It's All Very Well for You to Talk! Situationally Disqualifying Ad Hominem Attacks

Erik C. W. Krabbe, Douglas Walton


The situationally disqualifying ad hominem attack is an argumentative move in critical dialogue whereby one participant points out certain features in his adversary's personal situation that are claimed to make it inappropriate for this adversary to take a particular point of view, to argue in a particular way, or to launch certain criticisms. In this paper, we discuss some examples of this way of arguing. Other types of ad hominem argumentation are discussed as well and compared with the situationally disqualifying type. The socalled Houtlosser Dilemma highlights the danger of unconditionally condoning ad hominem arguments. We propose a classification of ad hominem, and a more restrictive use of the term 'circumstantial'. Finally, we discuss whether ad hominem arguments are (always?) to be rejected as fallacious.


Fallacies, argumentation, ad hominem arguments, personal attack, bias, poisoning the well argument, character attack, pragmatic inconsistency

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ISSN: 0824-2577