PDA

View Full Version : ad hominem



Pinemarten
2007-Mar-24, 12:51 AM
I just spent a good deal of my worthless time reading this thread:

http://www.bautforum.com/showthread.php?t=49794

It seems to me that most references to 'ad hominem' in this thread aren't an accurate use of the term. I have looked up definitions in numerous sources, and I feel the use of the term is being broadened to the point that it is being misused.

Is it time for a BAUT definition of 'ad hominem'?

Musashi
2007-Mar-24, 12:53 AM
Well, it is used here more to mean simple name calling than the logical fallacy. I don't know if that is a problem though.

SolusLupus
2007-Mar-24, 01:00 AM
Well, it is used here more to mean simple name calling than the logical fallacy. I don't know if that is a problem though.

In my opinion, it is. Redefining terms for every single location you visit can be somewhat of an issue.

HenrikOlsen
2007-Mar-24, 01:09 AM
ad hominem can be translated as "against the man", and as such, name calling and personal assaults does in my opinion come under the heading.
It goes against the decorum/be nice rules, no matter what the action is actually called.

The Supreme Canuck
2007-Mar-24, 01:13 AM
ad hominem can be translated as "against the man", and as such, name calling and personal assaults does in my opinion come under the heading.
It goes against the decorum/be nice rules, no matter what the action is actually called.

Not so sure. Simple name-calling is different from saying something like "He's Canadian (or British, or German...), so his point falls!"

SolusLupus
2007-Mar-24, 01:14 AM
ad hominem can be translated as "against the man", and as such, name calling and personal assaults does in my opinion come under the heading.

Ad Hominem is primarily a logical fallacy, and only a logical fallacy. It does not apply to any and every insult that exists. And it isn't a fallacy if it's true. If you are insane, then it is not Ad Hominem to suggest that you are insane (by legal/psychiatric definition). Alternatively, if I'm making no argument or debunking any particular argument with my line of reasoning, then it is not a logical fallacy, but instead a breach of politeness.


It goes against the decorum/be nice rules, no matter what the action is actually called.

That's different, and a valid rule in it's own right.

Serenitude
2007-Mar-24, 03:13 AM
This seems like a serious inquiry - I'm moving it to "About BAUT". Please feel free to continue the discussion.

Musashi
2007-Mar-24, 03:33 AM
And it isn't a fallacy if it's true. If you are insane, then it is not Ad Hominem to suggest that you are insane (by legal/psychiatric definition).

Wouldn't it still be ad hom to suggest an argument is invalid just because the person making it is insane? It is addressing the person making the argument instead of the argument itself.

I guess it would be nice for people to be using the term completely correctly, I just don't feel it is that big of an issue.

grant hutchison
2007-Mar-24, 03:40 AM
A point for consideration here is that an argument doesn't need to be insulting to fall under the ad hominem fallacy: "You would say that, because you're rich" or "You would say that, because you're a Moslem" are examples of fallacious ad hominem attempts to dismiss an argument by pointing at the person making the argument.

I disagree with Lonewulf, here, or at least with what I think Lonewulf is saying. An ad hominem argument is still fallacious when its premise is true: there is no ad hom fallacy in saying that an insane person is insane, but it is fallacious to dismiss an insane person's argument simply because she is insane.
(There's a long joke that ends with the line "I may be mad, but I'm not stupid" which encapsulates that truth.)

Grant Hutchison

SolusLupus
2007-Mar-24, 05:57 AM
I disagree with Lonewulf, here, or at least with what I think Lonewulf is saying. An ad hominem argument is still fallacious when its premise is true: there is no ad hom fallacy in saying that an insane person is insane, but it is fallacious to dismiss an insane person's argument simply because she is insane.
(There's a long joke that ends with the line "I may be mad, but I'm not stupid" which encapsulates that truth.)

You don't disagree with me, I agree with that point.

However, if the argument is, "You're insane", and then I give valid reasons for that claim to be true, then it is a logical argument, even if it is, by definition, To the Man.

Stick it To the Man!

This disagrees with Olsen's point above, where he says: ad hominem can be translated as "against the man", and as such, name calling and personal assaults does in my opinion come under the heading.

Musashi
2007-Mar-24, 02:17 PM
If you avoid the insane person's argument and merely prove (or just state) that he or she is insane, it is an ad hom fallacy. However, if the person really is insane and their argument is gibberish, it is no big deal (but should be just as easy to demolish the argument instead of the person).

Moose
2007-Mar-24, 02:31 PM
And if Soon-To-Be-Banned-Bobby insisted upon referring to Argument-Adam as "Idiot", it would also be an example of the ad hom logical fallacy as well as name calling.

What is implied when one calls another an idiot? That the other's argument isn't worth considering. That's a classic ad hom. Even if Argument-Adam really is an idiot, the expression "even blind squirrels can find their nuts now and again" comes to mind. The quality of the person making the argument is irrelevant to the correctness of the argument itself. (Correctness, not credibility. Slightly different issue.)

HenrikOlsen
2007-Mar-25, 12:04 AM
Which would make "I've read what you write in other threads, I don't have to read what you say here to know you're wrong" a clear ad hom.

Count Zero
2007-Mar-25, 12:47 AM
I assume then, that "provocateur" and "disinfo[rmation] agent" would qualify as ad homs?

HenrikOlsen
2007-Mar-25, 01:03 AM
Actually, "disinfo agent" qualifies as a compliment:)

... and based on my recent paycheck, also as a job title.


Or was that something I shouldn't have revealed?

The Backroad Astronomer
2007-Mar-25, 01:15 AM
Actually, "disinfo agent" qualifies as a compliment:)

... and based on my recent paycheck, also as a job title.


Or was that something I shouldn't have revealed?
So you have to be a moderator to get paid? Expalins why I do not get a paycheck.

Paul Beardsley
2007-Mar-31, 03:32 PM
An ad hominem may be valid in some circumstances, and it is therefore not always a fallacy.

To dismiss someone's argument on the grounds that they are insane is a fallacy.

But to dismiss someone's evidence on the grounds that they are a liar is more reasonable, if you can demonstrate that they are a liar. It is still ad hominem, but not a fallacy.

