Ad Hominem Arguments

by Doy Moyer

One of the most common logical fallacies is the ad hominem. It occurs when a person attacks the character of another rather than addressing the argument. There are many ways this happens, but one that I have seen several times is in questioning the honesty of one who differs. You don’t agree with what I just said? You’re not being honest, obviously. Otherwise, you’d agree.

Questioning integrity and motives quickly shuts down a conversation. It’s a lazy way out because it bypasses the argument and dismisses both the person and the position held by that person. After all, if the other person isn’t being honest, why should I have to answer the argument?

Is it possible the other person is being dishonest? Yes. And it’s possible that I’m being dishonest, too. But this is not a charge to be taken lightly or thrown around as a catch-all for those who don’t agree with my “obviously well-thought-out and flawless position.” If only you see what I see, know what I know, and can think as sharply as I think, you’d be right there with me. Case closed.

But this isn’t how solid or fair communication happens. Love gives the benefit of any doubts, and we have to be able to trust each other to have decent motives when we disagree. Now multiple interactions may expose dishonesty, but that’s ultimately for the Lord to decide, not me.

It’s on me to check my integrity and honesty, and it’s on you to check yours. Then, if we discuss something we disagree with, we can focus on the arguments and perhaps help sharpen one another.

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