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I am simply amazed by the number of people here who think that ad hominem arguments are valid -- or maybe what I'm amazed at is the sheer quantity of time they spend making such arguments.  Here I hope to explain, simply, what an ad hominem argument is, and how it functions.

Ad hominem argument, as follows:

Translated from Latin to English, "Ad Hominem" means "against the man" or "against the person."

An 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. Typically, this fallacy involves two steps. First, an attack against the character of person making the claim, her circumstances, or her actions is made (or the character, circumstances, or actions of the person reporting the claim). Second, this attack is taken to be evidence against the claim or argument the person in question is making (or presenting). This type of "argument" has the following form:

  1. Person A makes claim X.
  2. Person B makes an attack on person A.
  3. Therefore A's claim is false.

What's curious to me, here, is the number of people here who think this is a valid way to argue.  The opposite is true: just because Cenk Uygur or Jane Hamsher or David Sirota or Rachel Maddow or Ed Schulz (or for that matter Grover Norquist or Joe Lieberman or Rand Paul) makes a particular argument ("claim X") does not mean that "claim X" can be dismissed outright because Cenk Uygur or Jane Hamsher or David Sirota or Rachel Maddow or Ed Schulz or Grover Norquist or Joe Lieberman or Rand Paul is a "tool" or "stupid" or "self-aggrandizing" or "mendacious" or whatever insult one might apply to anyone who makes an argument.

If you want to avoid the ad hominem fallacy, then, you will examine all arguments on their own merits, regardless of who or what is making them, and regardless of your reasons for hating them or disliking them or finding them otherwise "unreliable" or "untrustworthy" or "offering Republican talking points" or "not worthy of consideration."  If you really want to "score points" in a debate, you will stay on the level of argument, and avoid bickering about personalities.

Examining arguments on their own merits, to be clear, means looking at the reasons to support each argument, and the implied presumptions hidden in each argument.  Are people making claims that are true?  (questions of fact) Can we call particular moral judgments into question?  (questions of value) Would a particular action be efficacious or morally worthy or in some way constructive of the world we all wish to see? (questions of policy) -- these are the questions which are answered in meaningful, nutritious argumentation.  Arguments do not count as "true" or "untrue" merely by virtue of whomever said them.  "David Sirota (or whomever) sucks" is not a meaningful argument.  It may express your true feelings, of course.  But what about such an argument merits our attention?

Now, I recognize that politics is often a contest of personalities, and that we might like (or dislike) someone (and thus their arguments) based on their personalities.  In fact, our political system supports this, with the selection process for members of the political class ("politicians") based upon "head-to-head" contests in which television attack advertising is typically used to denigrate the personalities of each of the likely winners.  But the fact that "this is how it is" is part of a compelling case for CHANGING THE SYSTEM, rather than for conforming to its dictates.  If we are electing our politicians based on ad hominem arguments, no wonder our system is screwed up.

The thing to remember is this: disagreeable people can make good arguments.  Good people can also make bad arguments.  It happens -- perhaps not most of the time, perhaps only rarely, but it happens.

Here I would like to distinguish the idea of an ad hominem argument from that of the personal attack.  A personal attack is not an ad hominem argument.  A personal attack occurs when you say that "so-and-so is bad" for whatever reason.  Personal attacks are not ad hominem arguments.  Of course, personal attacks contribute nothing to rational, civil discussion -- but they do not, by themselves, constitute ad hominem arguments.  An ad hominem argument comes into being when one uses the implied presumption that bad people can only make bad arguments.  

As I said above, I'm really surprised to see how many people here actually believe this.  

I would also like to distinguish the idea of an ad hominem argument from that of an attack on someone's argument.  An attack on someone's argument is not an ad hominem argument even when accompanied by a personal attack.  It is certainly true that bad people often make bad arguments.  George W. Bush, for instance -- his personality profile is written up in this book (and you can see that there were plenty of significant disqualifications for the Presidency there), and his arguments -- well, they were something to improve upon.  Thus during the Bush era one could read plenty of arguments which both attacked Bush and the policies he promoted in his status as President.  These attacks were not ad hominem arguments.  It is ONLY, then, when you BASE YOUR CRITIQUE on the idea that the PERSON MAKING THE OPPOSING ARGUMENT is somehow "untrustworthy," that you are engaging in an ad hominem argument.  

The way around the ad hominem argument, the ONLY way around it, is to EXAMINE THE ARGUMENT ITSELF.

When I taught "argumentation and debate" at The Ohio State University, a number of fundamentalist Christians wanted to make the argument in their papers that "gay marriage is immoral" based on the idea that the defenders of gay marriage were -- wait for it -- gays, and thus their arguments carried no weight.  I was obliged to point out that, yes, you may write your argumentative paper on why "gay marriage is immoral."  But when you address opposing arguments in your paper, you must regard these arguments on their own merits, without reference to the sexual (or other) identities of their authors.

Thus by the "rules of the game" in Communication 305 at The Ohio State University, Argumentation and Debate, ad hominem arguments did not "count."

Originally posted to Cassiodorus on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 10:43 AM PDT.

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    "Any sensible person right now would join an anticapitalist organization." -- David Harvey

    by Cassiodorus on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 10:43:07 AM PDT

  •  But... (31+ / 0-)

    the author of this diary is associated with OSU;
    OSU is evil incarnate;
    therefore the claim made in said diary by said author are evil...

    GO BLUE!

    Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time. (Terry Pratchett)

    by angry marmot on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 10:48:31 AM PDT

  •  Excellent. (13+ / 0-)

    It reminds me of a logic class I took years ago.

    Pooties and Woozles unite; you have nothing to lose but your leashes!

    by TomP on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 10:55:34 AM PDT

  •  The Sky Is Not Blue..... (17+ / 0-)

    Reductio ad absurdum:

    • I believe President Bush & Vice President Cheney are untrustworthy.
    • President Bush & Vice President Cheney believe the sky is blue.
    • Therefore, the sky is not blue.

  •  Sometimes Ad Hom is justified. (20+ / 0-)

    If an issue is very complex, or if data is not available, corrupted, or unreliable, sometimes we have to resort to Ad Hom.

    An example: A Complicated Policy Proposal is made. The details are opaque, the possible effect is unclear, the pro and con arguments are based on highly contested data.

    If this idea is proposed by Mitch McConnell and endorsed by Michele Bachmann, I am against it.

    It would be nice if I understood the issues and had access to the (probably secret or proportional) data. But I don't. So, just to be safe, I'm against it until I learn more...because I don't like Mitch and Michele.

    •  In the comment right below this, I tried to (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Sychotic1, Geekesque, science nerd

      express a similar reservation. You did a better job.

    •  That's not much of an argument tho. (15+ / 0-)

      First off, it doesn't make you into much of a source on the proposal itself.  Second, did you bother to examine the arguments made by Mitch McConnell and or Michele Bachmann in favor of the proposal?

      "Any sensible person right now would join an anticapitalist organization." -- David Harvey

      by Cassiodorus on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:01:19 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Maybe not an argument (7+ / 0-)

        but it would be valid as a warning,

        Die energie der Welt ist constant; die Entropie der welt strebt einem Maximum zu. - Rudolf Clausius, 1865

        by xgy2 on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:17:43 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Having heard Bachmann's positions in the past, (4+ / 0-)

        life's too short for me to examine her arguments or comment on them. Because McConnell is in a position of much greater power than Bachman, I'll grant his statements more time, both in research and comment. But it's extremely unlikely that I'll give up my bias against his doctrine.

        It's the same with DKos -- after a history with certain posters and diarists, some statements are so predictable that they aren't worth the time to read and even less worth time to examine or refute. I breath a sigh of relief when I read posts and diaries that differ from my opinion or understanding but are well reasoned, researched and well expressed.

        Good diary topic and discussion. I do try not to fall into ad hominem but don't always succeed.

        Slavery is the legal fiction that a person is property. Corporate personhood is the legal fiction that property is a person. -Jan Edwards

        by SoCalSal on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 12:00:22 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Isn't it? (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Unduna, CornSyrupAwareness

        You are blurring logic and empirical data.

        If you have data that a source of information is incorrect 95% of the time, even if you plug it in to the most elegant logically valid argument that would simultaneously make Tarski and Bertrand Russel blush, it's still got a 95% chance of being wrong.

        Ad hominem is an informal fallacy, anyway. It doesn't refute the argument either.

        Plus, if you look at any argument based on facts, they all at some point depend on some kind of fallacy. That is the problem of Pyrrhonian skepticism and it has been the focus of epistemology for at least 2000 years.

        All I've got is an orange blog, three paragraphs, and the truth.

        by Attorney at Arms on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 07:41:34 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  If I concede the argument -- (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          mrkvica

          and say you won, you can go away with your ego boosted but without really having affected my main point here a whole lot.

          Take a look at what happens on this board with ad hominem arguments, and tell me how your argument is relevant to those examples.

          "Any sensible person right now would join an anticapitalist organization." -- David Harvey

          by Cassiodorus on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 10:21:07 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  That gives you a reason to be biased (6+ / 0-)

      against the decision, because it's made by someone with a demonstrably bad track record of veracity, accuracy or even shared values with yourself.

      It doesn't necessarily mean that we should leave the final argument to an ad hom attack, I feel.

      I find ad hom justified in cases only where I am attempting to learn context for a seemingly illogical (i.e., based on facts at hand) position and the person holding that position will not reveal much of their motive in taking that tack.  Oftentimes, I'll find out that their rationale is, indeed, because of an unsaid bias which was completely outside of the facts to be considered - sort of my way to profile people, getting them to out their context a bit.  After that point, we can argue on more even ground.

      "So, please stay where you are. Don't move and don't panic. Don't take off your shoes! Jobs is on the way."

      by wader on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:09:37 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Being against it isn't the same thing (6+ / 0-)

      as claiming it's "wrong" and attempting to be taken seriously while doing so, right?

      I don't think your example changes anything. Maybe Cassiodorus can explain.

      Are you working to reduce pain, or just distribute it?

      by Liberaltarianish on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:12:56 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I agree, but that doesn't seem to (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Timaeus, wader, mrkvica, Cassiodorus

      be the same as an ad hominem argument, at least as defined by this diary. It just means we are appropriately suspect of arguments coming from people we have learned not to trust. As long as you don't just reject it out of hand. A good example for me was a period when I just automatically discounted everything that was printed in the NY Times - turns out they sometimes put a few facts in there.

      For all the news from Richieville, subscribe to Richieville.com

      by Richieville on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:26:40 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Sometimes ad homs are just so darn convincing (0+ / 0-)

      Joe Lieberman abandons his own proposal for a medicare buy-in when he learns Anthony Weiner is in favor of it.

    •  That's argument from authority (7+ / 0-)

      And we all do that. For example, very few of us can truly evaluate the claims regarding climate change. We choose who to believe.

      In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra

      by blue aardvark on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:34:31 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yes, but it is not an argument (4+ / 0-)

      That can be refuted--it is merely an assertion. You could say David Sirota is an always or usually wrong. The weight of your reputation may persuade other people, for example, DS might have been wrong in the past and you are often right so I will, for the sake of efficiency, just accept your word. But it is not an argument.

      Cassiodorus is trying to bring order to thinking--and it is one of the most important things anyone can do. I noticed, from the beginning, that if I made some unpopular arguments I would be attacked viciously by people I can only classify as thugs who moved in groups monitoring political correctness. They seem to be less prevalent these days but I see it sometimes.

    •  That's not ad hominem. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bluicebank, DeepLooker

      If you object to inadequate supporting data, that's not an ad hominem.  If you reject supporting data provided by a known liar, that's not an ad hominem.

      The question is not whether the chickens needed replacing, the question is whether the fox should have been guarding them in the first place.

      by happymisanthropy on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:41:03 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  credibility v. ad hom (6+ / 0-)

      One of the discussions I always try to have in my argumentation class is the fine line between ad hom attacks and credibility attacks.

      By not having trust in McConnell or Bachmann's judgement you are not committing an ad hom attack against them by not supporting the policy recommendations.  

      An ad hom argument would be telling someone that "McConnell and Bachmann's proposal is bad because they have bad hair cuts."  Hair cuts being irrelevant to the debate.

      A completely valid argument would be telling someone that "McConnell and Bachman's proposal is bad because I don't trust their credibility on the issue given their previous statements on x,y and z."   Credibility being an important issue when as you state "if an issue is very complex, or if data is not available, corrupted, or unreliable."

      You've given a reason that addresses the issue without resorting to attacking the person.

    •  That's not ad hominem (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DeepLooker

      Lacking the appropriate facts, a decision made upon the reputation of opposing sides is a simplified form of concluding according to statistical results: which is valid.

      So if Dr. Evil comes out with an arms reduction treaty proposal and I don't have time to read the thing, and I discover that most of the progressive liberal community says it's a bad thing:

      A. Dr. Evil is more often wrong than right.
      B. Progressives almost always seem to get things right.

      C. Conclusion: That arms control proposal is probably bad, so I'm against it until proven otherwise.

    •  can't be an expert about everything (0+ / 0-)

      You have to make lots of judgments every day and you can't be an expert about all of them so this may work as a short cut.

