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"ad" hominum


7th
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I've noticed the word being thrown about a lot during debates to try and suppress the offensive nature of debating. I think it's being used out of context at times and should be considered before being put to the table. Almost every thread where a less-educated member debates with a more-educated one, the term is used. It shouldn't be constantly used like that and the debate should be conducted fairly, non-biased and with structure. If someone has a point, and it seems offensive, one shouldnt' take offense -- especially if that wasn't the nature of the post. If you were debating in the presence of a judge and jury, you would not be able to pull the 'suppress' card, and as you take pride in being a scientific board, and a great one at that, allowing fairness during debates should be a priority. This is science after all.

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An ad hominem argument is one which attacks the person making the claim as a substitute for attacking the claim itself. Are you suggesting that shouldn't be discouraged? Or is it that you think that people are using term incorrectly?

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I dont' mean "stop using it," but I think it should be used less often, especially if the attack was unintended but rather a part of the debate at hand - it brings more vigour and fairness to the table.

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You see this in debates between well-educated and poorly educated, largely because the poorly educated often use logical fallacies to support their arguments. For example, the argument from authority is basically "I'm smart so I must be right", and the ad hominem is the opposite, "You're dumb or immoral so you're wrong". Arguments should be based on their own merits, and the merits of the people discussing them are mostly irrelevant.

 

I dont' mean "stop using it," but I think it should be used less often, especially if the attack was unintended but rather a part of the debate at hand - it brings more vigour and fairness to the table.

 

If the attack was part of the debate, then would it not be exactly what an ad hominem is? The debate is about the subject of the debate, not about the people participating.

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We're a science site, so we deal in facts, and we're also interested in civil discourse, so we shy away from the appeals to emotion, and try to apply this even in emotionally charged discussions. Thus personal attacks are discouraged, and calling them out is a way of trying to raise the quality of argument. "You're ugly and your mother dresses you funny" may or may not be true, but it has absolutely no bearing on the validity on any argument (other than the beauty or dressing habits of that individual) and only distracts from the discussion. That said, it's often preferred to overlook the occasional offense, to avoid getting bogged down in a discussion over whether it is or isn't an ad hominem. Focus on the discussion.

 

But, if you can't ignore it, an even better option than pointing it out yourself would be to simply report the post and let the moderators decide; anyone involved in the thread will, if feasible, recuse themselves from making any announcement one way or the other. We'll discuss it and may decide no action is needed, or make a comment in an attempt to keep the discussion on track, or drop a 16-ton weight, as appropriate.

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If the attack was part of the debate, then would it not be exactly what an ad hominem is? The debate is about the subject of the debate, not about the people participating.

 

From what I see, the word is being used in almost every thread, and therefore is being used out of context in many of them. If the debate truly gets out of hand, then it should be used (whilst in context); not when it is nothing but a scientific debate between different beliefs - that's how debating goes, as long as there is no, "You're wrong and I'm right, btw your a prick," it should be alright. That's what 'debates' are, "I'm right, you're wrong," being said by both parties; the idea is the prove the other person wrong or at least challenge what the other is saying. Again it's a word to describe a certain element, but most of the time it is that element that makes scientific debate what it is. Upon hearing it the person you're debating with has it imprinted in his/her head that everyone is against his/her beliefs, because you all gang up and start pounding the word at him/her. This leads to the person just giving up on debating his/her case, and therefore is not at all fair, but sort of 'internet-bullying'.

 

I just think it should be used strictly when things get out of hand, rather than disrupting the natural flow of debate.

 

We're a science site, so we deal in facts, and we're also interested in civil discourse, so we shy away from the appeals to emotion, and try to apply this even in emotionally charged discussions. Thus personal attacks are discouraged, and calling them out is a way of trying to raise the quality of argument. "You're ugly and your mother dresses you funny" may or may not be true, but it has absolutely no bearing on the validity on any argument (other than the beauty or dressing habits of that individual) and only distracts from the discussion. That said, it's often preferred to overlook the occasional offense, to avoid getting bogged down in a discussion over whether it is or isn't an ad hominem. Focus on the discussion.

 

But, if you can't ignore it, an even better option than pointing it out yourself would be to simply report the post and let the moderators decide; anyone involved in the thread will, if feasible, recuse themselves from making any announcement one way or the other. We'll discuss it and may decide no action is needed, or make a comment in an attempt to keep the discussion on track, or drop a 16-ton weight, as appropriate.