SolusLupus
2007-Mar-31, 08:07 PM
To dismiss someone's argument on the grounds that they are insane is a fallacy.

"Bats can talk to me. Therefore, bats can talk."

'But you are insane. These test results show you as insane. Psychologists agree that you are insane. Therefore, your ability to hear bats talk is based on delusions."

Still a fallacy? Huh? No?

Quid pro quo.

Moose
2007-Mar-31, 08:35 PM
But to dismiss someone's evidence on the grounds that they are a liar is more reasonable, if you can demonstrate that they are a liar. It is still ad hominem, but not a fallacy.

Even liars tell the truth now and again. You can't dismiss a claim because the person is a habitual liar. That's an ad hominem fallacy. You can dismiss a claim because the claim is a lie and thus false.

That's not to say it's unreasonable to put the claim of a habitual liar under extra scrutiny, but then no claim should be accepted without evidence to back it up anyway.

Jim
2007-Mar-31, 08:38 PM
Any time you try to dismiss someone's argument based soley on what they are/how they act, you are engaging in a fallacy. The person may be insane, or an habitual liar, but that doesn't mean that s/he isn't giving you good information this time.

(Added: I see Moose and I had similar thoughts.)

Arneb
2007-Mar-31, 08:44 PM
Still a fallacy? Huh? No?

Oh, absolutely a fallacy. The discussion partner views the statement about the bats as symptoms of insanity because it is, from every angle of view, extremely unlikely that bats can talk, not because the subject is known to be insane. You would qualify someone talking about speaking bats as delusional even if he was not known to be insane. Ad rem, not ad hominem, see?

Easy counterexample: Patient Annie has been found in her room in a psychiatric hospital with her throat slashed. Inspector Holmes is doing the questioning. Patient Benny says: "I had a tough night yesterday because Napoleon didn't stop telling me to jump out of the window. He can be awful when he is pulling his I-am-the-Emperor-and-you-obey-me stunt. When I left my room to get some valium (as I am required to do by agreement with Dr. House whenever I hear Napoleon speak), I saw this blonde, overweight fortyish guy with gold-rimmed glasses sneak out of Annie's room. Could have been this nephew of hers who is going to inherit all her money. I noticed he had some largish object in his coat pocket. Could have been a chef's knive. And he had scratches all over his face. You know, Annie would do this to anyone approaching her when she was in the mood and was feeling threatened. And did Napoleon ever tell her to jump out of the window? See? Why is he always taking it out on me?"

Sould Inspector Holmes dismiss patient Benny's statement as irrelevant because it is clearly coming from a lunatic? Or should he pay the nephew a visit?

Paul Beardsley
2007-Mar-31, 09:03 PM
Even liars tell the truth now and again. You can't dismiss a claim because the person is a habitual liar. That's an ad hominem fallacy. You can dismiss a claim because the claim is a lie and thus false.

That's not to say it's unreasonable to put the claim of a habitual liar under extra scrutiny, but then no claim should be accepted without evidence to back it up anyway.
I said it is more reasonable to dismiss the claims of a known liar. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence; if the extraordinary evidence is unreliable - because it comes from a liar - then it stops being extraordinary evidence.

Paul Beardsley
2007-Mar-31, 09:10 PM
"Bats can talk to me. Therefore, bats can talk."

'But you are insane. These test results show you as insane. Psychologists agree that you are insane. Therefore, your ability to hear bats talk is based on delusions."

Still a fallacy? Huh? No?

Quid pro quo.
This just isn't right.

An insane person's claims can be tested on their own merits. In this instance, it is the lack of correlation between recorded bat "speech" and what the insane person thinks they are saying that proves the insane person is mistaken.

As I see it, an insane person is capable of stumbling upon a theory that has some basis in reality - and which can be proven or disproven. Whereas the data provided by a liar is by definition unreliable data.

Disinfo Agent
2007-Mar-31, 10:08 PM
Let's be honest: in our everyday lives, every single one of us dismisses what certain people say because we don't trust them, for whatever reasons. While we know that in theory they may be telling the truth this time, it just does not pay to cry wolf (or to be perceived as a wolf-crier by others).

On the other hand, this is not everyday life. These are the BAUT forums, and the idea here is to aim for a higher standard of debate.

Musashi
2007-Apr-01, 12:32 AM
Well, the standards we use in everyday life and the definition of a logical fallacy are not usually consistent, and that is fine. What that still doesn't change is that dismissing an argument because a person is ______ is still ad hom and will always be ad hom no matter how many times Lonewulf tries to argue otherwise. Watch.

Lonewulf is crazy, therefore there is no need to listen to his definition of argumentum ad hominem.

That is argumentum ad hominem. It is a fallacy. It doesn't matter if either part, or both parts, of my argument are true, it is still a fallacy. How could I change it? I could instead focus on where his definition of ad hom is wrong.

Lonewulf claims that it is not ad hom to suggest that one's insanity makes it ok to dismiss one's argument out of hand. However, ad hom means attacking the person instead of the argument. Calling someone insane instead of attacking their argument is therefore a textbook case of ad hom, even if the person actually is insane.

No more ad hom.

SolusLupus
2007-Apr-01, 01:42 AM
Oh, absolutely a fallacy. The discussion partner views the statement about the bats as symptoms of insanity because it is, from every angle of view, extremely unlikely that bats can talk, not because the subject is known to be insane. You would qualify someone talking about speaking bats as delusional even if he was not known to be insane. Ad rem, not ad hominem, see?

What the hell?

Someone claims that they hear bats, they're noted as being delusional by professional psychologists, and their argument centers around how bats can talk because he thinks bats can talk, and that's... a fallacy?

Uh huh. Right.



Lonewulf is crazy, therefore there is no need to listen to his definition of argumentum ad hominem.

That is argumentum ad hominem. It is a fallacy. It doesn't matter if either part, or both parts, of my argument are true, it is still a fallacy. How could I change it? I could instead focus on where his definition of ad hom is wrong.

Sigh.

Nevermind.

Sometimes I wonder why I bother.

