Lightening up on the Ad Hominem

John Woods


In all three of its manifestations, —abusive, circumstantial and tu quoque—the role of the ad hominem is to raise a doubt about the opposite party’s casemaking bona-fides.Provided that it is both presumptive and provisional, drawing such a conclusion is not a logical mistake, hence not a fallacy on the traditional conception of it. More remarkable is the role of the ad hominem retort in seeking the reassurance of one’s opponent when, on the face of it, reassurance is precisely what he would seem to be ill-placed to give. Brief concluding remarks are given over to an examination of rival approaches to the ad hominem, especially those in which it is conceived of as a dialectical error.


ad hominem, Aristotle, DeMorgan, dialectic, fallacy, Locke, logic, informant, normativity, plausibility, pragma-dialectics, reassurance, refutation, rhetoric, slanging, Walton

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ISSN: 0824-2577