      However, if you are an activist who is working to promote a particular policy then it would be dishonest of you to suggest your opposition was anything other than superficial if all it was based on was McConnell and Bachmann's support.

  •  I have mixed feelings about this. We're (7+ / 0-)

    human beings debating politics. We're not logicians.

    The most important blogging rule, in my opinion, is to try to react to the comment, not the person.

    And of course one should avoid ad homs, as you accurately describe them, where one is essentially arguing that a person's argument should be discredited because the person is bad, a troll, etc.

    And most personal attacks are off-limits here, although that rule gets abused 100,000 times a day. I've been known to violate this principle of civility, although I really do try hard not to.

    Nonetheless, in some situations, such as the FDL wars from about seven months ago, it seems to me appropriate to combine logical objections to specific arguments with more generalized criticism of the motives of persons or groups. I'm not sure how to express that more formally, but I think it's a reservation that should be made to the idealism of this good diary.

    •  Please note that portion of my diary -- (12+ / 0-)

      where I say:

      I would also like to distinguish the idea of an ad hominem argument from that of an attack on someone's argument.  An attack on someone's argument is not an ad hominem argument even when accompanied by a personal attack.

      ***** and *****

      It is ONLY, then, when you BASE YOUR ARGUMENT on the idea that the PERSON MAKING IT is somehow "untrustworthy," that you are engaging in an ad hominem argument.

      "Any sensible person right now would join an anticapitalist organization." -- David Harvey

      by Cassiodorus on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:05:55 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I don't understand your point here. (0+ / 0-)

        I read the diary. I agree with those two observations.

        But I'm not sure how they are intended to respond to the point I was trying to express.

        I guess you must be meaning to emphasize your sentence:

        An attack on someone's argument is not an ad hominem argument even when accompanied by a personal attack.

        I guess that succinctly sums up what I was trying to say.

        However, the comment above mine also makes the good point that an ad-hom-style argument is sometimes a proxy for information. If the facts are murky, one often will discredit an idea if comes from a source who is known to be unreliable, such as Karl Rove. That's an example of where an ad hom is useful and may short-circuit a lot of bamboozlement.

        •  Oh, we have a LOT of proxy for information here. (5+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          miriam, catnip, nyceve, mrkvica, miss SPED

          VAST fields of EMPTY discussion.

          "Any sensible person right now would join an anticapitalist organization." -- David Harvey

          by Cassiodorus on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:43:27 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Again, it is not an argument (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          JesseCW

          It is merely an assertion that cannot be argued. If I say you are a bad person therefore nothing you say can be taken seriously that is the equivalent to just punching someone in the nose. It is a fight, is it diatribe it is not an argument. You may feel it is justified but, in the long run, that practice leads to massive stupidity and the inability to actually make arguments--which is a skill like forehand backspin that must be learned if anyone expects to actually win arguments. Of course, in our day and age, few people bother with playing tennis they just jump across the net and smash the oponents head in--that is often how it appears to me--I'm not singling out DK here but this is a general cultural trend even among the "intellectual" classes.

          Devolution is the keyword here. BTW, you can always learn a lot from your enemies that's why a great spiritual master said to love our enemies.

  •  Not all Hominems are created equal (7+ / 0-)

    Some Ad Hom is valuable. If the poster of an inflammatory diary has a track record of inflaming, or being biased in some way, it's important for readers to know that so that they'll bring more scrutiny to the contents of the diary.

    Also, it IS appropriate to attack the WAY in which criticism is made, since you could rewrite 99% of the anti-obama tripe on this site in a way that would make it no less valid, but far less divisive. If someone has a track record of saying valid things in a douchebag fashion, and implying far less valid things along with their arguments, then that should be pointed out, since what people walk away with is not the core argument, but rather the subsequent implications.

    The Sirota diary is a perfect example. The fact is, some woman with questionable priorities was appointed to a minor role in implementing a health care bill that we've already agreed is disappointing. But what people come away with is that Obama is a corporatist shill who sold us out at every step of the way so he could funnel our taxpayer dollars to his insurance buddies. That's some shit that needs to be shot down in any way possible, and if it takes some Ad Hom to do it, fine by me.

  •  It's intellectual laziness. (15+ / 0-)

    Tossing out an ad hominem attack takes much less effort than constructing a logical rebuttal. People are too busy nowadays for all that "thinking" stuff.

    Perhaps the greatest benefit, though, is that by avoiding all of that research and logic, you never have to suffer the embarrassment of discovering that you're the one who's wrong.

  •  You understand though that deliberate (18+ / 0-)

    use of ad hominem happens here. To start long threads which have the purpose of derailing discussion of the topics raised.

    Maybe a summary of "rhetorical cheats" diary would be nice. Perhaps a diary on "Apologist" while we are discussing what words actually mean.

    Thanks for taking the time to write this.

    Until we break the corporate virtual monopoly on what we hear and see, we keep losing, don't matter what we do.

    by Jim P on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:01:21 AM PDT

  •  It's not 'ad hominum' to decide... (17+ / 0-)

    when a particular author has no more credibility.

  •  Logic is great, but logic doesn't equal truth. (11+ / 0-)

    I agree with you that is not a good practice to argue with fallacies, but there are several  important points to remember:

    1. If you are attempting to sway a mass audience, often fallacial arguments work better than strictly logical ones.  Make of that what you will.  I'm not suggesting using fallacy, but if the goal is to move a large number of people in a particular direction, it helps to know what works with that large group of people.
    1. Many things that are logical are not true and vice-versa.  Logic (in a simple form) is the study of how one can derive statements from previous statements without introducing new errors.  It says nothing about the truth of the axioms or implicit assumptions.
    1. Ad Hominems are 'over-diagnosed'.  Many people, including a lot of people here, think that just calling someone a name when making an argument equals an Ad Hominem attack.  It doesn't.  Calling people names is simply impolite, and unless your case rests on the fact that someone is a fatass, a cheerleader, or a purity troll, then you are not making an Ad Hominem
    1. Although I frown upon Ad Hominem, for all practical purposes, it is very useful.  For example, Rush Limbaugh is a lying sack of shit, therefore it is not entirely unreasonable for you to suspect that whatever he says next is also a steaming pile, based purely on probablistic reasoning.

    See this egregious example:

    All people who don't like Obama are purity trolls.  All purity trolls are wrong an all matters of policy.  You are a purity Troll.  You are wrong on all matters of policy.

    There were no Ad Hominems in the above statement and it is logically true, but almost certainly false.  It was also impolite, among other things.

    •  Admittedly, I don't get your example (0+ / 0-)

      Doesn't the first statement rely on an ad hominem position/assumption?

      "So, please stay where you are. Don't move and don't panic. Don't take off your shoes! Jobs is on the way."

      by wader on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:22:10 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  no, it's an explicit statement (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        churchylafemme
        •  a false one, obviously. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          wader, churchylafemme
          •  I could argue that its derivation came from (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            tacet

            not merely an abstractly derived falsehood, but necessarily from an ad hom bias, though :) - that's my point.

            Sure, I see your logical construction, but maybe I'm getting hung up on the specifics.

            "So, please stay where you are. Don't move and don't panic. Don't take off your shoes! Jobs is on the way."

            by wader on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:30:37 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  yes, (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              tacet, wader, Rick Aucoin

              You would take issue with my conclusion, because you would say that although my conclusion follows from my premises (it's logical), one of premises (the first one) is patently false, and ask me to logically argue its truth rather than stating it as a fact, which I'm sure I would be unable to do.

              But then I would call you an elitist communist and call into question your judgement in general.

              •  I'm good with that! (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                tacet

                For me, that's when things get interesting concerning your motives for offering that false statement in the first place . . .

                "So, please stay where you are. Don't move and don't panic. Don't take off your shoes! Jobs is on the way."

                by wader on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:40:48 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  which is interesting actually, (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  wader, Cliche Rinpoche

                  now that I think about it, because it means that my motive for doing something or my other core beliefs were important to you before you felt safe judging the merits of my argument or comment.

                  That's not meant as a flame...it's a human trait  and we all do it. I'm sure I do, as it pays to be cautious of people who seem to selling BS.  

                  We think 'what is this guy trying to really say here? Where is this guy coming from?  Is he trying to rope me into a larger agreement about a related topic?'

                  That's the root of Ad Hominem right there....Guy A has to be wrong about issue A because Guy A is X and X are wrong about issue B.

                  I make a simple logical statement that purposely has loaded words in it to provoke a reaction, and the reaction is that I must be illogical or wrong because I am suspected of harboring bad feelings toward certain groups.  

                  It sounds like I planned that but I didn't, I was just picking random words that I know have been in discussion here in the various meta storms.  Personally, I try to stay away from all the obamabot vs purity troll meta.

                  •  I'm simply interested in why you'd offer (0+ / 0-)

                    something which I felt was demonstrably false - it could be:

                    1.  You honestly felt it was true from your own experience/derivation
                    1.  Someone told you it was true, and you believed them
                    1.  You may have a bias of some sort in this subject area, whether consciously understood as such or not
                    1.  You mistyped
                    1.  Your point was supportable with reasonable facts, and I'm the one who is wrong (for various reasons)
                    1. ...

                    If we get into your core beliefs from my question about the correctness of your initial premise, so be it.  That becomes interesting, too.

                    "Interesting" being a word to describe the journey, not so much the revelation.

                    I tend to

                    "So, please stay where you are. Don't move and don't panic. Don't take off your shoes! Jobs is on the way."

                    by wader on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 12:18:12 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  it could have also been: (0+ / 0-)
                      1. I was maligned once in the same way.

                      Why wouldn't you assume that?  Especially since I said several times explicitly that it was obviously wrong, impolite, unsupportable by facts, egregious, etc.

                      Anyway, it's neither here nor there.

                      •  Truly don't understand what your point 7 means (0+ / 0-)

                        as I'm talking about process in this subthread, and not you or any specific facts on hand.

                        Are you feeling maligned in some manner, perhaps?  I've presented a rebuttal to your original post and attempted to back that up with more context.  That is my only purpose in this discussion.

                        Sure, I found your example abstractly acceptable, but practically untenable - and, I don't let simple points like that go away easily, at times.  Debate is fun.

                        From a process standpoint, such an approach as you offered would tend to get hung up on point (1.) if I was keen to the issues presented in a practical context.  So, if the premise starts on a flawed tack, any logically formed argument stemming from that is so much abstract concept, it seems.  Great for a debate or philosophy class, but maybe not so much on a political blog, I suspect.

                        Hence, my original post in reply.

                        "So, please stay where you are. Don't move and don't panic. Don't take off your shoes! Jobs is on the way."

                        by wader on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 04:23:31 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                      •  Er, you know (0+ / 0-)

                        The "you" above continued my "figurative you" context - I was talking to the speaker of a context which you offered for consideration in the first post.  Not talking about you, thaddeus74, in any manner.

                        Perhaps there was a misunderstanding, which led to your point 7.  If not, I'm still trying to determine what it is meant to offer.

                        "So, please stay where you are. Don't move and don't panic. Don't take off your shoes! Jobs is on the way."

                        by wader on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 04:29:31 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                  •  And that's a big point (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    wader

                    Your comment about "is he trying to rope me into a larger agreement" is right on the money, in my mind.  

                    I read the diary, agreed with just about everything Cassiodorus wrote, but there was a nagging little hitch in my mind the whole time. I think that Ad Hominem attacks are made not just out of laziness or expediency. In practical terms, they can also make a lot of sense.

                    Great liars know that the more truth you can inject into a lie, the more effective that lie becomes.

                    I'm thinking in this case not of an argument I disagree with but can't/won't attack on substance, but rather of a statement that appears valid coming from individuals I have reason to suspect. Huh - I just realized I'm far more likely to engage in an ad hominem attack on someone saying something I agree with than someone saying something I disagree with.

                    I don't have training in logic, so perhaps I'm reading the discussion too broadly. In any case I'm happy to see the diary and will give extra weight to anything Cassiodorus writes in the future.
                    Oh, wait, hold on. That can't be right...

                    •  Well, as I offered someplace above (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      mrkvica

                      to me that sounds more like a bias you have towards the person offering an argument, which can turn you off from even caring about their message in the first place - that's OK, you don't have to listen.

                      Or, it may force you to be more scrupulous about the argument presented, as you offered.

                      But, to work with their argument in a deeper discussion, its merits still need to be taken to fair task, I feel.  That's the type of analysis work I see, with a combined attitude that aids flavor, on our Front Page, quite often.

                      "So, please stay where you are. Don't move and don't panic. Don't take off your shoes! Jobs is on the way."

                      by wader on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 04:43:15 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

      •  here's a less polarizing one (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        wader, NYFM, sam storm, science nerd

        and one you would probably see in an actual logic book.

        All Girl Scouts are bears.  Anna is a Girl Scout.  Therefore, Anna is a Bear.

        Logically true.  Whether it is actually true or not depends on whether the premise is true, but I made no logical errors.  This is usually contrasted with:

        All Girl Scouts are Bears.  Bob is a Bear.  Therefore, Bob is a Girl Scout.

        Not logically true, because I committed a logical error.  The conclusion does not follow from the premises.  Whether this is actually true or not is hard to say.  Who the heck is Bob?

    •  Second clause pure ad hom (0+ / 0-)

      "All purity trolls are ..."

