Felicity Conditions for the Circumstantial Ad Hominem: The Case of Bush v. Gore

David Zarefsky*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The circumstantial ad hominem, unlike the abusive variety, attacks a particular person by showing that his or her argument is inconsistent with his or her prior positions or circumstances. The difference between valid and fallacious uses of this form of argument is illustrated through analysis of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of Bush v. Gore, which effectively halted the manual recount of disputed ballots in 2000 and effectively awarded the presidential election to George W. Bush. In its commission of the circumstantial ad hominem, the Court acted improperly. Broader implications for the use of this form of argument are recommended. This essay is based on a presentation at the 2002 conference of the International Society for the Study of Argumentation, and is reprinted from a conference volume, Anyone who has a view: Theoretical contributions to the study of argumentation (Frans H. van Eemeren, J. Anthony Blair, Charles A. Willard, and A. Francesca Snoeck Henkemans, Ed.), pp. 297–308, published by Kluwer Academic Publishers (a forerunner of Springer) in 2003, and reprinted by permission.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationArgumentation Library
PublisherSpringer Nature
Number of pages13
StatePublished - 2014

Publication series

NameArgumentation Library
ISSN (Print)1566-7650
ISSN (Electronic)2215-1907


  • Bush v. Gore
  • Circumstantial ad hominem
  • Fallacies
  • U.S. election—2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Law
  • Philosophy
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Language and Linguistics


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