 

I'm okay with this.

Edited by 7th
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Ad hominem refers to saying "you're an idiot, so therefore you're wrong." It should never be used in a good debate. However, if someone says "here's five excellent reasons why you're wrong, and by the way, you're an idiot," that's not an ad hominem because the insult isn't being used as the reasoning.

 

We have a tendency on SFN to point out too many fallacies: instead of doing extensive research and planning, it's easier to point out a fallacy. But it's worth noting that "you used a fallacy, therefore your conclusion is wrong" is also a fallacy.

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That's what 'debates' are, "I'm right, you're wrong," being said by both parties; the idea is the prove the other person wrong or at least challenge what the other is saying.

 

I always thought that participation in debate was an excursion into dialectic discussion for the purpose of acquiring more knowledge and a greater understanding? I have never been on board with the approach of "I am right and you are wrong" type of stylistic debate since it tends to speak in the language of absolutes and leaves out a whole lot of grey matter for further exploration...

 

But I do see your point.../edit: on further investigation after coming across a couple of your posts, no I don't...I maintain what I said in the above /divagreen

 

But it's worth noting that "you used a fallacy, therefore your conclusion is wrong" is also a fallacy.

 

May I please quote this?

 

I have always wondered why some posters will claim an argument is an ad hominem or a strawman without ever stating why it is as such...always seemed like either intellectual laziness or ineptitude, IMO...

 

I am speaking from past experiences on other forums, not my present experience on this one, btw....

 

:D

Edited by divagreen
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We have a tendency on SFN to point out too many fallacies: instead of doing extensive research and planning, it's easier to point out a fallacy. But it's worth noting that "you used a fallacy, therefore your conclusion is wrong" is also a fallacy.

 

Yes, and yes. I think there's sometimes a tendency to dismiss arguments with fallacies, even though one can see that there is a valid path to the conclusion.

 

The proper formulation is "you used a fallacy, therefore your reasoning is flawed and your conclusion is invalid." The conclusion may be right, but that's purely accidental if based on a fallacy.

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Just a quick interruption.

 

There are a few important distinctions here, not ALL ad hominems are fallacies. "Calling" someone out on a fallacy carries with it, the expectation of proof. (there are more, ...but these two = a good start)

 

If this is a consideration for site admins/moderators, ....is it a "given" that they know the difference?

 

"if someone says "here's five excellent reasons why you're wrong, and by the way, you're an idiot," that's not an ad hominem because the insult isn't being used as the reasoning."

 

Yes it is, see "Poisoning the well".

 

Because it is "black and white", ...and sometimes it "ain't pretty" when it is valid, it's just not often as simple as some think (even for science-y folk).

 

I'm actually surprised when those who throw the buzzwords of logic and (formal and informal) logical fallacy around, ... actually have a clue as to what they mean, in regards to the "nuts and bolts".

 

Just sayin'...

Edited by beerijuana
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Just a quick interruption.

 

There are a few important distinctions here, not ALL ad hominems are fallacies. "Calling" someone out on a fallacy carries with it, the expectation of proof. (there are more, ...but these two = a good start)

 

If this is a consideration for site admins/moderators, ....is it a "given" that they know the difference?

 

"if someone says "here's five excellent reasons why you're wrong, and by the way, you're an idiot," that's not an ad hominem because the insult isn't being used as the reasoning."

 

Yes it is, see "Poisoning the well".

 

Because it is "black and white", ...and sometimes it "ain't pretty" when it is valid, it's just not often as simple as some think (even for science-y folk).

 

I'm actually surprised when those who throw the buzzwords of logic and (formal and informal) logical fallacy around, ... actually have a clue as to what they mean, in regards to the "nuts and bolts".

 

Just sayin'...

 

All ad hominems are fallacious, by definition. But not all insults are ad hominem — one must be drawing a conclusion based on the insult, as Cap'n Refsmmat has already noted.

 

The above would not be an example of poisoning the well, as it is in response to a statement. True poisoning is pre-emptive.

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All ad hominems are fallacious, by definition. But not all insults are ad hominem — one must be drawing a conclusion based on the insult, as Cap'n Refsmmat has already noted.

 

The above would not be an example of poisoning the well, as it is in response to a statement. True poisoning is pre-emptive.

