Fallacies of Relevance: Ad Hominem

CONTENT: This week describes two of the most common fallacies that people make: ad hominem fallacies and appeals to authority. Part of what makes these fallacies so common, and so difficult to avoid, is that many ad hominem arguments, and many appeals to authority, are actually not fallacies at all! Only some of them are. And figuring out which of them are fallacies is more of an art than a science. There is no simple recipe, but there are some rules of thumb you can use. We hope that the practice that you get in this week will help you to improve your skills at distinguish the fallacious from the non-fallacious instances of ad hominem reasoning, as well as appeal to authority. LEARNING OUTCOMES: By the end of this section you will be able to: determine whether an ad hominem argument is a fallacy determine whether an appeal to authority is a fallacy OPTIONAL READING: If you want more examples or more detailed discussions of these topics, we recommend Understanding Arguments, Ninth Edition, Chapter 15.

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