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Ad Hominem (Guilt by Association)

argumentum ad hominem

(also known as:  association fallacy, bad company fallacy, company that you keep fallacy, they’re not like us fallacy, transfer fallacy)

Description: When the source is viewed negatively because of its association with another person or group who is already viewed negatively.

Logical Form:

Person 1 states that Y is true.

Person 2 also states that Y is true, and person 2 is a moron.

Therefore, person 1 must be a moron too.

Example #1:

Delores is a big supporter for equal pay for equal work.  This is the same policy that all those extreme feminist groups support.  Extremists like Delores should not be taken seriously -- at least politically.

Explanation: Making the assumption that Delores is an extreme feminist simply because she supports a policy that virtually every man and woman also support, is fallacious.

Example #2:

Pol Pot, the Cambodian Maoist revolutionary, was against religion, and he was a very bad man.  Frankie is against religion; therefore, Frankie also must be a very bad man.

Explanation: The fact that Pol Pot and Frankie share one particular view does not mean they are identical in other ways unrelated, specifically, being a very bad man.  Pol Pot was not a bad man because he was against religion, he was a bad man for his genocidal actions.

Exception: If one can demonstrate that the connection between the two characteristics that were inherited by association is causally linked, or the probability of taking on a characteristic would be high, then it would be valid.

Pol Pot, the Cambodian Maoist revolutionary, was genocidal; therefore, he was a very bad man.  Frankie is genocidal; therefore, Frankie must also be a very bad man.

References:

Walton, D. (1998). Ad hominem arguments. University of Alabama Press.


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