Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Doggerel #49: "Ad Hominem"

Welcome back to "Doggerel," where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless.

Since skeptics like me love to point out logical fallacies, the woos are starting to shout out names of logical fallacies without any understanding of them. One of the fallacies most commonly abused in this manner is the ad hominem. Most people think that any insult of any sort qualifies as an ad hominem. Not true.

It's only an ad hominem if your argument relies on it. Examples: "You're just a paid pharma shill, therefore any data you use is biased!" is a real ad hominem. "You're relying on an absurd redefinition, you've taken a single data point out of context, and you're an idiot" is not an ad hominem. The last bit is entirely unnecessary, but its presence does not magically transform the previous two points into invalid arguments. And that's why it rocks.

So, when a woo abuses ad hominem in this manner, they're essentially saying, "You threw in a side insult, therefore I'll ignore your real arguments and verifiable data!"

---

Doggerel Index

24 comments:

Rockstar said...

This is exactly the reason I use insults on Cocksnack.

Intellectual arguments are obviously useless, so I have to emphasize with "fucker"; something I'd never do if he had any point worth debating. The only "debate" with him is to point out lies and make him answer for it.

Weapon of Mass Instruction said...

Ad hominem Defined:

Latin. 1. appealing to one's prejudices, emotions, or special interests rather than to one's intellect or reason.
2. attacking an opponent's character rather than answering his argument.



ad homi·nem adv.
Usage Note: As the principal meaning of the preposition ad suggests, the homo of ad hominem was originally the person to whom an argument was addressed, not its subject. The phrase denoted an argument designed to appeal to the listener's emotions rather than to reason, as in the sentence The Republicans' evocation of pity for the small farmer struggling to maintain his property is a purely ad hominem argument for reducing inheritance taxes. This usage appears to be waning; only 37 percent of the Usage Panel finds this sentence acceptable. The phrase now chiefly describes an argument based on the failings of an adversary rather than on the merits of the case: Ad hominem attacks on one's opponent are a tried-and-true strategy for people who have a case that is weak. Ninety percent of the Panel finds this sentence acceptable. The expression now also has a looser use in referring to any personal attack, whether or not it is part of an argument, as in It isn't in the best interests of the nation for the press to attack him in this personal, ad hominem way. This use is acceptable to 65 percent of the Panel.·Ad hominem has also recently acquired a use as a noun denoting personal attacks, as in "Notwithstanding all the ad hominem, Gingrich insists that he and Panetta can work together" Washington Post. This usage may raise some eyebrows, though it appears to be gaining ground in journalistic style.·A modern coinage patterned on ad hominem is ad feminam, as in "Its treatment of Nabokov and its ad feminam attack on his wife Vera often border on character assassination" Simon Karlinsky. Though some would argue that this neologism is unnecessary because the Latin word homo refers to humans generically, rather than to the male sex, in some contexts ad feminam has a more specific meaning than ad hominem, being used to describe attacks on women as women or because they are women, as in "Their recourse ... to ad feminam attacks evidences the chilly climate for women's leadership on campus" Donna M. Riley.


1 : appealing to feelings or prejudices rather than intellect
2 : marked by or being an attack on an opponent's character rather than by an answer to the contentions made

Weapon of Mass Instruction said...

Ad hominem Defined:

Latin. 1. appealing to one's prejudices, emotions, or special interests rather than to one's intellect or reason.
2. attacking an opponent's character rather than answering his argument.



ad homi·nem adv.
Usage Note: As the principal meaning of the preposition ad suggests, the homo of ad hominem was originally the person to whom an argument was addressed, not its subject. The phrase denoted an argument designed to appeal to the listener's emotions rather than to reason, as in the sentence The Republicans' evocation of pity for the small farmer struggling to maintain his property is a purely ad hominem argument for reducing inheritance taxes. This usage appears to be waning; only 37 percent of the Usage Panel finds this sentence acceptable. The phrase now chiefly describes an argument based on the failings of an adversary rather than on the merits of the case: Ad hominem attacks on one's opponent are a tried-and-true strategy for people who have a case that is weak. Ninety percent of the Panel finds this sentence acceptable. The expression now also has a looser use in referring to any personal attack, whether or not it is part of an argument, as in It isn't in the best interests of the nation for the press to attack him in this personal, ad hominem way. This use is acceptable to 65 percent of the Panel.·Ad hominem has also recently acquired a use as a noun denoting personal attacks, as in "Notwithstanding all the ad hominem, Gingrich insists that he and Panetta can work together" Washington Post. This usage may raise some eyebrows, though it appears to be gaining ground in journalistic style.·A modern coinage patterned on ad hominem is ad feminam, as in "Its treatment of Nabokov and its ad feminam attack on his wife Vera often border on character assassination" Simon Karlinsky. Though some would argue that this neologism is unnecessary because the Latin word homo refers to humans generically, rather than to the male sex, in some contexts ad feminam has a more specific meaning than ad hominem, being used to describe attacks on women as women or because they are women, as in "Their recourse ... to ad feminam attacks evidences the chilly climate for women's leadership on campus" Donna M. Riley.


1 : appealing to feelings or prejudices rather than intellect
2 : marked by or being an attack on an opponent's character rather than by an answer to the contentions made

Weapon of Mass Instruction said...

I think I should take up a collection to buy Bronzedog a nice dictionary.

His semantics game betrays him.

Weapon of Mass Instruction said...

Or maybe I should wait until Bronzedog is done writing his own.

Bronze Dog said...

2. attacking an opponent's character rather than answering his argument.

And we did both. Confession of semantics game noted.

Mechalith said...

The thing is, generally speaking, we've reponded to your argument just fine. The largely factual attacks on your dubious character have been an aside, not the basis of our counter-argument.

