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CRITICAL THINKING – Fallacies: Ad Hominem [HD]

CRITICAL THINKING – Fallacies: Ad Hominem [HD]

(intro music) Hello. I’m Paul Henne, and I’m a philosophy graduate
student at Duke University. And in this video, I’m gonna talk to you about an informal fallacy
called “ad hominem.” The phrase “ad hominem” might
sound a bit bombastic, but I assure you that it’s an interesting and useful critical thinking tool. The latin phrase roughly
means “to the person,” and that’s exactly what this fallacy is. It’s an attack against the
person making the argument, rather than an attack
against the argument itself. But let’s see if we can pin down exactly what this means by using an example. Suppose that my friend Vlad
made the following argument. “Cats stay indoors and use a litter box, “while dogs need to be walked “and they have to run outside. “Dogs are just more work. “Therefore, cats are better
domestic pets than dogs.” And then I reply, “Yeah, Vlad,
but you’re a total jerk.” So I disregard Vlad’s argument in favor of cats and decide to get a dog. So let’s think about my
reply to Vlad’s argument. Maybe you think that my reply is a completely good response to Vlad. Suppose it’s true that
Vlad is a total jerk and that I think no one should respect him or listen to what he says. I think Vlad has bad
character in some way. Therefore, his argument should be rejected. So my response is good, right? If this example doesn’t convince you, suppose that Vlad is really Hitler. Hitler is a total jerk, so
his conclusion is false, or his argument isn’t valid. Does that sound good? But let’s represent my
argument more generally, to see why this reasoning
is actually flawed. Premise (1): Person P makes claim C, “cats rule, dogs drool.” Premise (2): Person P has unsatisfactory standing or circumstance (“Vlad is a total jerk.”) Conclusion: Therefore, claim C is false. (it’s false that cats are
better domestic pets.) While it might seem
appealing in some cases to say that this is a good argument form, it would be generally wrong to think so. The standing of the
person making the argument in most cases will be
irrelevant to the validity or the soundness of the argument. And this is the misconception that I would like to correct in this video. Simply because Vlad is a total jerk doesn’t mean that his claim about cats as better domestic pets is false. He could be a complete jerk,
yet still make a good argument in favor of cats as domestic pets. So let’s look more closely at this fallacy and at its four sub-types. The first type of ad hominem
fallacy is the abusive type. To understand this type, let’s
return to our first example where I called Vlad a jerk. In this case, I’ve committed
the abusive ad hominem fallacy. In other words, I’ve attacked or abused the person making the argument. I haven’t criticized the argument itself. More specifically, I’ve abused Vlad by simply attacking his character, and then I equated his poor
character with his argument. This is a fallacy because,
while the speaker, Vlad, might not have good standing as I see him, his argument may still be valid, that is, cats might be
better domestic pets. Another type of Ad Hominem fallacy is the circumstantial type. Let’s suppose that, when I’m
talking to my friend Catherine, she makes the following argument. Premise (1): Animals are sentient beings. Premise (2): If a being is sentient, then killing it for food is immoral. Conclusion: Therefore, killing
animals for food is immoral. Suppose then that I make the
following statement in reply: “Yeah, but Catherine, you
work for a vegan food company. “So your argument must be invalid.” In this case, I attack
Catherine’s circumstance, that she works for a vegan food company, instead of her argument. Maybe I thought that she may have a conflict of interest
in making her argument, that is, she wants to sell
more vegan food products. So she may be motivated to give a faulty argument in favor of veganism. Despite this potential
conflict of interest, my reply to her argument does not effectively criticize her argument. Although she works for
a vegan food company and may have a conflict of interest, she may also have a perfectly
valid and sound argument supporting her conclusion that killing animals for food is immoral. If I wanted to effectively
combat her argument, I could maybe argue that
animals aren’t sentient, or attack some other
premise in her argument. The third type of ad hominem
fallacy is called “tu quoque,” which roughly means “you also.” To explore this variation of the fallacy, let’s return to our previous example. But suppose that my reply
to Catherine’s argument were “Yeah, Catherine, but you eat meat. “So you support the killing
of animals for food. “Your argument must be invalid.” In this case, I highlight
Catherine’s standing, in that she doesn’t act in a way that’s consistent with her conclusion. I take her hypocrisy to
invalidate her argument, or at least to be a reason
to reject her conclusion. But again, my reply doesn’t effectively critique Catherine’s argument. I’ve not even mentioned any
problems with the premises or the conclusion at hand. So despite her purported hypocrisy, Catherine might have an effective argument and just think that it’s
immoral that she eats meat. The last type of ad hominem fallacy is the guilt by assocation type. Let’s suppose now that my response to Catherine’s argument is this: “Yeah, Catherine, but
towards the end of his life, “Hitler was a vegetarian. “So, you might have made
a similar argument. “Since we’d reject his argument
simply because he’s Hitler, “the most evil person in the world, “we should obviously
reject your argument, too.” What have I done in this case? Well, I’ve associated Catherine with a person of very poor character, and then I’ve suggested that it is a reason to reject
Catherine’s argument. This, however, is fallacious, because while Hitler was a terrible person who committed some of the most
atrocious acts in history, he still may have made a
valid and sound argument about the morality of eating animals. Moreover, Catherine’s slight
association with Hitler does not invalidate her argument. And by discussing her character, I have not even addressed
the issue at hand, veganism. Let’s look at the fallacy
in our general schema. The arguments that I’ve been
making against Catherine are of the following form. Premise (1): Catherine claimed that killing animals for food is immoral. Premise (2): But she has poor
standing or circumstances. Conclusion: Therefore, it is not the case that killing animals for food is immoral. Have I committed an informal
fallacy in these cases? Yes! I have not invalidated or even addressed the subject of Catherine’s argument. Rather, I have personally attacked her standing and character. This is the ad hominem fallacy, and you will see it often. It is important to note,
also, that philosophers have many questions and
concerns about this fallacy and when a person’s standing and character are relevant to an argument. But we will have to save these
questions for another video. Subtitles by the Amara.org community

