This seems similar to Argument from authority but is an "opposite" in the sense that an argument is discredited because it comes from a non-authority on a subject.

To give you an example this video was posted in a discussion where Jaime Oliver explains the origins and fabrication of so-called pink slime.

One immediate reaction was along the lines that he was "a glorified cook" and that "using his opinion to form one's own is like voting a certain way because Gwyneth Paltrow urges you to".

This may be a bad example but the Jaime Oliver is a cook and one position could be to consider that he is misinformed about a process in the food industry despite the connection in terms of food.

A further reasoning could be along the lines of:

If person A put forwards a position that a non-authority agrees with then that position is false.

If this is an actual logical fallacy and it hasn't been described I'd be happy for suggestions as to how to call it.

  • 1
    How about "bias"? As bias, it is not necessary a fallacy, and the explicit conclusion that it is really "false" is often avoided. But of course, it is normally used as suggesting that something is false, only that the conclusion is left implicit. Like saying that the result was published in a journal of dubious reputation. – Thomas Klimpel Aug 3 '16 at 6:56
  • It seems to me that the reaction was due to the opinion that Jamie Oliver is an overrated cook – one who is praised more than he deserves – not that arguments on cooking by celebrity cooks are "automatically invalid". – George Law Aug 3 '16 at 7:10
  • @ThomasKlimpel that sounds like an ad hominem or in the case of the journal attacking the source rather than the arguments it puts forward. It is a bias but the bias is with the person and the argument seemingly put forward is that Jaime Oliver, Gwyneth Paltrow or whoever are ignorant on some subject and thus what they say is invalid when that is not necessarily the case. – James P. Aug 3 '16 at 22:36
  • @GeorgeLaw this is the video. It isn't about cooking but a process used for leftovers of meat. If this is a bad example consider the reasoning that states if a person is of a [discipline] then his views are misinformed about [subject outside of the expertise of discipline]. In this sense it is kind of a reverse Argument from authority in that, instead of assuming that a position is true because of an authority agrees with it, the assumption is that a position is false because a non-authority agrees with it. – James P. Aug 3 '16 at 22:52

I classify your example as ad hominem. Some other formulations similar to your example are:

  • An opinion about war held by one who has not served in the military or fought in combat is not legitimate.

  • Intellectual insight from one who is not college-educated is invalid.

  • An understanding of the rigors of pregnancy on the part of a man is erroneous (male medical doctors who practice obstetrics and gynecology would disagree).

This is a particular flavor of ad hominem that I have encountered often, and I sympathize with the urge to distinguish it from other fallacies. It certainly seems like a counterpart to the appeal to authority, a variation in which one does not vouch for an argument on the basis of alleged expertise, accomplishment or privilege but instead dismisses an argument on the basis of an alleged lack thereof. This illustrates where the confusion lies, and also identifies an important fact. Appeal to authority is an affirmation, while ad hominem is a negation. I view the two fallacies as counterparts, though I never encounter them characterized as such. They each shift emphasis and scrutiny away from an argument and toward an arguer. Your example, however, is properly termed ad hominem because it fallaciously negates an argument, and does not fallaciously affirm one.

Put more simply, a reversal of an appeal to authority would be an impugning of authority, which would be to say that one's position is invalid because one lacks the knowledge or experience to hold an informed opinion or put forth a cogent argument, which is to attack the arguer and evade the argument, which is ad hominem. Q.E.D.

I think it is more to the point to identify that ad hominem and appeal to authority are the same device applied in two different but complementary ways. Each approach says, essentially, "when evaluating this idea or opinion, consider the source (and only the source)."

One can appeal to authority (a privileged position or frame of reference) in many ways: an argument about patriotism must be true if it comes from a Republican; an argument about morality must be true if it comes from a Christian; an argument about economics must be true if it comes from a successful capitalist; an argument about law must be true if it comes from an attorney; an argument about climate change must be true if it comes from a scientist. If each of these is reversed, I find ad hominem attacks: an argument about patriotism must be false if it comes from a Democrat; an argument about morality must be false if it comes from an Atheist; an argument about economics must be false if it comes from a welfare recipient; an argument about law must be false if it comes from a criminal; an argument about climate change must be false if it comes from a layman. Therefore, while it is technically correct to term your example ad hominem I assert that your identification of your example as a reversal of or opposite to the appeal to authority is essentially correct, and that perhaps new organization and nomenclature, which would identify these fallacies as two sides of the same philosophical coin, is in order.

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    I think the situation considered here is worse. If someone makes an argument who is in my opinion clueless I can just ignore what he says. But the question was about not just ignoring the argument, but concluding that a position must be false because someone without a clue argues for it. – gnasher729 Aug 4 '16 at 13:24

I think you can just call it the argument by authority. Its just this time they are arguing that there is no authority here. This doesn't discredit the thing itself but discredits the use of that person as an authority. Its a strawman to say they are arguing that someone is so bad that anything they say is wrong. Just for instance using Hitler as a standard for morals would be baseless.


To go further on idea that it is an argument ad hominem:

It is an application of the argument of authority, together with the rule of the excluded middle: either one is an authority or one is not. Hence a non-authority has no business talking and the totality of what has been said is to be rejected as worthless. In other words since the who (source) is incorrect is not necessary to examine what (the content) has been said.

Hence it could be said that the fact that it is an argument ad hominem is subordinate to the argument of authority (together with excluded middle).

Note: I would differ with the argument that only morons would agree with such a logical fallacy, since the whole edifice of European knowledge has been predicated on authority, until Enlightenment philosophers pulled the carpet from under it with Sapere Aude. Furthermore, this is still quite commonplace in Academia ("he/she doesn't even have a degree in ..."), or on the workplace ("sorry, you would be fit for the job, but you don't have university degree").

  • I would point out that SE is based on a scale of intellectual authority, socially established (points and badges). Since it has some of measure of workability, despite of the fact that it gets in the way of science: it must be that any human society needs a minimal exercise of authority in order to operate at all. – fralau Oct 18 '16 at 16:38

do you mean something like "Jack the moron agrees that the claim of Joe the plumber is true; therefore, since Jack is a moron, Joe's claim must be false"?

That would obviously be a moronic argument that nobody but a moron would believe, and for that very reason I don't believe anybody has bothered to classify it as a logical fallacy.

  • It's more along the lines of an ad hominem against an authority, or considering the authority as a non-authority, and thus considering any claims from them as invalid. – James P. Aug 9 '16 at 10:04
  • no, ad homing is an attack against the claimant, like "Joe the plumber is vile so his claim is false." that's completely different from the OP's question – user20153 Aug 9 '16 at 21:54
  • The OP is me :p . What I am trying to explain is argumentation along the lines of Joe the plumber is vile so any claims like Joe the plumber's are false. – James P. Aug 12 '16 at 0:45

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