Monday, April 16, 2007


Josh writes:

I've delivered a close approximation of this rant elsewhere in the past -- if you've heard it before, you can go back to your catblogging.

A slightly deceptive post, this one -- what appears to be another "Argue More Gooder" post is actually an "Obsessive Pedantry" post in disguise. Or possibly the other way around (it gets a bit hazy).

What I want to talk about today is the argumentum ad hominem fallacy. Let me make this quiet clear: "ad hominem" does not mean "personal abuse" -- an ad hominem is when you try to argue against a person's position by introducing facts about the person that aren't relevant to their argument. An ad hominem may involve personal abuse (e.g. the irrelevant fact that you introduce may be "he's an arsehole"), but just because you've been abused doesn't mean the abusers have employed an ad hominem. Consider the following oversimplifications:

A: "I think Sue Bradford's bill should pass, because Section 59 needs to be amended."

B: "Yeah, but you don't have kids, so you don't know what you're talking about."
That's an ad hominem argument, but it doesn't involve personal abuse.
A: "I think abortion is wrong, because it's the murder of an innocent human being."

B: "Get your head out of your arse -- an undeveloped foetus doesn't count as a human being, you moron."
That argument contains abuse, but it's not ad hominem.

To say that Lucyna's views on homosexuality and its relation to Nazism are obviously, cartoonsihly false because she is a crazy person would indeed be an argumentum ad hominem fallacy. However, to say that Lucyna is a crazy person because of her obviously, cartoonsihly false beliefs on homosexuality and its relation to Nazism would not. For example.

Why bring this up now? Well, to lend more weight to Hewligan's most recent link to us for one thing. But also to express annoyance at people's habit of referring any abuse directed at them in response to something they've said as "ad hominems" when they're not. Saying "Waah! People were mean to me!" doesn't sound as impressive as "People can only resort to ad hominems in reply to me", but it's usually more accurate.

1 comment:

Hewligan said...

And, by tagging this as "arguments," it will actually show up in my link to your articles tagged "arguments." This will no doubt create some sort of self-referential black hole that will suck the entire internet into it and end the reign of the ad homenizing nazi cat-bloggers once and for all.

Wait, I posted something about cats the other day... Oh, crap!