      You can stop right there. You have entered ad hominem territory.

      In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra

      by blue aardvark on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:37:06 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  nope. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        happymisanthropy, sam storm

        it's a statement you are free to disagree with (as do I).  'X are Y' is a perfectly acceptable premise in a logical derivation.  They may be untrue but they are not illogical.

        It's of course esoteric, but that is my point, that pure reliance on logic leads to esoteric results.

        Take my example above:

        All Girl Scouts are bears.  Anna is a Girl Scout.  Therefore, Anna is a Bear.

        Maybe calling someone a Bear is a great insult, but I committed no Ad Hominem.  Substitute Girl Scout with Purity Troll and Bear with Wrong.

        What is the difference?

        •  I disagree but didn't write clearly (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          mrkvica, Sychotic1

          Because the context is the correctness of arguments, so "bear" and "wrong" do not substitute for each other.

          Bearness does not mean your argument is false, but wrongness does.

          So, when you say "all members of group X are wrong" it is an ad hominem attack.

          In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra

          by blue aardvark on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:48:58 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  not really. (0+ / 0-)

            All liars lie.  You are a liar.  Therefore you lie.

            Same construction.  It is the same as All members of group (Liars) are wrong (lying), yet you see this construction in logic textbooks all the time.  It may be a debatable premise in the real world.

            You are confusing a logical and contrived statement with something that can actually be proved true or false in the real world.  In the real world, liars don't always lie.  Or maybe they lied before and are so tilted as liars but they don't lie anymore.  There are all sorts of issue you can make about the premise, but it doesn't make it illogical or an Ad Hominem.  

    •  From any false statement, it is possible to... (9+ / 0-)

      ... prove any other false statement.  When Bertrand Russell said this in a lecture, someone in the audience challenged him to prove that "if 2+2 equals 5, then Bertrand Russell is the Pope".

      Russell's proof went as follows:

      If 2+2 = 5, then 4 = 5.
      Subtracting 3 from each side of the equation, we get 1 = 2.
      Bertrand Russell and the Pope are two people, therefore they are one.

      Hearty applause followed.

      Big Joe Helton: "I pay Plenty."
      Chico Marx: "Well, then we're Plenty Tough."

      by Caelian on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:37:39 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Of course, that was clever, but not (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        happymisanthropy

        actually logical.

        By the way, I went through a period where I read about 20 books by and about Russell. One of my all-time favorite people.

        •  i thought the same. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Timaeus

          Maybe his version was just funnier, but it seems to me he could have made it actually logical, because it does start with a false premise and could be suitably twisted.

          Where are our Bertrand Russell's today?

          •  Logicomix (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Timaeus

            For a great read about Bertrand Russell's life and work, I highly recommend the recent graphic novel Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth by Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos Papadimitriou, with Wittgenstein, Hilbert, Gödel, and others in supporting roles.

            Big Joe Helton: "I pay Plenty."
            Chico Marx: "Well, then we're Plenty Tough."

            by Caelian on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 12:28:31 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I once checked out a volume of (3+ / 0-)

              Principia Mathematica by Russell and Whitehead, just for light reading.

              Still laughing about that.

              Anybody who has ever looked at any of those pages will understand what I mean.

              And then a few years later Godel just blew them out of the water with one shot.

              •  I took a great course in college (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Timaeus

                that had both readings.  I think it was a 300 level logic course; it may have been explicitly about logic and mathematics or logic and science or something like that.

                The great thing about it is that it followed the same path you mentioned, starting at the earliest attempts to bridge mathematics and logic, and then spending a lot of time with Principia Mathematica, which is as dense and difficult as you imply,  and then ending with Godel's stake through the heart with his Incompleteness theorem.  

                It was a great roller coaster ride of logical thought, although an admittedly extremely geeky one.

                There is also, of course, the standby popular treatment, Godel, Escher, Bach.

                It's also interesting how someone like Russell can be so obviously brilliant, accomplished and right on so many points but still fail (spectacularly) in heroic attempts.

                Einstein was the same.  Brilliant with the PEF, Brownian Motion, then SR, and then GR, all brilliant, all acclaimed, and yet then completely miss in his attempts at GUT, the Cosmological Constant, and his steadfast refusal to accept the underlying implications of QM.

                It's inspiring and humbling at the same time.

                •  Wonderful comment!! (0+ / 0-)

                  I have the misfortune to be an immigration lawyer (although I manage to do a lot of good in that profession), but I'm also a geek with a polymathic interest in mathematics and science and just about everything.

                  Life is full of wonder and contradictions. Russell is one of my all-time heroes, and yet he was a diehard atheist and I am a believer. Ah, but he was also one of the all-time great peaceniks in his old age.

                  One of my favorite Russell anecdotes, which I think is from Ronald Clark's biography in 1975, is that one time when he was about 95 years old he got slapped for fondling the thigh of a young woman assistant of some kind who was riding in the back of a big car with him. She said his touch was like "rustling leaves." Good for the old goat!

                  Another great Russell anecdote, which is from his autobiography, is about his contract to write his A History of Western Philosophy (1945), which is one of my all-time favorite books and his best-selling book. He had dawdled and dawdled and finally the publisher gave him an ultimatum about submitting the manuscript. So he hired a stenographer and just plain dictated the whole damn book off the top of his head in a couple of days!  The book has flaws, but that is just an absolutely staggering fact!

                  I have written about 100 scholarly articles, but I could never write without time, and reflection, and access to my computer and my sources. In other words, I'm not fit to even proofread Russell's footnotes or take out his garbage.

                  I love that guy.

    •  Ouch ouch ouch (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      tacet, mrkvica, rsmpdx, miss SPED, agoner

      The point here, though not mentioned, is that we all benefit by not making ad hominem attacks. If every time I get mad at someone and I take my gun and shoot them then we have a very difficult kind of society to live in. We have rules so that things function in the best and most pragmatic way. In exchanging information it is the same thing.

      We discourage the thoughtful and sensitive from participating because every time they work out something on paper they are shot down and called "stupid" or a troll then they are less likely to participate and you might miss some valuable insights. Of course, there are plenty of people here who claim to know everything but hopefully you aren't one of them. To create an atmosphere of collegiality is vital for a vibrant progressive movement--to just cut people off who don't follow the PC views is just not very practical. We need new ideas (look at how little power we  have), we need intellectual ferment not shots and punches. I welcome criticism because I often miss stuff. I don't participate here more precisely because of the attacks I would get if I explored areas, from a progressive social democratic pov, that don't fit the current assumptions. So I shut up and occasionally comment.

      I think this issue is very important. I think civilization rests on intellectual courtesy and openness to new ideas--without it we devolve to the gun and the fist--let's move away from that direction.

    •  No, (0+ / 0-)

      It may be valid, but it is not sound.  

      The question is not whether the chickens needed replacing, the question is whether the fox should have been guarding them in the first place.

      by happymisanthropy on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:56:58 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  but (0+ / 0-)

        Is it valid if it has a false p?

        ****

        All people who don't like Obama are purity trolls.  

        All purity trolls are wrong an all matters of policy.  

        You are a purity Troll.  

        You are wrong on all matters of policy.

        ****

        "I have lived with several Zen masters -- all of them cats." - Eckhart Tolle

        by catnip on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 07:51:54 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  another way of saying this is (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mrkvica

      logic is about the structure of an argument. If someone is making an argument it is possible that they make a logical error and their premises to not actually support their conclusion.

      However their conclusion could still be true even if their current argument supporting it is illogical. All that is required is that there is another valid argument with the same conclusion.

      Even if an argument is logically valid, i.e. its structure is completely logical, it can still be wrong. If the structure of the argument doesn't correspond with reality then it doesn't really matter that it is logically valid.

      As an example consider "They will attack us here or there, we don't want them to attack us here so we have to attack them there" It is a logically valid argument. It is wrong because the premise that they will attack us here or there isn't true.

  •  Quite true... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cedwyn, churchylafemme, Johnny Q

    One can have a quite logical lie. It's done all the time.

    "Ridicule may lawfully be employed where reason has no hope of success." -7.75/-6.05

    by QuestionAuthority on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:12:55 AM PDT

  •  I think those posters who defend ad hominem (8+ / 0-)

    are absolute idiots

    end snark

    If you can't be kind, at least have the decency to be vague

    by SnyperKitty on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:13:52 AM PDT

  •  Given that the expression ... (28+ / 0-)

    ...is in Latin, we see how long this method of arguing is. Translated, that method would no doubt be recognized by the Phoenicians, Assyrians, Mayans and all the Neanderthal clans: Ragog keeps all the best mammoth cuts to himself, so we can't trust him to tell us where the herd is.

    Both ad hominem arguments and personal attacks will always be with us. The cleverest will conceal these amid eloquence and trickery. Double-standards will also always exist: It's not ad hominem or a personal attack when my friend does it. It is when my foe does it. We'll see on this very thread some rationalizations for engaging in these behaviors.

    Perhaps 1% or 2% of us is not ever guilty of this. But we can all strive to squelch our tendencies to fall into this trap.

    Don't tell me what you believe. Tell me what you do and I'll tell you what you believe.

    by Meteor Blades on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:15:22 AM PDT

    •  You have to distinguish between (5+ / 0-)

      appeal to authority (which has some validity) and ad hominem, though.

      Noting that Paul Krugman has a Nobel in economics makes what he says on economics more credible than what, say, Eric son of an Erick has to say regarding economics.

      Transfer of authority is when you assume that Krugman, being a Nobel Laurate, must know a lot about, e.g., climate change.

      In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra

      by blue aardvark on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:40:13 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The appeal to authority invites ad homs though. (3+ / 0-)

        If someone is held up as an expert and authority, it becomes fair game to punch holes in their credibility.

        "[R]ather high-minded, if not a bit self-referential"--The Washington Post.

        by Geekesque on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 12:02:51 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  But it is necessary (3+ / 0-)

          None of know enough about everything. So we have to chose which authorities are credible. So the question of credibility in a claimed area of authority is not ad hominem, but a necessary step.

          For example, if you need a lawyer, you might want to ensure that he or she didn't matriculate at the same school as Orly Taitz :-)

          In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra

          by blue aardvark on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 12:05:13 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  In politics that gets very tricky. (0+ / 0-)

            Who's an authority--Harry Reid?  Glenn Greenwald?

            "[R]ather high-minded, if not a bit self-referential"--The Washington Post.

            by Geekesque on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 12:08:04 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Statements of fact, as opposed to opinion (4+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              WIds, mrkvica, Geekesque, Deep Texan

              I like Greenwald, but he sometimes goes on for paragraphs and includes very few sourced facts.

              So, if Harry Reid says "The votes aren't there for the public option" and Greenwald tells you that "the votes would be there, but Obama's fighting it behind the scenes" - well, at this point you are pretty much at sea without more information.

              For example, did Joe Lieberman become an asshole because of Obama, or was he always an asshole? If Lieberman was always going to be an asshole, regardless of Obama, then Reid is right, and Greenwald wrong. If Lieberman could have been swayed by Presidential suasion, than Greenwald is right, and Reid is wrong.

              In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra

              by blue aardvark on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 12:19:00 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

    •  boy, do you nail this one (6+ / 0-)

      Both ad hominem arguments and personal attacks will always be with us. The cleverest will conceal these amid eloquence and trickery

      So....does that mean that a clever ad hom is engaging in sophistry? Or are the two mutually exclusive? ;)

      one of these days, I need to figure out how to embed links in my sig line ;)

      by o the umanity on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:45:57 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  This comment seems to rather conflate (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Geekesque

      ad hominem arguments and personal attacks. The diarist makes a good point to keep those ideas separate.

      One can certainly have personal attacks without devolving into an ad hom. For instance, as the diarist says, one can combine a personal attack with a logical response to the other person's substance.

      I tend to think that rude personal attacks are more destructive to civility than ad hom arguments.

    •  Absolutely not a fallacy. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kalmoth

      Ragog keeps all the best mammoth cuts to himself, so we can't trust him to tell us where the herd is.

      If Ragog's argument is dependent on the accuracy of Ragog's own testimony, then calling Ragog a liar is absolutely not a fallacy.  However, we do need to know what Ragog actually said.

      Ragog:  There are always mammoths down by the river this time of year, so there are probably mammoths there now.  You should go hunt them.

      Gurd:  Ragog wants to keep mammoth steaks to himself, so we can disregard what he said.

      How does the tribe know that there are always mammoths down by the river this time of year?  Maybe Ragog is the only hunter who knows what mammoths always do.

      It is always acceptable to challenge the legitimacy of the source of information.  If the authority and the arguer are the same person, then the arguer's credibility becomes fair game.

      The question is not whether the chickens needed replacing, the question is whether the fox should have been guarding them in the first place.

      by happymisanthropy on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 12:14:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I won't disagree with you overall... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        mrkvica, Sychotic1, kalmoth

        ...point in your last paragraph. Absolutely true.

        But I used the example of mammoth hunts for a reason. They were, of necessity, team affairs. Ragog couldn't go off and hunt mammoths by himself in order to keep the best cuts. He had to find some other way to do so. He was a very good tracker. So he deserved, he thought, the best cuts. Others denigrated his urging of hunting down by the river based on his reputation as being greedy with the results, not because he was misdirecting them while he went off to where the mammoths actually were.