 

With much respect, Swansont...ad hominems are a fallacy but not all ad hominem arguments are fallacious.

 

My link

 

I think that was beerjuana's point.

 

How is the example given not a poisoning of the well?

 

By following their refutation with, "you are an idiot", is that not a pre-emptive attack on future refutations?

Edited by divagreen
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By following their refutation with, "you are an idiot", is that not a pre-emptive attack on future refutations?

No, because it could actually be a statement of fact and be only tangential to the argument itself. Regardless, it's probably better described as invective, of even an expression of vitriol, anyway.

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With much respect, Swansont...ad hominems are a fallacy but not all ad hominem arguments are fallacious.

 

My link

 

I think that was beerjuana's point.

 

I don't think the wikipedia definition contradicts what I said. It broadens the definition from the one Sisyphus gave in post #2 to include any personal statement — not just an attack — and then notes that some personal statements might be relevant. If we were arguing about whether tall people are treated better in the workplace and you note that I am tall, that's a personal observation that might be relevant to the discussion. I don't think it's an ad hominem fallacy, since there is no attack.

 

However, I was also imprecise in my post; since we are discussing fallacies I omitted "fallacy" from the description. It should be read as "all ad hominem fallacies are fallacious, by definition." i.e. I am making a distinction between personal statements and personal attacks, which is the difference between the definition given in the thread and the one given by Wikipedia: the former is the definition of an ad hominem fallacy, while the latter is the definition of an ad hominem statement. And I think that's the source of disagreement here — we're arguing different points.

 

So yes, I agree, not all personal statements are fallacies.

 

 

How is the example given not a poisoning of the well?

 

By following their refutation with, "you are an idiot", is that not a pre-emptive attack on future refutations?

 

It could be, in another situation. But that wasn't part of the example.

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So yes, I agree, not all personal statements are fallacies.

 

The only point I'm trying to make is that, the distinction between a valid ad hominem argument and an ad hominem fallacy is black & white.

 

If, for example, ... if you point out a person's M.O. in regards to repeatedly employing intellectual dishonesty in a debate (say, a C/ID proponent), ...when they perpetuate it, ...calling them on it isn't an ad hominem fallacy, it's pointing out a known modus operendi.

 

But, (big but):

 

Personally, I'm more offended when someone, ...trying to bully theists in a atheism vs theism debate (for example), ...loads their own declarative statements, questions and refutations with nonsense. It's a common ploy, ...many self proclaimed "rational" people, are some of the worst transgressors of logic. They do it for the simple reason that they think their "opponent" won't "get it".

 

Sorry, ...I feel more of a responsibility in pointing their liberties with reason than those who cling to emotional and cherished beliefs, at least they have an excuse.

 

Logic, reason and critical thinking should be wielded as a commonality, not as a weapon, ...those who indulge in the latter usually have no familiarity with logic, ...other than bully buzzwords.

 

This isn't an us vs them proposition, ...it's a frame of reference.

 

Logical fallacies (more so the informal as opposed the the formal) are supposed to be explained, and proved when used as a debate tactic, ...it's important to distinguish between logic (post hoc ergo propter hoc for example) as a causality of an if/then, and a fallacy, ...the difference is in the proof.

 

Same goes for an ad hominem (dependant on which).

 

Just sayin'

Edited by beerijuana
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Words are words.

 

If you're offended by the quote, "You're an idiot," then you're an idiot. If you had any sense and character you would ignore it and continue with the debate; by not ignoring you are forcing disapline and your beliefs on others which isn't fair. If you're truly equal then disapline should play no part in a forum designed for discussion -- as it is not discussion and just suppression. The words not even in the dictionary, it's latin and scientifically it shouldn't be used, you don't see much "Ad majorem Dei gloriam" on the boards.

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The words not even in the dictionary, it's latin and scientifically it shouldn't be used, you don't see much "Ad majorem Dei gloriam" on the boards.

 

1. Get a better dictionary

 

2. Seriously? No Latin used in science? I think I can come up with a few examples, e.g. Is that an a priori assumption? i.e. did you offer it as an hypothesis? Did you come with this yourself, or should we attribute it to 7th, et al.? Perhaps you'd like to issue an erratum about this.

 

e.g. = exempli gratia

i.e. = Id est

et al. = et alii

 

I think we see Latin in science all the time.

Q.E.D. (quod erat demonstrandum)

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