“Ad —” Arguments

Some argument schemes are designated by Latin labels, S. A/Ab —; Ad —; Ex —. This entry lists the labels using the Latin preposition ad. In classical Latin, the preposition ad is constructed with the accusative and introduces a goal complement. The phrase “argument ad hominem” reads “argument addressing the person”.

According to Hamblin, the oldest scheme in this grouping is ad hominem, which appears in the Latin translations of Aristotle; this naming method was popularized by Locke ([1690]) and by Bentham ([1824]), and most of these terms seem to be nineteenth or twentieth century creations (Hamblin 1970, p. 41; p. 161- 162).

1. A list of “ad + N” arguments

Latin name of the Argument

Meaning of the Latin word(s)
• (When necessary a word-for-word translation)
• (English equivalent(s))
• Reference to the corresponding entry/ies

(reductio) ad absurdum (also: ab absurdo):  Lat. absurdus, “false, unpleasant, absurd” — reduction to the absurd — S. Absurd
ad amicitiam Lat. amicitia, “friendship” — appeal to friendship
— S. Emotion
ad antiquitatem Lat. antiquitas, “antiquity, tradition” — appeal to antiquity, to tradition — S. Authority
ad auditorem (pl. ad auditores) Lat. auditor, “hearer, audience”
— S. Beliefs of the audience.
ad baculum Lat. baculus, “stick” — S. Threat — Promise
ad captandum vulgus Lat. captare, “try to seize … by insinuation, by guile”; vulgus “crowd, ordinary people” — playing to the gallery ; playing to the crowd
— S. Emotion; Ad populum ; Laughter and Seriousness.
ad consequentiam  Lat. consequentia, “following, consequence”
— S. Ad consequentiam; Consequence — Effect
ad crumenam Lat. crumena, “purse” — argument to the purse
— S. Emotion ; Threat — Promise
(reductio) ad falsum
Lat. falsum, “false” — reduction to a falsehood
— S. Absurd
ad fidem Lat. fides, “faith” — S. Faith
ad fulmen Lat. fulmen, “thunderbolt” — argument from thunderbolt
— S.  Threat — Promise
ad hominem Lat. homo, “human being” — S. Ad hominem
ad ignorantiam
Lat. ignorantia, “ignorance” — S. Ignorance
ad imaginationem
Lat. imaginatio, “picture, vision” — appeal to imagination
— S. Subjectivity
(reductio) ad impossibile
Lat. impossibile “impossible” — reduction to the impossible
— S. Absurd
(deducendo, reductio) ad incommodum:  Lat. incommodum “unfortunate, disadvantageous” — reduction to the uncomfortable — S. Ad incommodum
ad invidiam:  Lat. invidia, “hate, envy” — appeal to envy — S. Emotion
ad iudicium:
Lat. iudicium, “sentence, judgment, opinion” — arg. appealing to the judgment ; to common sense — S. Matter
ad lapidem:  Lat. lapis, “stone; (symbol of stupidity, insensibility)” — S. Dismissal
ad Lazarum Lat. Lazarus, character of the Bible, paragon of the destitute — arg. ad Lazarum — S. Rich and Poor
ad litteram:  Lat. littera, “letter” — S. Strict Meaning
ad ludicrum:  Lat. ludicrum, “public game (theater, circus…)” — appeal to the gallery —
S. Emotion; Ad populum ; Laughter and Seriousness
ad metum Lat. metus, “fear, apprehension” — appeal to fear — S. Threat — Promise
ad misericordiam:  Lat. misericordia, “compassion, pity” — appeal to pity — S. Emotion
ad modum:  Lat. modus “measure, just measure, moderation” — arg. of gradualism
— S. Proportion
ad naturam:  Lat. natura, “nature” — appeal to nature ; naturalistic fallacy
— S. Weight of circumstances
ad nauseam:  Lat. nausea, “nausea, seasickness” — proof by assertion — S. Repetition
ad novitatem:  Lat. novitas, “novelty, innovation; unexpected thing” — appeal to novelty
— S. Progress
ad numerum:  Lat. numerus, “number, great number” — arg. from number — S. Authority
ad odium:  Lat. odium, “hate” — appeal to hatred, to spite — S. Emotion
ad orationem Lat. oratio, “language, comments, speech, discourse” — S. Matter
ad passionem
(pl. ad passiones)
Lat. passio, “passivity; passion, emotion” ; appeal to passion, to emotion
— S. Pathos ; Emotion
ad personam Lat. persona, “mask; role; person” — abusive ad hominem
— S. Personal AttackAd hominem
ad populum Lat. populus “people” — appeal to people, arg. from popularity
— S. Ad populum
ad quietem Lat. quies “rest; political neutrality; calm; peace”, tranquili- ty” — appeal for calm, conservatism — S. Calm
ad rem Lat. res, “thing, being, reality ; judicial matter, issue” — arg. addressed to the thing, to the point, dealing with the matter at hand — S. Matter
ad reverentiam Lat. reverentia, “respectful fear; deference” —S. Respect
ad ridiculum Lat. ridiculus, “funny; ridicule” — appeal to ridicule, appeal to mockery
— S. Absurd ; Laughter and seriousness
ad socordiam Lat. socordia, “stupidity; indolence” — appeal to weak-mindedness
— S. Subjectivity
ad superbiam Lat. superbia, “pride” — appeal to pride; arg. of popular corruption
— S. Emotion; Ad populum
ad superstitionem Lat. superstitio, “superstition”— S. Subjectivity
ad temperantiam Lat. temperantia, “moderation, restraint” — S. Proportion
ad verecundiam Lat. verecundia, “respect, modesty, discretion ; fear of shame” — arg. from modesty ; arg. from authority — S. Subjectivity ; Modesty ; Authority
ad vertiginem Lat. vertigo, “rotation, dizziness” — S. Vertigo

1.Characteristics of the “ad + N” family

2.1 A productive pattern

There are many more “ad +N” arguments than there are “a / ab + N” arguments. Only the “ad +N” construction is still productive; the pattern is popular and mocked (ad bananum argument).

2.2 Origin of the labels

Some of these names have been defined and used by Locke and Bentham, S. Collections (III).

Locke has defined the arguments:

ad hominem ad judicium
ad ignorantiam  ad verecundiam

Bentham has defined the arguments:

ad amicitiam

ad ignorantiam

ad imaginationem

ad invidiam

ad judicium ad metum ad odium ad quietem ad socordiam
ad superbiam
ad superstitionem ad verecundiam

2.3 Semantic subsets of “a d + N” arguments

These arguments refer to very different strategies. Nonetheless, some group- ings can be proposed according to their semantic content.


(i) Arguments bound to affects, emotions, often via positive interest (rewards) or negative results (threats):

ad amicitiam

ad captandum vulgus

ad invidiam

ad ludicrum

ad metum (ad carcerem, ad baculum, ad fulmen, ad crumenam)

ad misericordiam

ad novitatem

ad numerum

ad passionem

ad odium

ad quietem

ad personam

ad populum

ad superbiam

ad verecundiam


(ii) Arguments involving a limited, subjective system of beliefs, not universal, questionable:

ad consequentiam

ad fidem

ad hominem

ad ignorantiam

ad imaginationem

ad incommodum

ad socordiam

ad superstitionem

ad vertiginem


Categories (i) and (ii) list arguments often considered as misleading, insofar as they express the subjectivity of the speaker. In other words, they are related to the ethotic and pathemic components, S. Subjectivity; Ethos; Pathos; Emotion.


(iii) Arguments opposed to the subjective series (i) and (ii) and dealing with the substance of the issue:

ad iudicium ad rem