        Don't tell me what you believe. Tell me what you do and I'll tell you what you believe.

        by Meteor Blades on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 12:21:15 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  But (0+ / 0-)

          being unreasonable does not make it a fallacy.

          The question is not whether the chickens needed replacing, the question is whether the fox should have been guarding them in the first place.

          by happymisanthropy on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 12:44:18 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  More to the point... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          kalmoth, Cliche Rinpoche

          If I think that I'm just as good of a tracker as Ragog is, and Ragog is trying to convince the tribe to abandon the hunt of the mammoth that I'm trailing and go after one he's found...  

          Knowing that if we keep chasing "my" mammoth, and kill it, I'll get the best cuts, but if we switch and go after a different mammoth instead Ragog will get the first pick...

          You're damned right that's the argument that I'm going to make, and it's not a fallacy either.

          The question is not whether the chickens needed replacing, the question is whether the fox should have been guarding them in the first place.

          by happymisanthropy on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 12:59:24 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Now hold on Happy (0+ / 0-)

            Sure Ragog gets the best cuts, but he wouldn't be getting any cuts at all if he led us astray.

            And sure, he lets most of the rest of us do the actual killing while he gets the glory, and ok there have been a couple of occasions that he was caught having dark time with women that weren't his mate ... but we still get to eat, most days. And my cuts are pretty good. They're not great, they're not great. But they're enough.

            I've known Ragog a long time. Ragog is a friend of mine. Why would Ragog try to take us away from the mammoth?

            Unless... Ragog taking secret payments from neighboring tribe, or worse - the freakish cro-magnon! Food perhaps, or psychoactive plants, or these new "compound tools". I'll be honest - I can imagine an ambitious tracker like Ragog being tempted by a spear-thrower. Have you seen the new ones? My god, they're like electric sex violence for your arm!  

            You find me one of those around his fire and I'll be ready to believe you.

            *ok, so I tend to get into character too much...

      •  me read through this thread (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        catnip, bluicebank, happymisanthropy

        and me uprate all Neanderthal references
        rawr

    •  I've always felt that about Ragog ... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      catnip

      and his fellow travelers knuckle-draggers. Or as Glenn Beck would say: Hitler!

    •  copious amounts of popcorn helps n/t (0+ / 0-)

      "I have lived with several Zen masters -- all of them cats." - Eckhart Tolle

      by catnip on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 08:00:39 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent diary. (9+ / 0-)

    I work with Back to Basics PAC, and all views and opinions in this account are my own.

    by slinkerwink on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:16:21 AM PDT

  •  I wonder if a better grasp of logic would lead to (5+ / 0-)

    better discourse.  Or is logic a Eurocentric/phallocentric concept that can be used for good or ill (ill as in the rationale for racist imperialism or misogynistic family values)?

    Rather than the head, maybe it begins with the heart.  Appealing to the heart, to our sense of empathy and common humanity.

    Is a clear thinker one who has happy thoughts?  Nabokov wrote something about there is nothing so full as an empty mind.  Maybe feelings get in the way of truth.

    Still-- I recall a time when I was trapped in a conservative way of thinking (or not thinking) because of how was I was raised in an ultra-religious, Republican family.

    My liberal college professor (clearly out to get me and brainwash me, as my brother had warned me) wanted us to write an essay on a piece by Norman Mailer.  So I sought out all the dirt I could get on Norman Mailer and built up a case against the man in order to show his piece was awful.

    Fortunately, four years later I was liberal too.  Which proves something.  

    •  given recent evidence cited by, among others (4+ / 0-)

      NCrissieB in her morning feature, it might just be the heart that needs to be turned. Facts (i.e. head), at least for some, don't seem to do it.

      Struggling to find my relevance in a world gone amok

      by billlaurelMD on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:34:55 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  yup (4+ / 0-)

        and it's really hard to turn someone's heart, when their mind is long gone.

        I don't mean that as insulting, either. Think of someone who has never, ever watched anything other than FOX entertainment to get their news--they have absolutely no basis for comparison, and it's all they know, so why should they trust anything else?

        And that's where the tunnel vision kicks in. Now, you're not just putting facts in front of them--you're challenging their ingrained belief systems.

        Even without that, it's really hard for some people to acknowledge they're wrong. Heart comes into play, because you have to have enough faith and self-awareness of yourself and your surroundings to understand that it is OK to be wrong sometimes. Some people just flat-out can't handle being wrong. Ever.

        one of these days, I need to figure out how to embed links in my sig line ;)

        by o the umanity on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:52:13 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I think it depends on who you talk to (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        mrkvica, o the umanity

        I have always joked that I am a slave to reason.  A well constructed argument has far more affect than an emotional appeal.  I left Conservatism when its goals and ideals no longer matched up with mine.  I was a social liberal and fiscal conservative and they were moving to social conservatism and as we have seen, become spendthrifts fiscally.

        Different personality types respond in different ways, just like people learn in different ways.

        Repubs - the people in power are not secretly plotting against you. They don't need to. They already beat you in public. (Bill Maher)

        by Sychotic1 on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 12:45:37 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  when did this take place (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          o the umanity

          if you are a slave to reason, I'd hope it was when Reagan and his folks invoked the Laffer Curve to justify tax cuts.

          Struggling to find my relevance in a world gone amok

          by billlaurelMD on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 12:56:29 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I was more into State Politics (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            mrkvica, o the umanity

            than federal at that point, but I woke up when the "Moral Majority" started making noises.  It seemed to be diametrically opposed to the concept of privacy and personal choice.

            Repubs - the people in power are not secretly plotting against you. They don't need to. They already beat you in public. (Bill Maher)

            by Sychotic1 on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 02:10:22 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  but that's really important, (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              billlaurelMD

              isn't it? You say you woke up when a morality issue got your attention back in the '80s. Wouldn't that have been an emotionally-reasoned reaction, not a logically-reasoned one?

              I'm not saying they're mutually exclusive concepts, because an overall reaction can be both of those things. It's just that it sounds like it was emotion which first "woke you up" to what was happening to the conservative viewpoint --and was only then that you started applying things like logic and reason to various facts, and connecting dots and what-not (and then your view shifted or you became disillusioned to conservatism in general or whatever...

              (does that make sense? not trying to nitpick, I promise, I'm just loving this discussion :-))

              one of these days, I need to figure out how to embed links in my sig line ;)

              by o the umanity on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 08:30:28 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

    •  "Is a clear thinker one who has happy thoughts?" (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mrkvica

      I think a clear thinker is one who has a clear mind.

      "I have lived with several Zen masters -- all of them cats." - Eckhart Tolle

      by catnip on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 08:08:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Someone could teach a class (8+ / 0-)

    on logical fallacy on the internet, but I fear it would be as pissing into the wind!

    The repetitious, formulaic resort to ad hominem here inclines me to believe that for some it is a feature, not a bug....

    Thanks for an excellent diary.

    www.bushwatch.net - Kicking against the pricks since '98!

    by chuckvw on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:18:33 AM PDT

  •  In a perfect world, I would agree whole-heartedly (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wader, TKLTKL94, mallyroyal

    Each comment and argument would be taken on it's merits alone. In the real world, some people simply have proven to have more or less credibilty. You are arguing against human nature, although I applaud your efforts.

  •  When debating maybe (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Chrisfs, Fixed Point Theorem

    But you'll pardon me of not actually considering some one worthy of debate if you fail to pass the litmus test:

    1. Was George W. Bush a good president?
    1. Is Sarah Palin a Joke?
    1. Do you think the Filibuster is a good idea?

    Fail those, and you might be the best, kindest, most wonderful person in the world and I don't want to hear a damn thing you say.

    When considering the ARGUMENT itself in a perfect vacuum, you are entirely correct.

    But we do not live in a rational world.  And there is only so much time, information and energy a person can have.  Any information I hear from someone who fails those tests, is someone whose message I am going to entirely ignore.

    Moreover, until I hear the point from a message source I respect, I'm probably not going to consider it at all.

    This has nothing to do with whether the message is correct, it has everything to do with keeping well crafted lies out of my head.  Thank you very much.

    The United States Senate has lost its political legitmacy and should be abolished.

    by TKLTKL94 on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:18:52 AM PDT

  •  You made some excellent (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Timaeus, Dauphin

    points about logic and logical thinking here, but I'm not really concerned with whether or not we're inundated by ad hom attacks.

    I was around, although young, during the HUAC era.  What I find incredibly disturbing is the argument I see far too often here,  that X is associated with Y, or was at some time, or may be at some time in the future, therefore X = Y.  "Are you now or have you ever been..." is a phrase that fills me with loathing, and I react very powerfully to diaries  and comments that stink of that kind of guilt by association.

    That said, I enjoyed your diary.  Thanks.

    I am, at heart, an optimist, which I consider to be spiritually necessary and proper, as well as intellectually suspect.

    by I love OCD on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:19:56 AM PDT

  •  sometimes the problem is not distinguishing (11+ / 0-)

    between challenging the facts on which claim is predicated rather than attacking the person.

    That is, some people take it as an attack against the person when it is a challenge of the facts on which the claim is based.

    Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Mohandas K. Gandhi

    by Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:20:39 AM PDT

  •  Thanks. Now, if I knew anything about you - (8+ / 0-)
    - I'd be able to tell if your definition is correct!

    For all the news from Richieville, subscribe to Richieville.com

    by Richieville on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:22:17 AM PDT

  •  Where Ad Hominem May Work (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mrblifil, Fixed Point Theorem

    When you find a known @sshole making a logical argument that you might agree with, it is good to second guess yourself.  There may very well be an ulterior motive being perpetrated by the known @sshole.

    Solar is civil defense. Video of my small scale solar experiments at solarray.

    by gmoke on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:24:07 AM PDT

    •  You run into trouble -- (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      catnip, mrkvica, gmoke, JesseCW, Willa Rogers

      when your opinion of a person substitutes for your opinion of what she or he said.

      "Any sensible person right now would join an anticapitalist organization." -- David Harvey

      by Cassiodorus on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:45:26 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Greeks Bearing Gifts (0+ / 0-)

        Republicans offering help to Democrats.

        Out of the mouths of @ssholes usually comes sh!t.  It is good to remember that even when what they are saying sounds reasonable.

        I'm not suggesting that we confuse the argument with the arguer but that we take the arguer's known character into account when considering the argument and the reasons why it has been raised.

        Solar is civil defense. Video of my small scale solar experiments at solarray.

        by gmoke on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 02:22:32 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yes, people have been known to (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          gmoke

          use what appears to be a logical argument for something that they know would be appealing to you, when in fact, they don't support their view based on that argument but because they believe they can convince you to support what they want by using that argument. For example, Mr. B wants his daughter to win the big screen TV she will get if she is the top seller of girl scout cookies in her area. Mr. B knows you are diabetic and shouldn't eat any cookies and wouldn't normally buy them but instead would just donate money to the organization if you wanted to support it. Mr. B. also knows that you feel strongly that children need to be taught money handling skills, interpersonal skills, and business skills. So Mr. uses the argument that buying the cookies will help his daughter learn those skills and you don't have to eat the cookies and can just give them away.

          Mr. B used the argument that would appeal to you even though his intention is not to teach his daughter any of those things and he knows she won't actually learn them because he will be the one actually doing the persuading, money handling and business aspects of the sale, not his daughter. He just wants the TV and his argument may be logical and could be true under other circumstances but isn't true in this case.

          So if you know that Mr. B is the type who doesn't think girls should be in business at all and that he is manipulative, you can and should dismiss his argument, even though it is logical, based on your prior knowledge of his character.

      •  Not "Substitute", But One Should ALWAYS (0+ / 0-)

        consider the source as well as the source's motives, integrity and track record.  

        Not doing so is highly illogical.  Not to mention downright stupid.

  •  THANK YOU FOR THIS DIARY (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wader, mrkvica, crackpot, Tuba Les

    It seems to me that much of our political discussion has come down to this.  And this is a big problem in our politics--a lot of the discussion is just useless garbage, but it inflames people.

    When I was a student, I was taught that ad hominem arguments/attacks were a lame excuse for an argument. I still find them completely unpersuasive--and many people I talk to don't "get" why, when I say "That's not relevant to what you're trying to prove."  

    Shortly before the 2008 election, I had a "discussion" with a conservative about Obama that included many references to Rev. Wright and William Ayers. (If you watched Fox News throughout the fall, it was nonstop Wright/Ayers all day.)  This person became very frustrated talking to me--because I wanted to talk policy not personalities ("If Obama knew these men, he must be a bad person!")  And because GUILT BY ASSOCIATION is also not a good argument.

    Emotionally, we cannot help making these sorts of judgments.  But we must recognize it for what it is--emotion.  Personally, I will be suspicious of anything Michelle Bachman is in favor of.  But I know this is not an "argument" or logical. And that I need more ammunition in the arsenal, so to speak.

    And I hate it that our politics is ALL EMOTION now.  It's all about getting whipped up and calling people "baby killers" and "socialists" (or "fascists" or "sellouts"); meanwhile, our nation declines.

    This also plays into the religious fundamentalist mindset, which teaches that problems are caused by Bad People--people on Satan's payroll.  Not social factors or secular trends. Bad, bad people.

