Genetic Fallacy Summary

(also known as: fallacy of origins, fallacy of virtue)

Description: Basing the truth claim of an argument on the origin of its claims or premises.

Logical Form:

The origin of the claim is presented.

Therefore, the claim is true/false.

Example #1:

Lisa was brainwashed as a child into thinking that people are generally good.  Therefore, people are not generally good.

Explanation: That fact that Lisa may have been brainwashed as a child, is irrelevant to the claim that people are generally good.

Example #2:

He was born to Catholic parents and raised as a Catholic until his confirmation in 8th grade.  Therefore, he is bound to want to defend some Catholic traditions and, therefore, cannot be taken seriously.

Explanation: I am referring to myself here.  While my upbringing was Catholic, and I have long since considered myself a Catholic, that is irrelevant to any defenses I make of Catholicism — like the fact that many local churches do focus on helping the community through charity work.  If I make an argument defending anything Catholic, the argument should be evaluated on the argument itself, not on the history of the one making the argument or how I came to hold the claims as true or false.

Exception: At times, the origin of the claim is relevant to the truth of the claim. 

I believe in closet monsters because my big sister told me unless I do whatever she tells me, the closet monsters will eat me.

What Now: Remember that considering the source is often a useful heuristic in quickly assessing if the claim is probably true or not, but dismissing the claim or accepting it as true based on the source is fallacious.

References:

Engel, S. M., Soldan, A., & Durand, K. (2007). The Study of Philosophy. Rowman & Littlefield.