LSAC's broader definition of ad-hominem

I think ad-hominem is often colloquially defined as a direct character attack: Jim says the earth is flat but Jim is an idiot therefore Jim must be incorrect. This is probably the most common iteration of ad-hominem.

But contrary to popular notions of an ad-hominem, LSAC defines ad-hominem as anything that distracts from the argument at hand and redirects the aim toward the maker of the argument. To this end, I've also seen ad-hominem take the form of:

1) Attacking the interest/motivations of the argument maker: Jim says the earth is flat but Jim runs a flat-earth film festival every year so Jim has an interest in getting more flat-earthers to show up to his event. Therefore, Jim must be incorrect.

2) Attacking the past actions of the argument maker: Jim says smoking is harmful for your health but Jim smokes 2 packs of cigarettes per day therefore there is reason to question Jim's beliefs.

3) Hypocrisy: Jim believes that reality is only an illusion yet Jim has worked strenuous a 9-5 job for 30 years to provide for his family. Clearly Jim's beliefs to not match his actions therefore those beliefs are questionable.

Apologies if this is pedantic but almost got a question wrong because of this and I thought I'd flush this out on a post.

Are there any other types of ad-hominem that you are aware of? Trying to make a list.


  • hopefullinghopefulling Member
    edited September 2020 905 karma

    Don't know if this might help add to your info, but I've done a deep dive into reasoning errors / flaws and I consolidated everything about Ad Hominem as this:
    • It's a 'fallacy of relevance,'
    • It attacks the person/source of the argument instead of the argument they advance, instead of properly attacking the argument [by attacking: 1) the premises - which doesn't seem to happen on the LSAT, 2) the support the premises give to the conclusion (including method)].
    • Three types: (there's a few logic books as reference for this; eta: Steve Gimbel has a Great Courses lecture (libraries have it) - Introduction to Formal Logic with about 3 (??) lessons covering fallacies. It was really informative, albeit probably overly informative :p )
    1) ABUSIVE: the 'bad person' / "you're a jerk" version,
    2) TU QUOQUE: the bad associations / "you're a hypocrite" version,
    3) CIRCUMSTANTIAL: the bad motives or actions.

  • ahnendc-1ahnendc-1 Member
    642 karma


    Thanks for your input! I think if you collapse my "hypocrite" and "past actions" categories into a a single category such as Tu Quoque (which now looking at it I think makes sense) then I think that maps on exactly to your taxonomy.

  • hopefullinghopefulling Member
    905 karma

    @ahnendc-1 You were spot-on with all 3. Even your first one fits in as 'abusive.'

    I love Ad Hominem, it's fun to say (almost meditative). I feel like I hear it all the time in person and on tv also. ... And yikes, I'm trying so hard to remove it from my method of argument ;p before next fall

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