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Ad hominem?

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#1 Guest_Lucretia_*

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Posted 10 May 2004 - 10:21 PM

What do you mean when you say "Rant, rave, argue, ad hominem?"  Bit lost!

(Er, you do know that "ad hominem" means "to the man"?  I'm going from my Latin here, I've never actually heard the term before.)

I just googled and came up with the following definitions:


Translated from Latin to English, "Ad Hominem" means "against the man" or "against the person."

An Ad Hominem is a general category of fallacies in which a claim or argument is rejected on the basis of some irrelevant fact about the author of or the person presenting the claim or argument. Typically, this fallacy involves two steps. First, an attack against the character of person making the claim, her circumstances, or her actions is made (or the character, circumstances, or actions of the person reporting the claim). Second, this attack is taken to be evidence against the claim or argument the person in question is making (or presenting). This type of "argument" has the following form:

  1. Person A makes claim X.
  2. Person B makes an attack on person A.
  3. Therefore A's claim is false.

The reason why an Ad Hominem (of any kind) is a fallacy is that the character, circumstances, or actions of a person do not (in most cases) have a bearing on the truth or falsity of the claim being made (or the quality of the argument being made).


dictionary.com says:

   Appealing to personal considerations rather than to logic or reason: Debaters should avoid ad hominem arguments that question their opponents' motives.


And the good old OED says:

A phrase applied to an argument or appeal founded on the preferences or principles of a particular person rather than on abstract truth or logical cogency.

#2 Lora

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Posted 11 May 2004 - 06:37 AM

Lucretia, I wondered the same thing... (perhaps that's why periodically things, um... flare up... around here!)


#3 troy

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Posted 17 May 2004 - 09:52 PM

I had forgotten that the debates forum had "ad hominem" in its subtitle.

Obviously the phrase was put there in ironical jest; we don’t want people to use ad hominem arguments (because those that use them are simply horrible, wicked people—just kidding.) Appealing to personal considerations rather than to logic or reason is too often offensive and irrelevant.


p.s. By ad hominem I include all 3 varieties: the 'abusive' variant (direct personal attack), the 'circumstantial' variant (indirect personal attack), and the tu quoque variant.

#4 Guest_Lucretia_*

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Posted 18 May 2004 - 02:02 AM

Thanks, I did wonder.  Who was it who said, "Irony may be defined as what people miss?"

#5 troy

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Posted 18 May 2004 - 09:23 AM

"Irony... may be defined as what people miss." Julian Barnes, A History of the World in 10 ˝ Chapters

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