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Ad hominem
Posted: 09 July 2009 02:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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Glacian is exactly correct.

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Posted: 09 July 2009 05:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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Ah, now we’ve switched away from the ad hominum critical thinking fallacy to the argument by authority fallacy, or is it the argument by popularity one?  smile

Occam

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Posted: 10 July 2009 07:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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Occam - 09 July 2009 05:57 PM

Ah, now we’ve switched away from the ad hominum critical thinking fallacy to the argument by authority fallacy, or is it the argument by popularity one?  smile

Occam

I detect a non sequitur.

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Posted: 10 July 2009 01:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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Interesting question.  Is a statement a non sequitur if a connection is there but the observer doesn’t recognize it?  smile

Occam

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Posted: 11 July 2009 10:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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Occam - 10 July 2009 01:54 PM

Interesting question.  Is a statement a non sequitur if a connection is there but the observer doesn’t recognize it?  smile

Occam

And what does a one-handed non sequitur sound like?

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Posted: 12 July 2009 07:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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It may sound like this.

shiraz - 10 July 2009 07:19 AM

I detect a non sequitur.

Occam

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Posted: 29 July 2009 08:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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I’m a latecomer to this thread, but I hope that it is not too late to make a few observations:

First, just to set the spelling straight: it’s “ad hominem,” not “ad hominum.”

Now to the meaning of the phrase. It is an abbreviation of the phrase “argumentum ad hominem.” So when Bryan says this:

calling somebody an idiot is “to the person” which is the literal definition of ad hominem.

the claim is true as far as it goes, but it does not reflect the historical use of the pair of words in question. “Ad hominem” is merely a fragment of a larger phrase. That larger phrase concerns a kind of argument or argumentative move, not just anything that you say to or about someone, or anything derogatory of someone who has taken a position. To use the term “ad hominem” as if its meaning were independent of the original phrase from which it has been taken is, at the very least, unhistorical.

Further, it seems to me that if we were to disregard the original context and treat the phrase “ad hominem” as a phrase by itself, then there would be no reason why it should be applied only to personal attacks. It would be just as logical to call it an “ad hominem remark” if I say “Hello” to someone as it is if I say to someone, “You blockhead!”, since both are equally addressed “to the human being.”

Since, as far as I know, none of us use Latin for everyday communication, it seems to me that the whole point of using a Latin phrase is to deploy the meaning that historically belongs to it. One is not free to invent new meanings for the phrase, even if they do correspond to the Latin meanings of the component words. As far as I know, the historical tradition with regard to the phrase “argumentum ad hominem” is unambiguous: it designates a fallacious use of statements about the person who holds a position to discredit the position itself.

One final observation: I notice that a lot of people characterize the ad hominem fallacy as the use of personal remarks to discredit someone’s argument. But it does not seem to me to be part of the meaning of the term that the person one attacks should be the author of an argument; only that the person has taken some position. As far as I know, you are committing an ad hominem fallacy when you use irrelevant personal remarks to discredit someone’s position, which may but need not mean discrediting the person’s argument.

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Posted: 29 July 2009 08:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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Kritikos,

This gets into the area of semantics, which sadly has caused quite a schism around here in the past, but I’ll offer a comment on your analysis. While I agree that the literal translation of a latin term is largely irrelevant, since the meaning of the term derives from its historical use, I think you ignore the role of language change. The shortened version “Ad hominem” is frequently used to mean not only a personal attack against a person meant to discredit that person’s argument, but also an irrelevant personal attack during the course of a debate. This may not be the historical, dictionary meaning, but if it is widespread enough it becomes a legitimate actual meaning among the community of speakers. Just as “lord” no longer means “guarder of the loaf” (hlaford in OE), which was a metaphorical way of describing a chieftan, so other words and phrases accrete and lose meanings not necessarily closely tied to their “original” historical meaning. Thus, I think a reasonable case can be made for the use of “ad hominem” to describe an irrelevant personal attack used as a distraction from the substance of a debate as well as a personal atttack meant to undemrine the opponents argument itself.

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Posted: 29 July 2009 10:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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While Brennen and I have disagreed about the semantics of statements at times in the past, I agree completely with his very clear analysis here, and would have said much the same, had he not said it first and better.

Occam

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Posted: 29 July 2009 10:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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I can accept language change when it concerns a common English word—like “lord,” in your example. “Ad hominem” is not a common English word; it is a learned, ancient, Latin expression, and it carries that air of ancient learning with it. (I mean “ancient” here in the sense of “very old,” not as contrasted with “medieval”: I know that the phrase is of medieval origin.) As Glacian said back in post #11, if all that you mean is “insult,” then you should say “insult”: it is pretentious to use a Latin phrase for the purpose, especially when you’re not using the phrase in accordance with its historical meaning—or even its literal meaning. (As I said before, if you take the phrase literally, then “Hello” counts as an ad hominem.)

