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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).
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    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
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    not sure about the Latin myself, but pseudo-latin comes in handy when you need it! – user20153 Dec 28 '16 at 22:12
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    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.) – user9166 Nov 27 '18 at 2:17
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    What is the term for someone who assumes that someone with a different idea than them is attacking them personally? – Christo Patrick Mar 16 at 16:50
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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
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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.

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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.

  • On reconsideration, the targets differ. Appeals to flattery target the audience, (who we suppose might commence with neutral ears), but not the defense or kindred partisans. Appeals to flattery belong with other emotional appeals that target the audience, like ad baculum. – agc Nov 6 at 4:18
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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).

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    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
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    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
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    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
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Argument from Exaggerated Authority

The question that was asked, whether there is an appropriate term to describe an "ad hominem" argument that elevates, rather than denigrates a person holding a particular view, is very valid and timely. In an age when "tribal epistemology" is playing an increasingly dominant role in public discourse, it's important to have an answer. Every tribal conflict involves "two sides" (assuming, that is, that the fallacy of "false dichotomy" is also at play, which is pretty much where we are in American politics in 2019). This means that one side will tend to think their own beliefs to be valid merely because they are the ones who hold them, and will simultaneously believe the "other side's" beliefs to be entirely wrong because they (the "others") are the ones who hold them. This is the "starting block" for the race to the depths of the Post-Truth Era, where facts really don't matter. Tribal affiliation is the only thing that's important. (Star-bellied Sneetches: "There was no quid pro quo" The Plain-bellied Sneetches: WTF??!!)

With each "side" elevating the justification for their own beliefs while denigrating the "other side", do we really want the same term "ad hominem" to apply in both cases? Even if this is technically correct, this is a situation where I feel philosophy needs to "get real", and not devolve into arcane disagreements over nuanced points.

As noted in previous answers, the term ad hominem, is used essentially without exception in cases where the validity of the opposing argument is impugned by attacking the person making an argument, rather than by refuting the evidence on which it is based. It's even gotten to the point that "ad hominem" is commonly (even if inappropriately) used as a fancy-sounding synonym for "insult", rather than as description of a logical fallacy used in an bogus argument. IMHO, the horse has left the barn on this question, and I don't see much point in trying to resurrect some broader meaning for ad hominem that includes both positive and negative cases.

Previous Answers in this discussion claiming that the term ad hominem can be applied in situations where an argument is being supported, rather than refuted, will cause unnecessary and unhelpful confusion. We need solutions... as the problem of "ad hominem" reasoning (s.l.) is an existential threat to the well-being of our society. The highest priority, from my perspective, is to avoid undermining the basic concept that the validity of an argument ought to be based on the actual evidence, rather than on who says it.

But this still leaves us with a need for an expression to describe the "positive case" situation. I don't think there's an obvious word or phrase that will fit the bill in all circumstances, but would suggest that "argument from exaggerated authority" might serve. The fallacy of "argument from authority" is already widely known, even if it is often misapplied with regard to whether the authority is actually warranted or not. The phrase "exaggerated authority", implies that the the warrant for authority ought to be proportional to one's actual qualifications, and could easily be overestimated (or "mis-overestimated", as Geo. W. Bush might say).

This usage would address another frequently recurring meme in American society that is indirectly related to politics... that of "anti-intellectualism". In actual practice, anti-intellectualism is pretty much the domain of the political right wing, but not exclusively so. In the anti-intellectualist view, certain groups such as liberal academics and the "coastal" intellectual elites are agents of useless incorrect beliefs about the world, whereas graduates of the "school of hard knocks"... You know?... Joe Sixpack and his friends? are repositories of practical and reliable street knowledge. Kitchen table wisdom. Those who are sympathetic to this view will have an elevated, or "exaggerated", assessment of the validity of their own beliefs, while simultaneously having an "ad hominem" contempt for the beliefs of the "other side".

So... That's my suggestion: "Argument from Exaggerated Authority".
That'll be 5 cents, please.

  • I agree with your introductory assessment of such a term's potential utility. But the kind of praise being considered here does not necessarily establish authority or even an imagined authority. The praise in question is more in the line of what some call social status; (like the Sneeches), the extreme example is celebrity, but even the pettiest gains in ordinary status might serve the fallacious purpose. Really it's more of an attempt to sideline authority in favor of some irrelevant token. – agc Nov 6 at 4:37

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