Personal criticisms and logical fallacies

Ben Finney ben+python at
Wed Feb 10 08:41:53 CET 2010

"D'Arcy J.M. Cain" <darcy at> writes:

> On Wed, 10 Feb 2010 01:38:50 +0100
> "Alf P. Steinbach" <alfps at> wrote:
> > However, although in this particular case the Ad Hominems
> > constituted logical fallacies, not all Ad Hominems are logical
> > fallacies.
> Yes they are.  Using the reputation of someone to prove or disprove
> their claims is a logical fallacy.

The trouble is, the bulk of statements Alf is calling “ad hominem
attack” are, if one actually reads them, a criticism of his person. Not
intended as a connecting claim in an argument, but a claim *distinct
from* the argument Alf is engaged in.

So they're *not intended* to prove or disprove the specific claims that
immediately precede them. They're intended, at least partly, to provoke
self-reflection on the part of the person criticised and, ideally, an
improvement in behaviour.

Failure to recognise a criticism as such, and instead repeatedly
flinging the term “ad hominem” around as though it has any bearing, is
an example of behaviour that could easily be improved, if only the
person engaging in it would stop.

 \      “You've got to think about big things while you're doing small |
  `\              things, so that all the small things go in the right |
_o__)                                       direction.” —Alvin Toffler |
Ben Finney

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