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The Fallacy of Ad Hominem


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#1 skalenfehl

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Posted 11 June 2008 - 10:29 AM

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). Example of Ad Hominem Bill: "I believe that abortion is morally wrong." Dave: "Of course you would say that, you're a priest." Bill: "What about the arguments I gave to support my position?" Dave: "Those don't count. Like I said, you're a priest, so you have to say that abortion is wrong. Further, you are just a lackey to the Pope, so I can't believe what you say."

#2 GoodK

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Posted 11 June 2008 - 10:32 AM

Another example: Person A: I believe this about this.... Person B: I suspect that in your youth, you have not diligently searched the scriptures and the words of the prophets...

#3 GoodK

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Posted 11 June 2008 - 10:39 AM

Hmm there was a post here that is gone now. Weird.

#4 skalenfehl

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Posted 11 June 2008 - 10:40 AM

Yes, that is a fine example.

#5 prisonchaplain

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Posted 11 June 2008 - 10:50 AM

I recall that some of the fundamentalist King James Version-only folk attacked the New International Version, because some of the translators had been divorced. Also, there was an attack on The Message translation because some of the phrasing (such as "Master" for Jesus) could be found in New Age writings, so it was automatically suspect.

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#6 WANDERER

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Posted 11 June 2008 - 11:52 AM

Skim down to find a list of strategies in the link below that are considered pitfalls when presenting a point of view in terms of logical reasoning or for rational appeal. As rhetorical devices these strategies are often used in persuasive or emotive writing...they have a tendency to sidetrack logical discussions because inherrently they are not logical or objective.

That doesn't mean that they are invalid ...opinions are very valid to the person expressing them and those that agree with them...but they are emotionally based or subjective. These are conversations rather than structured debates or logic discussions.

It's hard to divorce emotions from converation and even when presenting a logical argument personal bias is there in terms of what is presented and in sources of information used. We're all human.

English Composition 1: Logical Argument

Edited by WANDERER, 11 June 2008 - 11:57 AM.


#7 DigitalShadow

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Posted 11 June 2008 - 12:24 PM

Pointing out logical fallacies only makes a difference if both parties acknowledge that a logically structured debate is taking place. Most of the discussions here are deeply rooted in personal opinion, rather than objective arguments. With that said, ad hominem attacks are usually considered bad form even in casual conversations.

#8 prisonchaplain

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Posted 11 June 2008 - 12:43 PM

Pointing out logical fallacies only makes a difference if both parties acknowledge that a logically structured debate is taking place. Most of the discussions here are deeply rooted in personal opinion, rather than objective arguments.


It could be argued that the above is an ad hominem attack on "most" posters. :D

With that said, ad hominem attacks are usually considered bad form even in casual conversations.


Fear of being accused of "bad form," does not seem to be much of a detterent. :cool:

Edited by prisonchaplain, 11 June 2008 - 12:44 PM.
format

"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." -- Lord Acton


#9 Snow

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Posted 11 June 2008 - 01:24 PM

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).
Example of Ad Hominem

Bill: "I believe that abortion is morally wrong."
Dave: "Of course you would say that, you're a priest."
Bill: "What about the arguments I gave to support my position?"
Dave: "Those don't count. Like I said, you're a priest, so you have to say that abortion is wrong. Further, you are just a lackey to the Pope, so I can't believe what you say."


Calling things like ad hominens fallacies, is a bit of a fallacy.

One may employ poor logical techniques (called "fallacies" in logical arguments) but that doesn't mean that the conclusions or claims are false. I may resort to name-calling or an appeal to authority or beg the question... but I might still draw correct conclusions or make a true assertion.
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#10 skalenfehl

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Posted 11 June 2008 - 01:32 PM

Calling things like ad hominens fallacies, is a bit of a fallacy.

One may employ poor logical techniques (called "fallacies" in logical arguments) but that doesn't mean that the conclusions or claims are false. I may resort to name-calling or an appeal to authority or beg the question... but I might still draw correct conclusions or make a true assertion.



Actually that was the point of my post but especially that resorting to name calling does not change the facts or conclusions.

#11 checkerboy

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Posted 11 June 2008 - 01:50 PM

Did I miss the memo that said that any discussion on LDS.net forums needed to be conducted as a debate? I don't care much for logical arguements because I am usually not a logical person. I just know what I know and don't care if you do or don't agree. I just don't like being attacked for my beliefs. I will always try to be respectful unless provoked. I probably should be respectful even when provoked, but I am not perfect yet.
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#12 GoodK

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Posted 11 June 2008 - 02:01 PM

I don't care much for logical arguements because I am usually not a logical person.

:o
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#13 Bookmeister

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Posted 11 June 2008 - 02:10 PM

Whenever a discussion comes up revolving around "Logic", I always recall what Mr. Spock said once about the subject. "Logic," he said, "is a small tweeting bird. Logic is a beautiful flower that smells bad." Before two people can even have a discussion based on logic, they need to be able to define and agree on the system of logic on which they want to base their discussion. There are so many types and forms of logic that I always am sceptical of the person who claims that their arguments are based solely on logic.

#14 Moksha

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Posted 11 June 2008 - 03:54 PM

Fear of being accused of "bad form," does not seem to be much of a deterrent. :cool:



No, but C4 plastic explosives strapped onto an ionic homing device can be such a deterrent, especially when it is keyed into the phrase, "Oh yeah? Why you %*(#*%...".

Hope that helps. :lol:
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#15 Snow

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Posted 11 June 2008 - 05:35 PM

Actually that was the point of my post but especially that resorting to name calling does not change the facts or conclusions.



How about raising your voice and pointing your finger? People seem to think that helps too.
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#16 skalenfehl

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Posted 11 June 2008 - 06:13 PM

How about raising your voice and pointing your finger? People seem to think that helps too.


Perhaps. There was another motive, for which you are unaware, aside from not wanting to hijack another thread. I was resolving something. I've since moved on. :)

#17 Guest_Xzain_*

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Posted 11 June 2008 - 07:25 PM

Very helpful, skalenfehl. For those who are weary of logic- a basic study of it can greatly increase one's ability to communicate effectively, and have clear communication. The basic purpose of logic is to form a clear pattern of thought expression and dissection. Joseph Smith was a very large fan of 'true' logic- meaning, logic based in the gospel and uncorrupted by men.

#18 Snow

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Posted 11 June 2008 - 07:30 PM

Perhaps. There was another motive, for which you are unaware, aside from not wanting to hijack another thread. I was resolving something. I've since moved on. :)


Okay - and sorry if I'm hijacking your thread.
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#19 skalenfehl

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Posted 11 June 2008 - 08:00 PM

Okay - and sorry if I'm hijacking your thread.


No worries.

#20 VisionOfLehi

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Posted 11 June 2008 - 08:31 PM

God is a God of Order and Laws... Logic follows order... I don't see why it WOULDN'T have a place in discussions. When we're discussing opinions, that's fine, but they often turn into friendly (and sometimes not friendly) debates where posters need to watch what they're saying. I've seen MANY times here where people are debating and they resort to name calling to somehow prove that person's opinion is false. There are other "discussions" where it's this vs. that which are also debates... And logic should be employed. Faith and heart, yes, but they aren't mutually exclusive with logic and reason.

And now, O man, remember, and perish not.





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