    This is another reason the Founders wanted separation of church and state--so that calling on Satan was not good enough.

    I cannot tell you the number of people I've met who refuse to believe in global warming because they hate Al Gore.  Therefore, all of it is wrong, wrong wrong.  

    So thanks SO MUCH for this!  We can only hope that someday we get past mud slinging before everything goes down the tubes.

  •  I've been knocking around these parts (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blue aardvark

    since 2006. In that time, I've been called a lot of things--"incurious bigot" was my favorite. Because someone disagreed with me, they felt the need to launch an attack on my character. Name-calling is antisocial behavior. It happens all too much.

    On the other hand, if a another's comment strikes me as stupid--or just plain rude and ill-timed--I never hesitate to speak up after it's made, regarding my belief, or why I believe as I do. But there is clearly some gray area here. Not knowing the person, generally, who left the comment, and not knowing how the comment was intended, I do risk personally alienating someone unnecessarily, by denouncing their comment.

  •  Is there any differentiation for an (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    karmsy

    allegation of personal bias? So, it's not so much that X is not true because A is a bad person, but that A lacks credibility because they are predisposed against X for some personal reason.

  •  Credibility matters, especially since almost (15+ / 0-)

    every form of argument involves some kind of embedded empirical assumptions.  Given the impracticability of fact-checking everything we read within an inch of its life, as a threshold matter it makes sense to screen out the dishonest and the insane.  

    Moreover, especially in the world of politics, words have more than one function, meaning and interpretation.  When Lee Atwater-coached politicians said "welfare" they meant "nigger."

    "[R]ather high-minded, if not a bit self-referential"--The Washington Post.

    by Geekesque on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:27:05 AM PDT

    •  "Credibility" (11+ / 0-)

      might matter, but it only functions as an excuse to avoid discussing the arguments of others when you aren't trying to be reasonable.

      "Any sensible person right now would join an anticapitalist organization." -- David Harvey

      by Cassiodorus on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:33:16 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It is not unreasonable to limit one's limited (6+ / 0-)

        cognitive bandwidth to good faith operators.

        Michelle Bachmann makes many arguments.  I don't care to listen to any of them because historical experience has shown that it would be a complete waste of time.

        "[R]ather high-minded, if not a bit self-referential"--The Washington Post.

        by Geekesque on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:43:06 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Disagree - Ethos is a vital part of persuasion (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Cassiodorus

        At least according to that old Aristotle guy, ethos is one of the three parts of persuasion. If your reputation as, say an insurance-company shill precedes you, you should not be surprised that people are not persuaded by your implicit argument that you can be fair-handed in not favoring insurance companies.

        Californians: The Courage Campaign is working for changing the 2/3 budget rule and for ending Prop 8. Go!

        by tmo on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 12:21:52 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  what?! (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Unduna, foufou

        Credibility is central to argumentation.  How in the world is its only "function" to avoid discussing arguments "when you aren't trying to be reasonable" ?

        Audiences should judge the credibility of a speaker's argument in accepting claims and indeed, I would be amazed to find any research or theory in argumentation that says credibility is an excuse.

        Why do we ask for source citations in research papers? Why did you provide a link to the definition of ad hom if not seeking credibility from your audience? Why did you state that you've taught argumentation?  My guess would be to try and gain credibility with your readers.

        Credibility ought to be central in our assessment of arguments.  Even if someone gives a reason for their claim but I don't find the person credible I'm not engaging in an ad hom argument in not accepting the argument.  Saying, "I don't believe you because you lack credibility" is not a fallacy.  Saying "I don't believe you because you are short" is irrelevant to the underlying claim.  But credibility of the speaker is relevant.

      •  Would you merit Cheney's facts? (0+ / 0-)

        And if I were to impute manipulation or motivation to whatever accurate facts he presented,  
        you would find me to therefore be an unreasonable party?

        That's your logic at work.
        Not sure I like how it functions in reality.

        "In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder, a secret order." Carl Jung

        by Unduna on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 01:52:58 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Cheney's "facts" (0+ / 0-)

          were examined with fine-toothed combs and found wanting.  In fact, I can't think of a political argument in recent history which was examined more closely.

          "Any sensible person right now would join an anticapitalist organization." -- David Harvey

          by Cassiodorus on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 01:58:58 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  So what if he presented new facts to you today, (0+ / 0-)

            facts about, say, the CIA under Obama, that pointed to the idea that Obama's CIA was endangering men on the ground?

            Would you spend your time evaluating the facts, engage the morally bankrupt and notoriously manipulative man in a factual and logical repartee, or would you take into account PERSONAL credibility, the PERSON you were speaking to?

            Would taking the person and their history into account in this instance make you an unreasonable party, as you say? No. Not at all.

            History matters. Sources matter.
            A PERSON as source deserves historical attention. Sometimes presented facts and logic are quite secondary.

            Your diary is strong, but the credibility issue is equally strong. That's all.

            "In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder, a secret order." Carl Jung

            by Unduna on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 02:30:40 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  The credibility of persons may matter -- (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              mrkvica

              but there still remains the danger that Cheney may be right.  We might do best to continue to examine his arguments while asking ourselves: "what are the consequences of dismissing Cheney?"  Frankly, I have never believed anything that he said, but my disbelief was conditioned by a background of factual information about his topics of conversation that was strong enough to provide me with the confidence that my dismissal of PNAC arguments was warranted.

              It's amazing what people in the US will say about Muslims without really knowing a whole lot about them.

              "Any sensible person right now would join an anticapitalist organization." -- David Harvey

              by Cassiodorus on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 02:51:45 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  The open mind part is the esential element. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                mrkvica

                Go with the assumption proven by experience, but always stop to apply, even if for a brief check, that objective corner of your mind that is prepared for new information, new insight, and therefore new development.
                Yup.

                "In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder, a secret order." Carl Jung

                by Unduna on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 03:24:57 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

      •  That's Just Silly (0+ / 0-)

        Credibility is an absolutely essential filtering mechanism to help distinguish reasonable arguments from unreasonable ones.  It's not dispositive, no - but it is certainly evidentiary.  

        Furthermore most arguments are NOT logically binary - ie, true or false.  Most are probabilistic - there's a probability they are true and a probability they are not.  Credibility can be a significant factor in judging that probability.

        •  Once again -- (0+ / 0-)

          read the context too.  By "credibility" Geekesque meant the "credibility" of the speaker (i.e. whether we liked such a person or not), and not the result of any reasoned examination of her arguments.  Now go back and read what I said again.

          "Any sensible person right now would join an anticapitalist organization." -- David Harvey

          by Cassiodorus on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 05:36:34 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I Did. And It Is Still Wrong. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Unduna

            The credibility OF THE SPEAKER can often be a highly significant factor in evaluating the probability of arguments being true or false.

            Also, you are mischaracterizing what Geekesque said - I saw nothing about "liking" the speaker in his/her post. Credibility goes beyond like/dislike.  

            I don't make the assumption that any argument coming out of Karl Rove's mouth is a lie because I dislike Karl Rove (needless to say I do)....I make that assumption because he has a long proven record as a liar who does not hesitate to knowingly advance false arguments.

            And - and this is the part you seem to have trouble understanding - the mere fact that Karl Rove is making an argument really DOES reduce the PROBABILITY that that argument is true.

            This shouldn't be that hard to understand, but let's try looking at it another way.  

            Imagine computer program A that when asked "What is 2+2" is programmed to say 4. Every time.

            Now imagine one, B, that is programmed to add one to the sum 50% of the time.  Half the time it will answer 4 and half the time it will answer 5.

            You don't know why the answers differ - but you have empirical observation that program A's answers are internally consistent and agree with other evidence.  You have empirical observation that program B is neither internally consistent nor (half the time) in agreement with outside evidence.

            Now you ask each computer to address a completely different question - say, "what is 987,654,321 + 123,456,789?", to spit out the answer (their "argument" as to what the answer is) on a piece of paper and both are folded and handed to you.

            I think it's obvious even before seeing the answers they give that if you know which paper (argument) comes from which SOURCE (ie, if you know the credibility of the speaker) then you have information which significantly increases the probability of successfully evaluating the argument.  

            Think that through - even without laying eyes on the argument itself at all (in fact having no clue what the argument even IS), ONLY knowing the credibility of the source gives you a better chance of evaluating the argument.

            •  So... (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              catnip, mrkvica

              And - and this is the part you seem to have trouble understanding - the mere fact that Karl Rove is making an argument really DOES reduce the PROBABILITY that that argument is true.

              If we were to take one of Karl Rove's arguments, and repeat it verbatim to you, but not tell you that it came from Karl Rove, it would be a better argument because we hid the identity of its author from you?

              "Any sensible person right now would join an anticapitalist organization." -- David Harvey

              by Cassiodorus on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 06:57:14 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  If By "Better" You Mean "More Likely To (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Unduna

                Be True", then absolutely.  The probability certainly increases.  

                Assuming YOUR credibility in denying knowledge of the source!    ;)

              •  Also I Find It A Bit Ironic Than (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Unduna

                in trying to argue against me you quoted and argued only against my assertion and not against the example where I demonstrated my position.   Kind of an odd response from one who is maintaining that only the argument itself matters.   You essentially ignored mine!

                This is kind of fun though.  Cool discussion to have on the rec list.

    •  I've been told it's WRONG to rely on (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      taylormattd, Geekesque

      politicians who have judgment and character I trust for an opinion on complex matters, but the truth is, I don't have the time or the expertise to do everything independently.  I have to rely on someone who seems to have been right in the past.  

      And if in my experience, I find that other people are not so reliable...then I can't trust them and I won't use them.   When they ask me to take a leap of faith on their say so, I balk.  Or scoff, as appropriate.

      Someone on daily kos called me a poopyhead. My life is SO like Nelson Mandela's.

      by Inland on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:40:29 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The facts in this case aren't unclear. (4+ / 0-)

      Liz Fowler was WellPoint's chief lobbyist for two years before getting a major Congressional staff position to help write an HCR law, which she now gets to help implement.

      This is a problem.

      You don't need to assess Sirota's credibility to see the facts (and I agree, he has very little).

      “If I can't dance to it, it's not my revolution.” — Emma Goldman

      by Jyrinx on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:54:36 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  If we're talking about Liz Fowler not (5+ / 0-)

        being an appropriate candidate, sure I agree with you.

        It's where Sirota launches into "this means the PPACA is junk and the admin is corrupt" stuff that credibility becomes an issue--because Sirota makes empirical claims without backing it up.

        The flip side of argumentum ad hominem is the appeal to authority.  We both know that people of all persuasions use that one.  So ad homs actually play some role in countering the appeal to authority.

        "[R]ather high-minded, if not a bit self-referential"--The Washington Post.

        by Geekesque on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:59:04 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Appeal to authority IS a form of ad hominem, (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Geekesque

          at least if we take the Latin phrase at face value.

          And if this were a matter of analysis of a complex issue that most of us aren't credentialed to investigate fully on our own, it'd surely be different. After all, when Krugman said the stimulus needed to be $1.8T, most of us were left to do a smell test — he had a few graphs and simple calculations to back it up — and then rely on Krugman's credibility.

          It's similar when we learn of Capitol Hill goings-on, the nature of which renders hope of good, named, on-the-record sourcing vain. If Politico says it, it may or not be true, and there's plenty of reason to dismiss it. But if TPMDC then confirms, it becomes much more trustworthy. This is an appeal to authority, and so again (say I) ad hominem, but it's necessary.

          In l'Affaire Fowler, though, the facts are public knowledge and easily verifiable, so it doesn't matter what some two-bit hack polemicist says, or how wrong he was in framing his scoop. There's a serious issue needing addressed here.  

          “If I can't dance to it, it's not my revolution.” — Emma Goldman

          by Jyrinx on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 12:29:53 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I can't bring myself to disagree (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Jyrinx

            with any of that.  I will add that economists in general are not that credible for this purpose--not because they aren't super smart or honest or principled--but rather because the field is so susceptible to uncertainty and guesswork.  They all get really big things wrong sometimes.

            "[R]ather high-minded, if not a bit self-referential"--The Washington Post.

            by Geekesque on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 12:38:58 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you (10+ / 0-)

    An extension to the ad hominem argument is "Person X is associated with group Y, so person X acts exactly like group Y would want".

    Examples:

    Joe was raised Catholic. Therefore, he must follow the church's teaching on abortion.

    Jim is gay. So he must support NAMBLA.

    So and so worked for a big company for a while. Therefore, so and so will have that company's interests at heart for the rest of his or her life.

    These, too, are a form of ad hominem - guilt by association. The idea that you can predict someone's values or future actions by looking at who their associates happen to be.

    In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra

    by blue aardvark on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:27:37 AM PDT

    •  Rubbish just rubbish nah ne nah nah ne (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BigAlinWashSt, blue aardvark

      ;-)

      Just stay away from my body and my rights, and everything will be just fine. ~LaFeminista Mon May 17, 2010

      by LaFeminista on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:31:02 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Ah! (8+ / 0-)

      Guilt by association.  Perfectly worthy of another diary!  "Jane Hamsher is associated with Grover Norquist, therefore we need not examine Hamsher's arguments, nor Norquist's."

