Genetic fallacy

The genetic fallacy (also known as the fallacy of origins or fallacy of virtue)[1] 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.[2] 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.[3]

According to the Oxford Companion to Philosophy (1995), the term originated in Morris Raphael Cohen and Ernest Nagel's book Logic and Scientific Method[4] (1934).


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.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "A List Of Fallacious Arguments". Retrieved 6 October 2012.
  2. ^ Attacking Faulty Reasoning: A Practical Guide to Fallacy-Free Arguments (Third Edition) by T. Edward Damer, chapter II, subsection "The Relevance Criterion" (pg. 12)
  3. ^ With Good Reason: An Introduction to Informal Fallacies (Fifth Edition) by S. Morris Engel, chapter V, subsection 1 (pg. 198)
  4. ^ Honderich, Ted, ed. (1995). "Genetic fallacy". The Oxford Companion to Philosophy. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-866132-0.

External linksEdit