Ad Hominem - why do people do it?

Discussion in 'Human Science' started by Quantum Quack, Aug 31, 2019.

  1. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    That's a mistake in reasoning, not a definitive "truth".
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  3. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    I don’t seek to do that at all. I have merely suggested you refer to your own ad hominem, and reasons for such, when seeking to understand what an ad hominem is.
    To wit, if you say it can be categorised as one thing, then commit the fallacy but don’t agree that it was the one thing you categorised it to be, then that exposes a flaw in your initial categorisation, does it not?
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  5. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    I can see that post, thanks. I just can’t see what you put in quotes: “"we all know when we are lying or not fully stating the truth". Hence my seeking clarification from you as to what the quote was supposed to be. It seems strange to me to put one’s own thoughts, or interpretations, in quotes like that.
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  7. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Yes, there is. An ad hominem attack is an attack against the person, not the points raised.
    Just read the opening line of wiki if you need help in understanding why (I consider) it is:
    typically refers to a fallacious argumentative strategy whereby genuine discussion of the topic at hand is avoided by instead attacking the character, motive, or other attribute of the person making the argument...
    If I say that I am not going to respond to points made because of what I perceive to be the character’s motive, would I be looking to avoid genuine discussion of the topic? Yes. Am I doing so by instead attacking the character of the person? Yes. In short, it is an argumentative strategy whereby genuine discussion of the topic at hand is avoided... etc.
    One might no doubt argue that the character attack is not intended as a direct refutation of the arguments raised, instead a simple and straight avoidance. But it is sufficient that it be used as the reason to avoid addressing the points in the first place. That is an argumentative strategy. And it is an ad hominem.
    True. Maybe calling it accidental is the wrong word, but I find most ad hominems are not deliberate efforts to be fallacious in their argument. Hence I used the term accidental. But maybe I am being too generous?
  8. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

    In the case of a clinically diagnosed pathological liar, the notion of deliberateness is compromised.
    Due to the nature of compulsion, culpability/guilt appears absent in most cases. So one can not say that they are deliberately lying.
    re: "Unfit to stand trial" because culpability or ability to act with volition is absent.
    Awareness of lying does not equate to a deliberate and culpable decision to lie.
    Awareness of compulsion can be often extremely debilitating and traumatic.
    How ever most ( according to my ex wife - a mental health professional now retired) do have hindsight issues, but only after the event and know that they have a problem that they can not control.

    I have found from personal experience having to contend with a few people with this disorder, that this appears to be a valid assessment.
    The absence of guilt and the cunning employed makes it extremely difficult to manage as a victim of the lying.
    Confronting the liar can lead to serious and sometimes violent exchanges. Hence the person receives validation and reinforcement because very few people are prepared to risk that sort of confrontation.

    just my two cents...
  9. geordief Valued Senior Member

    Is it an ad hominem to note that Trump repeatedly tells untruths?

    In court cases we refer to a witness having more credibility than another on account of having lied earlier.

    So are ad hominems justified when used correctly in context?

    To describe the character of one's opponent in a debate can serve a good purpose . It can ,for example show that it is your opinion that someone is not debating in good faith.

    And to exaggerate the flaws you see in your opponent can be way (a bit like a body language) of getting across the idea that you are angry with this bad behaviour.
  10. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Well, it’s certainly a spectrum which includes those who are so entrenched in the lies they tell that they actually believe them, and are thus clinically delusional. The motive of the pathological liar may not be the usual ones we associate with non-pathological lying, but there usually are motives.
    You mean like the alcoholic is not culpable for the drinks they have? Or guilty of things they do as a result?
    I don’t think being a pathological liar is a reason to be deemed so unfit. Do you have an example? I’m aware it may be different from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, so an example from any would be good.
    The get-out clause for the alcoholic having his next drink, no doubt?
    Not disputed. Also irrelevant to the matter at hand.
    As do most alcoholics, who at the time are oblivious to their problem, one they can not control. Yet they are culpable. That is not to say we should not help them, or that we should simply treat them the same as a non-pathological liar, though.
    You’ll excuse me if I don’t take your word for it.
    Keep the change.

