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Ad hominem
Posted: 24 February 2009 09:01 AM   [ Ignore ]
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If A and B talk, person A makes a claim and person B says

“Oh, you just say it because you had a bad relationship with your parents \ you are a man \ you are just jealous \ et cetera “.


Do you think it is an ad hominem, or something else? Is it fallacious?

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Posted: 24 February 2009 09:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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wandering - 24 February 2009 09:01 AM

If A and B talk, person A makes a claim and person B says

“Oh, you just say it because you had a bad relationship with your parents \ you are a man \ you are just jealous \ et cetera “.


Do you think it is an ad hominem, or something else? Is it fallacious?

Yes it is ad hominem (“to the person”) since it addresses the person.

It is not necessarily fallacious.
http://www.iep.utm.edu/f/fallacy.htm#Ad Hominem

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Posted: 24 February 2009 11:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Bryan - 24 February 2009 09:39 AM
wandering - 24 February 2009 09:01 AM

If A and B talk, person A makes a claim and person B says

“Oh, you just say it because you had a bad relationship with your parents \ you are a man \ you are just jealous \ et cetera “.


Do you think it is an ad hominem, or something else? Is it fallacious?

Yes it is ad hominem (“to the person”) since it addresses the person.

It is not necessarily fallacious.
http://www.iep.utm.edu/f/fallacy.htm#Ad Hominem


Very strictly speaking, I think it is not an ad hominem, since it doesn’t make a specific claim - “you just say it because you had a bad relationship with your parents and therefore that is wrong”. It hints at that, so perhaps it is a subtle ad hominem.


I think the argument can be viewed in one more way - “You just say it because you had a bad relationship with your parents, so you do not have good reasons to think X”. No matter if X is true, what it says is that - you have psychological reasons for believing X, so you can’t have rational reasons for believing X.

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Posted: 24 February 2009 11:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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wandering - 24 February 2009 11:02 AM
Bryan - 24 February 2009 09:39 AM
wandering - 24 February 2009 09:01 AM

If A and B talk, person A makes a claim and person B says

“Oh, you just say it because you had a bad relationship with your parents \ you are a man \ you are just jealous \ et cetera “.


Do you think it is an ad hominem, or something else? Is it fallacious?

Yes it is ad hominem (“to the person”) since it addresses the person.

It is not necessarily fallacious.
http://www.iep.utm.edu/f/fallacy.htm#Ad Hominem


Very strictly speaking, I think it is not an ad hominem, since it doesn’t make a specific claim - “you just say it because you had a bad relationship with your parents and therefore that is wrong”. It hints at that, so perhaps it is a subtle ad hominem.

Each of the examples you offered constitutes a specific claim about the person, and each may or may not be relevant to the original claim.  Thus is is definitely an ad hominem and it is not necessarily fallacious.  Please note that confusion will result if “ad hominem” is used as a synonym for the ad hominem fallacy.

I think the argument can be viewed in one more way - “You just say it because you had a bad relationship with your parents, so you do not have good reasons to think X”. No matter if X is true, what it says is that - you have psychological reasons for believing X, so you can’t have rational reasons for believing X.

That might represent the underlying argument that accounts for the original ad hominem ... but in effect you’re engaging in ad hominem (circumstantial) in carving out the alternative view of the argument (the opposite believes that X has no rational reasons for believing X and therefore uses psychology to rationalize his belief).  wink

It is most appropriate to take arguments at their face value.  Simply look at the claim and leave aside motivations.  Was the first person motivated by a bad relationship with his parents?  Does it fully account for his argument?  If the answer to the second question is “no” then the ad hominem is still not necessarily fallacious, but neither does it bid us drop the argument as finished.  There might be validity to the first argument regardless of parental issues.

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Posted: 04 March 2009 03:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Ad hominem is a (personally)  insulting attack on the person as opposed to addressing the points brought up in ones posit or counter using reason and facts…....

[ Edited: 04 March 2009 03:15 PM by sheri butterfly ]
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Posted: 04 March 2009 05:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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That is ad hominem.

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Dan

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Posted: 04 March 2009 08:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Well, it’s a bit more general than that.  An ad hominem argument is based on a characteristic of the person presenting a proposition rather than, as you said, addressing the points made.  This means these could be ad hominem without being insulting:  “This person is only a student so we can’t expect her proposals to be meaningful.”  “Dr. Schmaltz is an outstanding expert in the field, so we should accept his statements.”  This latter is also argument from authority, but it still fits ad hominem.

Occam

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Posted: 04 March 2009 11:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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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.

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Posted: 05 March 2009 09:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I would go with ad hominem in this case, also…


Any avenue used to discredit the character of the person that seeks to name call (or creating a tone of hatred)  would be ad hominem in my world. At which point my participation in the argument would stop. To preserve the integrity of the form (argumentation)..

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Posted: 05 March 2009 12:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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sheri butterfly - 05 March 2009 09:50 AM

I would go with ad hominem in this case, also…


Any avenue used to discredit the character of the person that seeks to name call (or creating a tone of hatred)  would be ad hominem in my world. At which point my participation in the argument would stop. To preserve the integrity of the form (argumentation)..

That goes along perfectly with what I wrote.  It is clearly ad hominem.  But it isn’t fallacious.  One might reasonably choose to break off discussion with someone who peppers his arguments with insults.  But it should not be assumed that the arguments are fallacious.

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Posted: 05 March 2009 03:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Indeed, as the majority of arguments are persuasive anyways, few are using argumentation to critically evaluate the merits or value of the posit to begin with…..

I have a hunch this is in the context of a persuasive frame, informal to boot ..so the intent would probably not be there IMO to infer fallacious…......

Good call grin

Those that formally argue know the rules lol…

[ Edited: 05 March 2009 03:12 PM by sheri butterfly ]
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Posted: 29 April 2009 06:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Bryan - 04 March 2009 11:34 PM

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?)

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. 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. On the contrary, after refuting someone’s argument and declaring them an idiot because of it, one is insulting them as a conclusion. I’ll give a specific set of examples:

Argument 1:

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.

Argument 2:

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. 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. 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.

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.

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Posted: 29 April 2009 09:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Glacian - 29 April 2009 06:58 AM
Bryan - 04 March 2009 11:34 PM

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.  smile

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:

Argument 1:

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.

Argument 2:

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?

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Posted: 29 April 2009 10:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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More succinctly:  ad hominum means against the person.  It can be used either to identify a personal attack, such as “you are stupid”, or it can be used to identify a type of critical thinking fallacy in an argument, such as “his personal bias disqualifies anything he says about the subject.”

Occam

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Posted: 30 April 2009 10:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Occam, you may be treading a fine line here. I see that calling someone ‘stupid’ is certainly ad hominem, but your other example ‘his personal bias disqualifies anything he says about the subject’ may not be, in my opinion. If you can cite some valid examples of the person’s bias in regards to the subject at hand, then your argument goes beyond the ad hominem element. You are using the bias as a basis for attacking his reasons, but not his person. However, I do see your point about a direct argument as opposed to a more subtle argument, where both may be ad hominem.

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Posted: 30 April 2009 03:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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OK, to state a more specific example of this, “We should discount her arguments for separating our trash because she owns a recycling company.”  Yes, she quite probably is biased, yes, she probably has financial motivations, however, they shouldn’t be used to argue against her points.  What ARE germane are the specific arguments she presents.  We should address her arguments, not her motivations.

Occam

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