If it has a certain name, which is it?

The fallacy consist in denying value of an idea due to the validity of other ideas from the same source.


"How can you trust the opinion on any matter of an anti-vaxxer?"

"This doctor prescribes homeopathy so why should you believe any other thing about healthcare he says?"


  • Genetic fallacy "a fallacy of irrelevance that is based solely on someone's or something's history, origin, or source rather than its current meaning or context". However, if a source is known as untrustworthy on some subject (like medicine) there is no fallacy in discounting their opinions on similar subjects, it is only prudent. – Conifold Jun 29 '19 at 22:30
  • Well maybe the exemplification on disregarding the opinion on subjects of the same matter was unfortunate then, i mostly wanted to address the cases where both things arent related. – Alexander Aeons Torn Jun 29 '19 at 22:36
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    I think this centers on argument from authority, some are fallacious some aren't: dougwalton.ca/papers%20in%20pdf/19Deon.pdf I provide the link in case I am not able to provide an answer later. +1 – Frank Hubeny Jun 29 '19 at 22:44
  • Interesting, I though the argument from athority was only used to assert true to an argument due to the expertise on the subject of the author, not to dismiss in case of lack of expertise. – Alexander Aeons Torn Jul 1 '19 at 9:04

M. Koszowy and D. Walton argue that there are two types of authority, epistemic and deontic, that can become confused and lead to fallacious arguments from authority. The epistemic authority involves expert opinion. The deontic authority involves administrative authority. Fallacious situations arise when such authorities are not adequately questioned often because of a confusion of these two types of authorities.

To study these two types of authority they use argumentation schemes. As an example the argumentation scheme for epistemic authority is as follows: (page 4)

Major Premise: Source E is an expert in subject domain S containing proposition A.
Minor Premise: E asserts that statement A is true (false).
Conclusion: A is true (false).

One tentatively accepts the conclusion, but then critical questioning should begin. They list six such questions as initial examples: (page 4-5)

Expertise Question: How credible is E as an expert source?
Field Question: Is E an expert in the field F that A is in?
Opinion Question: What did E assert that implies A?
Trustworthiness Question: Is E personally reliable as a source?
Consistency Question: Is A consistent with what other experts assert?
Backup Evidence Question: Is E’s assertion based on evidence?

Once a critical question has been asked, the other side needs to make a response. These critical questions are similar to the questions that the OP lists for consideration:

"How can you trust the opinion on any matter of an anti-vaxxer?"

"This doctor prescribes homeopathy so why should you believe any other thing about healthcare he says?"

By themselves, these questions are not fallacious. This critical questioning is an important part of the argument. As the authors note, "it would be a great error to treat experts as infallible". (page 18)

The next step is for someone supporting the doctor to make a response. A fallacious situation could occur if someone felt too intimidated or confused to adequately question the authority.

Koszowy and Walton list five areas where fallacies may be recognized: (page 18)

Our theory is that recognizing the fallacy should be based on five underlying factors: (1) the ambiguity between the two types of authority, the epistemic and deontic one, (2) the transitioning in arguments from authority from the one type of authority to the other, a transition that might easily passed unobserved without an awareness of the subtle matters of argumentation in it, as shown in section 6, (3) the confusion that might easily arise between the two types of authority in arguments in which such a transition occurs, (4) the unthinking and unquestioned transference of the deference properly attributable to the deontic authority, leading to acceptance of the epistemic authority, and (5) the overlooking of critical questions which may need to be considered in response to the argument from epistemic authority.

From just these two questions it is unclear if any of these factors have occurred. That questions were asked at all is evidence that the argument did not involve a fallacy, but these questions may not have been the best questions to ask.

M. Koszowy and D. Walton Epistemic and Deontic Authority in the Argumentum Ad Verecundiam. (2019). Pragmatics and Society, 10(2), 2019, 151-179 Retrieved on July 3, 2019 from Douglas Walton's site at https://www.dougwalton.ca/papers%20in%20pdf/19Deon.pdf

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  • I was pretty sloppy on the examples provided so that probably made it harder but honestly didn't came anything at all to mind but I see this kind of argument constantly, E is dumb because he believes in X therefore everything he believes is a dumb idea. – Alexander Aeons Torn Jul 4 '19 at 8:55

This is potentially an ad hominem ("against the person") fallacy, which is an attempt to discredit an argument on the basis of some characteristic of the person making the argument. Ad hominem is a special case of the genetic fallacy, which is any discrediting of an argument based purely on characteristics of its source.

However, like all informal fallacies, it's only a fallacy when directed against an argument --a chain of reasoning --that would otherwise be considered strong. Conversely, if a person has been demonstrated to be unreliable as a source of facts, it's not fallacious to question their facts because of that. But facts aren't arguments.

The point here is that arguments can and should be evaluated on their own merits (good logical structure) and not on irrelevant accidents such as whose mouth they come out of. A strong argument (one with good logical structure) can fail to be cogent (able to ensure its conclusions) due to having untrue premises, but that's again independent of its own essential characteristics as an argument qua argument.

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