, Volume 27, Issue 4, pp 369–401

Strategies of Character Attack


DOI: 10.1007/s10503-013-9291-1

Cite this article as:
Macagno, F. Argumentation (2013) 27: 369. doi:10.1007/s10503-013-9291-1


Why are personal attacks so powerful? In political debates, speeches, discussions and campaigns, negative character judgments, aggressive charges and charged epithets are used for different purposes. They can block the dialogue, trigger value judgments and influence decisions; they can force the interlocutor to withdraw a viewpoint or undermine his arguments. Personal attacks are not only multifaceted dialogical moves, but also complex argumentative strategies. They can be considered as premises for further arguments based on signs, generalizations or consequences. They involve tactics for arousing emotions such as fear, hate or contempt, or for ridiculing the interlocutor. The twofold level of investigation presented in this paper is aimed at distinguishing the different roles that ad hominem have in a dialogue and bringing to light their hidden dimensions. The reasoning structure of each type of attack will be distinguished from the tactics used to increase its effectiveness and conceal its weaknesses.


Fallacies Ad hominem Character attack Emotive words Emotions Fear Pity Undercutter Argument from consequences Values Political discourse 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ArgLab, Instituto de Filosofia da Linguagem (IFL)Universidade Nova de LisboaLisbonPortugal

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