Your face is an ad hominem!

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Chapter 4 of Logic and Contemporary Rhetoric takes a look at a few types of fallacious reasoning, the first of which is the ad hominem argument. An ad hominem is the attacking of one’s opponent rather than the argument they present. A couple examples of these are attacks on irrelevant credentials or guilt by association. Although attacks on character or credentials may be relevant at times, such as when someone who has no prior knowledge in the field they are speaking about, unwarranted attacks are very common. Guilt by association occurs when someone attacks the character or actions of the people someone associates with and puts the guilt of those people on the person in question. The main difference between the straw man fallacy and an ad hominem is that the straw man attacks an argument that the opponent did not make and an ad hominem attacks the opponent directly. The picture above is an example of an ad hominem because when the the goose on the left gives a well thought out statement, the goose on the right attacks him by saying he is stupid because he eats corn and other irrelevant reasons. 

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Guilt by association along with many other versions of ad hominems is found frequently in political campaigns, debates and discussions. The picture above is a political cartoon depicting Sarah Palin. In it she says that it is reasonable to judge people based on the company they keep however, the cartoon also shows her aligning herself with people that are guilty of the “hatred of America” that she says is wrong. Although there are times such as when someone is associated with gangsters or other criminals where the judgement placed on that person may be accurate, it should not be the only proof of their guilt.

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