Lesson 1: Ad Hominem Abusive (Preview Content)
In this session, the first fallacy of relevance is introduced—the ad hominem abusive fallacy. In Latin ad hominem means “to the man,” so this is an argument that addresses the man or the one making an argument, and abuses him rather than engaging his argument. As such it is a classical “trash-talking” dodge.
Outline of Session
(00:31) Ad fontem means “to the source” in Latin. Ad fontem arguments attack the “source” of an argument—in this case, the person making the argument.
(01:17) Many ad hominem fallacies are insults.
(02:07) Some ad hominem attacks can be more subtle.
(02:31) A student gives an example of an insult on the playground—“You’re a scaredy cat!” Joelle asks, “What’s the real issue here?”
(03:36) A student provides an example of ad hominem attacks in a courtroom setting, where a prosecutor may cast doubt on a witnesses’ testimony by attacking their character.
(06:00) A student suggests that “Only a creature-hater would use pesticides” as an example of an ad hominem. The group analyzes this argument.
(08:18) Dr. Perrin asks how this might apply to environmental issues that involve emotional ad hominem arguments.
(09:22) Dr. Perrin asks if the students can think of any political issues that usually involve ad hominem arguments.
(09:31) A student suggests the issue of tax cuts. The group then discusses this idea and provides examples of ad hominem attacks.
(13:52) A student gives examples of how car companies attack each other’s products in their advertising.
(15:55) Joelle asks the student to think more about this example and how it might be a different kind of ad fontem (“to the source”) fallacy.
(16:51) Another student and Joelle discuss this and decide the car argument is actually a good example of a genetic fallacy (which will be taught later).
(17:37) Joelle points out that all of the ad fontem arguments are closely related, feel very personal, and can be hard to distinguish from each other.
(18:47) The group discusses how authority figures and those in power are often attacked with ad hominem fallacies.
(20:10) The group discusses what type of ad hominem arguments may have been used, or used again, against Hollywood actors who ran for political office and other political figures.