Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The ad hominem fallacy

“We commit the ad hominem fallacy when we think that considerations about a person “refute” his or her assertions. Ad hominem is Latin for “to the man” indicating that it is not really the subject matter that is being addressed, but the person.

Brooke Noel Moore and Richard Parker, Critical Thinking (McGraw-Hill, 2007), p. 174.

Non-sexist Latin is an oxymoron.

11 comments:

legodesi said...

I'd say, in light of bulverism, considerations of people are important if they reveal why they believe what they believe, but not important to know if the content of their belief is true or false.

Ilíon said...

Considerations of why people believe what they believe may help one find the chink in the armor -- that is, may help one see a way which may encourage the person to reconsider the belief -- but have nothing at all to do with the truth-value of the belief.

legodesi said...

At the same time, I highly question the endeavour to find why people believe what they believe. I assume if a person doesn't know his own exact reasons for belief P, someone else is less likely. That is why we're not to judge.

mattghg said...

To put it in football (that's soccer to you Americans) terms: playing the man instead of the ball is foul play.

Anonymous said...

I agree with your initial post Legodesi, but am unsure regarding the second. I am unable to see the connection between questioning the endeavor of why people believe as they do, versus the assumption that a person does not know why they believe as they do. More specifically, I cannot understand why one has anything to do with the other?

-Pensive

J said...

Ad Hominem does not merely mean any writing with insults or defamation is irrelevant. It means that any substantial arguments which hinge on supposed character issues, associations, ethnic/regional background are not valid.

Which is to say, applied correctly, Ad Hom would eliminate 90% of most colloquial chitchat, jokes, radio-rants, blog scribbling, even religious writing, like Edvard Von Feiser's long winded rants concerning anyone not invited to La Iglesia de Vichy-catholics .

When Limbaugh starts into his lib-rawl this, lib-rawl that belches he's doing Ad Hom. So are most advertisers--even by visual means (the sexy hipster in her Benz, the loozer in his jalopy, etc). Which is to say, a clever Ad Hom moves product.

Edward T. Babinski said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Edward T. Babinski said...

Not to stray into actual ad hom territory, but merely curious...

Illion, I've been meaning to ask you about the two fingers on the forehead image you use. Why that image? It might be taken a variety of ways:

1) You're giving me a tremendous headache.

2) I'm about to blow out my brains with a virtual pistol formed by my fingers.

3) Some sort of hand sign to indicate you're in a gang?

4) Perhaps a Latin/Catholic gesture of blessing yourself with the names of the Trinity, starting with "the Father?"

5) I'm thinking! Can't you see I'm a thinker staring intently at YOU!

At least those are the questions that go through my mind when I see that image of you. At least it's not a drab image like the kind you see on Driver's licenses. It provokes more drama and a bit of thought. Keep it by all means, but it is supposed to mean something in particular? Or it's just an image?

Ilíon said...

6) I'm hiding my face even as I show it.

Ilíon said...

The point of the picture was to emphasize my eyes.

Ilíon said...

Though, at the same time, I suppose I ought to admit that the picture is misleading: the colors are off, making it look as though I have dark brown eyes, when, in fact, they are a variable blueish-greenish-grey. Those almost-black stripes on the shirt are really a deep blue.