      "Any sensible person right now would join an anticapitalist organization." -- David Harvey

      by Cassiodorus on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:34:35 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yep (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Cassiodorus

        Or Sirota's rec-list diary that since Fowler worked for Wellpoint, she cannot be trusted to regulate the health insurance industry.

        If she owns $1B of Wellpint stock, that's a conflict of interest and valid. That she ever worked for an insurance company doesn't necessarily mean that she's gone over to the dark side.

        In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra

        by blue aardvark on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:44:48 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  That wasn't Sirota's point as I read it. (12+ / 0-)

          Sirota's claim of a conflict of interest is not invalidated by your notion that "That she ever worked for an insurance company doesn't necessarily mean that she's gone over to the dark side."  There are a number of things about Liz Fowler which would certainly warrant investigation.  And why Obama couldn't be bothered to appoint someone who did not have such associations in her/ his background is also a good starting-point for inquiry.

          At any rate, that discussion is irrelevant to the idea of "guilt by association."  A "guilt by association" argument supposes that "A is friends with B, and B is an asshole, therefore A's argument is wrong."  Another excuse to avoid examining arguments.

          "Any sensible person right now would join an anticapitalist organization." -- David Harvey

          by Cassiodorus on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:51:14 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  yeah (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        mrkvica

        Well, if you write that diary, please don't include Hamsher and Norquist as examples. That will just create one huge clusterfuck (once again) in the comments.

        "I have lived with several Zen masters -- all of them cats." - Eckhart Tolle

        by catnip on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 08:44:11 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Well said (9+ / 0-)

    I love the argument along the lines of

    "You seem to be a nice person but you haven't thought this through"

    No reference to the diary.

    No counter argument.

    What they really mean

    You're and asshole and a dumb one.

    Ya gotta love it.

    It usually makes me giggle and I have to try really hard not to shirt with HR's when replying

    Just stay away from my body and my rights, and everything will be just fine. ~LaFeminista Mon May 17, 2010

    by LaFeminista on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:29:00 AM PDT

  •  Is presuming that dislike of a media personality (4+ / 0-)

    equals an embrasure of corrupt politicking also a logical fallacy?  Just wondering...

    climate.gov---POTUS' New Science-Based Climate Change Agency

    by GN1927 on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:30:27 AM PDT

  •  I think your example (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Tuba Les, Cassiodorus, Richieville

    about gay marriage is as much tautological (or circular) as ad hominem.  The fundamentalists were arguing that gays could not be right on gay marriage because being gay was immoral.  Therefore gay marriage must be immoral.

    The GOP: "You can always go to the Emergency Room."

    by Upper West on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:30:54 AM PDT

  •  The Most Frequent Victim (6+ / 0-)

    of ad hominem arguments, I think, is Michael Moore. For example,

    Why should we care what he says about capitalism, when he is himself a capitalist and made profits from his movie?

    To say...that businesses create jobs is exactly as truthful as saying customers create businesses... -- kamarvt

    by Just Call Me Jay on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:31:00 AM PDT

  •  Very good. Thanks. (5+ / 0-)

    I'll admit to dismissing some outright, such as Sean Hannity, Glen Beck, Rush, etc.  But overall, I try to be as open minded as possible for my own edification and education.

    "I will no longer be labeled, except as a human being."

    by BigAlinWashSt on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:31:06 AM PDT

  •  Not "dismissed outright" as often as (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cedwyn, foufou

    these people have lost all credibility, and any part of their argument that is an appeal to their authority, or judgment, is viewed skeptically.  

    It's not anyone's fault then their own that people don't trust them, their judgment, or their bona fides.

    Someone on daily kos called me a poopyhead. My life is SO like Nelson Mandela's.

    by Inland on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:31:56 AM PDT

  •  and "facts" seem to be increasingly (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mrkvica, happymisanthropy, foufou

    subjective. The GOP, the Baggers, and Fox manufacture "facts" to use against the left/progressives/liberals/Dems and that has become sooooooo fucking common place over the last decade that some  left/progressives/liberals/Dems have gotten in the habit of playing fast and loose with "facts" inifighting not only the the right, but their own allies. It's become acceptable to make up facts which makes honest debate impossible. It's very disheartening.

    If I had my way we'd all literally be like Pinochio (sp?) and our noses would grow when we lied.

    Progressive principles won't be worth jack if we let the GOP "take their country back".

    by JTinDC on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:32:34 AM PDT

    •  and a p.s. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      foufou

      If someone does have a history of lying (just about any one on Fox and at least half of the GOP and pretty much any conservative pundit) then it's doubly hard to refrain from ad hominem and depending on context, I think it prudent and appropriate to acknowledge, ad hominem or not, that they have a history of lying so that anyone hearing their argument be given notice to not take anything in that argument as factually accurate without checking it out for themselves.

      I said that clumsily, hope you get what I mean.

      Progressive principles won't be worth jack if we let the GOP "take their country back".

      by JTinDC on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:39:43 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  This is why I can't stand Christopher Hitchens (3+ / 0-)

    The man is an ad-hominem argument-making machine.  Plus, because he makes all his arguments in his snooty affected accent, everybody lets him get away with it wihtout calling him on his bullshit.

    His books are ok, but his punditry makes me change the channel.

  •  I'm glad you took a moment to point out (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cedwyn, mrkvica

    That not all arguments containing a personal attack is ad hominem. I see arguments misidentified as ad hominem as I do actual ad hominem attacks, e.g.:

    Person A: that argument is totally invalid because it's made by person B, a well known corporatist.

    Person C: you idiot, that's just an ad hominem attack.

    Person A: it's ironic that you accuse me of an ad hominem attack. You just called me an idiot and that's much more ad hominem than corporatist.

    "Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such a one as thyself." Psalms 50:21 h/t R. Browning

    by seanwright on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:33:38 AM PDT

    •  Sorry but I believe you're incorrect (0+ / 0-)

      Your first argument was ad hominem because you dismissed the argument based on their other ideals. It doesn't really matter what their other ideals are in each argument. Everyone doesn't fit into a box. Some really bad people love dogs and because they are bad people doesn't mean they can't say something knowledgeable about dogs. You see?

      OTOH, the second wasn't an ad hominem attack at all. He did not say, "You're an idiot and therefore your argument is bad." that's ad hominem. He said, "your argument is bad and therefore you're an idiot. " Which is a personal attack but not an ad hominem attack.

      President Obama is the best moderate Republican president in my lifetime. kasandra.us

      by KS Rose on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 05:43:38 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I may have been unclear with respect to my (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        mrkvica

        intentions, but I'm not incorrect. The whole scenario was intended to illustrate a common misunderstanding of the concept as typified by person A. Person B is meant to be a super-smart seanwright alter-ego who fully understands the ad hom concept.

        "Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such a one as thyself." Psalms 50:21 h/t R. Browning

        by seanwright on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 09:26:17 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Good job. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    miriam, mrkvica, Cassiodorus

    It's hard enough having discussions with people online without adding personal attacks.

    Opinions are where the trouble usually starts. Hard to disagree about them without getting people fired up.

    "The human eye is a wonderful device. With a little effort, it can fail to see even the most glaring injustice." Richard K. Morgan

    by sceptical observer on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:33:55 AM PDT

    •  And isn't there often method to the madness....? (5+ / 0-)

      How many gazillion times have diaries been hijacked by the ad hom attack?  Last night's Sirota diary was
      a prime example...and it worked, at least on me.  I got so disgusted with the deliberate attacks on Sirota, leading to endless sub-threads of personal invective having nothing to do with the point of the diary, that I just signed off.  

      There should be some sort of meaningful penalty imposed on those who practice ever-increasing and deliberate hijacking of diaries. Its effect is much worse than the occasional use of "obamabot" or other perceived inflammatory words.  It ruins a diary for those of us who are trying to learn something and it wastes the diarist's work.

  •  What if.... (0+ / 0-)
    Some one says "Bush's argument is stupid for this reason.  No suprise given that he's a idiot neocon".  Is that an ad hominem or a attack on argument plus personal attack?
    •  Attack + ad hominem (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      quixoto

      Though in the instance you provide you are debunking and argument then using the fact that you debunked the argument to at least provide some evidence why someone is an "idiot neo-con."  The thing is, it's a bad habit to get into I think mainly because of the converse.

      Example: X (argument) is right. Y (person) made the argument.  Y is right, and then the leap... Y is presumptively right in the future.

      So in future arguments you let slip that this person supports the idea, and without anything else, you are implying that this person is always right in this area, which is not necessarily true.  You see it often when someone says well, Paul Krugman said this, so... But they never actually address what Mr. Krugman said.

      We all went to heaven in a little rowboat, and there was nothing to fear and nothing to doubt. --Radiohead

      by Tzimisce on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:53:35 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Shit! (0+ / 0-)

        I do that myself.  I'm not really good with economics theory so when I can't understand what economists are actually arguing about I look at who's doing the arguing themselves and what kinds of ideas and policies they've aligned themselves with in the past.  Then I decide to side with those who've (in a sense) sided with me in the past.  Paul Krugman is different because he won a Noble Prize and wrote The Conscience of a Liberal, so I automatically assume that everything he says is probably right without really understanding what he says.

        I guess the only real solution to this kind of thing is to say to yourself "I'm not going to take sides in a debate if I don't really understand the reasons behind each side."

    •  Argument Plus Personal Attack (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mrkvica, quixoto

      I disagree with Tzimisce, in that in your example, nothing about the character of Bush is used against his argument. So, I think this is an argument plus a personal attack.

      Change it slightly to say, "Bush's argument is stupid for this reason. If idiot neocons believe this, then it must be wrong." Now, the slur against Bush is used to argue that what he says is wrong. (And to imply that you don't want to be an idiot neocon, like Bush.)

      BTW, what does it mean for an argument to be stupid? Arguments are either valid or not valid. The person making them may be stupid or smart (or somewhere in between), but not the argument. There is some implication that a person making an invalid argument is stupid. That doesn't negate the argument (which is already invalid), it just puts a value judgment on the person.

      Take Bush telling us we should invade Iraq. He made the argument that the proof Iraq has WMDs "may come in the form of a mushroom cloud."

      An ad hominem attach would be something like, "Bush is stupid. He makes terrible decisions. He wants us to go to war with Iraq, so we shouldn't do it!"

      Okay, then Iraq bombs us and wipes out a few cities with their nuclear weapons. In that case, it's clear that the ad hominem attack on the argument to go to war was a fallacy. Whether Bush makes terrible decisions or not doesn't tell us whether we should go to war. (Other than the very small probability that Bush is so snakebit that we should immediately run away from any suggestion he makes without a further look!)

  •  "Some People Are Shits Darling" (16+ / 0-)

    Yes, this world would be a pretty easy and pleasant place to live in if everybody could just mind his own business and let others do the same. But a wise old black faggot said to me years ago: 'Some people are shits, darling.' I was never able to forget it...

    -WS Burroughs

  •  So wait (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    GN1927, foufou

    we are not to take the personal qualities of the person making an argument into account, but we are supposed to accept that based on your (former?) status as a college professor, you know best? If you think your argument is sufficiently strong, why the need to drop lines from your resume?

    If Sean Hannity tells me the sky is blue, I'm going to look out the window first. This is not because I don't like Sean Hannity's wardrobe or the angle of his nose. It's because he's a liar and his views should rightly be viewed with suspicion. Saying so is not tantamount to mounting an ad hominem attack. It's more along the lines of saying "caveat emptor." There's nothing wrong with pointing out odd decisions Jane Hamsher has made, and how her judgement may not be regarded as reliable based on those decisions. There simply has to be room to account for a person's past associations and deeds when assessing whether they are arguing in good faith. I don't think doing so inherently constitutes an ad hominem attack. Please understand I do not espouse the horrible name calling and adolescent behavior that substitutes for argument on the internet. OTOH, it is what it is...

    •  But do you see why you can't (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      miriam, mrkvica

      decisively conclude a "right/wrong" on something Jane Hamsher claims (so we're talking about the claim, not the person), just because you think ill/odd/badly of her?

      Are you working to reduce pain, or just distribute it?

      by Liberaltarianish on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:42:46 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  But it's the next step people take, with ur line (4+ / 0-)

      of thinking, that is the ad hominem.

      A makes an argument

      B says, "A's just a firebagger" or  (an HR-able offenses) and asks or wants us to therefore to not consider the argument on its merits.

    •  Difference between appeal to authority (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      happymisanthropy

      and ad hominem.

      Appeal to authority says "Jane Hamsher knows a lot about health care, and she says X on the subject". In which case, a wise person will evaluate whether or not Jane does in fact know a lot about health care.

      This is different than "Jane Hamsher is the source of evil in the universe and should be ignored no matter what she says". That's ad hominem, and a form of lying.

      A third point is conflict of interest - does Jane Hamsher stand to benefit personally if the argument she advances is accepted? For example, if many people really believe that HIR is a horribly bad bill, might Jane believe she will garner additional donations for FireDogLake? This, if answered in the affirmative, should make you double-check Jane's assertions of fact and use a grain of salt on her opinions.