Musashi
2007-Apr-01, 02:12 AM
Sometimes I wonder too. It is ok to admit when you are wrong. You were the one asking for a strict definition in post 3, weren't you?

Serenitude
2007-Apr-01, 02:14 AM
I think you're all psycho.

That's ok, isn't it...? :shifty:

Musashi
2007-Apr-01, 02:21 AM
It's fine with me as long as you don't try to invalidate my arguments because of it. ;)

SolusLupus
2007-Apr-01, 03:28 AM
Sometimes I wonder too. It is ok to admit when you are wrong.

When I am shown to be wrong, I will admit to it.


You were the one asking for a strict definition in post 3, weren't you?

I'm going by the philosophical and logic-fallacy definition. Which one are you going by?


Okay, let's go back to the bat example.

A man who has been clinically diagnosed as delusional comes up to you and says that his dog talks to him.

How do you refute his argument?

"It's unlikely that a dog talks" isn't a good enough refutation. He's not talking about the likelihood of dogs talking, he's saying that HIS dog talks to him.

If you say, "You have a past history of being delusional, and I say that it's most likely that you only imagined it..." OMG! FALLACY! Oh well, that doesn't count.

So should we have to prove every delusional person's claim as wrong, then?

When serial killer claims that his dog talked him into murdering a bunch of people (which was an actual case), why shouldn't the court charge the dog for being an accomplice? To argue that the man was insane or delusional, even though there is a past history of said delusions, and even though it is in the expert opinion of clinical psychologists, who make such a judgement their job say so, it's still an ad hominem fallacy in your opinion. In fact, any psychological evaluation, if it suggests that someone's claim is wrong, is an ad hominem fallacy according to the above arguments.

So obviously, the dog should be brought to court, right?

Musashi
2007-Apr-01, 03:35 AM
Same one.

Argumentum ad Hominem (abusive and circumstantial): the fallacy of attacking the character or circumstances of an individual who is advancing a statement or an argument instead of trying to disprove the truth of the statement or the soundness of the argument.

replying to an argument by attacking or appealing to the person making the argument, rather than by addressing the substance of the argument

The first is the abusive form. If you refuse to accept a statement, and justify your refusal by criticizing the person who made the statement, then you are guilty of abusive argumentum ad hominem.

Ad hominem (abusive): instead of attacking an assertion, the argument attacks the person who made the assertion.

The ad hominem fallacy is an informal logical fallacy, formally known as argumentum ad hominem (Latin: "argument at the person"), where a participant argues that a belief is incorrect because of some failure or flaw in the person making the argument.

An ad hominem argument, or argumentum ad hominem (Latin, literally "argument against the man [or person]"), is a fallacy that involves replying to an argument or assertion by attempting to discredit the person offering the argument or assertion.

* Ad hominem abusive
o Involves merely (and often unfairly) insulting the opponent.
o Involve pointing out factual but damning character flaws or actions.
o Insults and damaging facts simply do not undermine what logical support there might be for one's opponent's arguments or assertions.

My bold.


Keep digging.

SolusLupus
2007-Apr-01, 03:39 AM
What's your source?

So, basically, ANY argument that involves anything about the person involving the argument is automatically a fallacy?

I'm sorry, but I'll have to disagree.

Otherwise, we'll have to dissect every single dog that a delusional person claims to have talked to, just to see if they're capable of human speech.

Just imagine:

"Well, we obviously have to see if this dog can speak, as the man claimed that it talked to him!"
'Pish posh! Dogs can't talk! He was obviously delusional!'
"I'm sorry, old man, but that's an ad hominem fallacy. As such, we have to try to prove his claim wrong some other way. To the dissecting table!"

I don't have to keep digging, it's still bull.

Musashi
2007-Apr-01, 04:57 AM
It is even easier. You attack the argument. Or you prove the relevance. But, let's look back at your original statement:


And it isn't a fallacy if it's true.

How does logic work again? Provide one counterexample and you prove the argument wrong? I think Arneb supplied a good counterexample. Maybe you could redefine your argument. How about "It isn't a fallacy if it is relevant. But, it is still easier to just stick to attacking the arguments than the people making them. What happens if a sane person argues that they hear animals talking to them? Are we locked into believing just because they are sane?

SolusLupus
2007-Apr-01, 05:27 AM
How does logic work again? Provide one counterexample and you prove the argument wrong? I think Arneb supplied a good counterexample. Maybe you could redefine your argument. How about "It isn't a fallacy if it is relevant. But, it is still easier to just stick to attacking the arguments than the people making them. What happens if a sane person argues that they hear animals talking to them? Are we locked into believing just because they are sane?

You're right. What if a sane person argues that they hear animals talking to them? Should they be treated differently, or the same, as someone who is clinically treated?

You're right about me redefining my argument. I'll admit that I may have been wrong to a point. But regardless, a person's character can lend weight to an argument. But naturally, like many arguments, it's best as an inductive argument instead of a deductive argument.

I.E., "That person is delusional. He is making a statement that fits into his delusions. Therefore, it is likely that this is one of his delusions."

I don't quite see the error of logic here. While remarking on the argument itself is nice and all that, there are always limits and exceptions.

Which has been my point. A fallacy is based on it being fallacious logic; but sometimes, what's dubbed a "fallacy", when taken to a much less extreme and supported by something valid, and used in an inductive argument, added with other evidence, can still be valid.

For instance, there's a series of rapes in a neighborhood. There's a convicted sex offender in that area, who was guilty of many of the same kind of rapes. Thus, one could make this argument: "This sex offender was in the area. He has a past history of rape. He has committed much of the same kind of rapes of this sort. Therefore, there is a significant chance he was the rapist in all of these cases, and we should investigate him carefully."

Naturally, this can be taken to an extreme, and made fallacious. For instance: All of the above, and then they say, "He MUST be guilty, therefore we charge him." Or, say, he raped someone 10 years ago (or at the least, was accused of rape 10 years ago), and therefore he must be the new serial rapist. This is fallacious. But the paragraph above, from my perspective, is not fallacious; it has more weight to it.

Moose
2007-Apr-01, 12:54 PM
You're right. What if a sane person argues that they hear animals talking to them? Should they be treated differently, or the same, as someone who is clinically treated?

