(argumentum) Ad Hominem... is it or not?

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by Sarkus, Sep 3, 2019.

  1. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    They didn’t avoid your argument and use your intellectual capacity as the reason for doing so. Instead they simply didn't respond to your points and insulted you on the way out.
    That is different to explaining on their way out that your intellectual capacity is the reason for not addressing those specific points.
    E.g. had they said “I’m not going to respond to these because you are (being polite) someone who lacks intellectual capacity” this would be an ad hominem: the avoidance is by means of an argument against the character of the person.

    And I do accept that if the ignoring of the person is complete then that is not a matter of simply avoiding the specific points, and is thus a separate matter, and not an AAH. It is a meta-issue to the actual debate at hand.
    But clearly only ignoring some points... that’s different.
    It does, you just have to recognise what constitutes an argument.
    Perhaps. But based on what was written it appears to be just an insult. As to say, there is no argument in what was written.
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  3. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    That would seem to be fine, and not an AAH, as you are declaring a reason for not engaging at all with the person, not just looking to avoid specific points that they have made.
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  5. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    I think that it's exceedingly common and that it happens all the time. People often have strong ab initio biases regarding particular subjects, often religious, political or social issues. And there's the hubris element, people with advanced degrees and prestigious university teaching appointments assume that those things make them expert of all subjects, including subjects that they have never studied. No end of examples can be found among university professors.

    In this case, it isn't the person's native overall intelligence that's in question so much as their thought process in particular topic areas. The person might express exceedingly dim and uninformed opinions about X, while still performing very well in other (perhaps highly technical) areas and on things like IQ tests.

    But getting back to the subject line, the argumentum ad hominem thing is something a little different. This refers to attacking the person who made an argument (we often see that these days with "he's a racist!" or something like that, which in some eyes apparently discredits anything that person says about anything) as opposed to addressing what the person actually said.

    In "You're a retard!" the individual being called a 'retard' is apparently being dismissed along with anything that person says, without any attempt being made to address the person's points. Which leaves open the possibility that those points are very good regardless of how contemptuous the dismissive one is of the person making them.

    I think that it is, since the attack is not being directed at what was said, but at the person saying it. (In Latin, ad hominem means 'against the man'.) In order not to be ad hominem, poster B will need to address poster A's supposedly 'stupid' remarks and present some plausible reason why others should consider them stupid too. In a word:

    1. You're stupid! --- ad hominem since it's directed at the man, at the opposing speaker.

    2. That's a stupid thing to say --- not ad hominem, since it's directed at what was said. Taking this route carries the burden of explaining why the thing said was stupid.
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  7. billvon Valued Senior Member

    I didn't claim they were. There are plenty of insults that are not an attempt to rebut an argument.

    "Your argument is stupid" (as a reply to an argument in a thread that is occurring online, obviously) is not an AHA. "You are stupid" (as a reply to an argument in the same thread) is.
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2019
  8. Beer w/Straw Transcendental Ignorance! Valued Senior Member

    I wanted to provoke an argument, which I never got.
  9. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

    Which was my exact argument.
    In the original version of my take on that selectively stupid poster A, Poster B had previously refuted number of Poster A's bogus/misinformed points and patiently, repeatedly corrected poster A's misconceptions. Poster A's response was to repeat the same bogus/misinformed point a ninth time in the same discussion. Whereupon Poster B became slightly chafed and wrote:
    "Your persistent repetition of non-factual information, coupled with your obdurate refusal to consider the factual information presented by others, leads me to conclude that you are an idiot [on this topic], wherefore further exchanges [on this topic] would be futile."

    Ya, that's not an argument of any kind - it's just crass.
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2019
  10. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

    lol not so sure about that...lol how many pages so far?
  11. Beer w/Straw Transcendental Ignorance! Valued Senior Member

    Well, I'm here to be stabbed, that's what makes forums fun!
  12. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    1. Is not an argumentum ad hominem. It may be aimed at the person but it is not in and of itself an argument. E.g. it could be “You're stupid!" followed by "X, Y, and Z are the reasons you’re wrong!” X, Y, and Z are arguments, but the initial insult is not. It is aimed at the person, sure, and is likely insulting (even if justification for the opinion is reasonable), but the insult is not in and of itself an attempt to rebut, avoid, diminish the points raised. And an argumentum ad hominem must be an argument aimed at the person in an effort to rebut, diminish, or avoid the points raised.

    Had 1. been “you’re wrong because I think you’re stupid” then this would be an ad hominem argument. The “you’re stupid” is now argument for, in this case, a rebuttal of the point made.
    Without being an argument for something, but instead is just a statement of opinion, or even fact, about the poster (or anyone else) it can’t be an argumentum ad hominem. And "you're stupid!" is not in and of itself an argument.
  13. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    This basic mistake is how we get illiteracies like "ad homs".
    The opposite is the case: It's not an ad hominem argument if it's directed at the man. Only if it's directed at the points (using characteristics of the man,of course, rather than the points) would it be an ad hominem argument.
    No. The other way around: the argument must be aimed at the points, to be an ad hominem argument.
    As this poster recognizes when taking care (bolding mine):
    but ignores at all other times, leading to hopeless muddles like this:
    the noun phrase "argument against the person" there does not make sense in the first place. It would make sense if the word "argument" were replaced with "slander", "insult", "claims", etc.
    In the second, referring to a person as intelligent etc does not constitute an argument for, against, or about, the person. Neither does it refer to motive or character.
    And third: in that example the attack was against the points made, not the person. That is a key, central, defining feature of an ad hominem argument.

