Sunday, January 27, 2013

Logical Fallacy of the Week, Red herring fallacy – Ad Hominem: Week 55

A red herring fallacy is an error in logic where a proposition is, or is intended to be, misleading in order to make irrelevant or false inferences. In the general case any logical inference based on fake arguments, intended to replace the lack of real arguments or to replace implicitly the subject of the discussion.  A Red Herring argument is given in response to another argument, which is irrelevant and draws attention away from the subject of argument. See also irrelevant conclusion.  Today we will discuss the first in the list that will appear over the next 30 plus week.   Ad hominem fallacy.
·         Ad hominemIn Latin, the word homō (of which hominem is the accusative case) has the gender-neutral meaning of "a human being", "a person" (unlike the words in Romance languages it gave rise to, such as French homme and Italian uomo). A translation of ad hominem that preserves this gender-neutrality is "to the person". Ad hominem is an attack on the person, not the person's position or logic.  There are a number of types of Ad Hominem attacks.
1.      Abusive
- Abusive ad hominem (also called "personal abuse" or "personal attacks") usually involves attacking the claims of an opponent trying to invalidate their arguments, but can also involve pointing out true character flaws or actions irrelevant to the opponent's argument. Equating someone's character with the soundness of their argument is a logical fallacy. Mere verbal abuse in the absence of an argument, however, is not ad hominem nor any kind of logical fallacy.[6]
Examples:
"The Mayoral candidate's proposal about zoning is ridiculous. He was caught cheating on his taxes in 2003."
"What makes you so smart and all-knowing that you can deny God's existence? You haven't even finished school."
"If Dr. Smith is such a skilled heart surgeon, then why was he arrested for gambling?"
"Your fashion opinion isn't valid; you can't even afford new shoes."
Ad hominem abuse is not to be confused with slander or libel, which employ falsehoods and are not necessarily leveled to undermine otherwise sound stands with character attacks.
2.     Circumstantia
3.      Conflict of Interest
4.     Tu quoque
5.     Guilt by association

Editor's Note:  For a practical view of these practices I saved this video involving Marc Morano and Michael Brune of the Sierra Club being interviewed by Peirs Morgan.  See if you can pick out the fallacies.   Here is the video, the transcript and the analysis.   This is a regular practice of the left and the greenies.  Hillary's testimony was also a classic example, but even if you are knowledgeable enough to pick up on what they are doing, you still have to have the guts to challenge them on it. 

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