LingLogic Wiki


The Attacking the Motive Fallacy is a sub category of an ad hominem in which the second arguer attacks the first arguer’s thesis by challenging his motives behind his argument, such as what he gains or benefits from his proposed thesis


A is for B. A benefits from B. Therefore A’s arguments are invalid.


Whos behind prop 8.jpg

This ad against Prop. 8, "Who's behind Prop. 8?" commits the fallacy of attacking the motive.

The producers of this ad seem to have wanted, first, to identify some of the groups that support Proposition 8 and, second, to publicize these groups’ views on gay rights and gay partnerships. They seem to want viewers to know that the groups supporting Proposition 8 are “radical right wing” and that their agenda is not limited simply to denying gays the right to marry but that it extends to denying gay partners any recognition whatsoever. That’s where the attack on the motive comes in: the producers of this video call into question the motives of the supporters of Proposition 8; producers claim supporters’ motives are not what they claim (viz., protecting traditional families), but include a general platform of hostility to gay and lesbian rights. This ad is attempting to reach people who may be against gay marriage but who still support civil unions or other state sanction for gay couples.

Other Examples[]

Bushes war for oil.jpg

This ad attacking Bush's war commits the fallacy of attacking the motive. This ad implies that the objective of the war in Iraq was not in fact, as Bush claimed, to liberate the Iraqi people from a terrible dictator, but to ensure the profits of U.S. oil companies. The video begins with a clip of the Pentagon bombing; the second clip is of the price meter on a gas pump counting away as if someone were filling up her vehicle. The ad alternates between clips of scenes associated with the Iraq was and shots of the "face" of a gas pump. With each shot of the gas pump we see mounting counts, not of the volume of gas being pumped, but of the number of dead and wounded soldiers and civilians in Iraq. The final count is oil company profits. The video implies that Bush isn’t going to war for our country, but that he is going to war for oil.

Grim Reapers.jpg

This ad, "Grim Reapers," commits the fallacy of attacking the motive in its attempts to attack tobacco companies. Instead of attacking the tobacco companies by, say, revealing the contents of cigarettes, the ad attacks the reason why the tobacco companies give away free samples. The producers of the ad could have easily made an argument that tar and arsenic are mixed with an addictive narcotic, but instead they point out that cigarette companies give these “valuable” products away for free. Why would they do something so stupid? The customer is supposed to assume the companies are either being generous or, at worst, trying to appear to be generous. The video argues that the true aim of the tobacco companies is to mask what they truly are: death dealers. The ad depicts the grim reaper taking off his robes and storing his scythe, then changing into the guise of a pretty, young girl. The girl exits the dressing room and begins to give away free samples at a promotional event for an unnamed tobacco company. The grim reaper represents the selfish motives of the tobacco company. The young girl is the pretty face on the ugly truth about the tobacco companies: they sell a deadly product. At the end of the video the narrator says “It’s time we see the tobacco companies’ free samples for what they really are.” The ad suggests that the free samples of cigarettes are not a generous gift, but aan attempt to hook people on a highly addictive, highly toxic substance. It implies that all the tobacco companies care about is getting you hooked and pulling in the money, not about whether ot not you are going to die.


This ad for healthcare reform, “Go Ahead And Die! (Pirates Of The Health Care-ibean” portrays health insurance companies as heartless pirates who are against healthcare reform. They are accused of being heartless and money- hungry -- out to make money even at the expense of their clients' well being. Because the companies have an interest in the outcome of the debate, their arguments must necessarily be rejected. While it is indeed likely that the insurance companies make the arguments they do because they believe that those arguments will defeat health care reform, which would have been very costly to them. This, however does not mean that those arguments are necessarily fallacious. Knowing the arguers' bias, we should inspect those arguments quite carefully, but we would be wrong to reject them outright.

thumb|120px|left In the introductory scene from the movie, Thank You for Smoking, the character, Nick Naylor, narrating the scene, points out the true motives of the tobacco company. He is aware that tobacco is extremely harmful and has killed millions, yet he continues to promote the product as he is paid to do so. He has even gone as far as to considering himself as one of the world’s most cold blooded murderers. Nick also accuses the tobacco corporation of doing exactly the same thing: their motive is to disprove all negative claims against them. In order to do so, they establish an Institute in order to defend cigarettes. The tobacco companies spent millions to hired expert scientists, lawyers, and lobbyists to defend their products and to prove that cigarettes are not addictive. With this accusation, Nick commits the fallacy of attacking the motive: he dismisses the companies’ arguments, which are that cigarettes are not addictive and they are not responsible for the deaths of so many people, because they “have their reasons” for making them. By pointing out all their true intentions, Nick is committing the fallacy of “Attacking the Motive” since he is the one pointing out that they are trying to disprove all claims in an effort to protect their product.

thumb|120px|leftThis ad, “ExtenZe/Nascar,” does not itself commit the fallacy of attacking the motive; rather, it invites the audience to commit the fallacy. Although the promoter, Kevin Conway, does not announce that he is being paid to promote the product, given that the company's logos decorate his car, we can assume that money has exchanged hands. The fact that he is being paid to promote the product allows outsiders to question his true motives. Since the company is sponsoring him, viewers might suspect that he has "ulterior motives" for promoting a product he might not sincerely recommend. If that suspicion leads viewers to dismiss Conway's arguments, those viewers will have committed the fallacy of attacking the motive. One of Conway's arguments is that ExtenZe improves male sexual performance and that men should therefore buy it. That's a fine argument -- logically speaking -- and its strength does not depend on Conway's motives for making it.