Ad Hominem - why do people do it?

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

  1. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

    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?
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2019
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  3. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    It's not perverse pleasure, it's a natural emotional defense we learn growing up..

    If you threaten me, and I can find something about you that invalidates you as a threat, then I feel better about myself.

    Sometimes we don't unlearn that behavior. Sometimes, if we are cut to our core, we lash out.

    In discussion, if my ideas are threatened by your refutation, my immature self instinctively tries to find something that means I can ignore your logic, rather than have to address it.
    sculptor and Quantum Quack like this.
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  5. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

    Hmmm... would you consider it an act of violence?
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  7. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    What? No.

    Violence is the application - or threat - of physical harm.

    Dismissing someone because they are a cat-lover or poorly-educated is not violent.
  8. wegs Matter and Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

    In my opinion, it’s like one upping (remember that thread?) - some people feel the need to put others down, either by one-upping or ad homs. Nothing ruins a good discussion faster than ad homs.

    My phone doesn’t seem to like ad homs, it keeps wanting to capitalize the “h.” lol
  9. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    An ad hom is an attempt to end a discussion. Its a way of avoiding an inconvenient counterargument.
    Its intent is "I don't have to listen to you because you are a X".
    So if it ends the discussion then it has done its job (no matter the cost to one's integrity.)
  10. wegs Matter and Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

    Well, ad homs are typically used to discredit another person’s points in a discussion. So that ends the possibility of having a productive discussion.
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  11. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

    By definition, they do not discredit the other person's points; they ignore the points and discredit the person, so that whatever point they made is pushed into the background. Typically, the ad hom doesn't stop at invalidating the other person's argument; it usually ups the ante by shifting the subject to the other person's alleged motives or agenda.
    That's not a discussion of any kind; that's an attempt to shut somebody up, and often to change the entire topic.

    OTH, so is the corresponding stratagem of identifying oneself with one's point of view, so that an attack on the argument is interpreted as an attack on the person. I've seen quite a few incompetent debaters play victim.
    C: That's an inaccurate statement. G: He's calling me a liar!!!
    C: Attacking Iraq was unsound policy. G: More America-bashing!!!!
  12. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

    It is interesting that perhaps cultural difference may be involved in how we interpret Ad Hom responses.
    In my experience emotional abuse is considered a violent act against the self esteem of another person. Commonly found in domestic violence and child abuse situations.
    Perhaps I am looking too closely and should stick to a more generic perspective for the sake of this thread.

    The sort of questions that are buzzing around in my head are:
    What about ad Hom in real life situations such as night clubs and bars? How does this progress in to actual violence?
    At what point does the ad hom become violent, before the first punch or only upon the first punch?

    The term "Violence" for example is defined by the WHO as follows re: wiki

    "...Less conventional definitions are also used, such as the World Health Organization's definition of violence as "the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, which either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation."

    So perhaps we are both correct?

    My perspective ( as per WHO)
    One of the main intentions of the person projecting the Ad Hom (false accusations, insult, discrediting,etc) is to inflict psychological harm thus can be considered as violent in nature.

    An internet troll will often use ad hom to further their cause.
    The false accusation of Trolling is also an Ad Hom.
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2019
  13. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    Ad homs on the internet do not imply real physical threats. While it may be true that it could escalate into assault (the threat of harm coupled with the proximity and opportunity to follow through), an ad hom in itself is nothing more than an argument tactic.

    But that's true of anything. A good-natured tickle fight could evolve into violence too - as could discussion of political opinions - but that does not make a good-natured tickle fights - or political discussions - bad things by proxy.

    When a threat of physical harm - along with the means to enact said harm - is made.

    But there's no law that says you can't merely be mean to people.
  14. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

    actually online hate speech/bullying laws are changing and being created as we speak...around the globe, in response to the number of attributed suicides etc...I think..
  15. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

    You need to be a lot more discriminating in your classifications.

    Domestic situations - real live people are trapped in heated, passionate, intensely ego-consuming intimate relationships of long duration
    are quite different from
    Internet forum situations, where anonymous and largely fictitious virtual personae have limited engagement on specific impersonal subjects in wholly voluntary occasional encounters.

    I can call some other sock-puppet names at the TOP of my KEYBOARD, threaten them with every kind of retribution, and nobody would feel the least bit intimidated. I could maybe make them look silly to any other sock-puppets who happened to notice or care -- maybe --
    (Naw, that's a dead cert: I was suspended from one forum for sarcasm.)

    Same tactics; different realms: different effects.
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2019
  16. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

    That is yet another different realm. That stuff happens among peers who know one another in real life; whose real social life is affected by what's said about them. That's not ad hominem fallacy in formal logic; that's slander and intimidation in the legal sense.