They should be treated the same. Remember, in logic, you're not technically required to refute an unsupported claim. Claims with no demonstrable evidence ("my dog talks to me and only me") is supposed to be unpersuasive on its own lack of merit.

If he offers tape recordings of his dog talking as evidence, one refutation could be that the tape sounds awfully like the claimant himself speaking in one of those "rowful rake" dog voices. A better one is the DVD recording of the very snippet of script the claimant lifted from Scooby Doo.

But a claim with no evidence doesn't need to be refuted at all. It falls on its own. (Or it's supposed to.)

In any case, the fact that argumentum ad hominem is a fallacy doesn't mean doing so (when a person has demonstrated a history of insanity or lying) is entirely unjustified or reprehensible or anything like that. But it doesn't change the fact it's a logical fallacy.

Musashi
2007-Apr-01, 02:26 PM
I guess that is the best we are going to get. I still maintain that the statement "It isn't a fallacy [ad hom] if it is true," is wrong. That was the point you were defending, and there is no may have been wrong to a point about it, it is wrong. If you want to argue that personal characteristics can be relevant and that they may help to make the argument, especially in an inductive fashion, I will agree that your backpedal has merit. You are now riding a better horse.

davidm
2007-Apr-01, 03:36 PM
Ad hom is:

P1: A claims B;
P2: A is a C;
C: Therefore, B is false.

That's it. Many, if not most, insults are not ad hom.

SolusLupus
2007-Apr-01, 04:00 PM
In any case, the fact that argumentum ad hominem is a fallacy doesn't mean doing so (when a person has demonstrated a history of insanity or lying) is entirely unjustified or reprehensible or anything like that. But it doesn't change the fact it's a logical fallacy.

And we'll have to disagree on that, I guess.

davidm
2007-Apr-01, 04:18 PM
Just imagine:

"Well, we obviously have to see if this dog can speak, as the man claimed that it talked to him!"
'Pish posh! Dogs can't talk! He was obviously delusional!'
"I'm sorry, old man, but that's an ad hominem fallacy. As such, we have to try to prove his claim wrong some other way. To the dissecting table!"

I don't have to keep digging, it's still bull.


Consider:

P1. A claims a dog talked to him.
P2. But A is delusional.
C: Therefore, a dog did not talk to him.

This is an ad hom argument. It is obviously fallacious, as the conclusion does not logically follow from the premises. This is also the reason why it is false to call an ad hom an insult per se.

Consider standard ad hom that involves an insult:

P1: A claims that NASA landed on the moon.
P2: But A is a nut.
C: NASA faked the moon landings.

Again, the conclusion does not follow from the premises; whether or not NASA landed on the moon is completely irrelevant to whether A is a nut, or indeed to whatever A claimed.

The following is also ad hom.

P1: A claims that NASA landed on the moon.
P2. But A is far too intelligent to believe that for long; and when he does more research (as he will, because he is also honest) he will drop the claim.
C: NASA faked the moon landings.

Again, it's obvious that the conclusion doesn't follow from the premises; but note that in this case no insult is involved, but rather a compliment (two in fact: intelligence and honesty)

The following is also ad hom.

P1: A claims that NASA landed on the moon.
P2: But A is a Republican.
C: NASA faked the moon landings.

Again, C is a non sequitur, but in this case there is neither an insult or a compliment invovled, just a statement of some fact (a political fact) about A. However, the argument is ad hom and fallacious.

While I think it's great that boards like this ban both ad homs and insults, I do think that for the sake of intellectual rigor it's useful to know that they are not the same, and not to confuse one with the other.

SolusLupus
2007-Apr-01, 05:10 PM
Consider:

P1. A claims a dog talked to him.
P2. But A is delusional.
C: Therefore, a dog did not talk to him.

This is an ad hom argument. It is obviously fallacious, as the conclusion does not logically follow from the premises. This is also the reason why it is false to call an ad hom an insult per se.

It doesn't have any weight to it at all? Even if you changed it to, "It's most likely a dog did not talk to him"? There isn't just such a thing as deductive arguments, you know. There's such thing as inductive arguments.

Man, this logic thing is crazy. According to it, we should investigate the claims of every delusional schizophrenic that ever existed; shoot, no wonder so many people on that philosophy forum I visited were crazy!

My argument is this:

Not every claim that has some backing of the claimant's character or past history is wrong, especially in an inductive argument. It seems that you're claiming that every single argument with this is using a fallacy. I'm sorry, but I don't agree.

If you disagree, then why don't you spend all your time disproving every single story published by tabloids? Every single one, no matter how outlandish.

Even the claim, "It's a tabloid; that's not a reputable source" is an ad hominem; you're calling the reporters unreliable for news information!

If I said, "It came from a tabloid. It's likely not very accurate", then what is the fallacy? I don't see any. The majority of stories published by tabloids are fallacious and aren't accurate, if not entirely untrue. So what's wrong with the inductive argument, "Therefore, it's likely to be false"?

Shoot, I should cite tabloids and bbspot from now on...

If, however, you state, "Routers published a story, Reuters once distorted the truth, therefore the article is wrong", then yeah, that's a fallacy. But there's certain degrees in the argument. Anything can be a fallacy if used strongly enough; but it's not ALWAYS a fallacy.

Moose
2007-Apr-01, 05:32 PM
You could try quoting wiki (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Logical_fallacy). Read carefully. Both of your objections are covered.


The presence of a formal fallacy in a deductive argument does not imply anything about the argument's premises or its conclusion. Both may actually be true, or even more probable as a result of the argument (e.g. appeal to authority), but the deductive argument is still invalid because the conclusion does not follow from the premises in the manner described. By extension, an argument can contain a formal fallacy even if the argument is not a deductive one; for instance an inductive argument that incorrectly applies principles of probability or causality can be said to commit a formal fallacy.

Musashi
2007-Apr-01, 06:24 PM
Also, look up strawman while you are there.

SolusLupus
2007-Apr-01, 07:16 PM
You could try quoting wiki (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Logical_fallacy). Read carefully. Both of your objections are covered.

