The Ad Hominem Fallacy Fallacy


“…most often committed by those who
… accuse their opponents of ad hominem.”



Stephen Bond explains:

One of the most widely misused terms on the Net is ad hominem. It is most often introduced into a discussion by certain delicate types, delicate of personality and mind, whenever their opponents resort to a bit of sarcasm. As soon as the suspicion of an insult appears, they summon the angels of ad hominem to smite down their foes, before ascending to argument heaven in a blaze of sanctimonious glory. They may not have much up top, but by God, they don’t need it when they’ve got ad hominem on their side. It’s the secret weapon that delivers them from any argument unscathed.

In reality, ad hominem is unrelated to sarcasm or personal abuse. Argumentum ad hominem is the logical fallacy of attempting to undermine a speaker’s argument by attacking the speaker instead of addressing the argument. The mere presence of a personal attack does not indicate ad hominem: the attack must be used for the purpose of undermining the argument, or otherwise the logical fallacy isn’t there. It is not a logical fallacy to attack someone; the fallacy comes from assuming that a personal attack is also necessarily an attack on that person’s arguments.

Therefore, if you can’t demonstrate that your opponent is trying to counter your argument by attacking you, you can’t demonstrate that he is resorting to ad hominem. If your opponent’s sarcasm is not an attempt to counter your argument, but merely an attempt to insult you (or amuse the bystanders), then it is not part of an ad hominem argument.

Actual instances of argumentum ad hominem are relatively rare. Ironically, the fallacy is most often committed by those who accuse their opponents of ad hominem, since they try to dismiss the opposition not by engaging with their arguments, but by claiming that they resort to personal attacks. Those who are quick to squeal “ad hominem” are often guilty of several other logical fallacies, including one of the worst of all: the fallacious belief that introducing an impressive-sounding Latin term somehow gives one the decisive edge in an argument.

Here is Bond’s full explanation together with concrete examples of real ad hominems and misidentified ad hominems. These may help us distinguish situations when real ad hominem attacks occur from those in which we are merely offended. (Not to suggest that the latter do not require remedy, but the remedy isn’t to claim ad hominem victimhood.)

To sum up, there are many ways to argue: with name calling as one of the least preferred methods and by offering sound arguments as the more rational—but not always most effective—approach. Ad hominem arguments do not rise to the level of either civility or reason.


by Paul Graham



Not Caring About Contradictions

The Truth | by Digital CraftsJamie Whyte, Australian Philosopher

How to Disagree

Agree to disagreePaul Graham’s 2008 essay titled How to Disagree presents a hierarchy of disagreement ranging from most primitive to most sophisticated:

  1. Name-Calling
  2. Ad Hominem
  3. Responding to Tone
  4. Contradiction
  5. Counterargument
  6. Refutation
  7. Refuting the Central Point

Debate Not HateToxic Debate

Clearly, not everyone is rational or even civil with those they disagree. Some are motivated to assert superiority and dominate, with no interest in understanding perspectives of other individuals. They maintain their narrow-mindedness as they persist on pushing an egocentric agenda with little concern for the consequences. Some never rise above the level of personal attacks, ad hominem, and other logical fallacies. Unable to present a thoughtful argument, they use insults and anger to assert themselves and intimidate others. An influential individual may succeed in demonizing and marginalizing those who dare to disagree; invalidating and dismissing dissenting views as hateful attacks. This personality type will claim the moral high ground; deceiving everyone while insulting their critics, condemning those with different opinions, and attempting to hold up others as examples of irrationality. They lack in intellectual integrity and do not practice what they preach, but by diverting attention to their target, they can get away with it.

When to Walk Away

One option when one is confronted with this sort of uncivil behavior is to simply to walk away. We may seek out and engage persons with whom we disagree for the intellectual challenge, but not all are interested in—or capable of—rational discussion. It can make sense to walk away from those who refuse to clarify their ambiguous statements or substantiate their claims, and instead, condemn, demonize, and insult their adversary, but one must also consider if refraining from addressing uncivil behavior could actually be enabling it.

What should we do when those engaging in toxic behavior are on our side of the fence? Is it our responsibility to address their behavior? If holding them accountable results in animosity and possibly divisions within a group; is it worth it?


Bertrand Russell: Self-Confidence


The crippling wisdom and reflection of the world, also known as the Dunning-Kruger effect, in one brilliant Bertrand Russell quote: “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wise people so full of doubts.”

Enjoy this Bertrand Russell quote? Check out this fascinating video of Bertrand Russell explaining why he’s not a Christian.

Critical Thinking

criticalthinkers 6criticalquestions

The “No True Scotsman” Fallacy

From No True Psychopath by James

no true scotsman

If you know about philosophy or logic, or if you have that one annoying friend who’s always telling you why your logic sucks (or maybe you are that annoying friend), you will have heard of the No True Scotsman fallacy.

no true scotsman

The basic narrative of the fallacy is a Scotsman, McDoogle, proudly declaring to his friend McClutterbuck that no Scotsman sugars his porridge. But McClutterbuck disagrees: “I am a Scotsman. I’m from Auchtermuchty, born and raised, like you. I always sugar my porridge, och aye”. McDoogle then watches on in horror as McClutterbuck proceeds to tip the bag of sugar over his bowl of porridge and begin to devour his breakfast like a starving man. “Well”, he fumes, enraged like a true Scot by being proven wrong, “no true Scotsman sugars his porridge!”

no true scotsman

What does all this mean? In order to defend his claim that no Scotsmen put sugar in their porridge, McDougle has resorted to redefining what it means to be a Scotsman. He has rejected McClutterbuck’s evidence that some Scotsmen do sugar their porridge by denying him his Scotmanship (what a lovely word).

no true scotsman

In the same way, in order to save face against your assertion, your opponent may invoke the No True Scotsman fallacy to move the goalposts and make it impossible to contradict him. No matter what you say, if it doesn’t fit within his changeable definition, he won’t accept it.

no true scotsman

Notice Your Inferences

reasonableAn important part of critical thinking is the art of bringing what is subconscious in our thought to the level of conscious realization. This includes the recognition that our experiences are shaped by the inferences we make during those experiences. It enables us to separate our experiences into two categories: the raw data of our experience in contrast with our interpretations of those data, or the inferences we are making about them. Eventually we need to realize that the inferences we make are heavily influenced by our point of view and the assumptions we have made about people and situations. This puts us in the position of being able to broaden the scope of our outlook, to see situations from more than one point of view, and hence to become more open-minded.


