14

Is there a standard name for a fallacy of the same form as an ad hominem, except that instead of denouncing the opposition, it praises the defense?


Typically an ad hominem ("against the man") fallacy of (ir)relevance is described as requiring abuse:

Bob favors Y.
Bob is a lazy shiftless loser.
Therefore, Y is false.

In a sense, before the fallacy, Bob is somehow neutral, (as are Y and not-Y); after the ad hominem, Bob goes down a peg in the listener's esteem, which for an uncritical listener seems to put Y down a peg too. Therefore Not-Y is "above" Y.

Relatively speaking it doesn't much matter if either Y goes down a peg, or Not-Y goes up one, so long as one of them moves in the desired direction. The fallacious goal being to put Not-Y above, which can also be done by praising the defender of Not-Y:

Bill favors Not-Y.
Bill is a hard worker, and in 2012 was awarded the coveted Gilded Nostril.
Therefore Not-Y is true.

Other than the relative motions involved, (analogous to addition with positive and negative integers), the invalid form of both is the same. In the field of public discourse, both forms appear to be equally common. Bureaucracies seem to use the praising form more.


Abstracting both forms into one, an irrelevant but prejudicial personal attribute replaces (or overshadows) a premise, which incorrectly prejudices listeners to accept an unsupported and therefore invalid conclusion:

Bilbo favors Y (or not-Y).
Bilbo is naughty (or nice).
Therefore, Y is false (or not-Y is true).
  • 1
    argument pro hominen? – user20153 Dec 28 '16 at 0:50
  • @mobileink, something like that... not too sure about the Latin grammar tho'. If no standard term exists perhaps such a coinage would be better than nothing. – agc Dec 28 '16 at 7:25
  • 1
    not sure about the Latin myself, but pseudo-latin comes in handy when you need it! – user20153 Dec 28 '16 at 22:12
  • @user20153 That was my first thought too, but actually, "ad" (in this context) means "to" (as used in Mr.Kennedy's answer; I had to look it up), not "against", so "ad hominem" makes sense in this case. ("pro" might also make sense, but a different term is not required.) – John B. Lambe Nov 23 '18 at 17:10
  • 2
    It is still ad hominem. It does not matter whether the irrelevant aspects of the person addressed are positive or negative, they are not relevant... 'Ad' does not mean 'against', it means 'toward', without the implication of hostility or difference (cf. adjustment, or even adoration...) (or 'at', but in the sense of actually being near.) – jobermark Nov 27 '18 at 2:17
5

Is there a standard name for a fallacy of the same form as an ad hominem, except that instead of denouncing the opposition, it praises the defense?

The example is: "Bill favors not-Y", and Bill is a distinguished person, so not-Y is true. This argument is a form of appeal to authority, where "a person judged to be an authority affirms a proposition to the claim that the proposition is true." Logical Fallacies > Appeal to Authority. https://www.logicalfallacies.info/relevance/appeals/appeal-to-authority/

  • Interesting... so with this answer ad hominem and ad verecundiam would be "opposites" or complementary. Latin usage of vericundiam does concern a corrective or healthy sense of shame. If shame is the common thread, the personal attack puts a preemptive shame on sympathizers, while the appeal to authority is more of a defensive shame. – agc Nov 25 '18 at 22:15
3

According to this Master List of Fallacies, the opposite of an ad hominem attack is a star power fallacy.

Though it sounds like a very logical name, it doesn't appear to be very well known.

This could also be an appeal to virtue, which I believe is categorized under appeal to authority.

It seems somewhat similar to the appeal to celebrity and bandwagon fallacies.

3

Argumentum ad superbiam

Appeal to pride or use of flattery. This might be what you are looking for - it works (or fails to) not by relying on the strength of one's argument but by making use of the pride or vanity of the person to argument is meant to convince.

Real estate agent : 'You should buy that house. How cultured and discerning people will realise you are if you live in a place like that'.

What people realise about one, or will realise according to the real estate agent, is no good reason for buying a particular house. It could be cold, draughty, in need of expensive repair, near a flooding river, lacking in privacy, in a high crime area ...

I see this as opposite to ad hominem in that ad hominem is hostile and attacks or denigrates the other person. This does the exact opposite : and ad hominem and ad superbiam are equally irrelevant to the issue in hand. If I don't practice what I preach, and have ad hominem thrown at me, that counts for nothing against what I preach. At worst it shows me up as a hypocrite. Equally, what people realise about my culture and discernment counts for nothing (by ordinary criteria) in favour of buying a particular house.

2

Praising the defense is technically still argumentum ad hominem.

In your example the second statements are both "to" the "person" and neither is counter-argument, however, "Bob favors Y" and "Bob favors not-Y" are also not technically arguments in the first place, they are statements of an opinion. So in this instance, there is no logical fallacy of argumentum ad hominem, merely the exchange of sentiments.

If an argument is presented (either "for Y" or "against Y") and all that is offered in support of the argument is "the person arguing for (or against) Y is ABC..." then for either there is a false argument to the person.

If, however, the argument pertains the merits of the persons character, then ad hominem is apropos. For example:

Bill is Governor
Bill is a lazy shiftless loser
Therefore, Bill should not be re-elected Governor

and

Bill is not Governor
Bill is a hard worker and winner of the 2016 Gilded Nostril Award
Therefore, Bill should be elected Governor

Further thoughts: if praise of the arguer is misconstrued as positing the arguer as an authority (e.g. an expert, or an authorized judge) when they are not one, this would be an argument from false authority. There is also the argumentum ex cathedra which is "argument from the chair" or an appointed seat (of authority).

  • 1
    Re 'not counter-arguments': I believe there's nothing in the Q which asserts the praising variant of the form is a counter argument -- nor any other type of argument given that any ad hominem is fallacious. For this Q, the defender is not an authority, nor is mistaken for one. – agc Dec 27 '16 at 6:27
  • @agc sure - likewise "Bob favors Y" and "Bob favors Not-Y" are not technically arguments, they are statements of an opinion. – Mr. Kennedy Dec 27 '16 at 6:38
  • We agree the form is the same, and so logically the name might as well be. However the current name, at least in every exposition on the topic in English I've seen is illustrated exclusively by examples showing the negative form, which unfortunately may leave students unwary of the positive form. – agc Dec 27 '16 at 17:19
  • 1
    Re comment "likewise 'Bob favors Y": that's a premise, which for the sake of the Q is also a fact. – agc Dec 27 '16 at 17:31
  • 1
    Re "merely an exchange of sentiments": it's the conclusion in the OP Therefore, Y is false. which makes it an argument (albeit a fallacious one). The Governor examples above are not ad hominem fallacies, because such attributes would there be relevant. We suppose Y to be some point of mathematical abstraction, wholly separate from personal attributes. Since the Q is only about fallacies, valid usages are not relevant. – agc Dec 27 '16 at 17:46

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.