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Ad Hominem in GMAT Critical Reasoning

Ad Hominem in GMAT Critical ReasoningOnce you get a feel of the various GMAT Critical Reasoning question types, it is important that you understand the fallacies in arguments that would be part of the answer choices. A common one seen in assumption and conclusion question type is the Fallacies resulting from Ad Hominem.

What is Ad Hominem

Ad Hominem is a Latin Word that translates to “To the Man” or more precisely “Against the man”. Politicians are experts at using Ad Hominem. In this type of fallacy, the author or source of the argument is attacked instead of attacking the argument per se.

If you don’t pay close attention, this fallacy might give you the impression that the argument of the author is targeted. This fallacy is a 2-step attack.

First step involve attacking the author’s character where his virtues and vices are questioned and exposed, then his actions and the circumstances under which those actions were performed are brought to the forefront. The first step acts as proof against any arguments that the author make even if the arguments have strong independent evidences to support it.

Conflict in Words and Action (of Group)

This Ad Hominem can be represented with an example about Politician A & B conversing about an anti-graft bill.

Politician A: I believe that a strong anti-graft bill is required to conquer corruption

Politician B: Your party members are involved in some of the biggest corruption scandals. Therefore, your position on corruption does not count.

Politician B assumes that just because Politician A is part of a party, the behavior of few of its corrupt members is the universal behavior endorsed and supported by the party, including Politician A.

Conflict in Words and Action (of Person)

We will cite an example where two activists are setting guidelines for the new anti-poaching law.

Activist A: We should set up strong rules to control poaching of non-endangered species.

Activist B: You are a non-vegetarian, and you actively take part in duck hunting. How will you convince the lawmakers when you violate poaching of non-endangered species?

Activist B assumes that Activist A has not quit poaching all together. Even if he goes for duck hunting, the argument for controls does not mean ban. For GMAT CR readers, this small difference might not be easy to spot, but with regular practice, you will master this common fallacy.

Changing Positions

Let us look at an example where two politicians are arguing about a new bill.

Politician A: For an inclusive democracy, we should have 33% reservation for women politicians

Politician B: Two years ago, you were against reservation for women; therefore, your conclusion is wrong. We don’t need women’s reservation for an inclusive democracy.

Politician B is attacking Politician A for changing his stand, and attacking the argument without going into the merits and demerits of the argument.

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