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Ad Hominem

Short for argumentum ad hominem—argument against the person.

Paul Graham’s Hierarchy of Disagreement, from How to Disagree:

  1. “You’re an idiot” (Name calling)
  2. “Of course he would say that. He’s a senator.” (Ad Hominem)
  3. “I can’t believe the author dismisses intelligent design in such a cavalier fashion.” (Responding to Tone)
  4. “I can’t believe the author dismisses intelligent design in such a cavalier fashion. Intelligent design is a legitimate scientific theory.” (Contradiction)
  5. Counterargument
  6. Refutation
  7. Refuting the Central Point

Insulting one’s character is a common example of a fallacious ad hominem—only when used in place of a genuine argument.