Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A word about ad hominems

Many people get confused and cry "ad hominem"!!! every time a person is insulted or ridiculed during a debate. I want to clarify this for them.
Wikipedia actually has a decent definition for this term, so I'll share it here.

An ad hominem (Latin for "to the man" or "to the person"[1]), short for argumentum 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.

An ad hominem is NOT simply using an insult or ridicule during a debate. An ad hominem is saying, "You are [irrelevant personal fact] and THEREFORE you're wrong." The "therefore you're wrong" part is the whole point.

Some examples:
-"Your name is X and therefore you must be wrong."
-"You have no college degree and therefore you're wrong."
-"You are bald and therefore you're wrong."
-"You don't even lift and therefore you're wrong."

Those are some ad hominems.

On the contrary, it is NOT an ad hominem to make a specific argument against your opponent which demonstrates the irrationalities of their statement and THEN to tell them, "So you're an idiot/moron/retard/clown/liar/ect." These words are appropriate in a debate because they are DESCRIPTIVE. The term idiot, as Bill Gaede defines, is "someone lacking common sense". So if you explain how someone lacks common sense by making a nonsense argument, you are making a perfectly accurate description when you call them an idiot.

It also makes them feel bad for making a bad argument... and they should feel bad. If they can't argue coherently then they shouldn't even try until they learn a thing or two. That's the point of ridicule.


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