In brief; you are a dishonest asshat and wrong. The two aren't really reliant on one another, they just go well together. I'm not saying you're wrong because you are a dishonest asshat, and therefor I am not making an Ad Hominem argument. I'm just taking a shot at someone I think is a cocksnack.

I'm curious how you justify this crap to yourself weapon. Is it possible you really don't understand why it is you're clearly wrong, even by the definition YOU provided?

Bronze Dog said...

I think Weapon honestly believes he's destroyed our arguments: By willing them away. Just like he's willed away all the evolutionary biologists who define evolution differently than his 100+ year old flaming straw man, the predictable decay rate of certain radioactive isotopes, my AI AC Jackal, Adrian Thompson's evolved microchips, my laptop and wireless network, the Voyager probes, The xenocrysts in those Mt. St. Helen's rocks, adaptive weeds and microbes, agriculture, those fruit flies scientists manage to speciate using evolutionary mechanisms, and many, many, many more things.

Weapon: You're a solipsist. The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem.

Akusai said...

Jesus, Cocksnack. Let's look at ad hominem. Strictly speaking, yes, ad hominem, meaning "to the man" is any attack on personal character. The "ad hominem fallacy," however, is a specific use of a personal attack as the premise of an argument. Every insult is ad hominem. Not every ad hominem commits the ad hominem fallacy. Like BD said. "You're a cocksnack, therefore you're wrong" commits the fallacy. Saying "You're wrong, oh, and by the way, you're a cocksnack," while a personal attack, is not fallacious. Stop using our ridicule of your ignorance as a reason to claim we are wrong.

Webster's dictionary is neither a philosophy nor a critical thinking book.

bigdumbchimp said...

In brief; you are a dishonest asshat and wrong.

That will warm me through my pagan celebrations this season.

Weapon of Mass Instruction said...

The thing is, generally speaking, we've reponded to your argument just fine. The largely factual attacks on your dubious character have been an aside, not the basis of our counter-argument.

1. I am glad that you are (though resentfully) able to consent that you make use of ad hominems.

2. I am sorry to break it to you, but you simply calling me ignorant and a host of other names every time you are not able to answer a relevant objection, can hardly be considered a fine job.

3. If you spent as much time making a case for yourself as much as you do with your ad hominems and semantical games, I am sure you would do better advancing your position.

Weapon of Mass Instruction said...

I'm curious how you justify this crap to yourself weapon. Is it possible you really don't understand why it is you're clearly wrong, even by the definition YOU provided?

From somebody that believes that he came from a glorified chimpanzee.

Uh... no...

Bronze Dog said...

2. I am sorry to break it to you, but you simply calling me ignorant and a host of other names every time you are not able to answer a relevant objection, can hardly be considered a fine job.

We've been answering your objections. Stop pretending our responses out of existence. Stop lying about the definition of evolution. Stop taking contaminated data points out of context. Stop calling the difference between an inch and a lightyear a "semantics debate".

3. If you spent as much time making a case for yourself as much as you do with your ad hominems and semantical games, I am sure you would do better advancing your position.

Says the person who rejects every definition of evolution, and pretends our substantial arguments out of existence.

From somebody that believes that he came from a glorified chimpanzee.

Stop lying about our views. For once in your life, debate what we're really saying, and stop playing around in your fantasy land of scripted debates with imaginary cardboard Hollywood skeptics designed to make woos like you look good.

Nes said...

As much as I deplored the idea of doing it, I did it.

Out of 111 hits, the front page of this blog is the 3rd site listed on google.

I think you need some help bombing Mr. Cocksnack. Unfortunately, none of my upcoming planned blog posts are appropriate for doing so.

I'm guessing (from an interesting google result) that the name "Cocksnack" came from God is for Suckers?

Bronze Dog said...

[Derail]

Pointless spam deleted.

Weapon must be one of those nuts who thinks repetition will make his flaming straw man less of a straw man.

"Skeptics don't believe in fairies, therefore they do!"

[/Derail]

MichaelBains said...

Wow! This "Weap's" character really can't discern the identical nature of (especially) part 2 of his provided definition with that you've supplied in D50?

Then why debate him?

Well, except for the insults. Those are quite funny... {-;

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Rockstar Ryan said...

Weapon cut and pasted the entire comment thread from a previous post.

Off topic comment deleted.

Nes said...

Oops, I think I commented on the wrong post. Oh well, looks like the other one is closed to commenting now anyway.

Cocksnack, here's a suggestion: You might be taken slightly more seriously if you take 5 extra minutes to type up your posts. Stop and think about what you want to say. Type it out. Edit it. Move things around. Get all of your thoughts in one post. As it is, I don't even bother responding; your 20 individual posts are all so disjointed that I get disoriented and have no fucking clue what you're saying.

Bronze Dog said...

I doubt he's even aware of us. He types the same things even if it's made explicitly clear that no one in the real world subscribes to the absurdities he attacks.

So, of course he's disjointed. What he types has no relation whatsoever to what we type.

Mechalith said...

It's a real bummer that comment moderation came on when it did. I had a pretty good sized counter-blow for Weapon all typed up. *mopes*

Ah well. He probably would have just ignored it anyway.

Bronze Dog said...

Well, I probably would have enjoyed it, at least.

Meanwhile, Weapon, after countless posts hasn't even joined the debate table. He's busy at some other place mumbling angrily at one of the mass-produced cardboard cut outs that people like the Darkage Institute have been hammering out for the past century.

Weapon of Mass Instruction said...

Angrily?

Wishful thinking I guess.

Try gleefully.

Bronze Dog said...

Okay, so you're gleefully muttering to an old cardboard cutout. Not much of an improvement.