    Which kind of bad-mouthing do you want to discuss?
    There are many, and they're NOT interchangeable.
  17. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

    Because Government law enforcers are getting access to ISP records, server records, web site records, anonymity is no longer assured. Online hate speech/bullying can be documented, proven in court, in the work place interview etc with out much drama.
    Social media has already seen major changes and it's getting tougher for those who don't realize their postings are being archived and available to be used at a later date and time.
  18. RainbowSingularity Valued Senior Member

    always caring
    always not caring
    its 50/50

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

    ... = Sadism
    yes sadism is quite normalised in human society & culture.

    the Ego must win ..
    the last resort of the ego is to become the sadist or the psychopath
    which ever best gives the Ego its desired result.

    not so much
    mostly it is a lack of intellectual strategy ability that defines the need to be the sadist/psychopath.

    people have religions
    religious people call these "agendas"
    athiests call them Dogma

    indeed, the sense of the application of the 3rd person is also common.
    though, there appears to be a certain type of mental structure that attunes to the sense of need to extricate the sense of self(emotional defenses which i will not discuss to avoid giving trolls info) from the subjectivity by emotive conjunction.

    it is difficult to discuss without giving fuel & tools to trolls

    this is what i have previously fascinated with ...
    narcissistic defense Conscious & Subconscious & normative cultural dogma aligned semi sub conscious etc.

    it seems modern USA culture and some semi European homogenized culture has normalized subconscious narcissistic defense as a process of individuation to 'manifest insular ideological deportment.
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2019
  19. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

    Intellectual vanity?
  20. sculptor Valued Senior Member

    HUH WUT?
    It seems most likely that the goal of an ad hom attack is to make the argument subjective. with the person being attacked the subject of the argument.
    When attacked, we all have a build in defense mechanism that would have us counterattack within the bounds of the attack.
    The trick is in not allowing that shift in the argumentative strategy.
    perspective matters
    keep it objective
    I have a voice that could call the hounds in from a mile away...
    (old joke: Hell is being an assistant professor with whom no one will associate.)
    (If you thought that grd-school and the dissertation was stressful---you ain't seen nothing yet)
    When in the trenches fighting for tenure, my beloved spouse(Carol) was under a lot of stress, and seemed to have used up all of her nice during the day, and upon her return, offered me the opposite.
    OK, I fell into that subjective trap more'n once and would respond with my powerful voice until she shut the f... up.
    And then, I asked myself: Did I win?
    now what
    same old same old
    she came home and attacked
    and I, calmly, said: Carol, if you said that in an attempt to be nice and compassionate, I gotta tell you babe...You are way off the mark.
    the attacks stopped.
    perspective matters-----keep it objective
    good thread by the way
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  21. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    No, you're not both correct.

    An ad hominem is simply the intent to argue against the person rather than the substance of the point they make.
    The ad hominem is neutral with regards inflicting violence (as in psychological harm), just as a lead pipe, or a hammer is neutral with regard inflicting physical harm.
    I.e. whether it inflicts harm or not is dependent upon the way it is used, not the fact of what it is.
    And in my experience its use for the intentional inflicting of harm, psychological or otherwise, is rare.
    And no, I don't call simple name-calling to be the inflicting of psychological harm, just as I don't consider a paper-cut to be serious trauma.
    Trolls will do as trolls will do.
    Any fallacious argument will do, or no argument at all.
    But the accusation of trolling is not necessarily an Ad Hom: it depends on the purpose behind the accusation.
    If it is to avoid points made by the person, as in "you're a troll and as such I don't have to listen to your points on the matter", then yes, this accusation would be an ad hominem fallacy.
    If, however, the accusation is pertinent to the discussion, or to the health of the overall discussion, then it is not an ad hominem.
    For example, if someone continually raises the same point, a point that has been already been dealt with, and the discussion is at risk of deteriorating as a result, the accusation is not an ad hominem, even though it is not directly to do with the subject matter.
    I.e. the accusation is not an attempt to avoid dealing with the point, as the point has already been dealt with.
    In this case it is simply an accusation aside from the main subject matter, in an attempt to deal with something/someone that may drag the discussion down.
    Similarly, if someone refuses to answer any question put to them, the accusation of being a troll levelled at them would not be an adhominem as, again, it would not be an attempt to avoid responding to points raised.

    In almost all cases I have seen, the accusation of being a troll levelled at someone has not been an ad hominem but rather part of an effort to deal with a disruptive influence on the actual discussion.
    If you wish to provide an example from real discussion where you think it is a case of being an ad hominem, please do share, and we can examine.
  22. billvon Valued Senior Member

    [QUOTE="Quantum Quack, post: 3597725, member: 13925"Why do people resort to using this strategy?
    Is it because of a perverse pleasure gained by abusing others?[/QUOTE]

    For a lot of reasons.
    Sometimes it's personal; they get angry at the other person and want to attack them. Sometimes it's exasperation. Sometimes it's an attempt to use a (poor) tool where others have failed. Sometimes it's just plain meanness.

    I have a feeling you are referring to the anti-science thread, where many people - me included - started with personal attacks. (Sorry about that; it doesn't add much to the discussion.) I reviewed the thread, and noted that the first personal attack in the group including you, me and Bells was yours, in a response to Bells:

    "perhaps you need to get out more."

    What inspired that?
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  23. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

    Okay, that's informative, if not news.
    But you haven't told me what it is you want to discuss here, now.

    Cyber-bullying has a different etiology and function from trolling, which is different from fallacious debating, which is different from slander and libel, which are different from ethnic slurs, which is different from belittling, name-calling, sexist, salacious, profane or abusive speech. Each kind of verbal tactic has different perpetrators, motivations, targets and effects.
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2019

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