Poisoning the well


Poisoning the well

Poisoning the well (or attempting to poison the well) is a logical fallacy where adverse information about a target is pre-emptively presented to an audience, with the intention of discrediting or ridiculing everything that the target person is about to say. Poisoning the well is a special case of argumentum ad hominem, and the term was first used with this sense by John Henry Newman in his work "Apologia Pro Vita Sua". [ [http://www.philosophicalsociety.com/Logical%20Fallacies.htm Philosophical society.com - Logical Fallacies] ]

In general usage, poisoning the well is the provision of "any" information that may produce a biased result. For example, if a woman tells her friend, "I think I might buy this beautiful dress", then asks how it looks, she has "poisoned the well", as her previous comment could affect her friend's response.

tructure

A poisoned-well "argument" has the following form::1. Unfavorable information (be it true or false) about person A (the target) is presented by another. ("Before you listen to my opponent, may I remind you that he has been in jail."):2. Any claims person A then makes will be regarded as false, or taken less seriously.

ee also

* Ad hominem
* Appeal to ridicule
* Black propaganda
* Guilt by association
* Prolepsis

References

* [http://www.newmanreader.org/works/apologia65/preface.html Newman Reader - Apologia (1865) - Preface]


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