Appeal to hypocrisy

Appeal to hypocrisy (also known as tu quoque, which is Latin for, ‘you also’) is an informal logical fallacy that tries to discredit the validity of the opponent’s argument by asserting the opponent’s failure to act consistently in accordance with its conclusion(s). It is similar to ‘whataboutism‘ which is an attempt to twist criticism back on the initial critic. The Oxford English Dictionary cites John Cooke’s 1614 stage play The Cittie Gallant as the earliest use of the term tu quoque in the English language.

The Appeal to Hypocrisy fallacy follows the pattern:

  1. Person A makes claim X.
  2. Person B asserts that A’s actions or past claims are inconsistent with the truth of claim X.
  3. Therefore, X is false.

An example would be

Peter: ‘Based on the arguments I have presented, it is evident that it is morally wrong to use animals for food or clothing.’

Bill: ‘But you are wearing a leather jacket and you have a roast beef sandwich in your hand! How can you say that using animals for food and clothing is wrong?’

The appeal to hypocrisy fallacy can also appear in less structured ways, such as in the following example where Person B is driving a car with Person A as a passenger:

Person A: “Stop running so many stop signs.”

Person B: “You run them all the time!”

This argument is a fallacy because the moral character or past actions of the opponent are generally irrelevant to the validity of the argument. It is often used as a red herring tactic and is a special case of the ad hominem fallacy, which is a category of fallacies in which a claim or argument is rejected on the basis of facts about the person presenting or supporting the claim or argument.


Filed under Logical fallacies, Reblogs

12 responses to “Appeal to hypocrisy

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  4. Don Shull

    This still leaves me dissatisfied. Certainly if someone creates an argument that is valid, it is valid regardless of other contradictory positions asserted before. The argument’s validity is independent of the character of the arguer. However if, say, the late and unlamented Mr. Epstein were alive and made arguments against the use of
    power to abuse women and girls, one would grow impatient. And if he publicly attacked other people for doing this, one might with asperity tell him to put a sock in it. In regard to the construction of an argument, however, if the major premise is “All A are B,” the minor premise “C is A” certainly leads to the valid valid conclusion that “C is B.” But in questioning the truth of the major premise, the arguer’s contradiction of his major premise, surely matters, especially if the proposition. In the major premise is highly arguable. Thank you for taking the trouble to reply.


    • The form of the Appeal to Hypocrisy argument is invalid, so I don’t understand your point.


      • Timothy Roscoe Carter

        The example given is wrong. “You are using dead animals, therefor your reasoning that using dead animals must be wrong” would be a falacy. But “You are using dead animals, so how can you say that using dead animals is wrong?” is an *interrogation* of the speaker’s reasoning. The hypocracy makes it appear that the speaker either does not actually believe his argument, or believes that there exist important exceptions that have not yet been expressed. If that is the case, the listener is entitled to know either the exceptions or the reasons the speaker does not believe the argument. Of course, the speaker might simply reply, “I am behaving immorally.”

        Liked by 1 person

    • Rachael Lefler

      But, Epstein’s behavior would not invalidate a statement like “women and girls deserve more respect”. If anything, such a statement would just be him admitting his actions were wrong. The point of calling it a fallacy is that it’s irrelevant to the question of whether or not their words are true and if it is a good argument. People (hypothetically) reacting to Epstein in disgust over that are criticizing him for his behavior, but not arguing against the statements he makes.


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  6. Donald Shull

    I have been trying to sort this out for about a month. For the previous sixty years I had assumed that the quoque was a logical response, say, to the various putative sources of happiness in Rasselas, and that it was the logical response to an ad hominem statement: “yes, as you say, I may have non disinterested grounds for affirming X, but you may just as easily be supposed to have non disinterested reasons for denying X. Recently on a Wikipedia thread a poster took the position that if a person makes a universal claim (eg “All killing of persons is evil”) it is not fallacious to bring up that the person has made and continues to make a claim that contradicts the universality (eg “killing in self defense is not evil”). The poster asserted that if this is tu quoque, it is surely quite different from from attributing the assertion to personality or character (eg ” You think killing is evil because you are a coward or because you have no sympathy for victims or because your safety is guaranteed by your privileged status.) both sound like tu quoque to me, but the seem very different. The first is not about the asserter’s character but about the rule against contradiction. The second is purely ad hominem.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andy Lumbar

      No one ever responded, so I will.

      Person A: Makes claim X
      Person B: Makes claim that Person A made claim Y which contradicts X
      Conclusion: therefore X is false

      Still a fallacious conclusion that does not follow. But in the process of this, you may have set up a binary situation where if one is false, then the other is true. For example, if X is false, then Y is true. Therefore you CAN make the conclusion that therefore X is false OR Y is false.


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