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Genetic Fallacy

The Genetic Fallacy

A fallacy of Relevance...

A "Genetic Fallacy" is a line of "reasoning" in which a perceived defect in the origin of a claim or thing is taken to be evidence that discredits the claim or thing itself. It is also a line of reasoning in which the origin of a claim or thing is taken to be evidence for the claim or thing. This sort of "reasoning" has the following form:

    The origin of a claim or thing is presented.
    The claim is true(or false) or the thing is supported (or discredited).

It is clear that sort of "reasoning" is fallacious. For example: "Bill claims that 1+1=2. However, my parents brought me up to believe that 1+1=254, so Bill must be wrong."

It should be noted that there are some cases in which the origin of a claim is relevant to the truth or falsity of the claim. For example, a claim that comes from a reliable expert is likely to be true (provided it is in her area of expertise).

The Genetic Fallacy is a type of ad hominem that has the following form:

    Person A presents an argument.
    Person B attacks person A's character.
    Therefore person A's argument is invalid.


The reason why an Ad Hominem (of any kind) is a fallacy is that the character, circumstances, or actions of a person do not (in most cases) have a bearing on the truth or falsity of the claim being made (or the quality of the argument being made).


  1. "The current Chancellor of Germany was in the Hitler Youth at age 3.
    With that sort of background, his so called 'reform' plan must be a facist program."
  2. "I was brought up to believe in God, and my parents told me God exists,
    so therefore He must."
  3. "Sure, the media claims that Senator Bedfellow was taking kickbacks.
    But we all know about the media's credibility, don't we."
  4. Freud was a cocaine-snorting pervert: why listen to him?

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