Illusions, Delusions, and Lies

Nietzsche   HLMencken Apaths

Debating takes effort.

Scott Berkun Quote Art

Scott Berkun

Fascist America in Ten Easy Steps

The Pathocracy Blog


From Hitler to Pinochet and beyond, history shows there are certain steps that any would-be dictator must take to destroy constitutional freedoms. And, argues Naomi Wolf, George Bush and his administration seem to be taking them all:
George W Bush
1. Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy.
2. Create a gulag.
3. Develop a thug caste.
4. Set up an internal surveillance system.
5. Harass citizens’ groups.
6. Engage in arbitrary detention and release.
7. Target key individuals.
8. Control the press.
9. Dissent equals treason.
10. Suspend the rule of law.

George W. Bush: “A dictatorship would be a heck of a lot easier, there’s no question about it.”

1. Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy.

After we were hit on Sept. 11 2001, we were in a state of national shock. Less than six weeks later, on Oct. 26, 2001, the USA Patriot Act was passed by a…

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Inquiry and Doubt

Richard Carrier Quote Art

See also: Self Deception
Human Thought is Flawed

Loaded Words

Plato’s Insight

The Wise Dialectician

Wise Dialectician

A Realistic Outlook

Realistic Outlook Quote Art

Human thought is flawed.

People who think critically are keenly aware of the inherently flawed nature of human thinking when left unchecked. They realize that no matter how skilled they are as thinkers, they will at times fall prey to mistakes in reasoning, human irrationality, prejudices, biases, distortions, uncritically accepted social rules and taboos, self-interest, and vested interest. Through continual self-analysis, they strive to diminish the power of their egocentric and sociocentric tendencies.

Rendering of human brain.

Madeleine L’Engle

Eternal Truth

Bertrand Russell


Perspective…via LOL Cats…


Philosophy asks this question in a variety of ways… and the answer seems to be that, perhaps you can’t know if you’re upside down or not — OR, it doesn’t matter because you always see things from your own point of view…

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Reversing the Burden of Proof


Carl Jung: Enlightenment

Crazy New Sh_t Pillow

The Crazy New Sh_t Pillow offers a humorously cynical take on choosing your own fate. Dan Golden and Jen Huh started the design as a simple sketch, which was then digitized, silkscreened onto organic cotton, and filled with feather down. At least you’ll be comfortable as you dwell on your choices.

Reason is not automatic.


What is Intellectual Humility?

Intellectual Humility

Intellectual humility is dependent upon the understanding that perception is inherently subjective: perceiving is always done by a particular person from her own unique position in space and time and with her own combination of experiences, needs and set of transactions. Perception is an externalization: each of us, through perceiving, creates a psychological environment which we believe exists independent of the experience.  Read more…

Distorted Thinking


What is knowledge?


The origins of bigotry?

The Monkey Experiment

A Fable


Early Warning Signs of Fascism


The Credible Hulk



Tail Logic


Premise 1No cat has eight tails.
Premise 2A cat has one more tail than no cat.

Therefore, a cat has nine tails.

Perpetual Doubt

Screen Shot 2013-08-18 at 9.51.13

Thoughts on authority and its relation to logic and reason

Authority design by Mike Michelsen

Over the years I’ve talked with many people in the U.S. about various things. In so doing, I’ve noticed a particular condition that keeps coming up. Basically, what I have found is that it’s almost pointless to say anything. No matter what you say, it can be refuted in some way . . . or it has no meaning . . . or it has no value. It does not matter if you’re right . . . or wrong, for that matter, as it means nothing. It’s as if logic and reason have no meaning any more. This creates a lot of problems if the purpose of discussion is to find the logic and reason in things. When this is non-existent, it creates a general dilemma in discussions. Basically, it null and voids them. It gives discussions a quality of talking to a wall. It’s pointless to have discussions with people anymore. There is no convincing. There is no agreeing. There is no logic. There is no reason.

Read the whole article.  

12 cognitive biases that prevent you from being rational

Cognitive Bias

The 12 cognitive biases that prevent you from being rational

by George Dvorsky posted on January 11, 2013

The human brain is capable of 1016 processes per second, which makes it far more powerful than any computer currently in existence. But that doesn’t mean our brains don’t have major limitations. The lowly calculator can do math thousands of times better than we can, and our memories are often less than useless — plus, we’re subject to cognitive biases, those annoying glitches in our thinking that cause us to make questionable decisions and reach erroneous conclusions. Here are a dozen of the most common and pernicious cognitive biases that you need to know about. Before we start, it’s important to distinguish between cognitive biases and logical fallacies…

Continue to source article at



 See also Asking Questions

Argumentation and Logical Fallacies

Free Will versus Determinism


Question everything

But why?

 But why? See Asking Questions.

Mark Twain


Ludwig Wittgenstein


Design advice. Life advice?



AlbertESee also: Asking Questions