2

Occasionally, I write criticisms about some products online and people respond with statements like, "That's just your problem," or questions like, "If you don't like it then why do you use it?" I feel like this is fallacious as the comments dismiss my criticisms by making the problem specific to me. If this is indeed a fallacy then is there a name for it? I was thinking that it could be Ad hominem but I'm not sure.

  • Ad hominem is an example of a fallacy of irrelevance (ignoratio elenchi). You could say that the second example you gave is an example of tu quoque, if they are trying to make the point that you're being hypocritical by using the product even if you don't like it. Your act of being hypocritical (if that's what they're arguing) by using the product you don't like doesn't mean that your criticism of it is invalid by default. – Not_Here Jul 15 '17 at 1:25
  • 1
    @Not_Here I dunno if it's a good idea to focus on how others' statements could be interpreted as fallacies. I mean, if someone says that 1+1=2, is it appropriate to presume that they're making an appeal-to-the-authority-of a math textbook? Likewise, I think that we shouldn't reach to construct strawmen here; there're valid reasons why people might make those comments, and 'til we can determine that none of those valid reasons apply, there's no apparent fallacy. – Nat Jul 15 '17 at 3:49
  • @Nat see my parenthetical "if that's what they're arguing." The OP asked "What fallacy dismisses problems by making it specific to the critic?" strawmen have nothing to do with it. – Not_Here Jul 15 '17 at 3:59
  • @Aadit M Shah. I think you might be right about ad hominem. See below. – Geoffrey Thomas Dec 24 '17 at 13:41
2

Not fallacies

Fallacies don't apply in this situation since they're not attempting to formally prove that you're wrong or even asserting that you must be.

This goes doubly so for:

If you don't like it then why do you use it?

Here, they're not making a statement. It's not even a bad question - if you don't like a product, then potential buyers might have good reason to be interested in why you use it despite not liking it.

Rudeness isn't ad hominem

There's a somewhat common misconception that rudeness is a fallacy; it's not.

Ad hominem is where someone reasons something like:

  1. Bob said X.

  2. Bob is smelly.

  3. Therefore, X must be false.

The fallacy isn't in that calling Bob smelly is rude; as far as logic goes, that's perfectly fine. The problem's that Bob's odor doesn't typically have anything to do with statements he might make, e.g. X.

That said, it's still possible for this to not be a fallacy. For example, if it's:

  1. Bob said that he's not smelly.

  2. Bob is smelly.

  3. Therefore, Bob not being smelly must be false.

That's not a fallacy because Bob's smelliness is relevant.

1

I will chance my arm on this and say that there is a kind of ad hominem fallacy here. Ad hominem occurs when a claim or statement is made, and the maker of the claim or statement is attacked rather than the claim or statement itself. Doesn't this happen here ? If the Questioner makes a criticism, then the criticism should be addressed rather than any inconsistencies or other flaws in the behaviour of the critic. But the respondents precisely do attack the critic's behaviour rather than her/ his criticism.

I am not sure whether ad hominem is an example of ignoratio elenchi or merely similar to it. Certainly both appeal to considerations irrelevant to the point at issue (whatever it is). This really is an admission of uncertainty and not a denial that ad hominem can be subsumed under ignoratio elenchi. I stand open to correction.

1

It seems like what you are referring to are forms of ridicule and attempts to decontextualize the issue to transfer the focus from the subject to you.

One might simply name that denigration. Or, perhaps, defamation. One might say: "Stop the personally denigrating comments, and extend to me the courtesy I give to you."


Senators in the U.S. use the phrase, ad hominem, meaning directed at the person, as a high way of saying, that's insulting. Insulting and therefore not productive to friendly deliberation.

It's not ad hominem in the proper sense of being aimed at your principles or view of the matter since it is a distortion of your view, rather than a speaking to your view. There's a mistaken view that ad hominem is always something negative. It's not. If they really address your views, that's legitimate and even helpful to a deliberation that aims at clarifying issues.

The modern usage is vexed by the fact that the understanding of what a fallacy is has largely withered. So far as ad hominem is a rule of good sense, of experienced judgement, i.e., an informal fallacy, then the issue is if they dismiss the matter for the reason of the source alone. That doesn't make sense, since even a fool can say something that is true if only from time to time.

But views don't exist apart from human beings. So one must speak to the one who has the conviction or opinion in order to change the opinion. It's clear, in the cases you bring, that no friendly attempt to change your view is meant. Rather an attempt at character assassination is meant or at thuggish dismissal.

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.