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There is 3 types of fallacies that comes to my mind for this,

  1. Fallacy of straw man

A straw man (sometimes written as strawman) is a form of argument and an informal fallacy of having the impression of refuting an argument, whereas the real subject of the argument was not addressed or refuted, but instead replaced with a false one

Straw man

In the situation I refer to, it shares the feature that they are refuting an argument that was not addressed or refuted by the speaker, but they are refering to the argument of another speaker so it seems different.

  1. Fallacy of association

An association fallacy is an informal inductive fallacy of the hasty-generalization or red-herring type and which asserts, by irrelevant association and often by appeal to emotion, that qualities of one thing are inherently qualities of another. Two types of association fallacies are sometimes referred to as guilt by association and honor by association.

Premise: A is a B Premise: A is also a C Conclusion: Therefore, all Bs are Cs

Association fallacy

In the situation I refer to, they are asserting the qualities of one person are the same that other qualities a group he belongs to has, so it seems similar to a fallacy of association, but it turns out to be that the person either doesnt belong to that group they are implying, so it seems different in this sense.

  1. Fallacy ad hominem

Ad hominem (Latin for 'to the person'), short for argumentum ad hominem (Latin for 'argument to the person'), refers to several types of arguments, some but not all of which are fallacious. Typically this term refers to a rhetorical strategy where the speaker attacks the character, motive, or some other attribute of the person making an argument rather than attacking the substance of the argument itself. The most common form of ad hominem is "A makes a claim x, B asserts that A holds a property that is unwelcome, and hence B concludes that argument x is wrong".

Ad Hominem

In the situation I describe, they are indeed asserting that the person has a property that is unwelcome, and therefore the argument is wrong (fallacy), in this sense it seems this type of fallacy, but it turns out that the unwelcome property is also false, so in this sense it seems another kind of fallacy.

So, to me, the fallacy I refer to it seems like a combination or mix of the 3 types of fallacies I mentioned, but may be I'm wrong and it's just one of them, or 2. Does the fallacy I describe (which is very common by the way) have a name?

Which kind of fallacy is a fallacy that associates a person to the negative ideas of a group he doesnt belong to?

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  • Generalization? Prejudice?
    – gsmafra
    May 11, 2022 at 14:46
  • Note that dishonor by association is in fact often used the way you describe, usually by imagining a group that do not exist or assigning qualities to this group all the members don't share (which is kind of equivalent). If I say "you're a christian and christians are bigots" I assign the person to the group of "bigot christians", a group smaller than "all christians", to which they possibly don't belong (-> fallacy). If I say "people who can't get pregnant shouldn't have a say about abortion", the categorization is correct, therefore not fallacious (the conclusion is debatable of course)
    – armand
    Nov 8, 2022 at 2:24
  • It's called life. 😅
    – Hudjefa
    Mar 8, 2023 at 4:47

3 Answers 3

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The argument you have described is of the form:

1. Some X believe P.
2. A is an X.
3. Therefore A believes P.

If A is not actually an X (you say, "it turns out to be that the person either doesnt belong to that group"), then proposition 2 is simply a false premise.

But even if the premise in proposition 2 were true, the conclusion in proposition 3 is erroneously derived based on a faulty generalization (or what you've called an association fallacy, but the label doesn't matter).

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  • No, the argument is 2. A is not an X. Nov 3, 2023 at 12:24
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The best response I can think of is that such arguments are invalid because they have an undistributed middle term. The general form is this: All P are M; All S are M; thus All S are P. Concretely, this argument is best illustrated by the Association Fallacy described in the question. However, the other two examples depend upon the same fallacy. Because there is no middle term that connects the major and minor premises, the conclusion cannot follow.

