Ad Hominem - why do people do it?

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

  1. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    No, it is not. That would include slander, insult, denigration, etc. - and these are far more common than ad hominem argument. (There is no ad hominem argument in the post by QQ that Sarkus quoted in the post I referred to above, for example. )

    An "ad hominem" is an ad hominem argument, and it is made against the "points raised" - it is an "attack" against those points. (A fallacious one, to be sure).

    btw: It does not even have to rest on a negative assessment or description of the person, but can be based on praise or other deflection; the personal focus can consist of true, false, undecidable, or bullshit premises and claims; the key property of the personal focus is that it be in fact irrelevant to the conclusion or the "points raised". That's where an ad hominem argument's nature as a fallacy rests.
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2019
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  3. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    Essentially: It presumes the consequent.
    There is no necessary "I" - rewriting the argument without that presumption, one obtains something like "Thoughts happen, therefore I am". Do you see the problem?
     
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  5. Bells Staff Member

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    Only if one is trying to reinvent or redefine the meaning of the word 'hominem'..

    Ad hominem (Latin for "to the person"),[1] short for argumentum ad hominem, 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.
    I get what you mean by 'against the points raised', but at the end of the day, it is the targeting of the person or something connected to or about that person instead of the actual point itself.
     
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  7. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

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    The other often forgotten thing is that an ad hominem argument HAS TO BE an argument and not just an opinion or statement etc.
     
  8. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    No. That meaning is clear and without objection.
    The common error is to overlook the presence of the word "argumentum" (a good reason to not use the shorthand "ad hom" etc.)
    No, it isn't.
    It's the use of that targeting in an argument. That's what differentiates it from slander, insult, etc - the target is the "points raised". The focus on the person is a means, not an end.

    The confusion of insult, pejorative, slander, denigration, etc, with "ad hom" is the common confusion.
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2019
  9. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    That's not "other" - it's my point.
     
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  10. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

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    And on that basis, the post of mine that you and Sarkus are/were debating, contains no ad hominem argumentum.
    And that also was your point

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  11. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    I wasn't debating your post.

    In my opinion, the topic of this thread is in fact why people use slander and insult - not why they use ad hominem arguments. That confusion seems built in.
     
  12. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

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    Yes, there is an ad hominem fallacy by QQ in that post, as it is implicitly stating that the points aren’t worth responding to due to the perceived bad faith of the person who raised them. It does not have to be a direct rebuttal of the points raised, but can be a simple dismissal of them, or a refusal to address them because of [insert character trait of person]. The key is that the attempt is made to taint the value of the points raised through the attack on character of the one who made them rather than addressing the points themselves. That is an ad hominem, whatever form it comes in. While most examples given in text books will be somewhat more obvious, they do not offer an exhaustive list of what constitutes an ad hominem.
    Slander, insult, denigration often accompany an ad hominem, and are often entwined within it, and quite often, yes, there is just the insult, the slander etc. But in the post by QQ there is an ad hominem: he dismissed the points raised due to perceived bad faith in the one who posted them. He attempted to diminish the points made through the personal attack.
    Whenever someone attempts to diminish the value of points made by attacking the character of the person who made them, that is an ad hominem. Saying that you are not going to address the points because of perceived bad faith of the one who raised them is exactly that, an effort to taint the points through an attack on the character.
     
  13. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

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    But i did not provide an argument.
     
  14. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

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    ”Given X I will do Y” is an argument... P -> Q, P, therefore Q.
    Further, any attempt to diminish the value of points raised through attacks on the person’s character are ad hominem arguments. Period. The line of argument is that because they have character trait X then the value of their points are diminished. The argument need only be implied to be an ad hominem, not explicitly stated.

    A: raises points
    B: your points aren’t worth discussing because of [insert personal attack]

    A: raises points
    B: you aren’t worth discussing with because of [insert personal attack]

    Both are arguments by B to avoid addressing, and to taint, the points raised by A, through an attack on A’s character.
    These are both ad hominem arguments by B.

    As it pertains to you, the very fact that you addressed some points then chose to ignore others due to the perceived character trait, and that you continue to discuss with me, is ample enough evidence that the argument you used e.g. “given [insert character trait]” is solely to avoid discussing certain points as well as to taint their value.

    But let’s be clear, I’m not holding this against you, rather it has just become a bit of a focussed example as to what constitutes an ad hominem or not.
     
  15. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

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    NO that is not true..
    I stated not argued.
    Explaining my statement/position/opinion is not an argument.
    I still believe the good will factor is dubious at best. This is not an argument. This is a statement of belief.
    Stating a belief is not an argument.
    The social contract you agreed to when posting to this forum requires good will and good faith, both of which I believe were missing.
    Right or wrong that was my belief.
    It is not an argument, and not open to argument as it is only a statement of belief, an opinion based on my own observations.
    If I attempt to defend my belief, then and only then would I be arguing, and I am not.

