Ad hominem

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Ad hominem is a Latin word for a type of argument. It is a word often used in rhetoric. Rhetoric is the science of speaking well, and convincing other people of your ideas.

Translated to English, ad hominem means against the person. In other words, when someone makes an ad hominem, they are attacking the person they are arguing against, instead of what they are saying.

The term comes from the Latin word homo, which means human. Hominem is a gender neutral version of the word homo. In ancient Rome it referred to all free men, or in other words, all free human beings.

Ad hominem can be a way to use reputation, rumors and hearsay to change the minds of other people listening. When a social network has already excluded or exiled one person, or applied a negative label to them, this can work more often.

It is most of the time considered to be a weak and poor argument. In courts and in diplomacy ad hominems are not appreciated.

Ad hominems are not wrong every time. For example, when people think that someone can't be trusted, things that they have said previously can be doubted.

What an ad hominem argument looks like[change | change source]

In logic, a proof is something that starts with premises, and goes through a few logical arguments, to reach a conclusion.

Normal (valid) proof[change | change source]

  1. All humans are mortal
  2. Socrates is a man (he is human)
  3. Therefore, Socrates is mortal.

Ad hominem example[change | change source]

  1. Person A thinks abortion should be illegal
  2. Person A is uneducated and poor
  3. Therefore abortion should not be illegal.

In this example it can be seen that the (completely unrelated) fact that person A is uneducated and poor is used to prove that abortion should not be illegal.

Related pages[change | change source]

  • Fallacy for a list of other types of (false) rhetorical arguments.