriam Webster has been very friendly an helpful.

Can we at least agree on some kind of change that corrects the Latin mistranslation and mentions the original meaning?

Jive Dadson 13:31, 9 November 2006 (UTC)

P.s. An online etymology page says "ad hominem" meaning "to a man" dates from 1599.

Here is an excerpt from Deductive Logic by St. George Stock, ca. 1888, courtesy Project Gutenburg.

Under the head of Ignoratio Elenchi it has become usual to speak of various forme of argument which have been labelled by the Latin writers under such names as 'argumentum ad hominem,' 'ad populum,' 'ad verecundiam,' 'ad ignorantiam,' 'ad baculum'--all of them opposed to the 'argumentum ad rem' or 'ad judicium.'
By the 'argumentum ad hominem' was perhaps meant a piece of reasoning which availed to silence a particular person, without touching the truth of the question. Thus a quotation from Scripture is sufficient to stop the mouth of a believer in the inspiration of the Bible. Hume's Essay on Miracles is a noteworthy instance of the 'argumentum ad hominem' in this sense of the term. He insists strongly on the evidence for certain miracles which he knew that the prejudices of his hearers would prevent their ever accepting, and then asks triumphantly if these miracles, which are declared to have taken place in an enlightened age in the full glare of publicity, are palpably imposture, what credence can be attached to accounts of extraordinary occurrences of remote antiquity, and connected with an obscure corner of the globe?

However, he follows shortly with this:

In ordinary discourse at the present day the term 'argumentum ad hominem' is used for the form of irrelevancy which consists in attacking the character of the opponent instead of combating his arguments, as illustrated in the well-known instructions to a barrister--'No case: abuse the plaintiff's attorney.'

Jive Dadson 20:52, 9 November 2006 (UTC)

EXAMPLE OF AD HOMINEM: In a debate between Dave Hunt and James White; Dave Hunt argued against the doctrine of Calvanism by attacking the character of John Calvin. This is a solid example of Ad Hominem. 17:07, 21 November 2006 (UTC) Steve Wilson;

Valid ad hominem arguments?[edit]

Quote from a recent addition to the article:

Ad hominem fallacies should not be mistaken confused with attacks on credibility of persons asserting a fact that he/she claims to have witnessed.

This is obviously correct. I just wonder, is it still an ad hominem argument, but not an ad hominem fallacy? If so, the article lead stating that ad hominem arguments are logical fallacies should be moderated.--Niels Ø 08:26, 23 November 2006 (UTC)

I agree with Niels. In the taxonomy section it is stated ad hominem fallacies should not be mistakenly confused with attacks on credibility of persons asserting a fact that he/she claims to have witnessed. This still leads to the consideration is this an ad hominem argument, but not an ad hominem fallacy. See Bruce N. Waller, Critical Thinking: Consider the Verdict Fifth Edition (New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2005) 181.

Note the listed external link at has non-fallacious examples of the ad hominem. Yet the text appears to assert in the introduction an ad hominem is a logical fallacy. Douglas N. Walton has written [4] extensively about the ad hominem argument and professes a different view of such assertions.

Perhaps some consistent documentation is necessary to support the introduction or it can use the common caveat “normally fallacious.” I would submit that research on the subject has advanced over time and alternate [5] views exist. Wpraeder 03:33, 25 December 2006 (UTC)

Your lines of reasoning are both incorrect. The example is not related to the ad hominem fallacy of logic in any way as ad hominem applies to incidents where the person's credibility is not a valid logical premise. As a matter of fact most scholars in almost all schools of logic would never use a person's character as a logical premise in an argument as it is subjective and an unprovable factor. Quadzilla99 00:17, 11 January 2007 (UTC)

“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 [6]) 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.] Note the burden of evidence lies with the editor who adds or restores material [7]. Wpraeder 14:27, 20 January 2007 (UTC)

Merge proposal[edit]

