Argumentum ad hominem

As I noted in an earlier post, this blog was partly named as a misspelt pun on the ad hominem argument. Argumentum ad hominem (Latin: "argument to the man") involves attacking the character or circumstances of one's opponent in order to undermine them, instead of addressing the substance of their argument. Ad hominem arguments are generally regarded as fallacious, since they do not address the opponent’s argument itself.

This argument comes in the following forms:

The tactic is to portray the opponent as a bad or immoral person, and conclude based on this, that their argument should not be accepted, e.g.

Ann says that anthropological research needs more funding. This is coming from a woman who divorced her husband.

Involves suggesting that the person making the argument is so doing out of self interest, e.g.

She's an anthropologist. Of course, she's going to say that evolution is true.

Tu quoque (Latin: "you too")
This is commonly heard in political debates. Also referred to as the "hypocrisy argument" or the “you too fallacy”, it involves showing that the opponent's arguments or criticisms apply or have applied to them, e.g.

You said Neandertals and modern humans interbreed but only last year you said that they didn't.

Poisoning the well
Is a pre-emptive attack meant to discredit one's opponent before they even make their argument, e.g.

Darwinists have been preaching the evolution lie for years. I suspect that tonight's debate won't be any different.

Guilt by association
Is the view that an individual shares the qualities of others based on irrelevant associations, e.g.

Craniometrics was used in the early twenthieth century to promote eugenics. Anthropologists who carry out craniometric analyses are like Nazis.

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Above photo modified from original by Caro's Lines under creative commons license.
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