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USD Information Literacy Lessons: Page 9B

The broad focus of these lessons is understanding sources of information, including examples that can help you learn how to access information sources at USD. Each lesson is dedicated to a specific element of information competency.

Argument Ad Hominem

Argumentum Ad Hominem

According to the Nizkor Project, the Latin "Ad Hominem" means "against the person."

An Ad Hominem is a fallacy in which a claim or argument is rejected on the basis of some irrelevant fact about the author or the person presenting the claim or argument. Typically, this fallacy involves two steps. First, an attack against the character of person making the claim, her circumstances, or her actions is made (or the character, circumstances, or actions of the person reporting the claim). Second, this attack is taken to be evidence against the claim or argument the person in question is making (or presenting). This type of "argument" has the following form:

  1. Person A makes claim X.
  2. Person B makes an attack on person A.
  3. Therefore A's claim is false.

The reason why an Ad Hominem (of any kind) is a fallacy is that the character, circumstances, or actions of a person do not (in most cases) have a bearing on the truth or falsity of the claim being made (or the quality of the argument being made).

Example: If Sally claims, "I believe that homosexual marriage is OK," Harry is not arguing ethically if he responds, "Of course you do. You're a liberal."  This statement ignores any logical arguments Sally might make and reduces her statement to simply a matter of character or political orientation.



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