Source: p 131, A Concise Introduction to Logic (12 Ed, 2014) by Patrick J. Hurley

The argument against the person occurs in three forms: the ad hominem abusive, the ad hominem circumstantial, and the tu quoque. In the ad hominem abusive, the second person responds to the first person’s argument by verbally abusing the first person. [...]

Example: [1.] Secretary of State John Kerry argues that Israel should hold the line on new settlements in Palestine.
[2.] But Kerry is not Jewish, and he has never had any great affection for Israel.
[4.] Thus, his arguments are worthless.

Again, whether John Kerry is Jewish and whether he does or does not have any great affection for Israel have nothing to do with whether his premises support his conclusion.

The above does not appear fallacious, and instead appears to lack only a Suppressed Premise, which (when revealed) would validate the argument. What have I neglected?

3 below appears to me as the Suppressed Premise. If I insert 3 between 2 and 4, then the argument above becomes valid, correct? If so, what is fallacious?

[3.] Not revering Israel, non-Jewish people argue that Israel should hold the line ... in Palestine.

I already read this article.

  • Hurley's explanation is sloppy. 2 is not verbal abuse. It's just irrelevant to the argument. – Ben Jan 14 '16 at 17:46

The fallacy arises because ad hominem has no unbiased axiomatic value to the original argument. From the quoted text the actual debated argument is holding the line Palenstine and not are John Kerry's arguments for holding the line valid/bias. In fact if it was the second, this wouldn't really be ad hominem, but while arguing the first and attacking(not refuting) the arguments of your opponent and not addressing the argument you commit a fallacy; a failure in reasoning that renders an argument invalid. Why? Because you do not address the original argument, that is the failure in reasoning, ad hominem argues toward a topic NOT being debated.


One cannot talk of validity when propounding a view based upon feelings. Validity only applies to the terms of an Argument, not to the terms of a Sonnet, or a diatribe. All premises must be present for validity to be determined, and Fallacy may be declared in any case if any be lacking.


The religion of the source of an argument is not a reflection on its value.

Any atheist author can make arguments about the writings of someone like Aquinas or Augustine by taking into account the work and its context. They might even make arguments that those inside the religion consider valid and would not find for themselves because of habits of interpretation that have not been adequately challenged within the faith. The arguments about the environment, for instance, to which Pope Francis has finally lent doctrinal support, seem to originate in Calvinist Protestant notions of Stewardship, not within the Catholic Church.

So one can have perspective, and even reverence, for an institution and still hold it accountable to other standards or to alternative interpretations of its own stated standards. Kerry may well understand the relevant parts of Judaism in a more abstract way, or he may be arguing from Isreal's constitution, or international laws, which Isreal might have entered into in a way that overrules religious issues. We don't know.

But we have not been encouraged to consider the actual basis of his judgments. We have instead been referred to his religion as a disqualification of his unstated arguments before they are introduced.

Facts of personal identity are almost never decisive in logical arguments. After all, we have empathic abilities, abstract principles, and relational logic that allow us to realistically consider the circumstances of people different from ourselves in a way that is still fair.

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