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:
- Person A makes claim X.
- Person B asserts that A’s actions or past claims are inconsistent with the truth of claim X.
- 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.