Ad Hominem Fallacy: A Mistake in Arguments that Becomes Customary

Fallacy means a mistaken belief or failure in an argument. While preventing fallacy is the best scenario, we don't actually realise that fallacy is found almost in every place arguments are made. Malaysian, especially the netizen; embraces fallacy in their argument as they argue on many topics online.

What is ad hominem? 'Ad hominem' is a latin word which literally mean 'to a person', abridged from the word 'argumentum ad hominem' which in its context means an argument referring to a person. In other words, a personal attack. Consider the following example:

Premise 1: Aleph said 'x',
Premise 2: Aleph is short.
Conclusion: 'x' is wrong.

In the argument, what was said by Aleph was considered wrong because of him being short. It's a fail argument, just because he's short, it doesn't mean he's wrong. The following shows bad argument as well:

Premise 1: Aleph said 'x'.
Premise 2: Aleph is stupid.
Conclusion: 'x' is wrong.

While being stupid may increase the chance that Aleph would be wrong, it doesn't mean he couldn't be right. Which ever argument designed to aim at a person, his feature, his past or anything related to the person is called ad hominem. Ad hominem is usually practiced by those who are weak in arguing, and would try to avoid tackling the real issue by attacking the person.

Unfortunately, ad hominem in an argument is usually practiced as a rhetorical tool, most noticeably by the politician; which is going to be frequently repeated until people belief that it's the truth (ad nauseam fallacy). Worst enough, it works when used to promote false assumption, due to many people not doing their own research, choosing to simply belief those with power, position and expertise (ad verecundiam fallacy).

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