If it has become a widespread practice to use the phrase “ad hominem” to mean any unfavorable remark about a person with whom one disagrees, then, of course, my grumblings about it are not going to affect the matter. But that way of using the word is nonetheless unnecessary and ill-informed, and it contributes to confusion about the meaning of the phrase.

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Posted: 29 July 2009 01:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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I just came across this text at Skeptoid.com:

6/30/2009 - The default comment about Sarah Palin tends to be “She’s stupid.” Skeptoid argues that a simple ad hominem attack like that is not only counterproductive toward the goal of communicating information that you feel is better than the messages she promotes, but it does you more harm than good as well.

Golly, if Brian Dunning says it . . . !

Seriously, though, I guess that if one uses the phrase “ad hominem” as a modifier to a noun like “attack,” then it is not likely to be confused with “ad hominem argument” or “ad hominem fallacy.”

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Posted: 29 July 2009 01:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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Oops, looks like I will have to go back and correct MY spelling. ‘Jedi Pauli’ is constantly calling specific people ‘stupid’ ‘ignorant’‘uneducated’ etc. I interpret these as ad hominem attacks since they have NOTHING to do with the argument at hand, and only attacking the person. This interpretation IS correct, isn’t it?

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Posted: 29 July 2009 02:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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asanta - 29 July 2009 01:54 PM

Oops, looks like I will have to go back and correct MY spelling. ‘Jedi Pauli’ is constantly calling specific people ‘stupid’ ‘ignorant’‘uneducated’ etc. I interpret these as ad hominem attacks since they have NOTHING to do with the argument at hand, and only attacking the person. This interpretation IS correct, isn’t it?

I wouldn’t get too hung up on supposed fallacies. In a sense, sure, calling someone ‘stupid’ or ‘ignorant’ is an ad hominem fallacy, since it’s strictly irrelevant to the validity or soundness of the argument they are presenting. (Even a stupid or ignorant person can give a perfectly sound argument). However, in practice one calls someone ‘stupid’ or ‘ignorant’ because one wishes to assert the unsoundness of their argument.

Also, if someone persistently fails to grasp a clear counterexample, it is natural, if indeed mean-spirited, to devolve into calling them thick-headed.

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Posted: 29 July 2009 03:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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dougsmith - 29 July 2009 02:36 PM
asanta - 29 July 2009 01:54 PM

Oops, looks like I will have to go back and correct MY spelling. ‘Jedi Pauli’ is constantly calling specific people ‘stupid’ ‘ignorant’‘uneducated’ etc. I interpret these as ad hominem attacks since they have NOTHING to do with the argument at hand, and only attacking the person. This interpretation IS correct, isn’t it?

I wouldn’t get too hung up on supposed fallacies. In a sense, sure, calling someone ‘stupid’ or ‘ignorant’ is an ad hominem fallacy, since it’s strictly irrelevant to the validity or soundness of the argument they are presenting. (Even a stupid or ignorant person can give a perfectly sound argument). However, in practice one calls someone ‘stupid’ or ‘ignorant’ because one wishes to assert the unsoundness of their argument.

Agreed. I think that Glacian made the point very clearly in post #11:

Glacian - 29 April 2009 06:58 AM

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.

I would say, just to be clear, that argument 1 commits the ad hominem fallacy while argument 2 does not. People who want to apply the term “ad hominem” to all unfavorable remarks made about someone with whom one disagrees would apply that term to the use of “idiot” in both arguments, but I think that this way of using the term muddies the waters.

I suspect that what is at the bottom of this issue is the problematic nature of all the classic fallacy terms. The definitions of them can go in either of two ways: (1) they build in evaluative terms, like “irrelevant,” “illegitimate,” “improper,” and so on, to define the fallacy, or (2) they omit such terms. In the first case, the definition, so long as it is otherwise well-formulated, captures only instances of fallacious argumentation; but before you can apply the term, you have to judge, e.g., whether in a particular instance a remark on someone’s character is relevant to the evaluation of that person’s claims. Until you have made that judgment, you can’t say whether the remark amounts to an ad hominem fallacy or is legitimate (e.g., “This guy has a long record of telling delusional tales” is likely to be relevant to the question whether we should credit the testimony of the guy in question). In the second case, where the fallacies are defined in purely non-evaluative terms, we don’t have to evaluate the legitimacy of the argument in order to apply the term, but applying the term does not tell us whether the argument is fallacious. In either case, while it is easy enough to determine whether the descriptive component of the definition applies, we cannot infer from that application that the argument in question is fallacious.

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Posted: 29 July 2009 04:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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Okay, well he is using argument #2 for the most part. But he is using(abusing) Argument from Authority.

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