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  11. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Depends on context, surely? If you are just passing comment then no, it is not an ad hominem. If it is in the middle of a debate, say, and he has said something and you go “well, you repeatedly tell untruths therefore what you have said can be dismissed or ignored” then this would be, as you’re using the attack against the person to avoid debating the issue.
    Absolutely. It is usually considered a fallacy when debating in rational, non-empirical debates, where a conclusion stands or falls on the strength of its logic, not on the person making the argument. In a court of law they are discussing interpretation of events, and it is entirely pertinent to assess whether the testimony can be trusted. So calling into question the character of the witness is not fallacious in that regard. Whether someone has a bias to perceive things a certain way, or an incentive to do so, could be vital.
    Of course, even in courts of law therthe will be fallacious ad hominems, and hopefully the opposing barrister will identify them as such and raise an objection. E.g. the prosecutor says something like “well, what would one expect from an adulterer” when the issue of adultery might really have no bearing on the matter. This, though, is quite often a tactic employed simply to paint the witness, defendant, or whoever, in a negative light, so as to persuade them to their own cause.
    Again, it depends on context. Often the attack on the character has no bearing on the argument itself and is simply an accompaniment. E.g. you deal with the argument on its merits and then attack the person for not arguing, in your opinion, in good faith. The attack is not intended to avoid debate of the matter at hand, ergo it is not an argumentum ad hominem.
    Something like that, any way.
  12. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

    If you are saying in a debate, as a counter to a statement he's just made, instead of refuting the actual statement.

    In court, the witnesses are not engaged in argument: the lawyers are. The relevant fallacy would be to impugn the character of opposing counsel, instead of catching his witness in a lie.

    That's a contradiction in terms.

    That's been covered. However, the character or faith of an opponent is irrelevant to the form of argumentation.

    How is anger relevant to logical argument?

    Logical/rhetorical fallacies have a very specific, narrow application. Attempting to spread one over different and various verbal interactions causes far more confusion than the fallacy itself.
  13. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    Sorry, you say 'I think therefore I am' is a mistake in reasoning?
    How so?

    Descartes realized even his senses weren't trustworthy. He is stating the only thing he can possibly know for certain.
    If I am able to ask the question 'what am I?' then there must be something that exists that is able to ask the question - whatever that something is.

    Even if I am a brain-in-a-vat - and that all I perceive is a lie - I can still state for certain that I exist.
  14. geordief Valued Senior Member

    I see that too.Perhaps I was broadening the context unnecessarily(but we do have the childish to and fros that occur on internet forums like these in the back of our minds as well)
  15. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

    Oh yes; it's a daily frustration. In fact, Quantum Quack started out by mischaracterizing his own topic to include a much wider range of verbal exchanges. That's why I added his hominem on every page.
    I find that imprecise and emotional use of words; loose and subjective terminology, leads to more misunderstanding, and therefore more avoidable conflict, than actual difference of opinion.
    If we don't know what we're talking about, how can we say anything worthwhile?
  16. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

    Pleas explain how you see what you see an ad hominem in the first post:
    here it is:
    Ad hominem is short for "Argumentum ad Hominem", a Latin phrase that a basic definition from wiki describes as:
    typically refers to a fallacious argumentative strategy whereby genuine discussion of the topic at hand is avoided by instead attacking the character, motive, or other attribute of the person making the argument, or persons associated with the argument, rather than attacking the substance of the argument itself.
    Why do people resort to using this strategy?
    Is it because of a perverse pleasure gained by abusing others?

    Care to discuss?
    Note the added emphasis of the key word "Why".

    And it is Why people resort to this strategy that is the topic of this thread.
    But yes please explain where you find an ad hominem argument in the first post I made to this thread.
    Or am I misinterpreting your post which is easy to do on these internet forums?
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2019
  17. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    I don't entirely agree, as I mentioned in a previous post:

    It essentially serves as a "point-of-order" in a debate - where a meta-discussion must be started, to determine whether the discussion is proceeding constructively.

    If a speaker brought a point before a committee but then digressed to mere trolling, the committee would be within their rights to refuse to engage in a point-counterpoint procedure, and instead move to question the motives or ability of the offending speaker. In such a scenario, the offending speaker could be silenced, but on the internet, in a forum, they cannot. So often the only recourse is to draw attention to a systemic problem with the speaker's flawed logic. To fail to do so would enable the offending speaker to essentially engage in filibustering.
  18. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

    There isn't one. My objection - which might have amounted to nagging, and that's what I facetiously referred-to as adding your hominem - was to the inclusion of practices which do not come under the definition, are far more far-reaching in their effects and have a wide range of different motivations and applications. Such adulteration of terminology dilutes the discussion of a topic.
    I happen to be keenly aware of this practice when used as a method of obfuscation and very often of information suppression. I think we all need to be hyper-aware of that in the present political climate.

