Tu Quoque Fallacy
Latin for “You Too”, also called “Appeal to Hypocrisy”
“You shouldn’t smoke. It’s unhealthy.”
“But you smoke!”
You commit the tu quoque fallacy when someone gives you advice and, instead of considering whether or not it’s good advice, you respond by accusing them of not following it themselves. Whether or not the person giving the advice follows it has no bearing on the quality of the advice. While hypocrisy can be irritating, it doesn’t invalidate an argument.
You can also commit the tu quoque fallacy if someone criticizes you and you respond by saying that they are guilty of the same thing. Imagine Naomi is talking to Alfred and Afred starts scrolling on his phone.
Naomi: “It hurts my feelings when you go on your phone when I’m talking to you. It makes me feel like you don’t care about what I have to say.”
Alfred: “Well, you did the same thing this morning!”
This conversation, which had the potential to resolve some issues, is now looking like it will take a nasty turn. The fact that Naomi did the same thing does not mean her concern is not valid. Had Alfred acknowledged Naomi’s criticism before bringing up his own, they would have likely had a much more constructive dialogue.
People often commit the tu quoque fallacy in an attempt to deflect criticism. Politicians are notorious for using it in debates. However, it undermines conversations and escalates conflict. Being able to identify it helps us to steer conversations back on track.