Advertisement

Argumentation

, Volume 27, Issue 2, pp 97–109 | Cite as

Ad Hominem Fallacies, Bias, and Testimony

  • Audrey Yap
Article

Abstract

An ad hominem fallacy is committed when an individual employs an irrelevant personal attack against an opponent instead of addressing that opponent’s argument. Many discussions of such fallacies discuss judgments of relevance about such personal attacks, and consider how we might distinguish those that are relevant from those that are not. This paper will argue that the literature on bias and testimony can helpfully contribute to that analysis. This will highlight ways in which biases, particularly unconscious biases, can make ad hominem fallacies seem effective, even when the irrelevance is recognized.

Keywords

Critical thinking Informal logic Ad hominem fallacies Credibility Testimony Bias Unconscious bias 

Notes

Acknowledgments

I would like to thank Cindy Holder, Mike Raven, Bryan Renne, as well as two anonymous referees for helpful comments and discussions about this paper.

References

  1. Audi, R. 1997. The place of testimony in the fabric of knowledge and justification. American Philosophical Quarterly 34(4): 405–422.Google Scholar
  2. Baier, A. 1986. Trust and anti-trust. Ethics 96: 231–260.Google Scholar
  3. Bertrand, M., and S. Mullainathan. 2004. Are Emily and Greg more employable than Lakisha and Jamal? A field experiment on labor market discrimination. American Economic Review 94(4): 991–1013.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Fowler, M.C. 2008. The ethical practice of critical thinking. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press.Google Scholar
  5. Govier, T. 1993. When logic meets politics: Testimony, distrust, and rhetorical disadvantage. Informal Logic XV(2): 93–104.Google Scholar
  6. Hurley, P.J. 2006. A concise introduction to logic, 9th edn. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth.Google Scholar
  7. Jones, K. 2001. The politics of credibility. In A mind of one’s own, 2nd edn. ed. L. Antony, C. Witt, pp. 154–177. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  8. Kenyon, T. 2008. Clear thinking in a blurry world. Toronto, ON: Thomson Nelson.Google Scholar
  9. Saul, J. 2011. Implicit bias, stereotype threat and women in philosophy. Available at http://www.sheffield.ac.uk/content/1/c6/03/49/18/BiasAndPhilosophy11.doc.
  10. Steinpreis, R., K. Anders, and D. Ritzke. 1999. The impact of gender on the review of the curricula vitae of job applicants and tenure candidates: A national empirical study. Sex Roles 41(41): 509–528.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Valian, V. 1998. Why so slow? The advancement of women. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  12. van Eemeren, F., B. Garssen, and B. Meuffels. 2009. Fallacies and judgments of reasonableness, volume 16 of argumentation library, chapter 3, pp. 51–83. Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  13. van Eemeren, F., and R. Grootendorst. 1992. Relevance reviewed: The case of argumentum ad hominem. Argumentation 6: 141–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. van Eemeren, F.H., R. Grootendorst, and F.S. Henkemans. 1996. Fundamentals of argumentation theory: A handbook of historical backgrounds and contemporary developments. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  15. van Eemeren, F.H., and P. Houtlosser. 2006. Strategic maneuvering: A synthetic recapitulation. Argumentation 20: 381–392.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Vaughn, L., and C. MacDonald. 2010. The power of critical thinking, 2nd edn. Don Mills, ON: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Walton, D. 2004. Relevance in argumentation. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  18. Woods, J., and D. Walton 1998. Argument: The logic of the fallacies. Toronto, ON: McGraw-Hill Ryerson.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of VictoriaVictoriaCanada

Personalised recommendations