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Attack the Person

 

Disciplines Argument > Fallacies > Attack the Person

Description | Discussion | Example | See also

 

Description

Attack the person in some way. For example:

  • Attack their expertise, questioning their qualifications or experience
  • Criticize their physical appearance or dress
  • Comment on their inability to make a good argument
  • Point out their junior status
  • Attack their values as being contrary to social norms
  • Interpret a minor error as major
  • Attach them to discredited others

Example

You are not qualified to make such a statement.

You would say that, wouldn't you.

And who do you think is going to believe you.

Of course you will defend your own department.

You mean you have not considered Wikkin's work? That is a serious omission.

Discussion

Attacking the Person is a form of distraction, forcing them into defending themself and away from their argument. Most people, when personally attacked, respond with a fight-or-flight reaction and so either jump to their own defense or cognitively flee (and in doing so, drop any argument they are making).

Attacking people in public frames you as an aggressive person who attacks those who oppose you. Other people there will consequently be less likely to attack you or use strong arguments against you, for fear of being attacked by you, hence strengthening your power position.

A sub-division: Abusive Ad Hominem is where the person is attacked and discredited. Circumstantial Ad Hominem occurs where an excuse is made for the person which negates their argument due to some special circumstances, such as the role they have.

Classification

Attack, Distraction, Relevance

Also known as

Ad Hominem (against the person), Abusive Ad Hominem, Circumstantial Ad Hominem.

See also

Reductio ad Absurdum, Character assassination, Distraction principle, Fight-or-Flight reaction, Attack

 

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