      In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra

      by blue aardvark on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:57:53 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Why would you disbelieve something... (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      miriam, Marie, mrkvica, TiaRachel, BentLiberal

      ...just because Sean Hannity says it?  What if he's right about a particular fact, and you go to argue against it, and embarrass yourself by trying to argue against a real fact?

      Look, I don't much trust Sean Hannity.  But what I will do is check his facts, and argue against what he said wrong.  That way, it's he and his supporters who get embarrassed, while I get credibility for not pushing a bullshit argument because I jumped to a kneejerk conclusion.  Logic defends what we say pre-emptively, makes it easier for us to hold up our heads with confidence when we make our points.

      The GOP: The Party of Failure. Pass it on.

      by Stephen Daugherty on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 12:00:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Well, sure (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Marie, catnip, mrkvica, happymisanthropy

      If Sean Hannity tells me the sky is blue, I'm going to look out the window first.

      You're going to be skeptical of his claims, because you know many of his previous claims to be based on faulty assumptions, bizarre values, or outright untruths. You're going to make sure to check the facts of his claims and think about them very critically. That's great to do with all claims, and of course we're more likely to view the claims of some people with more suspicion (though I wish we were also more often critical of arguments we like, too).  

      The thing is, if those facts are valid -- the sky does, in fact, appear to be blue after much observation and thought -- you're not going to still dismiss them because Sean Hannity is a douchebag, right? And if the sky is looking kind of grey today, the argument over blue sky vs. grey sky isn't really addressed by whether Sean Hannity is a douchebag, either, no?

    •  No, you're not. (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Marie, catnip, mrkvica, BentLiberal, miss SPED

      In response to your question:

      but we are supposed to accept that based on your (former?) status as a college professor, you know best? If you think your argument is sufficiently strong, why the need to drop lines from your resume?

      In discussing my previous experience as a teacher of debate I am giving you information about how the rejection of ad hominem arguments proceeds in actual practice.  

      The main point of my diary is to establish what ad hominem arguments ARE and how ad hominem arguments work in REAL LIFE.  I do this not by appeal to authority but through logical explanation and (although too briefly) citation of example.  If you want to argue against my explanations, fine.  I will try to keep an eye out in case you attempt to twist my argument into something it's not.

      "Any sensible person right now would join an anticapitalist organization." -- David Harvey

      by Cassiodorus on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 12:17:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  No. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Marie, BentLiberal

      If I tell you the sky is blue... I'm not making an argument, I'm making a claim.  

      The question is not whether the chickens needed replacing, the question is whether the fox should have been guarding them in the first place.

      by happymisanthropy on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 12:31:47 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  This is excellent! (5+ / 0-)

    Thank you so much for providing this much-needed education to the community.

    The vitriol and hate fests are beyond ridiculous now.  Makes if very hard to learn from the really thoughtful comments made in most diaries.

    End the wars! Single payer now!

    by HCKAD on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:39:30 AM PDT

    •  I used to come here for information (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      miriam, MJ via Chicago, HCKAD, miss SPED

      Now I stop by every so often.  The comment sections are often plagued by people that think this is a valid argument.  It works, sure attacking people works for some people, but if you actually want to win an argument, or convince people that care about policy and not people, then it is totally ineffective.

      We all went to heaven in a little rowboat, and there was nothing to fear and nothing to doubt. --Radiohead

      by Tzimisce on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:48:39 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The people that need to read this won't (11+ / 0-)

    or they will think that this does not apply to them.  I have a list in my head of about 4-5 people that are repeat offenders and constantly provide troll bait and we get diaries with over 1000 comments because of this stupid nonsense.

    Thank you very much for posting this!  Also note the strawman arguments, appeals to authority (X said this, it must be right/wrong), appeals to majority/consensus (using polls to prove something to be true), etc...  

    I hate to say this, but this muck makes many of the comments sections almost unreadable.

    We all went to heaven in a little rowboat, and there was nothing to fear and nothing to doubt. --Radiohead

    by Tzimisce on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:41:39 AM PDT

  •  excellent analysis! Thank you. (0+ / 0-)

    Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it. --Mark Twain

    by SottoVoce on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:45:03 AM PDT

  •  Random thoughts (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Marie

    Agree with your larger point but this

    What's curious to me, here, is the number of people here who think this is a valid way to argue.  The opposite is true: just because Cenk Uygur or Jane Hamsher or David Sirota or Rachel Maddow or Ed Schulz (or for that matter Grover Norquist or Joe Lieberman or Rand Paul) makes a particular argument ("claim X") does not mean that "claim X" can be dismissed outright because Cenk Uygur or Jane Hamsher or David Sirota or Rachel Maddow or Ed Schulz or Grover Norquist or Joe Lieberman or Rand Paul is a "tool" or "stupid" or "self-aggrandizing" or "mendacious" or whatever insult one might apply to anyone who makes an argument.

    is a logic issue not an Ad Hominem one.

    I think that the spirit of Ad Hominem is pretty straight forward and it is not difficult to discern an attack on the individual making the argument as against the argument itself.

    Before we got all Latiny I was taught that the moment you get personal when arguing you have lost, end of story.

    The Teabaggers are the GOP base

    by stevej on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:48:44 AM PDT

  •  Diary was necessary. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Tzimisce, miss SPED

    I'm not a big fan of Meta diaries, because these issues just seem like common sense.  This was needed.  Thank you, Cassiodorus.

    We must use this (HIR) bill as an opening toward a renewed effort for a more comprehensive approach to health care reform. - Dennis Kucinich

    by MJ via Chicago on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:49:21 AM PDT

  •  Ugh. David Sirota is a jackass, not least (5+ / 0-)

    because he (as usual) overreached and made this a much broader issue than it needed to be.

    Obama appointed a major industry lobbyist to a key post overseeing the HCR provisions. THIS IS A PROBLEM. I don't give a rat's ass what it “proves” about the original bill.

    And that's another way argumentum ad hominem erodes the discussion — now it's all about Sirota rather than health care.

    “If I can't dance to it, it's not my revolution.” — Emma Goldman

    by Jyrinx on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:50:21 AM PDT

  •  Is it the same (3+ / 0-)

    if you gratuitously attack a whole band of loonies.

    if so I better watch myself

    ;-)

    Just stay away from my body and my rights, and everything will be just fine. ~LaFeminista Mon May 17, 2010

    by LaFeminista on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:52:10 AM PDT

  •  Brilliant and excellent timing. Thank you. nt (2+ / 0-)

    "Leave no authority existing not responsible to the people."Thomas Jefferson

    by Sydserious on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:52:56 AM PDT

  •  Do one on strawman (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    catnip, Cassiodorus, miss SPED

    DK is strawman central. In fact, a lot of the time you get a doublewhammy, strawman with snark as the vehicle so the arguer can't get called on it.

    Thanks for this post.

    It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.

    by Grassee on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:52:59 AM PDT

  •  If people only offered well researched (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Marie, Boston to Salem, DBunn

    fully documented diaries and comments, chock full of facts, and didn't speculate or reach conclusions based on little or no evidence, disregarding credibility and trustworthiness of prior statements would probably work just fine.   That's not the reality of blog postings.  

    Ad hominem or personal observations, ie, a pattern of behavior of less than fully factual statements, clear biases, etc., should influence those who read the statements and arguments of such a person.  Taking arguments at face value, judging them only by their adherence to 'logic', can be a trap that allows us to reach bad conclusions about events, about what's really happening.

    There are many plausible liars.  They make good and logical arguments.  They are still lying.

  •  Conversational Terrorism (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DBunn, two roads, miss SPED

    Educate yourself here: Conversational Terrorism

    First, we have the Ad Hominem Variants where you attack the person as a way to avoid truth, science, or logic which might otherwise prove you wrong.

    Next are the Sleight of Mind Fallacies, which act as "mental magic" to make sure the unwanted subject disappears.

    Then, we move on to Delay Tactics, which are subtle means to buy time when put on the spot.

    Then, the ever popular Question as Opportunity ploys, where any question can be deftly averted.

    Finally, we have the Cheap Shot Tactics and Irritants, which are basically "below the belt" punches.

    I can honestly say, I've seen variations  on all these here at Dkos.

    I call it Blog Spew 101.

    Enjoy.

    "The first step towards madness is to think oneself wise." ~Fernando de Rojas

    by Annalize5 on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:54:26 AM PDT

  •  Ad Hominem is used in the court room every day. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Marie, poemworld, DBunn, foufou

    When a witness provides testimony, and is later revealed to be a drug dealer/low life/insert terrible occupation/adjective here, often times the opposing side will not attack the substance of their testimony, but the reliability and/or credibility. This resonates with a jury, in many instances, far more than the substance of the testimony.

    I like the lesson in ad hominem, and wish it was taught more widely.

    But in many instances, when decisions are made, a person's credibility means an overwhelming amount when it comes to believability.

    •  sirota was attacked for supporting john edwards (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mrkvica, truong son traveler, DBunn

      and john edwards' credibility was impeached because of his personal behavior. but the political positions he took were quite courageous and probably contributed to the status quo taking him down. object lesson for all of us fallible mortals with feet of clay. keep your yap shut or face excoriation in public. screw that noise. i fought the good fight in my union and got screwed by assholes in my local who i made look bad by comparison. just because no good deed goes unpunished, that is no reason to avoid doing good deeds. terry eagleton turned me onto the quote by theologian herbert mccabe remarking on what he saw as the moral of the story of the new testament: "if you don't love, you're dead, but if you do, they'll kill you." just sayin'

      "A union is a way of getting things done together that you can't get done alone." Utah Phillips

      by poemworld on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 01:47:31 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Who gives a shite about ad hom ? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Fixed Point Theorem, foufou

    If you're fucking  posting a comment in a public forum, expect it to be excoriated or praised, depending on the audience.

    Teh blog is a public square and is as effective.

    BP - Proving Oil and Water do mix.
    A Presidency Among the Vuvuzelas.

    by amk for obama on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:56:44 AM PDT

    •  Because it's dumb and lazy? (5+ / 0-)

      Seriously just because it can happen, just because it might even be expected does not mean that this community should not expect better.  Really it's not about a thin-think skin issue, but that it does not advance the bar at all.  If this were a sports blog, go fer it, because there is no policy, there isn't really a community of ideas.  This is a blog about politics and presumably we would want to 1) bring about better policy and 2) bring about arguments and platforms that advance that policy.

      Strawmen, ad hominem attacks, and their ilk are a non-starter.  Nothing advances, no one is convinced and things just devolve into mud wrestling.

      We all went to heaven in a little rowboat, and there was nothing to fear and nothing to doubt. --Radiohead

      by Tzimisce on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 12:03:22 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  O'rly ? Know your fucking audience. (0+ / 0-)

        Evah heard of that ?

        BP - Proving Oil and Water do mix.
        A Presidency Among the Vuvuzelas.

        by amk for obama on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 12:20:43 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Where is your empirical evidence (2+ / 0-)

        that ad hominem is less successful than other methods?

        My anecdotal evidence says that ad hominem has no inherent bar to success, and that any other method of argument of whatever type, has no inherent guarantee of success.

        How's it stack up against other methods, is what I'd like to empirically know. Since individual circumstances of use are so important, I don't think it can really be done.

        •  And what's the empirical evidence that typing in (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Garrett

          ALL CAPS means shouting?  Whatever typographic style you might favor, it sounds all the same to me (>>crickets<<).</p>

          It is a convention, a thing-we-all-agree-upon and even those of us who don't, might even be seen to be honoring the convention by its breach.

          So, I might be thought to be saying, WE (DKos) have a convention that argumentum ad hominem is on the less-than-elegant side of "The Ways to Win Arguments"
          list, as using it draws the mind to frames that are irrelevent to the central thesis of the discussion.

          Then there's the slippery slope down to "I know you are, but what am I?"  since almost all ad hominems are made by those same pesky hominems.

          But as a close, I would question my own (snuck in) assumption that DKos has a convention on ad hominem; in fact, as sincere as other comments above have been in condemning the practice, almost no hide-rec's or "bullets" (blank comment with only a period to register it) are ever thrown, and the charge is always hotly debated, usually with a few ad hominems neatly strewn about, but never/rarely cut off.

          In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king; in the land of the braindead, the intelligent person is cast as the village idiot."

          by dendron gnostic on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 12:59:33 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Oh so its (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      chuckvw, DBunn

      piefight

      Just stay away from my body and my rights, and everything will be just fine. ~LaFeminista Mon May 17, 2010

      by LaFeminista on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 12:08:55 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Wow! Top of the rec list Cassi. (10+ / 0-)

    Nice going. I only wish more of your consistently excellent diaries would receive the same treatment. I expect in the future they will.

    Well done and thank you.

    "The truth shall set you free - but first it'll piss you off." Gloria Steinem

    Save the Internet!

    by One Pissed Off Liberal on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 11:59:47 AM PDT

  •  Thaks--this is one of the most important diaries (11+ / 0-)

    we've had here.

    Civilization rests on clear-thinking and courtesy. It is just not practical to attack people you don't agree with. It is useful to create a dialectical process so that both people lose a little ego but gain a lot of information and understanding. I've cherished intellectual exchanges (very rare nowadays) were both people learn something though they might be coming from radically different places and then amazingly enough, they find grounds for agreement! This has happened to me many times. Then we both grow and are nurtured.

