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A case of Tu quoque: "By Jove, what extraordinary headgear you women do wear!"

Tu quoque (pronounced /tuːˈkwoʊkwiː/, from Latin for "You, too" or "You, also") is a Latin term that describes a kind of logical fallacy. A tu quoque argument attempts to discredit the opponent's position by asserting his failure to act consistently in accordance with that position; it attempts to show that a criticism or objection applies equally to the person making it. It is considered an ad hominem argument, since it focuses on the party itself, rather than its positions.[1]

Contents

Illegitimate use

In many cases tu quoque arguments are used in a logically fallacious way, to draw a conclusion which is not supported by the premises of the argument.

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You-too version

This form of the argument is as follows:

A makes criticism P.
A is also guilty of P.
Therefore, P is dismissed.

This is an instance of the two wrongs make a right fallacy.

Example:

"He cannot accuse me of libel because he was just successfully sued for libel."

Legal aspects

This argument has been unsuccessfully used before the ICTY in Milošević, Kupreškić and Kunarac cases, when the accused tried to justify their crimes by insisting that the opposing side had also committed such crimes. However, the argument tu quoque, from the basis of international humanitarian law is completely irrelevant, as the ICTY has stated in these cases.[2]

Inconsistency version

This form of the argument is as follows:

A makes claim P.
A has also made past claims which are inconsistent with P.
Therefore, P is false.

This is a logical fallacy because the conclusion that P is false does not follow from the premises; even if A has made past claims which are inconsistent with P, it does not necessarily prove that P is either true or false.

Example:

"You say aircraft are able to fly because of the laws of physics, but this is false because twenty years ago you also said aircraft fly because of magic."

Legitimate use

Not all uses of tu quoque arguments involve logical fallacy. One convenient and not fallacious way [to use tu quoque] is by pointing out the similarities between the activity of the criticizer and the activity about which he is being questioned. To label one [something] and not the other is ... itself a fallacy [of equivocation]. [...] Tu quoque is only a fallacy when one uses it so as to divert attention from the issue at hand, or to avoid or fail to respond to an argument that non-fallaciously gave one the burden of proof.[3]

See also

References

  1. ^ Logical Fallacy: Tu Quoque
  2. ^ Judgment of the Trial Chamber in Case Kupreškić et al.. (January 2000), para. 765; Judgment of the Trial Chamber in Case Kunarac et al.. (February 2001), para. 580; Judgment of the Appeals Chamber in Case Kunarac et al.. (January 2002), para. 87.
  3. ^ http://www.fallacyfiles.org/tuquoque.html

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