    There is no obligation to argue with a person whom you believe is not acting in good faith or demonstrating good will. In fact, there is no obligation to argue. period.
    The above is not an argument but a statement and explanation of MY belief.
    Do I have to defend my right to an opinion or belief?

    No argument extended means no argumentum ad hominem fallacy can be present.
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2019
  16. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

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    It is difficult to justify/explain something without providing an argument for it. You did more than just state your position, but provided the reasoning: “I am doing X because of Y”, or in your case “given X I am doing Y”. It amounts to the same thing: an argument. And it was explicitly intended to avoid discussion of the points raised, and implicitly intended to taint the points made, the explanation being an attack against the person rather than the points raised.
    It is the statement of belief being used in an argument, the conclusion of which is the avoidance of the points raised and the intended tainting of the points raised.
    Had you simply stated your belief but then addressed the points, this would have been simply a mistaken belief on your part, with no ad hominem because there would have been no attempt to diminish or avoid the points that had been raised.
    Then either stop responding to me, or simply state your belief while still responding to the points as raised. You did neither, but instead used the perceived motive on my part as a means of implicitly tainting the points made.
    That belief is wrong, but you are right in that it is not itself an argument. But you used it as part of an argument. Every time you use words like “because...” or “given...” you are using an argument, a justification.
    Again, it is not the belief that is an ad hominem argument but the manner in which it is used within an argument.
    Please do not think that I am saying that your (mistaken) belief is an ad hominem. It is not. The manner in which it used was.

    For example, if I simply call you [insert insult here] then that is not an argument, but a statement, claim, belief, whatever else you want to call it.

    If I say: “I don’t think you’re right because of [insert same irrelevant insult here]” then that IS an argument which uses the same insult as in the first example.
    If I say: “given that you [insert same irrelevant insult here] I don’t think you’re right” then that is also an argument.
    And because these two attack the character rather than address the point raised, they are argumentum ad hominem, and fallacious versions thereof.

    Now yes, it is true that you did not say that the points I made were incorrect, but you used the perceived activity (ad hominem) as a reason (argument) to avoid the points and to try to diminish their value for others. This is sufficient to be considered an argumentum ad hominem, and why it is not simply a statement of belief on your part.


    Here’s an idea: set up a thread in the Philosophy forum where anyone can post (anonymous) examples from sciforum discussions that others can non-judgementally (i.e. purely academically) assess as to whether they are ad hominem arguments or not?
    That might help everyone, myself included, understand what is or is not an ad hominem.
    E.g. you find yourself accused of an ad hominem... post it in this new thread and it can be reviewed, not in any official capacity but simply to further understanding of the principles.

    Heck, I’ll do it now... and if the thread sinks without trace, so be it.

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    Last edited: Sep 3, 2019
  17. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

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    what others are you referring to? (This is a question and not an argument)
     
  18. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

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    How does he insult himself by letting him have the floor to expound upon his unsound ideas? He'll just keep going on. Essentially, you're giving free rein to a crank. This happens all the time too.
     
  19. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

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    Other people following the thread, both now and in future.
     
  20. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

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    and if I had stated
    "Given I believe you lack good will, I will refrain from discussing the rest of your post..."
    would that make a difference...?
    Do you think that given the lack of good will was a statement of objective fact?
    Why would you think that it was anything other than an opinion or belief?

    Don't you think the '"others" you refer to can form their own beliefs and opinions?
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2019
  21. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

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    Actually I took this example to a friend today and we had a bit of a laugh...

    5-3= 1

    It can actually if one fiddles a bit..
    ask him to explain and he comes back with
    5 apples - 3 apples equals a pair. 1(2)

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    I think you might be surprised if he actually had to explain why he thought 5-3=1
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2019
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  22. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

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    Of course there isn’t. But that does not invalidate the points made by the one you think is arguing in bad faith. But to use it as the reason to avoid only those points made and not others that you are continuing to discuss with the person, and use it to try to taint the worth of those points for others, makes the argument an ad hominem.
    No, your statement of belief is “you are not arguing in good faith”, and you have made it into an argument by saying words to the effect: “I am not going to discuss these points because...”.
    Your belief as justification, rationale, explanation, makes it the argument for your action.
    No, we’re all entitled to them. It is simply how you apply the belief, and the arguments you use them in, that might result in you making an ad hominem argument.
    You did make an argument. Whenever you see words like “because” or “given this”, or “as a result”, you are in the presence of an argument.
    No. it is still an argument (note the word “given...”) that attempts to ignore, dismiss, and taint the points presented, through an attack on the person.
    I.e. my good will or not has no bearing on the points made, and you are trying to use that as a means of avoiding them and tainting them.
    It is your belief, nothing more. But you still don’t seem to be understanding the point: it is not a matter of the belief itself, but of the purpose of the argument you use it in.
     
  23. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

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    do you ever act with out justification?
    Does sharing that justification amount to an argument? How so?
    Simply explaining why I am not going to respond to your post, is not an argument. It is simply and explanation of why I am acting as I am.
    And I am still not going to argue against that post as I still believe it was made with out any good will or faith...
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2019

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