Ad Hominem?

You hear a lot of people, mostly Liberals and Progressives, whining about supposed ad hominem attacks. They just don’t, from what I can see, have a firm grasp on what that term means.

Ad Hominem

A Hominem ( Latin for  “to the man” ) is short for argumentum ad hominem, a logical fallacy that is an attempt to negate the validity of a claim by pointing out a negative characteristic or belief of the person supporting it.

While Leftists of all sorts do get abused regularly be citizens of the Civilized World, especially Americans, I see only a small minority of the occurrences being truly argumentum ad hominem.

In political discussions and across the blogosphere – neither a place known for staid and polite discourse – I see comparatively few instances where people have tried to negate the validity of a Leftist’s claim by pointing out the Leftist’s negative characteristics or beliefs.

I have, on the other hand, often seen examples of what I’ll call argumentum ad factis ( Latin for “to the facts” ). Very often people try negate the validity of Leftists by pointing out the negative characteristics of their arguments.

It’s not the same thing to say that they’re wrong because of their arguments (“ad factis“) as it is to say that their arguments are wrong because they said them (ad hominem).

Related Reading:

Never Trust a Liberal Over 3-Especially a Republican
Musings of a Hellbound Mennonite: Don't Pray For Me!
Thinking Strategically: The Competitive Edge in Business, Politics, and Everyday Life (Norton Paperback)
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
The Politics Book (Big Ideas Simply Explained)

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5 Responses to “Ad Hominem?”

  1. david green Says:

    You must be Channeling the gingster {Newt} this morning as he is the master of calling the kettle black while posing as a victim. I will never forget how conservatives savaged Clinton when he was in office for every moral failing and now it is the gingster’s and conservatism turn turn to be held accountable for their own moral failings. Turn about, after all, is fair play.

  2. jonolan Says:

    And that has what to do wit the topic of this post, Leftist?

  3. Jimmy Says:

    There’s another kind of ad hominem that isn’t.

    That is, if you first prove that an argument is illogical, fallacious, based on ignorance, just plain dumb, etc., and the arguer nevertheless maintains the argument; then (it seems to me) one is justified in then noting that the arguer is illogical, a liar, ignorant, or just plain dumb.

    It might be a hasty generalization (depending on how you phrase it).

    Or, it may involve a “loaded” characterization (e.g. if, rather than politely insisting that “the conclusions do not follow from stated premises” or “the premises are fallacious”, you call the argument “a steaming pile of horse sh!t”).

    But, it’s not an ad hominem.

    When faced with the type of person who resolutely refuses to acknowledge that their argument is fallacious regardless of fact, evidence, logic, or reason …. well, then I think you’re perfectly justified in calling that person a schmuck.

    Personally, I don’t much like true ad hominems, but I’m not above making hasty generalizations when it comes to schmucks on the internet.

  4. david green Says:

    Jonolan I’m neither a leftist nor a rightist I’m an independent who thinks his own thoughts and makes up his own mind and absolutely will not vote for the lesser of two evils since that would be a vote for evil.

    Jimmy: I have not met a conservative yet who isn’t a liar nor amendable to reason.

  5. jonolan Says:

    Jimmy,

    Yes, dealing with those will maintain an argument in the face of overwhelming facts and/or evidence can be trying and normally, and rather rightfully, devolves into personal attacks out of either frustration or a simple desire to make the offender go away – and stay away.

    The only problems with that which I can see is that, upon occasion, those facts were wrong, being lies that we’ve accepted as truth or we’re not really arguing the same point even though we think we are.

    Mr. Green,

    I had only to read your blog and interact with you once there to put the lie to your claim of not being an Leftist. You might not be affiliated with a political party but everything you believe, say, and do is pure anti-American Left.

    It doesn’t surprise me that you’ve never met an American that you thought wasn’t lying or found them amenable to your reason. You bought the Left’s lies as some form of gospel and believe it is the revealed truth.

    Americans didn’t buy into the Left’s bullshit and are not amenable to conversion to that cult of evil or its doctrine. Hence, you find them, your betters, unpalatable.

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