Argument from Wikipedia? :D

Moose
2007-Apr-01, 07:24 PM
Argument from Wikipedia? :D

Did you read it? Or are you dismissing the argument because you don't like the source?

Gillianren
2007-Apr-01, 07:43 PM
When serial killer claims that his dog talked him into murdering a bunch of people (which was an actual case), why shouldn't the court charge the dog for being an accomplice?

Actually, it was his neighbor's dog, which, as I recall, was dead by the time the guy was caught. But still.

While statements of mentally ill people (insane has a very specific legal definition that none of the things described in argument here fit) may indeed be delusional, they may also be completely accurate. After all, what makes it likely to be the product of the person's delusion? That there is no evidence supporting it.

Okay. We've been focusing on extreme delusions--talking bats and dogs and such. But let's look at, well, some of my own personal delusions. They're not sure of cause-and-effect, but most bipolar people have low self esteem. Therefore, I am likely to assume that various people don't like me at all and are just pretending; it's an aspect of my mental illness and therefore fits in with what we're discussing here.

Now, saying, "But so-and-so obviously likes you, and the only reason you don't believe it is because you're mentally ill" is obviously not a good enough rebuttal, because there are people out there who don't like me, and even if there weren't, there could be; it's not an unreasonable assumption. Evidence must be brought forward to refute my statement even if we have a strong supposition that the only reason I believe it is that I'm crazy.

It's just that the deductive leap is much simpler with talking dogs. How do we know that the dog didn't really talk? It has nothing to do with the person bringing up the argument; in fact, we are actually making a supposition that the person is crazy because the statement is crazy. We're in fact dismissing the argument because, well, dogs don't talk. It doesn't matter the mental state of the person making the claim that they do; without some pretty compelling evidence, we have no reason to believe that the dog does talk, whether a completely sane person is telling us it does or not.

I, too, however, am inclined to want more evidence that a proven liar isn't lying in this instance.

davidm
2007-Apr-01, 07:56 PM
Man, this logic thing is crazy. According to it, we should investigate the claims of every delusional schizophrenic that ever existed; shoot, no wonder so many people on that philosophy forum I visited were crazy!

I think you are missing the point. Let's look at the argument again:

P1. A claims a dog talked to him.
P2. But A is delusional.
C: Therefore, a dog did not talk to him.

This argument is a logical botch, because one cannot derive the conclusion from the premises. The claim, "A dog talked," has a truth value (is either true or false) regardless of A's mental state, indeed regardless of whether A exists at all.

Does this mean, though, that we should survey all the dogs in existence, to see if they talk, in an effort to disprove A's claim?

Of course not! All we need to do is offer a proper argument, one that is not ad hom; i.e., one that consists of evidence. Evidence that dogs don't talk:

1. They lack vocal cords.
2. They lack a Broca's area or some equivalent language-processing area in the brain.

Conclusion: dogs don't talk.

You needn't go out of your way to disprove the claim that a dog talked to the delusional person. You just need to offer solid evidence that dogs don't talk -- i.e., you need to offer an argument that is not ad hom.

Musashi
2007-Apr-01, 09:05 PM
Did you read it? Or are you dismissing the argument because you don't like the source?

Classic.

Moose
2007-Apr-01, 10:20 PM
Classic.

I thought that almost-subtle hint of irony was a nice touch, myself. :) I'm gratified you noticed.

Arneb
2007-Apr-01, 11:06 PM
Did you read it? Or are you dismissing the argument because you don't like the source?

I think we should give Lonewulf the benefit of the doubt here - his grinning emoticon seems to indicate he was well aware of the irony. Still, a very nice riposte, Moose.

And of course, he used the joke to escape the fact that the quoted article pretty much took his argument apart. His behaviour is taking on characteristics of moon hoax believer debates.

I think we should therefore disregard any future points he makes. He has made made it logically clear that he isn't worth listening to, now hasn't he? :whistle:

Moose
2007-Apr-01, 11:50 PM
I think we should give Lonewulf the benefit of the doubt here

I am, sort of, which is why I asked rather than concluded. What I'm really curious about is if he meant this:


When I am shown to be wrong, I will admit to it.

SolusLupus
2007-Apr-02, 02:46 AM
Did you read it? Or are you dismissing the argument because you don't like the source?

I didn't dismiss anything. Why do you think I used a smiley?

I stick to my guns, no matter what it states. Logically, an inductive argument using the Ad Hominem can still have weight.

If someone kills a hooker every night for 100 nights, and on the 101st night a hooker ends up dead with the same MO, in the same general location, it is reasonable to conclude that it's likely that the killer did it. This is common sense, this has logical basis. The problem is going overboard with that logic, and that's when it becomes a fallacy. When actually included with other evidence that the person did it, it becomes more and more logical to reach that conclusion. No complex argument is built up of only one key data point, from what I understand.

If you can't see that, then well... I'm sorry. I can't do anything for ya.

Musashi
2007-Apr-02, 04:38 AM
So, what would you accept as proof that you are wrong?

SolusLupus
2007-Apr-02, 05:15 AM
So, what would you accept as proof that you are wrong?

A fair question, but hard to answer. It seems to me that my viewpoint is self-evident, so it's hard to really "prove it wrong" to me...

I'd have to be shown that, statistically, people that have a long history of lying have a high likelihood of telling the truth. I'd have to be shown that someone commits a murder a night has a low likelihood of killing someone else the next night. I've have to be shown that, statistically, people that are declared delusional by professional psychologists magically end up having all of their (delusion-based) claims be true. In short, I'd have to be shown that black is white, up is down, and William Shatner can sing.

Look, if you write off someone's argument just through a character attack, that's a fallacy. Okay, I've accepted this. But we practice verifying people's argument by the character of that person all the time. Heck, if you're a police officer, you have to. You can't investigate everything equally, unless you have the resources to do so; you have to look at who's most likely to have committed a crime. I just don't get why this is a fallacy. You try to disseminate who has the highest likelihood of committing the crime, then you look for evidence. In this case, I don't think it's an ad hominem fallacy...

