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.


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