The genetic fallacy (also known as the fallacy of origins or fallacy of virtue) is a fallacy of irrelevance that is based solely on someone's or something's history, origin, or source rather than its current meaning or context. This overlooks any difference to be found in the present situation, typically transferring the positive or negative esteem from the earlier context. In other words, a claim is ignored in favor of attacking or championing its source.
The fallacy therefore fails to assess the claim on its merit. The first criterion of a good argument is that the premises must have bearing on the truth or falsity of the claim in question. Genetic accounts of an issue may be true, and they may help illuminate the reasons why the issue has assumed its present form, but they are not conclusive in determining its merits.
In The Oxford Companion to Philosophy (1995) it is asserted that the term originated in Morris Raphael Cohen and Ernest Nagel's book Logic and Scientific Method  (1934). However, in a book review published in The Nation in 1926, Mortimer J. Adler complained that The Story of Philosophy by Will Durant was guilty throughout of "the fallacy of genetic interpretation." Adler characterized the genetic fallacy generally as "the substitution of psychology for logic."
From Attacking Faulty Reasoning by T. Edward Damer, Third Edition p. 36:
You're not going to wear a wedding ring, are you? Don't you know that the wedding ring originally symbolized ankle chains worn by women to prevent them from running away from their husbands? I would not have thought you would be a party to such a sexist practice.
There are numerous motives explaining why people choose to wear wedding rings, but it would be a fallacy to presume those who continue the tradition are promoting sexism.
(However, symbols carry the meaning "we" give them, so the proper, true or real meaning of a symbol can be impossible to ascertain satisfactorily. We may have to agree upon a reasonable interpretation or definition in a given context. The "original" meaning is not automatically invalid; the fallacy is assuming that it is always valid.)
Another example would be from How to Win Every Argument: The Use and Abuse of Logic (2006) by Madsen Pirie, p.82:
The objections of the Council's new bus timetable come only from private property developers, and can be ignored.
As the author points out, private developers may well have legitimate and knowledgeable opinions on such a matter.
- Ad hominem – Argumentative strategies, usually fallacious
- Appeal to accomplishment
- Appeal to nature – Argument or rhetorical tactic
- Appeal to novelty – The argument that a newer idea is superior
- Chronological snobbery – The argument that an older idea is inferior
- Appeal to tradition – Logical fallacy in which a thesis is deemed correct on the basis of tradition – The argument that an older idea is superior
- Argument from authority – Logical fallacy of using a high-status figure's belief as evidence in an argument
- Association fallacy – Informal inductive fallacy
- Bulverism – Type of logical fallacy
- Etymological fallacy – A fallacy of assuming that the historical meaning of the word is the base of its true meaning
- "Not invented here" – A dismissal of "foreign" ideas because they did not originate from the speaker's country, social group, or organization
- Reactive devaluation – Cognitive bias
- "A List Of Fallacious Arguments". Retrieved 6 October 2012.
- Attacking Faulty Reasoning: A Practical Guide to Fallacy-Free Arguments (Third Edition) by T. Edward Damer, chapter II, subsection "The Relevance Criterion" (pg. 12)
- With Good Reason: An Introduction to Informal Fallacies (Fifth Edition) by S. Morris Engel, chapter V, subsection 1 (pg. 198)
- Honderich, Ted, ed. (1995). "Genetic fallacy". The Oxford Companion to Philosophy. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-866132-0.
- Mortimer J. Adler, Philosopher at Large: An Intellectual Autobiography (New York: Macmillan, 1976), pp. 86-87.