  • Strong Merge. Personal attack can very well go into Ad hominem. Though not all personal attcks are ad hominem, neither is ad hominem necessarily a personal attack, it can just be mentioned as such in the merged article. There isn't enough argument to go separately into each of the articles, and the information provided would be more easily comprhended if they are merged. - Aditya Kabir 17:21, 21 December 2006 (UTC)
  • Oppose. I wouldn't consider a "negative" political ad to be an ad hominem attack, yet I would consider it a personal attack. I think "personal attack" should be expanded to disambiguate it from ad hominem. Ad hominem has a very specific meaning, in which an argument is refuted on the basis of the person or type of person who forwards it. Personal attack has a more general meaning. pbryan 05:01, 23 December 2006 (UTC)
  • Oppose personal attacks are a part of ad hominem but ad hominem is basically a specific logical fallacy and a simple tool used to analyze particular assertions. A personal attack when used to discredit a particular claim or assertion falls under the ad hominem banner but a prolonged campaign to ruin credibility is foreign to ad hominem. This is often what happens in today's society. In this instance they are not using a fallacious ad hominem argument to win one particular argument. They are attempting to ruin all credibility, which doesn't relate to a quick irrelevant shift to a personal fault and it's use a premise in a logical discussion/debate. Quadzilla99 12:40, 28 December 2006 (UTC)
  • Oppose. Ad hominem is a personal attack, but not all personal attacks are ad hominem. The main difference is that personal attacks in general don't need to be arguments. A generic insult on one's character can be considered a personal attack, but its intention is to hurt or anger the target, rather than to sway the opinions of a third party. –Gunslinger47 22:11, 30 December 2006 (UTC)
  • Not quite. In a debate context, all personal attacks are ad hominems, but not all ad hominems are personal attacks. :) The main difference is that an ad hominem needn't be an "attack"; any objection or criticism directed at the person, rather than at the argument the person is making, is an ad hominem. -Silence 13:17, 3 January 2007 (UTC)
    • Hmm... Either way, no matter the context, there is a difference. –Gunslinger47 19:51, 3 January 2007 (UTC)
  • Unsure I agree that there is a distinct difference between a pure ad hominem and a regular personal attack - but I'm not sure personal attack warrants an article of its own. If its kept an appropriate stub tag should be attached or the article be developed further - perhaps with famous examples?
  • Merge unless (or until) personal attack can be expanded into a full-fledged, well-referenced encyclopedia article. It's currently little more than a stubby dicdef (wow, that sounded dirty), which makes it a candidate for being transwiki'd to Wiktionary if we don't merge it into this article. -Silence 13:19, 3 January 2007 (UTC)
  • Oppose per Quadzilla99. Harvey100 00:25, 11 January 2007 (UTC)
  • Oppose per Quadzilla99. Plebmonk 00:33, 11 January 2007 (UTC)
  • Oppose merge is possible, but wouldn't really improve coverage of either topic. ike9898 17:29, 21 January 2007 (UTC)

It looks like there is a concensus not to merge. I'm dropping the tags. ike9898 17:30, 21 January 2007 (UTC)

Bubble diagrams[edit]

I removed the bubble diagrams as they explained the fallacy incorrectly. The personal part of the argument does not invalidate every part what the asserter claims just the specific claim. They should be written as:

  • Person A makes claim X
  • There is something objectionable about person A
  • Therefore claim X is false

With the first two obviously being the premisses and the third being the illogical conclusion. If a person were to state that alcoholism is a disease and another person were to claim that he was using that as an excuse as he is a chronic alcoholic that would be a perfect example of an ad hominem argument. The person would be saying his particular statements about alcoholism were false not his statements about every subject. Quadzilla99 00:38, 11 January 2007 (UTC)

You are wrong, the argument map example follows the correct pattern. I will re-insert it. I think you were confused by the second part of the example which explains why the fallacy is fallacious in terms of an unstated co-premise that "everything person X says (or does or condones or whatever) is wrong or false because they are bad, an idiot, evil etc. The fact that this unstated co-premise is false is what makes ad hominem a fallacy. Grumpyyoungman01 09:41, 21 February 2007 (UTC)

Nazi example?[edit]

Nazis and eugenics? Why use such a touchy subject? Bringing up Naziism randomly could certainly make people unnecessarily uncomfortable. Also, it seems to have disguised POV... especially when there's a big check mark over "The Nazis were bad people." That's clearly an opinion, and I'm sure there are a few people would object to that (not only neo-nazis, but also people who are descended from that generation of Germans.)

I'm sure someone could think of a less touchy and less POV example! Jolb 05:07, 7 March 2007 (UTC)

The opinion of the majority though is that they were bad. mike4ty4 07:05, 21 April 2007 (UTC)