100 thoughts on “CRITICAL THINKING – Fallacies: Ad Hominem [HD]

  1. Does this mean that these ad hominem 'observations' shouldn't be use in a court (as an example)? It strikes me as a tool with appropriate uses.

  2. Wow who would have thought that calling someone and a group of people a bunch of idiots would backfire in a certain election?

  3. Lol, well you just summed up the root cause of why arguments on the Internet are such failures…Good thing I learned all these lessons (100% sound) many decades ago before the Internet! But yes, thank you for posting it all the same as it is very needed!

  4. It's hard for me to believe this has to be explained, I always thought people did it because they got caught with their pants down.

    As in, "Earth is the best planet"

    A logical counter is "Do you know about every other planet?"

    "Shut up, you're stupid".

    I just figured people realized at that point that they had no basis for their beliefs/statements, but had too much pride to say they were wrong.

  5. I feel a lot of "social justice warriors" need to brush up on these fallacy in particular.

    Fantastic video by the way!

  6. This term has been abused as something of a meme over the past few months. For those eager to test it out on some Trump supporters… don't just throw it out into the wind.

  7. Doesn't this phrase come from a Roman court case on corruption taken by Cato and defended by Cicero. Cicero had no arguments in the case therefore he made personal attacks against Cato and actually won the case. I might be wrong but I think this is where the phrase originates

  8. Good video. An issue arises when the argument becomes connected with some aspect of their character, that you may be ambiguously describing (as a "total jerk"). Say Vlad is arguing that he should get a cat. But you've personally witnessed expressions of his mentality towards cats, and have seen him abuse and not properly care for them. Communicating your concept of that aspect of his mentality with "total jerk" is indescript, but not necessarily irrelevant.

  9. It's important to note that this works in reverse as well. Critiquing an argument is not an attack on the person. The most relevant example of this I can think of is Critiquing Islam is not the same as attacking Muslims because the idea is not the same thing as the person who holds the idea.

  10. maybe we generally shouldn't relate arguments to the person who says them and we shouldn't derive everything from one fact, at least in most cases

  11. From Schopenhauer himself: "A last trick is to become personal, insulting, rude, as soon as you perceive that your opponent has the upper hand, and that you are going to come off worst. It consists in passing from the subject of dispute, as from a lost game, to the disputant himself, and in some way attacking his person. It may be called the argumentum ad personam, to distinguish it from the argumentum ad hominem, which passes from the objective discussion of the subject pure and simple to the statements or admissions which your opponent has made in regard to it. "

    What youre talking about is NOT an ad hominem but rather an ad personam.

  12. This video is wrong. Ad hominem is only a fallacy when the personal attacks are used as a the reason to refute a person's arguments. Simply being verbally abusive towards vlad by saying "you are a fag" does not constitute ad hominem fallacy because it is obvious that the statement is not a counter argument, it only conveys hostility towards vlad. You have to keep in mind that not every reply is necessarily a counter argument, the context of the statement itself has to be taken into account. Now if you say to vlad "you are wrong about dogs because you are a fag and anything comes out of your mouth is gay", only then it becomes Ad hominem fallacy because you are making a counter argument based on personal attacks that is irrelevant to the argument. You see a lot of "youtube philosophers" simply yelling "ad hominem" whenever there swear words or abusive language appears in a reply and thinks that is some sort of valid retort.

  13. What percentage of the population do you think relies on these ad hominem tactics when communicating with others? How often do you think the average person does these things?

  14. Hey man. I liked the video but it would have been helpful to have an intro and or summary where you list all four ad hominems on the same page.