If someone has a long history of being very accurate and truthful, then you'd have less an impetus to investigate his claims than if, say, Richard Hoagland made a claim. I'm not saying that you can take the veracity of claim by the character of the person alone, but what argument is entirely made up of only one premise or idea? If I have to filter through five claims, then the one made by an experienced medical doctor with a long history of accuracy will take lower impetus for double-checking than the one by Richard Hoagland. It's human nature for me to do that, and I don't quite understand the fallacy.

Saying, "That claim was made by Richard Hoagland, therefore it's entirely incorrect" is a fallacy. Saying, "That claim was made by Richard Hoagland, so it's likely to be incorrect; you should double-check the facts" is not.

And the logic of this, taken to the extreme, makes it difficult to get along with everday life. You can't claim that every professional source is just simply a fallacy of appealing to authority, or else you can't quote any professional source; you'd have to go back and re-evaluate everything they did, doing the experiment over and over and over. The same with quoting a non-reliable source; I can't go through tabloids and prove every single story as wrong.

Musashi
2007-Apr-02, 06:09 AM
In a deductive argument, it will always be ad hom. In an inductive argument, many of the logical fallacies are weakened by the imprecision involved in inductive logic. This is usually reflected in the language.

Deductive:

"Person A is crazy, so you can discount his claims of hearing bats talk." Fallacy

Inductive:

"Person A is crazy so it is likely that he doesn't actually hear bats talk." Probably not an Ad Hom, as long as the craziness is relevant to the argument. If Person A's argument relies on more than just his word, it is probably still Ad Hom.

In other words, a pure dismissal is still a fallacy, but using character to call for a more careful review of the facts can be appropriate.

This is a shift from your earlier position that the truth was an absolute defense against Ad Hom. It seems likely that we have been talking past each other for the last 50 posts or so. Looking back at the thread, it looks like you changed the argument from a general logic argument (including deductive logic) into a more specific argument concerning inductive reasoning at post 30. I guess in inductive reasoning it is ok to attack the credibility of the person in order to suggest doubt. I personally find that type of argument to be weak in that it is preferable to attack the content of the argument. I do not think that type of argument should be encouraged here, but that may be for another thread entirely.

Tog
2007-Apr-02, 06:39 AM
Saying, "That claim was made by Richard Hoagland, therefore it's entirely incorrect" is a fallacy. Saying, "That claim was made by Richard Hoagland, so it's likely to be incorrect; you should double-check the facts" is not.


I would agree with this only because there is room for doubt. The statement cannot be 100% certain that because of ANY history the source may have had in the past, that a future statement will be consistent with that history. People aren't machines and their actions can never be fully predicted. Sure, Bob has a history of going out at night and cutting off peoples mail boxes with a hack saw. Bob's always been a little off since he was hit with the mail van. If my mailbox ends up hack sawed and lying on the ground, I'll think Bob did it. The problem though, is that even if Bob is known to have vandalized a mailbox on every full moon for 13 years, that alone is not proof that he did it this time. Okay, the odds say he did it. But at best it would be circumstantial evidence, and hardly overwhelming CE at that.

What if Bob was trying to get his compulsion under control, and since he knows his pattern, took a serious sleeping pill about sunset. He has no alibi, and cannot prove that he took the pill. But that is also not enough to convict him. It is enough to investigate further, though.

On the other side, I have never been arrested of a crime of any kind. Traffic and expired registrations not withstanding. Does this mean that if I were to go out and rob a store that it would be wrong for police to look at me as a suspect since there are other people who are known to have robbed stores in the past?

I think that in dealing with logic, there is little room for statistics. In a world of either/or/nor/and there doesn't seem to be a lot of room for probably. Inductive reasoning can point a person in the right direction, but when all is said and done, it's not enough to close the matter.

Another thought I had about this, was that the ad Hom seems to be a valid tactic in court. At lest on TV, you very often hear that they need to find a way to discredit the witness. Less often, you her the comment made to discredit the testimony. The idea that a guy on death row shouldn't be believed when he says he was told by a suspect that the suspect actually committed the crime seems to be pretty common in fiction.

SolusLupus
2007-Apr-02, 06:59 AM
Tog:

But it doesn't mean that we can't be skeptical of a claim made by someone like Hoagland. If 100% of his previous claims have been false, then we should review his new claim carefully. That's my stance.

Tog
2007-Apr-02, 08:38 AM
Tog:

But it doesn't mean that we can't be skeptical of a claim made by someone like Hoagland. If 100% of his previous claims have been false, then we should review his new claim carefully. That's my stance.

Skeptical yes, automatically dismissive, no. On the other side I'm willing to bet that Jay would insist that he not be taken at face value for any statemnt he makes but does not actually cite a reference. Even though I think that vast majority of us would agree take pretty much anything he said as fact, based on what we (virtually) know af him.

Gillianren
2007-Apr-02, 08:47 AM
Another thought I had about this, was that the ad Hom seems to be a valid tactic in court. At lest on TV, you very often hear that they need to find a way to discredit the witness. Less often, you her the comment made to discredit the testimony. The idea that a guy on death row shouldn't be believed when he says he was told by a suspect that the suspect actually committed the crime seems to be pretty common in fiction.

It's not that it's more or less likely to be true, exactly; it's that people think the information is more or less likely to be true based on its source. Though, as they do keep pointing out on Law & Order, when your suspect is a career criminal, the people they're going to talk to most will be, as well.

Moose
2007-Apr-02, 09:55 AM
I didn't dismiss anything. Why do you think I used a smiley?

I stick to my guns, no matter what it states.

[...]

If you can't see that, then well... I'm sorry. I can't do anything for ya.

So instead of dismissing the information because you don't like the messenger, you're dismissing the information we've offered you because you don't like the message?


When I am shown to be wrong, I will admit to it.

And this would appear to be a deliberate falsehood. There's a further irony to be seen here: by your own reasoning, I should be dismissing absolutely everything you say from here on, for grounds. Should I?

Tog
2007-Apr-02, 11:56 AM
It's not that it's more or less likely to be true, exactly; it's that people think the information is more or less likely to be true based on its source. Though, as they do keep pointing out on Law & Order, when your suspect is a career criminal, the people they're going to talk to most will be, as well.

