You made mistakes in the past, but learned from them and now you are not committing these mistakes any longer. However, because you committed these mistakes in the past, some might say, that you are morally not in the position to point out these very mistakes to others.

How is this fallacy called?

  • The issue describe is the person who did the mistake in the past & that same person is NOW correcting other people or teaching other people how to avoid the mistake is simply being called a hypocrite. This is not an outright fallacy. A fallacy has to be an argument which has a conclusion. Now when you reject my argument & my conclusion because of my past mistakes that can be a FALLACY: the attack of the person (ad hominem). This fallacy is frequently misunderstood & claimed to be committed where there is no conclusion. Just calling people names is not enough. – Logikal Oct 5 '20 at 13:34
  • A hypocrite in my understanding would be: Person A is blaming Person B for instance for some kind of misbehavior while in the same time Person A is exactly showing the same misbehavior like Person B. In my example Person A is not misbehaving any longer. The logical error: Person B says: You are morally not in the position to point this misbehavior out to me, because you committed it by yourself in the past. OK, that could be an (ad hominem). – royskatt Oct 5 '20 at 13:54
  • your definition implies only negative behaviour. Any inconsistent act with your actions & your verbal communication would qualify as a hypocrite. A drill instructor cannot be seen correctly if he is yelling at a recruit about his wrinkled uniform while the drill instructor's uniform is wrinkled. The image of the person teaching has to be positive & not inconsistent. A English professor making constant grammar errors would be horrible. A math teacher constantly making Mathematical errors is looks bad. This is more of a psychological issue than logical. – Logikal Oct 5 '20 at 15:19
  • What makes the difference between the psychological issue and the logical issue is that person B MUST REJECT YOUR CONCLUSION because of your character. Be sure the rejection is only your character and not your premises to your argument. If you have no argument like I said there is no fallacy. Fallacy implies there are premises and a conclusion. Someone rejecting what you say as in a group because they don't like you or your past behavior is NOT a fallacy in itself. There is no argument in the last variation. So that is a psychological issue. – Logikal Oct 5 '20 at 15:24
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    Konrad Adenauer, first chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany: "What do I care about the nonsense I talked yesterday". – gnasher729 Oct 5 '20 at 18:02

This is an informal fallacy whereby an opponent attempts to undermine your argument by arguing that you are a hypocrite. It could be viewed as a poisoning the well or a straw man. In the former case, in essence, by alienating the listener to you personally by claiming you are guilty of hypocrisy, the opponent hopes to shift the focus of attention away from the argument to your credibility. Of course, it's a fallacy because hypocrisy requires that you must currently be engaged in said action, belief, activity, etc, or that there isn't a false equivalency between what you do and say because of subtle but important differences. The straw man might come into play if your opponent misrepresents your position by conflating your past position for your current one.

But the best fit for the name of this fallacy is called the whataboutism a subspecies of tu quoque. From WP:

Whataboutism, also known as whataboutery, is a variant of the tu quoque logical fallacy that attempts to discredit an opponent's position by charging them with hypocrisy without directly refuting or disproving their argument.

The classic example listed by the article is that of Soviet apologists who in defense of their regime's human rights violations would attack the US on the basis of historical slavery and Jim crow and point out that African-Americans in the US are currently still disproportionately poor and disadvantaged in many ways. Note that the history is irrelevant to the US indictment of Soviet abuses of human rights, and that despite the inequity in US society between black and whites statistically speaking, it is a brazen false equivalence with Soviet oppression of the individual. Political repression in the former Soviet Union was fundamentally different than the systemic racism in the US in several important ways.

Let's do a quick example of bad reasoning drawn from the historical origins of whataboutism, in response to US criticism of human rights abuse, the argument may be made:

P1 The US has in the past engaged in slavery, and therefore is hypocritical.
P2 Anyone who engages in such hypocrisy regarding civil rights has no valid point in regards to our treatement of our citizens.
C Any and all criticisms therefore of our treatment from the US are not cogent.

  • Your premise one already has a conclusion? We already have problems. Therefore is a conclusion indicator which means you have a premise displayed, a hidden premise & conclusion which is expressing the U.S. is hypocritical. Your use of the hypocritical is not correct. Hypocrite is one who says one thing and DOES ANOTHER. In this case people could have learned from past mistakes. If they learn and are now consistent there is no hypocrisy. Premise to cannot stand as written for the use of hypocrisy is faulty. Thirdly, the conclusion has the term cogent in it? Cogent is not used for deduction. – Logikal Oct 5 '20 at 23:28
  • The rules for rhetoric and deductive reasoning is just not the same. Rhetoric uses arguments to persuade whereas philosophy never does. It is more of an intellectual process. Deductive reasoning seeks to point out bad reasoning & if the fallacy has a NAME then it has a FORM WE RECOGNIZE. THAT IS HOW WE DETECT IT. How else would you know a fallacy occurred? Informal is not LITERAL. it means an argument or inferences are not categorical in context. We recognize fallacies because they have a repetitive form or repetitive properties we can measure. Hypocrisy is not acts years apart. – Logikal Oct 5 '20 at 23:34
  • @Logikal You clearly have a command of the English language, but don't seem to see the forest for the trees. 1) The conclusion of an argument can be a premise of another. Strictly speaking, my argument isn't an atomistic syllogism. That doesn't mean it's not an argument. 2) Of course my use of hypocritical is not correct. That's why whataboutism is a fallacy. Please reread the post as you seem confused. The OP is asking about an informal fallacy used in argumentation. I'm not sure why you seem stuck on the idea that he is asking about a formal deduction. What is your first language? – J D Oct 6 '20 at 15:59
  • Again, the user in no way indicated that he wanted an analysis according to strictly formal deduction. That is your bias. – J D Oct 6 '20 at 16:03

Affirming a disjunct: x or y; y, therefore not x.

And the fallacy of infallibility, which assumes that infallibility is possible and only those who are infallible have authority. On the other hand, we have to be mindful of the fallacy of experience, that our personal experiences, which are anecdotal, may not reflect the experiences of others and represent definitive proof.


The situation you describe reminds me of the genetic fallacy.

Someone commits the genetic fallacy when they assess a claim on the basis of facts about its source or origin rather than on its own merit.

For example: X told you that Y, and since X is not trustworthy, ~Y must be the case.

Explanation: X may not be trustworthy but that does not mean that the opposite of Y is necessarily the case. To fully assess someone's belief in Y, you cannot simply look at the source of their belief in order to discredit it.

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