  15. +Wireless Philosophy, @5:35 , in regards to tu quoque, can a human truly hold a moral value without also practicing it? Of course, the argument is the crux of the debate, but how do we judge the truth of someone if they don't follow what they say?

    @7:49 you mention another video will touch on when a persons' standing and character are relevant to an argument. I'd like to know more. We are such complex energy balls whom many are "hypocrites" one might say in the average daily activity. So hmm, I'll have to watch you're next video and read more to figure out if that with all these complexities humans can truly hold moral values.

  16. "Hitler is a total jerk" that's an understatement. Hitler was a genocidal dictator, not the asshole at the gym who takes three sets of dumbbells for himself.

  17. for further examples of ad-hominem please scroll down on Facebook comments on any given contentious issue of choice, you're welcome 🙂

  18. what abt in the legal courtroom where they try to discredit the witness on basis of questionable reputation..like those potrayed in movies. In other words what place does 'ad hominem' have in law?

  19. Of course, people often make or depend on their audience making implicit arguments from credibility to justify their explicitly stated premises of their explicit argument. In which case it can be worth attacking their credibility to undermine those premises.

  20. The problem with the ad hominem fallacy is that people tend to misuse it a lot. If they think their opponent's argument is an insult, they label it an ad hominem argument (even if it isn't). I believe people need to at least have a basic understanding of the ad hominem fallacy before they label arguments (that they think insult them) as ad hominem arguments.

  21. There are special schools for this type of gifted thinking. Typically the IQ of these individuals is over 160.

  22. Don't forget that this can go the other way: that a false argument can be shown as valid because of how awesome a person is. Yes, Punisher is a badass, but is it still moral to execute a criminal?

  23. Funniest fallacy to come out of this is the 'fallacy fallacy' where you just point out their fallacy where they otherwise would have a sound argument.

  24. Why do both undergrad and grad students always use Hitler as their evil example no matter what topic they are discussing? If you actually research historical documents, census records, the events in Germany prior to the war, Rothschild purchase of Jerusalem from the ottoman sultan in the 1800’s, how Zionists used Jews/Hitler/axis and allies as part of a big web of war manipulation for profit and establishing the Israeli state illegally, transfer agreement between zionists and Hitler, and much more you would probably stop using Hitler as the go to for “most evil person in history”. That brainwashing from the four page chapter on WWII in your elementary school textbook really worked as intended. I’ve never learned so little or met so many people that lacked critical thinking than in college. Prepackaged indoctrination and feeding of false knowledge with a hint of instant pretentiousness.

  25. A better Ad Hominem attack on Vlad would have been: "Yeah well, you're lazy." Thereby not only attacking him but, also anyone else who tries to use the same argument. 🙂

  26. Ummm k, i feel much better, don't ask why 😀 Maybe because is have absolutely nothing to do with what is going in South Africa. Is black people got very offended by us?

  27. I would say that conflict of interest and hypocrisy is valid depending on the nature of the discussion. If you are having a general discussion with Catherine about the morality of killing/eating a sentient being, then it is not valid. But if Catherine is trying to convince you to become a vegan, then they are absolutely valid.

  28. I feel like it's a joke that we have to call these occurrences "ad hominem" attacks, because every single time I try to point out that someone is doing it, they get their under all twisted in knots because they don't understand what it means and think I'm just trying to talk down to them. Of course, they also don't take the time to understand what it means. I find it hard to introduce any of my different viewpoints to about 99.99% of people due to this very thing. The US media is rife with the education that "to attack those who don't follow the mainstream teachings or ways of doing things is cool—attack them mercilessly."

  29. I think if you talk about potential negative health effects that might accompany veganism thus even if we don't actually want to kill animals for food that killing animals might be perhaps a small price to pay for that which would happen if we didn't do so. This would be a better premise for an aurguement against veganism than using the ad hominem falacy.

  30. Hi guys, i have one question. If i give a argument:"You are not moral person, and he replies:"Yes, but neither are you,,. Is that fallacy?

  31. The guy making this video seems like a total dweeb. I am therefore not listening to a word he says and that everything he says is stupid and wrong

  32. I would have given your video a thumbs up, but you are obviously a nazi, carnivorous, vegan jerk.😁

  33. There is another type of ad hominem I believe, though I'm not sure whether it falls in one of the above cases:
    Suppose I criticized an actor, suppose someone as famous as Tom Cruise, for a certain flaw I noticed in him. Someone refuted my argument saying, "What have you achieved in life? First be like Tom Cruise then dare to comment on him!"
    That is to say, he/she refutes my argument due to the fact that I am not an celebrity, or even if I was I'm not as famous, so I cannot critique a celebrity. What category does this fall into, can you explain?

  34. the standing of the person shouldnt be taken into account, but what about the persons credibility and position, why shouldnt we take a doctors opinion over a normal persons because dont they have better knowledge about the subject?

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