Right, it's not so much about presenting the truth as it is selling your side to the jury. If "The Mangler" provides makes a statement that leads investigators to a vital bit of evidence, his statement is shown to be true. If he testifies to that bit of evidence being where the defendant said it was, it's up to the jury to decide whether he was lying or not. Until the actual evidence is recovered, they are going on his word. That's what always bothered me about the TV shows. I can see ow this would work on the jury, but it often works on the judges. They are depicted as unwilling to issue a search warrant "based on the word of a convicted felon". That seems to be the very definition of an ad hom. The problem is, I know of at least one real case that had a judge like that.

SolusLupus
2007-Apr-03, 12:06 PM
So instead of dismissing the information because you don't like the messenger, you're dismissing the information we've offered you because you don't like the message?

I disagree with the logic presented. Get over it.


And this would appear to be a deliberate falsehood. There's a further irony to be seen here: by your own reasoning, I should be dismissing absolutely everything you say from here on, for grounds. Should I?

When did I say that you should dismiss absolutely everything anyone says?

I think I sense something here... oh yes!

http://www-personal.umich.edu/~lilyth/cartoon/mrdid.jpg

Moose
2007-Apr-03, 12:43 PM
I disagree with the logic presented. Get over it.

And your reasoning has been corrected several times, with cites. Get over it.

I do, however, apologize for losing my temper with you.


I think I sense something here... oh yes!

Your other error is in the assertion we somehow have to explicitly disprove every claim just because you disagree that fallacious logic is fallacious no matter to what degree you intend to use it. (Which is a strawman fallacy in its own right, as well as simply incorrect.)

You never have to disprove an unsupported claim. The claimant has the responsibility to prove it. The claimant always has the burden of proof. You've been here long enough to know that, or should by now.

Nicolas
2007-Apr-03, 01:09 PM
No, I'm not looking for a swearing match, but can anyone give a (fictive) example of an insult that is not ad-hom on this board?

For example, when a HB says "you're all right wing disinfo nuts" and he does so in order not to have to deal with the arguments we give (which normally is the setting for this kind of phrases), hence it's ad hom. If somebody says "you're a no-brainer parrot" to a HB, he says so because the arguments the HB give have been copy-pasted from websites. In that case (especially when giving links to places where the arguments have been debunked before, hence also dealing with the arguments), I think this might be an insult rather than ad hom fallacy, because the personal remark doesn't try to avoid the arguments but merely states the arguments have been given often before, in an insulting way.

Moose
2007-Apr-03, 01:38 PM
No, that's still an example of an ad hominem fallacy. It would be (slightly) more correct to say that the HB is plagerizing from HB websites. It's still an ad hom because it deal with the HB, not the claims, but it's not as abusive like your first example, Nicolas.

However, a charge of plagerism would be its own separate claim, and would require evidentiary support of its own in order to stand. Regardless, it's still a separate issue from the original claims that are being made and says nothing whatsoever about their validity.

davidm
2007-Apr-03, 02:10 PM
No, I'm not looking for a swearing match, but can anyone give a (fictive) example of an insult that is not ad-hom on this board?



Insults need not be ad hom at all. They only become part of the structure of a fallacious ad hom argument when they are incorporated formally into the premises of the argument, from which a conclusion is then (invalidly) drawn.

To show this another way, Suppose X, who is a twit, tells you that a dog talked to him. What would be the best way to meet this argument? Some respoonses might be: A dog did not talk to X because:

1. X is a twit.
2. X is a Republican
3. X has brown hair.
4. X made a mistake, because he is too intelligent to believe in talking dogs.
5. A dog almost certainly did not talk to X, because dogs lack a language-processing region in their brain, and lack vocal cords to form words. More, no one has ever actually encountered a talking dog, to the best of anyone's knowledge. This empirical data gives us compelling inductive warrant to rule out a talking dog in the case of X, and to rule out talking dogs in the future. All that said, X is still a twit.

The first four are ad hom, and one cannot logically derive the conclusion from the premises. The last is a valid argument, and is not ad hom, but it also contains an insult at the end. But the insult is in no way ad hom.

Nicolas
2007-Apr-03, 05:52 PM
No, that's still an example of an ad hominem fallacy. It would be (slightly) more correct to say that the HB is plagerizing from HB websites. It's still an ad hom because it deal with the HB, not the claims, but it's not as abusive like your first example, Nicolas.

However, a charge of plagerism would be its own separate claim, and would require evidentiary support of its own in order to stand. Regardless, it's still a separate issue from the original claims that are being made and says nothing whatsoever about their validity.

But it also doesn't try to say anything about the validity. How can it be a logical fallacy then? It is just stating in an insulting way that the argument has been given before, not implying that therefore it is invalid. (that's why I added that the same person can also give links to places where the arguments have been factually debunked earlier). Of course, it could be interpreted as an argument in itself for the invalidity of the claims, which would make it an ad hom fallacy in that interpretation.

Nicolas
2007-Apr-03, 05:54 PM
Insults need not be ad hom at all. They only become part of the structure of a fallacious ad hom argument when they are incorporated formally into the premises of the argument, from which a conclusion is then (invalidly) drawn.

To show this another way, Suppose X, who is a twit, tells you that a dog talked to him. What would be the best way to meet this argument? Some respoonses might be: A dog did not talk to X because:

1. X is a twit.
2. X is a Republican
3. X has brown hair.
4. X made a mistake, because he is too intelligent to believe in talking dogs.
5. A dog almost certainly did not talk to X, because dogs lack a language-processing region in their brain, and lack vocal cords to form words. More, no one has ever actually encountered a talking dog, to the best of anyone's knowledge. This empirical data gives us compelling inductive warrant to rule out a talking dog in the case of X, and to rule out talking dogs in the future. All that said, X is still a twit.

The first four are ad hom, and one cannot logically derive the conclusion from the premises. The last is a valid argument, and is not ad hom, but it also contains an insult at the end. But the insult is in no way ad hom.

I understand the principle. I was just wondering how, on this board, an insult could not be ad hom. I think it would be a rather rare occurrence, as most personal remarks (insulting or not) are direct replies to arguments, either as reason not to look further into the argument (lowering its value) or to "add strength" to the reasons why a claim is false. BOth cases would be an ad hom fallacy.