    Note the fourth: intelligence and education don't seem well correlated with this particular illiteracy - but political frame does.
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2019
  14. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Simply a difference in language here, but the understanding is the same. The argument, the “Because [personal trait X]” is the argument, and it is said to be aimed at the person because it is about the person. It can also be said to be aimed at the points raised, in order to rebut, avoid, taint them. I can only apologise if you’re struggling with the difference in terminology, but it’s not going to change, so you’d best get used to it.
    It is not a hopeless muddle at all, although given your inability to comprehend phrases such as “argument against the person”, it possibly isn’t surprising that you find it such.
    To wit:
    Yes it does. An argument is simply any rationale in support of an action, a belief etc. As such an “argument against the person” is simply a rationale that is about the person. Maybe you would be better if i used the word “about” rather than “against”? Well, it’s not going to happen.
    It would make a different sense, and not the sense intended. When the slander, insult, claim, belief is used as rationale for an action, or belief, then that first slander, insult, claim becomes an argument for the second.
    As such it is entirely sensible to use the term argument.
    Simply referring to them as such is not an argument. Using that claim, or belief, as rationale for an action or belief makes it an argument, specifically in support of that subsequent action or belief. That is what an argument is.
    Not when you take into consideration the use of the word “attack” as already explained to you, and seemingly conveniently ignored by you, in post #39.
    Yes, in your example the rebuttal was against the points made - which you may refer to as the attack - but the argument was also an attack, a comment/claim about, the person. That we use the terms differently is clear, but your failure to recognise that given that is has been explained to you does you no favours.
  15. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Your understanding is not the same as the understanding of someone who can recognize an ad hominem argument when they see one.
    You can't fix it. Not even by doubling down on the syntactical mess whose latest manifestation is "rationale about the person".
    It's illiterate gibberish, and another example of rightwing syntax collapse as mentioned so often before.
    I usually skip syntax collapse.
    It's hard to figure out what to prioritize in response to this, for example:
    We now have "positive attacks" - but they are still on the person, not the "points raised". (Though I am beginning to understand why you insist on using the vague generality of "attack" - unlike most other terms you misuse, you can spin it to anything. You can't get cornered.)
    1) A slander, insult, claim, etc, is not an argument. You are supposed to have figured that out pages ago.
    2) In the collapse of your syntax, among other problems you lost the reference for "the second". What is "the second"? For that matter, what was the "first"?
    3) Regardless: not an ad hominem argument. Nothing there becomes an ad hominem argument. To the extent one can conjure up any argument at all there, it's directed against the person: remember - an ad hominem argument is directed against the "points being raised", not the person.
    That's how it is recognized as a fallacy. Slander is not fallacy.
    The only argument appearing in that post was about the points raised - not about the person. It included claims about the person, as ad hominem arguments do, but they were not arguments or an argument themselves.
    In particular,

    once we have corrected your deteriorating syntax so that we can respond;
    so that the attempted "rebuttal" was of, not against, the points being made;
    and the "attack" was on or against, not "about", the person;
    and the attempted insult of ascribing to me the use of the word "attack" in this context is quietly dropped as trolling;
    and so forth

    - - not an ad hominem argument.
  16. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Yeah, it is. You'll realise that soon enough, though, I'm sure.
    There's that irrelevant agenda again.

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    Your inability to keep up with the language used is on you.
    There is none to skip. Just your inability to comprehend, possibly?
    I won't get cornered because I know what I'm talking about, thanks. You just seem to have difficulty in understanding because I'm not necessarily using the words you want me to use.
    It can be used as an argument.
    Example: "You're a fat, lazy layabout (insult) therefore you should get out more." The insult is used here as an argument for getting out more. See - insult used as argument. It's not rocket science. Simple English, in fact.
    Again I seem to be blamed for your reading comprehension failure...
    "When the slander, insult, claim, belief is used as rationale for an action, or belief, then that first slander, insult, claim becomes an argument for the second."
    When the slander, insult, claim, belief [the first] is used as rational for an action or belief [the second], then that first... becomes an argument for the second.
    Again, not rocket science. Just takes a tiny bit of willing on your part to comprehend.
    I didn't say that that example was an ad hominem, nor that slander is a fallacy. So again more comprehension struggles on your part. The issue exampled was whether it was correct to use the word "argument" or something like "slander". Not whether it was an ad hominem. You're crippling yourself with your reading comprehension woes.

