All the chewy goodness of fallacious reasoning in new fun-sized bites!

Ad hominem in Latin means “to the man”

In A Preface to Philosophy author Mark B. Woodhouse defines the ad hominem fallacy as that which “directs attention away from evidence for the claim to the person making the claim.”[1] In other words, if Paul wants to refute Andrew’s claim, Paul needs to provide good reasons or evidence. If Paul, instead, focuses on Andrew’s religious or political views, personal background, character, etc. in order to discredit Andrew then Paul is committing an ad hominem fallacy.

Here is an example of an ad hominem fallacy:

  1. Mark Driscoll claims that Christianity is true.
  2. Mark Driscoll is a bad man.
  3. Therefore, Christianity is false.

By the way, an ad hominem can be used as a means to support a claim as well.

  1. Rick Warren claims that Christianity is true.
  2. Rick Warren is a great man.
  3. Therefore, Christianity is true.

This argument is just as fallacious as the previous argument. Both trade on the character of the one making the claim, not on any evidence to support the claim.

The best way to point out someone’s fallacy is by using the Columbo tactic as laid out in the Funsized Tactics series. There are plenty of excellent resources available in book, e-book, or PDF format. Two good places to start, with regard to formal and informal fallacies, are A Preface to Philosophy by Mark B. Woodhouse and Schaum’s Outlines: Logic by John Nolt, Dennis Rohatyn, and Achille Varzi.

[1] Mark B. Woodhouse, A Preface to Philosophy (Belmont: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning, 2006), 83.