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  • -1: Surely the simplest term is 'prejudice'? After all racists have often said blacks are m******. This is a "negative" group that blacks do not belong to. It's a fallacy (and here I'm not using the word in its use in logic but as in ordinary everyday language) that all mistakes in reasoning can be reduced to a fallacy. Would you not agree? May 11, 2022 at 19:14
  • @MoziburUllah. The simplest term is indeed “prejudice”. However, in this example, “prejudice” is just shorthand for the lack of a distributed middle term. Every mistake in reasoning can find its source in some fallacy. May 11, 2022 at 19:26
  • No, it is not. It's prejudice is a simple statement and not a syllogism. May 11, 2022 at 20:52
  • And don't you know the famous anecdote told by the Indian economist Amartya Sen about Wittgenstein and his obsession about logic? When W was babbling logic at Sraffa, a friend of Sen and also an economist, Sraffa made a rude gesture to W and asked him pointedly, "what's the logical form of that?" W had no answer because there was no answer. Some language is purely performative. They are as Austin calls them, acts. May 11, 2022 at 22:29
  • So I repeat: Prejudice is not "shorthand for the lack of a distributed middle term". I do know what that means. Perhaps you are blinded a little by the use of impressive sounding logical terms? May 11, 2022 at 22:34
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The question should never be "what is the name of that fallacy", the question should be "what is the fallacy". So what is wrong with that argument or "is something wrong with this argument.

Typically fallacies are formal errors in the construction of a deductive argument. So that the argument is "invalid" that is, the conclusion does not follow from it's premises. So essentially all fallacies are a non sequitur (=does not follow). However just because a conclusion would be true if the premises were to be true (valid), doesn't mean that it actually is true (sound) and so there are also a couple of "informal" fallacies that try to mess with the premises in a way that makes an otherwise valid argument invalid in an attempt to make it look sound.

So for example:

A broken clock shows the wrong time
This clock is broken
Therefore this clock shows the wrong time

This argument would be valid, because if the premises were true the conclusion would also be true. However it's using an unconventional definition of "broken", so if you'd take a clock that isn't working (but standing still) and argue your broken clock shows the correct time (by chance) then that would be an informal fallacy because you illegally bend the meaning of "broken".

So the question in your case should first of all be what actually is your argument.

Like are you making a case of:

All X are Y
Z is X 
Therefore Z is Y

Well in that case that argument would be valid. Because it has the correct form so that the conclusion follows from the premises. Though it might not be sound if either "All X are Y" is a generalization that doesn't hold or if Z is in fact not a member of X (as you mention in your example). So it's valid, thus not fallacious, but it's not sound, the premises are simply not true.

Or are you trying to shoot the messenger instead of the message?

A say X
A is an idiot 
Therefore X is false

In that case it's like the case of the broken clock, in that just because the clock is not working any more it might still show the correct time (by chance) so the argumentation is actually invalid, because the conclusion does NOT follow necessarily from the premises as it could be true but it could also be false. You could call that an "ad hominem" fallacy but the important thing to notice is that you're not attacking the argument itself (X in that case) but you're attacking the person making it.

However one needs to be careful as not any attack on the credibility of a person is a fallacy either, like if a politician acts morally dubious the actual argument might be

People who act reprehensible are unfit for the job Politician X acts reprehensible Therefore politician X is unfit for the job

Would be a valid argument. Even though it might be a fallacious detour if used to debunk a concrete statement of that politician.

So if you try to smear someone by false association in order to make them appear to support something they don't actually support. Yes your attacking the person, you're making a false generalization and you're misrepresenting their standpoint.

Though you might wanna look at what is the most important claim. So is the argument "Person A is wrong because they are bad"? Well then you would simply refute this reasoning as fallacious because being a bad person doesn't necessarily mean your wrong, you'd actually need to prove that.

Is the argument "Person A is saying B because they are associated with group C". Well then first of all the question is what person A is saying and you could attack the fallacious idea that association with group C (true or false) at all would imply saying B.

And so on. So although everything about that argument is fallacious some of the fallacious might already be of minor significance because they try to support a premises that is already false, so you might just point out that and the rest would fall apart already without that foundation.

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