    Yes they were, or are you forgetting which example we are actually discussing in this particular exchange. Let me refresh you, and your comments thereafter:
    Post #38: "Illustration: "You are too intelligent to post such a simplification unless as a troll or joke, so your argument is invalid and your conclusion is false"
    That is an ad hominem argument. It is not based on a "personal attack
    Here the argument "You are too intelligent..." is about the person. It is an argument because it is used as the rationale for subsequent action / belief etc (note the word "so" indicating that what became before in this example is the reason - argument - for what follows).
    Again, your reading comprehension difficulties seem to be crippling you.
  17. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    You are increasingly posting gibberish, which fits a pattern rapidly becoming a stereotype.
    In the early stages, it looks like this:
    You will never answer the questions posed in such replies, because you can't. Neither can anyone else.
    It is a premise, a claim from which I drew a conclusion by further reasoning.
    To see that it is not an argument itself, note that terms such as "fallacy" do not apply to it. Neither do terms such as "deductive", "inductive", "ad hominem", etc. Such terms apply only to arguments.
    The color of a semaphore light, for example, is not an argument.
    Comprehension of your intended meanings just highlights the distance between them and your posted language. Once sensitized by the flagrant examples, the abused readers find themselves awash in verbiage that reads like an attempt to outline meaning as a knife thrower or stencil inker might, by near misses - and reminded, over and over, of previous similar muddles and where they came from. So even subtler misses feed into the emerging pattern of posts like this one:
    Insult used in an argument, for an argument, to make an argument, etc - not "as", if one is being careful.

    Part of an argument, in other words. You needed the rest - in particular the word "therefore" - to make an argument from an insult. Without the rest, you'd have an insult only - no argument at all, let alone an "ad hominem" argument.

    That is not, btw, an ad hominem argument. Whether you intended it to be one is anybody's guess.
    It's a claim or observation of supposed - assumed, for the sake of the ad hominem argument it is part of - physical fact. Formally, in the given context, it's a premise. Add a few words - "therefore", "so", "because" - and you can make any of several different arguments from it. Only some of them will support interpreting that as an "attack".
    And your point is what, exactly - that I did successfully post an example of an ad hominem argument on my first try?

    Your turn. Insult is not argument, remember. You need the "so" or some such word, and what follows, to make an argument of an observation.
    That's nice. You also didn't say lots of things that (unlike those) would be relevant here.

    The point being, still, that paying attention to "who" might be of value in answering the OP question of "why". For one thing, it seems to indicate that something other than the strictly personal is involved.
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2019
  18. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Again, your inability to comprehend an adequately written statement is concerning.
    I'm sorry, was there a question in: "I usually skip syntax collapse."???? Of course noone can answer the question in such a reply, simply because there is no question.
    Yet again, you, as have others, are misunderstanding what an argument entails. It is simply a rationale for something. There are formal arguments, sure, and you seem limited in your understanding to those. But an argument is simply that which rationally supports a conclusion. In terms of syllogisms there is no individual rationale, hence the term premises - whereupon it is the combination of premises through, say, deduction that provide the argument for the conclusion.
    But quite often it is simply a single rationale given as "Because of X I believe Y". In this example X is not a premise but an argument for belief in Y.
    I am fairly sure I have explained this to you before.
    No, the insult IS an argument. You are failing to grasp what an argument actually is.
    No, with the word "therefore" it becomes an argument for the conclusion.
    Correct. Without the "therefore" it remains an insult. With the "therefore" the insult is used as an argument to support the conclusion. If there was more than one argument then they would also go before the "therefore". Hence we can talk about the "arguments" for a course of action... i.e. all the individual reasons for doing something. Again, your comprehension cripples you.
    No, that the word "so" turns the insult into an argument in support of subsequent belief.
    No, the "so" turns the insult into an argument. An insult is when the observation is left on its own, not as the rationale for a conclusion.
    Nor did you. You were replying to a strawman.
    You don't even have a clue which thread you're in, do you?

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  19. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Not against the "points raised". So not an ad hominem argument.
    You mean: Yes, with the word "therefore" it becomes an argument for the conclusion.
    Without the word "therefore", none of the insults would be arguments. They would remain insults.
    And without it, no argument exists.
    How to tell personal insult from argumentum ad hominem - the OP of this thread. Do try to keep up.
    You have indeed carefully explained the situation the reading public must deal with when confronted with a typical wingnut's use of "ad hom" -
    1) that very few of them can wrap their heads around the fact that X is formally a premise in that argument, and a mere personal insult if no argument is present (one spots this subtlety by noticing that no words such as "because" or "therefore" appear).
    2) That essentially none of them can get it through their heads that arguments used to establish personal flaw or bad character are not "ad hominem" arguments. They are instead personal attacks, forms of personal denigration and insult, etc.
  20. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Try reading clear to the ends of the posts you choose for response. These are short - I'm sure even you can handle the mental load of all three sentences in this:
    "2) In the collapse of your syntax, among other problems you lost the reference for "the second". What is "the second"? For that matter, what was the "first"?"

    In light of your difficulties, I have bolded the "question mark" that writers of English use to help people like you identify questions. There are two of them.

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