    I'd also want to be vigilant regarding the attribution of motives to other people's actions and words. We see the words; we can make guesses as to what prompted the words, but there is a real danger in making any deeper assumptions on superficial evidence. Once you have a body of work, or a history of utterances in their actual context, you can begin to draw inferences about somebody's character. But there is real danger in diagnosing "sociopathy" or "religious fanaticism" from a few sentences, when you can't even correlate it with body language or state of physical health or current influences in real life.
    Does that make sense, or am I being paranoid-schizophrenic?

    But I would not characterize your example as an ad hominem argument. There is a world of difference between
    "You can't say anything noteworthy about war because you're not a general." which is and
    "You're off topic and not contributing productively." which isn't.
    Remarks regarding the discussion as a whole, or the participants, points of order, form or direction are outside the argument itself and - to my mind - are not subject to classification as debating tactics.
    PS - I also don't think a discussion is harmed by such asides, or minor variants in style.
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2019
  19. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

    If I understand you correctly I agree totally...
    I started this thread ignorant of the complexity, compounded by the definition of "attacking the person rather than the object in discussion" indicating an offensive/insulting motivation. yet... this seems to be excluded when using the term ad hominem argument in clinical terms.
    Why ask a question if you already have an answer?

    • A loss of good faith in the originally shared objective.
    • An act of bipartisanship betrayal.. etc all come to mind...
    • Legal: A betrayal of the true purpose of the a court to find out the truth to the best extent possible etc...side lined due to the perversion of a defendants investment in success at all costs, enabled by disingenuous lawyers who seek financial reward over truth/justice. Forcing any semblance of the truth to be buried under vested interest. Rendering any oath or affirmation effectively void of meaning.

    A deluded state of bipartisanship towards a common goal, that is manipulated by legal teams and politicians etc. every where.
    A deluded state of bipartisanship towards a common goal that is manipulated by intellectually dishonest debaters.
    Of course the one being most deluded suffers offense and harm. Trust and good faith goes out the window for starters.
    A deliberate act to commit an intellectual fraud.
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2019
  20. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    But what do we see here?
    The ones I assume we're talking about are more of the form "You are just making stuff up and have no idea what you're talking about."

    Then again, I suppose that's not technically an ad hom. If one can deduce from the opponent's arguments that they have no idea what they're talking about, then it's actually addressing the validity of the arguments presented, just broadly.

    I've had several members here complain about perceived ad homs, when in fact, I've addressed nothing more than what they've put on the table for analysis. eg:

    No. You do not know how to math.
    Ad hom!
    No. Demonstrable. And directly addresses your arguments. Just broadly.
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2019
  21. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

    Exactly! It happens all the time, but it's not "an offense under the act" as it were, since it's an aside, rather than a refutation of any particular point. But the poster making shit up will pretend that it was an egregious attack which thereby invalidates every sound argument you'd made to that point.

    The prime [ad nauseatingly familiar] example is attacks on evolution theory. The first three or four rounds usually consist of poster who understand the science attempting to explain it to the poster who keeps repeating "It's only a theory and it doesn't explain the armadillo, so it's all wrong, therefore Goddidit." And then the other posters become exasperated and start throwing soft squishy verbal fruit [in my experience, rarely anything with a stone in].

    I did address that aspect early on: people who either don't know what they're talking about or have an agenda to defend, often resort to crying 'foul' one way or another. At court, you'd be exonerated if you just substituted "No. That is unsound math." for "No. You do not know how to math." Without the pronoun, there is no case to answer. But, of course, when you're exasperated by several exchanges with a self-satisfied idjit... that happens.
  22. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

    Surely it would be better to ask him to explain how he arrived at his solution and then he can insult himself instead.
  23. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

    No. Well, uhm not quite.... lol
    Discussing what traits drive the use of AHA's as a defensive strategy, is not being judgemental. It is merely exploring the psychology behind it.
    For example, it takes courage to admit a mistake or confess to lying. A courage that many find hard to find. Am I making a judgement in suggesting so or am I making an observation of human nature?
    Admitting to a lie would have to be one of the hardest things to do. So AHA's are used instead perhaps...
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2019

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