Winning Discussions: Ad Hominem (Effective Pirating)

Winning Discussions: Ad Hominem (Effective Pirating)

Logical fallacies are techniques that people use to make an argument appear convincing even when it is wrong. Learning how to identify and refute logical fallacies is one of the best ways to win in a discussion. Catching an opponent committing a fallacy will force him to retract his error or he will appear foolish or manipulative to his audience. There is a dark side to this. Once you learn to identify logical fallacies you will also be able to use them. Do not deliberately use them against fellow Pirates; it is extreme bad manners and you will most probably be caught out.

The Logical Fallacy – Ad Hominem

The term is Latin for “against the man”. This is where someone attacks the person who is making an argument instead of attacking the argument itself. It is the favourite weapon of trolls  and politicians and should be despised by Pirates. Anyone making this sort of attack does not deserve the name of Pirate. Usually the attack made is untrue or a distortion of the facts but in any case it it the validity of the argument made that is in question. It may also take the form of impugning someone’s character and race and gender are often used. While always keeping in mind that the argument being attacked may well be incorrect, the person making the ad hominem attack is poisoning the atmosphere and undermining the democratic process in a pernicious  way.

Any Pirate who continues to attack fellow Pirates in this way, despite warnings, should not allowed to continue in the Party. There can be no “free speech” defence for malicious attacks withing the Party.

See also Poisoning the Well



Sara is a feminist so what she said is rubbish. Jack is a men’s rights proponent so what he said is anti women.

John has a mental illness so you can see why he said that.

Ali is a Muslim so his attitudes are tainted by jihadism.

Joan’s husband is a banker so she has no moral right to speak on behalf of the poor.




You can read more about the ad hominemlogical fallacy in a wikipedia post and logical fallacies in general in this wikipedia article.
Remember that just because someone commits a logical fallacy it does not mean their argument is necessarily incorrect. If you have the time and resources then use the principles of scepticism to test their reasoning objectively.

This article is a part of a series called Effective Pirating:

Winning Discussions: The Fallacy Fallacy (Effective Pirating) 09/01/15
Winning Discussions: The Gambler’s Fallacy (Effective Pirating)
Winning Discussions: argumentum ad ignorantiam (Effective Pirating)
Winning Discussions: post hoc, ergo propter hoc (Effective Pirating)
Winning Discussions: Ad Hominem (Effective Pirating)
Winning Discussions: Appeal to Fear (Effective Pirating) 21/10/14
Winning Discussions: Begging the Question (Effective Pirating) 17/8/14
Winning Discussions – The Bandwagon Fallacy (Effective Pirating) 11/8/14
Effective Pirating: Winning Discussions – Tu Quoque 24/7/14
Effective Pirating: Winning Discussions – The Straw Man 17/7/14
Effective Pirating: Choose your Opponents Carefully 7/7/14

Featured image: CC BY-NC Tom