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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.


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

Registered User Comments

Monday, July 01, 2019 - 01:10:15 PM
A: Journalist X won the Pulitzer Prize, so he has some credibility as a journalist!

B: Pulitzer is no argument. It's easy to remember that the list of Pulitzer winners includes Walter Duranty, the New York Times correspondent in Moscow who deliberately concealed the crimes of Stalinism.

The Person B seems to have committed the fallacy Guilt by Association by means of an (implicit) reasoning Misleading Vividness? It happened from Walter Duranty that ... etc ... win the Nobel Prize (does not jibe with the majority of the statistical evidence). Therefore, events of this type are likely to occur and, then, winning the Nobel Prize does not mean anything.

To highlight the Pulitzer prize, as does Person A, is it valid to affirm the credibility of a journalist?

I do not know if I'm bothering you very much, but thank you very much!

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Bo Bennett, PhD
Tuesday, July 02, 2019 - 08:01:51 AM
Guilt by Association would be enough in this example. Fits well.

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Sunday, February 18, 2018 - 12:01:57 PM
Is this an example of this fallacy?

Dan is a car thief. He is then accused of a murder. It is argued that people who steal cars also murder. This is used as the sole piece of evidence against him in the case.

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Bo Bennett, PhD
Sunday, February 18, 2018 - 12:02:58 PM
Probably a better example of Poisoning the Well.

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Sunday, February 18, 2018 - 01:11:01 PM
@Bo Bennett, PhD: What about this...

Don't vote for Ned because he is a republican, and republicans believe the earth is 6000 years old.

I think this is poisoning the well, because it is implied that republicans believe the earth is 6000 years old and young earth creationists make terrible politicians.

I think this is also a guilt by association fallacy, because republicans are known as a group which believes in a 6000 year old universe, but not all individual republicans believe this, so it is wrong to assume that Ned does just because he associates with other republicans.

I think my first example about Dan the car thief was not an example of Ad Hominem (Guilt by Association) because there was nothing like Dan being assumed to be a car thief because he hung out with other car thieves.

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