But something in the form of the last example could occur now and then on this board indeed. "your claim is wrong for this, this and that reason. Your last post again shows you are such a fool." would be an insult that I hopefully will not see on this board, but could occur here. And it wouldn't be an ad hominem fallacy.

Moose
2007-Apr-03, 06:08 PM
No, Nic. All three examples you've used in this thread are (weakly) persuasive in nature, and so all three are necessarily ad homs.

If I were to compare you to a rutabega sandwich or a glass of thin cabbage juice, completely out of the blue, that would be an insult and not an ad hom. The moment it's in response to a claim of yours, even indirectly, it's an example of ad hominem fallacy.

Nereid
2007-Apr-03, 06:53 PM
Why is this thread in the About BAUT section?

And is such a question on the same par as 'why is a raven like a writing desk?'?

HenrikOlsen
2007-Apr-03, 07:08 PM
It is a thread about the interpretation of what ad hom's are, started as a discussion about how to interpret "ad hom" in rule 14.

As a rules discussion it belongs here, though it's drifted over into argumental logic and fallacies.

Jim
2007-Apr-03, 07:23 PM
It may be worthwhile to remember that BAUT has a rule against ad hominems, but it also has a rule about "playing nice." Anytime you throw out an insult, you run the risk of violating one or both of them.

Nicolas
2007-Apr-03, 09:12 PM
No, Nic. All three examples you've used in this thread are (weakly) persuasive in nature, and so all three are necessarily ad homs.

If I were to compare you to a rutabega sandwich or a glass of thin cabbage juice, completely out of the blue, that would be an insult and not an ad hom. The moment it's in response to a claim of yours, even indirectly, it's an example of ad hominem fallacy.

If the persuasive character is in your interpretation of the personal remark and not in the original intent of it, than you are the one committing the ad hom fallacy. ;)

But in a way, that's what I meant with my question whether insults that are not ad hom can occur on baut. Pretty much every personal remark on baut is in some (loose) way in response to a claim, so can be interpreted as persuasive re countering the claim, and hence an ad hom.

Donnie B.
2007-Apr-04, 03:49 PM
Just as a random observation, it seems to me that Lonewulf is living up to his nick on this thread. He's more or less alone in his interpretation of ad hominem, and is holding to his position with the fierce tenacity of a wolf.

Now I feel like I should have been more creative when I picked a nick, so I could have something to live up to... :D

Gillianren
2007-Apr-04, 08:12 PM
Now I feel like I should have been more creative when I picked a nick, so I could have something to live up to... :D

Hey, you live up to yours every single day, just by being who you are. Were I a modern school administrator, this would be making me very happy indeed.

Donnie B.
2007-Apr-04, 09:37 PM
Hey, you live up to yours every single day, just by being who you are. Were I a modern school administrator, this would be making me very happy indeed.Thanks!

However, if you are suggesting that my educators did a good job on me, I'd have to question the label "modern". I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of my elementary school teachers and administrators have shed this mortal coil by now.

Besides, it all starts at home, yes? My mother was a former English teacher.

Gillianren
2007-Apr-04, 10:07 PM
No, I meant that the modern system seems to be more about self esteem than education, but I'm sure some of your teachers are still around.

ad hominem
2007-Apr-04, 10:09 PM
Hey, you live up to yours every single day

i will try not to live up to mine

RalofTyr
2007-Apr-04, 10:22 PM
Ad hominems can also be different attacks, such as suggesting that since you don't have an advanced PhD in Astronomy, you have no idea what you're talking about, so therefore, your arugment can be dismissed.

mugaliens
2007-Apr-13, 04:49 PM
Is it time for a BAUT definition of 'ad hominem'?

Absolutely not!

Ad hominems and other logical fallacies is a field of study in philosophy. Countless students and professors of logic have spent many years identifying and codifying the science of logic (it even has it's own mathematics) so that it's an unambiguous tool that can be used to solve some rather weighty problems, most notably, how work through the many human issues, (primarily personal prejudices), so as to separate the chaff from the wheat and uncover the heart of an issue.

Re-defining any term that's already been codified simply confuses people, muddies the waters, and leads to less precise arguements.

mugaliens
2007-Apr-13, 04:52 PM
I understand the principle. I was just wondering how, on this board, an insult could not be ad hom.

Personally, I think DavidM did an outstanding job of illustrating precisely how, on this board, an insult could not be ad hom.

Kudos, DavidM

Serenitude
2007-Apr-14, 10:47 AM
Just as a random observation, it seems to me that Lonewulf is living up to his nick on this thread. He's more or less alone in his interpretation of ad hominem, and is holding to his position with the fierce tenacity of a wolf.

Now I feel like I should have been more creative when I picked a nick, so I could have something to live up to... :D

Donnie Brasco? :D

Donnie B.
2007-Apr-14, 11:28 AM
Donnie Brasco? :DSadly, no. My nick is even less creative than that. It's just my real name and initial, basically. :doh:

Cougar
2007-Apr-15, 03:17 AM
It's just my real name and initial, basically. :doh:
Oh. Donnie Bonaducci? :rolleyes:

Maksutov
2007-Apr-15, 11:02 AM
Oh. Donnie Bonaducci? :rolleyes:Uh oh, divorce lawyers!

Donnie B.
2007-Apr-15, 01:53 PM
Oh. Donnie Bonaducci? :rolleyes:Um... I believe that fellow's name is Danny...

(Or maybe I'm his non-evil twin brother?)

Thanatos
2007-Apr-19, 09:23 AM
It is possible to disagree without being disagreeable. A little moderation is usually enough to reinforce the 'be nice' rule. If you are really attached and passionate about an idea, it is hard to be objective. 'Play nice' is a wonderful rule, but, 'No play allowed' is an awful idea, IMO. ATM has been the most popular part of BAUT. Dumb ideas self destruct. Nobody bothers to invest much effort into those. But interesting ideas draw people from miles around. Why not encourage discussions about things people find interesting? I think professional scientists enjoy disussing cutting edge ideas with laymen who don't mind suspending their preconceived notions.