To augment what Occam wrote, one can also address an argument with reason and logical arguments and then tie it up with a bow by adding “you idiot” or some more colorful or creative insult. It constitutes ad hominem, but it isn’t fallacious.
I must object to this loose use of the term ad hominem.. Ad hominem should be reserved for the use of an irrelevant personal attack on the person making an argument as a reason for rejecting the argument.. Thus, I would maintain that all uses of ad hominem, insofar as the term ought to be used so as to avoid confusion with any use of it as a non-fallacious synonym for “insult” (in which case, it’s just a fancy, bullshit way of saying “insult”, so why not just use insult and reserve ad hominem for the fallacious use of insults in arguments?)
And while we’re at it, let’s make sure that “iron” only refers to the element and not to some doohickey that takes wrinkles out of clothes.
Look, we can all appreciate your motivation of wanting to make the the language clear, streamlined and simple but you can’t control the way people use words. Hardly anything could be more futile.
Adding “you idiot” to the end of an argument that actually does address the other person’s argument isn’t an ad hominem, unless it is intentionally used to discredit the person’s position - I don’t think it does, in most cases.
Yet it is “to the person” quite directly, isn’t it? The literal meaning of ad hominem.
Let’s not call a fireplace a fireplace unless there’s actually a fire in it at the time. It’s just stupid to call it a “fireplace” if it’s got ferns in it or something.
You see, ad hominems require the “insult” (it doesn’t even need to be an insult, of course, but simply irrelevant information) as a premise and then concluding that the argument made by the person its attributed to is false.
There are two major problems, here.
1) Merely irrelevant information that would distract from the issue is a red herring fallacy. The ad hominem fallacy is distracting information specifically directed to the person.
2) Information directed to the person is not necessarily a mere distraction. Ad hominem can be relevant—yet you want to reserve “to the person” for cases where the information is irrelevant.
On the contrary, after refuting someone’s argument and declaring them an idiot because of it, one is insulting them as a conclusion.
Well it doesn’t even have to be the conclusion, but more to the point calling somebody an idiot is “to the person” which is the literal definition of ad hominem.
I’ll give a specific set of examples:
1) You are a woman.
2) Women are too emotional, and thus can’t be reasonable.
3) Therefore, your argument can’t be reasonable, and should be rejected.
1) Your argument is wrong for reason A.
2) Your argument is wrong for reason B.
3) People who don’t know reasons A and B are idiots.
4) You didn’t know them.
5) Therefore, you are an idiot.
Argument 1 is an ad hominem. Argument 2 is not.
Correct that argument 2 is not an ad hominem fallacy, but 5 in particular is inarguably ad hominem “to the person.”
Concluding that someone is stupid or simply adding it as an irrelevant addition to an argument doesn’t constitute an evasive tactic used against the person originally making a claim as a reason to dismiss the claim.
That has already been discussed in this thread, which is why we distinguish between a fallacious ad hominem and a non-fallacious ad hominem.
While it may be an irrelevant conclusion insofar as advancing a debate and could very well sidetrack the conversation and upset both the person you’re debating with and an audience, we should be careful not to throw the term ad hominem around willy nilly and apply it to every nasty thing someone says.
Because the Word Police are coming for you ...
The solution really isn’t that complicated. People need to simply realize that “ad hominem” has more than one meaning just like “iron,” “red” and perhaps thousands of other words. Trying to police usage is futile, so one simply needs to use the awareness of different meanings along with the context to give the best understanding to what other people write or say. Just like we do with “tart” and “thick.”
It is a correct and accepted usage to call “ad hominem” a legitimate (non-fallacious) argument attacking a person’s character. This happens relatively routinely in the courtroom. That is reality, and people should deal with that reality.
Regarding the original post, yes, it is an ad hominem. The response was clearly intended to imply that the person’s argument shouldn’t be taken seriously because of irrelevant facts about the person.
That argument might be correct, since a person very well might say something in particular because of his experiences. So you’ve ended by saying that a potentially non-fallacious argument is fallacious.
Does that make sense?