    AdHom attacks are just lazy here and the defense of these sorts of attacks, based on very weird logic, is amazing to me. You can understand how idealistic Russians in 1917 turned into vicious murderers just a few years later in the old SU.

  •  If it is a topic you know nothing about (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Marie, Darmok

    ....except that Newt Gingrich said "X," then a reasonable staring point for your research is "X is probably not true." Established patterns matter, but it is important to do the research and let the evidence speak for itself.

    Conservatives believe evil comes from violating rules. Liberals believe evil comes from violating each other.

    by tcorse on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 12:02:56 PM PDT

    •  A presumption is a different matter (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      tcorse

      You can start with the presumption that X is wrong.  But that in of itself is not evidence that they are wrong, nor is that evidence that they are currently wrong, merely a cognitive device that allows you to research and assimilate faster.

      So when someone posts about what X says, they can erase their underlying assumption, and just use the evidence they collected to disprove them.  Now later if the topic is X, hell have fun with pointing out everytime they are wrong and why people should have that rebuttable presumption that they are wrong.

      We all went to heaven in a little rowboat, and there was nothing to fear and nothing to doubt. --Radiohead

      by Tzimisce on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 12:05:58 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  This diary sucks because you're a poopy head (6+ / 0-)
  •  I give Sirota's diary high marks. (5+ / 0-)

    He posted it without pitching one of his books!

    Bravo!

    This is now posted by a bot.

    by Bob Johnson on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 12:04:23 PM PDT

  •  Well yeah but... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mftalbot, satanicpanic

    You're a doody-head.

  •  I often make this comment on other sites (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    catnip, slatsg

    that no ad hominem arguments should be allowed. They reply that I must be some freaking commie nazi socialist atheist LIEberal because I don't use English.

    I don't know what consciousness is or how it works, but I like it.

    by SocioSam on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 12:05:10 PM PDT

  •  Thanks. (6+ / 0-)

    People do this out of desperation when they can’t win the debate on the merit of their argument. The latest trend to make an ad hominem then HR you at the same time, so you can’t HR them for their ad hominem or it will automatically be considered retaliatory. This allows them to make ad hominem attacks with impunity. There is no moderation to counteract this, as a matter of fact moderators seem to be ruling in favor of this tactic. It will remain a schoolyard until this tactic is moderated against.

  •  Thank you for this diary Cassiodorus! (9+ / 0-)

    I have found it extremely frustrating trying to read diaries where the writer is being attacked while their argument is being ignored; I have had to stop reading comments at times out of annoyance which means that my participation is necessarily reduced.

    I may be wrong but people that resort to the ad hominem attack are simply trying to force the diarist (or the person they are attacking) to withdraw their participation on the site; they are unable to mount an attack against their arguments, but feel that personally attacking them will serve to eliminate their opponent and also scuttle the diary. It is unfortunate, but the need for a diary like this is very strong. Diary tipped and rec'd (needless to say)

    No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable (Adam Smith, 1776, I, p. 96).

    by NY brit expat on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 12:07:59 PM PDT

  •  Your superior character and writing skills (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Fixed Point Theorem, miss SPED

    have taught me the error of my ways.

    No, wait...that could be your next diary, the fallacy of Argumentum ad Verecundiam, "Appeal to Authority"!

    Seriously, thank you for your timely and well-written diary, very well done.

  •  Consider the source (4+ / 0-)

    C'mon--it's always valid to consider the source with any argument. Only in some ivory tower libertarian debating society is the source irrelevant.

  •  Some common ad hominem usages: (0+ / 0-)

    -- Look who's talking

    -- You're/he's/she's a fine one to talk

    -- Coming from you/him/her, that argument's a barrel of laughs

    -- Your/his/her preaching xyz is like Caligula advocating non-violence

    -- Don't dare talk to me about xyz until you've straightened out your own abc

    As though the point being made is somehow weakened by the poor credentials of the person making it.

    Of course, that's only one type of ad hominem argument -- against the opponent's fitness to hold an opinion. Attacks on character, reputation, appearance, hygiene, ancestry -- we've seen all of those too.

    It was said of Bobby Fischer that he always played the chessboard. He would analyse the position on the board on its own merits, regardless of who his opponent was, or what he knew about him. No ad hominem there.

    Lay off the footwork and throw a punch! ~ Joe Bageant

    by gotgat54 on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 12:16:02 PM PDT

  •  Ad Hominem is a fallacy (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eric Nelson

    by Fourth Century B.C. dogma.

    The rule against it in argument is rational/philosophical, not empirical in its derivation.

    The dogma against its use in argument comes from Aristotle. Aristotle rules out argument by reference to authority. You get a real and I think very post-modern funny contradiction in trying to assert it.

  •  Not sure what you mean. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tmo, Marie

    There is such a thing as personal credibility. And bias. And context.

    If someone makes an argument which appears incredible, biased, or lacking proper context, the context can be provided and the credibility scrutinized, biases exposed, no?

    As long as the personal "attack" relates to the argument being made and is not a general attack on the person. For example, the former president Bush may not have any credibility to call for an attack of Iran, but he might have something to add, for some people at least, to the topic of, of... OK... how best to work the oligarchy.

  •  Ad Hominem vs Info Overflow Survival (6+ / 0-)

    While in a perfect world, you could evaluate each person's arguments based on the argument itself, the Internet and broadcast news provides such a huge firehose of information that that classic approach is not viable.
    So people develop cognitive shortcuts as to what information is more reliable than others, so they can get the reliable ones and drop the unreliable ones.

    So when someone dismisses Rand Paul, (or Jane Hamsher) for the arguments they make, because they are 'a tool', it's not so much a ad hominem as a statement, that "I have heard a number of statements from this person on a specific topic and consider them to be of low reliability based on those statements", though perhaps not in such mechanical language.

    I know someone who insists on watching both Glen Beck and Rachel Maddow insisting that he is receiving a balanced view that way. I found that somewhat silly. If Glen Beck has lied on the previous 100 shows, then the likelihood of him suddenly doing well researched unbiased pieces is very low and painstakingly researching each story before discovering it is another lie is a waste of time. (Similar for the decrying of HCR by people who wanted to kill the bill in the first place).

    This is a necessary approach to processing information today, not an ad hominem approach.

    Now that's not to say there are no adhominem attacks.  Attacking arguments for gay marriage because the person who makes them is gay is different. It bases itself on an unrelated aspect of the person and not on their past history.

  •  Cass, your brilliance usually flies over people (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    slatsg, miss SPED

    This time it hit them in the sweet spot.

    As to our discussions early today...I have a very cynical perspective after working in government for 15 years. I can't let the small stuff distract me.

    look for my DK Greenroots diary series Thursday evening. "It's the planet, stupid."

    by FishOutofWater on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 12:23:37 PM PDT

    •  Like this? (0+ / 0-)

      That I would see this adhom uprated by the diarist flew right over me, I must admit:

           More Obamapologies from (6+ / 3-)

         Recommended by:
            CTPatriot, Cassiodorus, cybrestrike, Razorblade, Aeolos, CapeTown96
         Hidden by:
            Iberian, Lawrence, sephius1

         more Obamabots.

         Good luck in November

      Brilliant.
      Just brilliant.

      "In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder, a secret order." Carl Jung

      by Unduna on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 05:55:00 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  disagree (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tmo, Catte Nappe, foufou

    It is ONLY, then, when you BASE YOUR ARGUMENT on the idea that the PERSON MAKING IT is somehow "untrustworthy," that you are engaging in an ad hominem argument.

    I don't think the issue of trust makes an argument an ad hom attack when a person's credibility is incredibly important to believing an argument.

    Saying "I don't believe GWB argument because I don't trust him" is not an ad hom attack. It's stating that GWB lacks the credibility to make his claim believable for you. An ad hom argument in my mind would be saying, "I don't believe GWB argument because he's satan."

    But objecting because a lack of credibility seems perfectly valid to me.  

    If I make an argument about the temperature of the sun and someone says "I don't believe him, why would be know that kind of data given that he studies speech and not astronomy" - I would not classify the argument as an ad hom.

    •  ... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mrkvica

      Saying "I don't believe GWB argument because I don't trust him" is not an ad hom attack. It's stating that GWB lacks the credibility to make his claim believable for you. An ad hom argument in my mind would be saying, "I don't believe GWB argument because he's satan."

      Here though the issue is NOT what he said, but GWB himself.  Regardless you can make that statement "i dont believe him because i do not trust him" but then you should probably say why you dont trust him

      We all went to heaven in a little rowboat, and there was nothing to fear and nothing to doubt. --Radiohead

      by Tzimisce on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 12:36:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Aristotle said ethos 1 of 3 parts of persuasion (3+ / 0-)

      I would agree that objecting due to lack of credibility is a valid means of attack. It's not attacking the person (ad hominem) per se, it's attacking the ethos part of their argument. Aristotle identified ethos, the speaker's reputation, as one of the three core parts of persuasion (the other two being logos, the logic and facts of the argument, and pathos, the emotional connection made by the speaker to the listener). The ethos of the speaker is a vital part of any argument brought to bear by that speaker.

      I think the diarist is attacking the argument apparently made by Sirota that this means the entire healthcare bill is a sham. If that was Sirota's argument, then of course that's stupid. But attacking someone's credibility based on their reputation is an absolutely logical and rational thing to do. I think one can legitimately argue that the appointment of this woman to this post is not appropriate, due to her past actions.

      Californians: The Courage Campaign is working for changing the 2/3 budget rule and for ending Prop 8. Go!

      by tmo on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 12:43:24 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I am guilty (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Catte Nappe, Eric Nelson

    Every time HuffingtonPost lets Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild post on whatever inanity tickles her fancy, I remind the community that this is the same rich, jet around the world, "Lady" who endorsed McCain, because she considered Obama an "elitist".  
    And they censor my comments, probably because it is an "ad hominem" attack on Arianna's friend.

    I'll put on my glasses.... and tell you how sweet your ass is. (w/ apologies to Señor Bega)

    by mHainds on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 12:31:29 PM PDT

  •  I agree with one important caveat: (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    engine17, MotherTrucker

    everything Rand Paul says can be dismissed simply because he said it :-)

    "Heterosexuality is not normal, it's just common." Dorothy Parker

    by dedmonds on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 12:32:56 PM PDT

  •  Not ALL ad hohiniem is invalid however (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tmo, Silverbird, Darmok

    Sometimes statements of bias are credible argument.

    If two people are having an argument over if milk is good for you or not, and one person is a milkman, pointing out that one person is a milkman is ad hominem, but also valid to the argument.

    ---
    Toyota: Proof US Union Labor Still Does it Better

    by VelvetElvis on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 12:35:32 PM PDT

  •  What would anyone need to use (0+ / 0-)

    an ad hominem argument against the likes of Hamsher, Cenk and or Sirota when their arguments never hold any water?

    Oba-MA bumaye! Oba-MA bumaye!

    by fou on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 12:52:32 PM PDT

    •  And yet they continue to use the ad homs (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mrkvica

      Perhaps it's because their arguments aren't any better?

      Personally I enjoy reading Cenk and Sirota. But to each her/his own.

      Excess ain't rebellion. You're drinking what they're selling. - Cake

      by slatsg on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 03:07:24 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I've changed my mind (0+ / 0-)

    anyone who disagrees that ad hominem should be an arrow in the quiver is just such a poopy-head.

    However!

    Just because I tend to disagree with one person consistently does not mean that that person is wrong. Unless I have subjected my own reasoning to serious scrutiny. And not found it wanting. If I haven't (subjected it to scrutiny), then the other person's arguments could be right most of the time.

    ...and I just the poopy-head.

    I think AH has a place, but I am more awesome than you if I ALSO take the time to destroy your argument on its own merits as well. Dickhead.

    If you can't be kind, at least have the decency to be vague

    by SnyperKitty on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 12:53:12 PM PDT

  •  Ad hominems CAN be valid (8+ / 0-)

    Absolutely. They call into question, when properly presented, the ethos of a person speaking. They are not ALWAYS dismissed or inappropriate.

    What aggravates me is how they are confused with "name calling." They aren't just name calling. They are usually implications that the character of the person speaking negates the veracity of the statement they are making.

    In general, ad hominems have the nasty habit of making the person using them appear as overly defensive, and thus ironically calling the character of the person using an ad hominem into question; sometimes this is more so than the allegation itself.

    They're pretty fascinating to study, at any rate.

    In general, in debate, I think it's best to avoid using them unless they are WARRANTED. Meaning, unless you can prove some connection that is explicit between what is being claimed and how it is compromised by the person making the claim, without compromising yourself in this process. In which case, fine.

    There are several types of ad hominems, incidentally. They're all interesting to study. But I'm not suggesting, for the purposes of this board, we try to learn how to use them to support our arguments, etc...

    I'm just speaking now as someone who loves rhetorical tropes and finds them fascinating.

    Just musing...  

    "Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted." -- MLK Jr.

    by mahakali overdrive on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 12:54:31 PM PDT

    •  Oh, and incidentally (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Grassee, soothsayer99

      tipped and rec'd for a great diary. I have enjoyed teaching the same subject myself, although it's not my primary field of study (by any measure).

      I love that there is a diary on this topic, period.

      Can we do "metonymy" next?

      That's more my forte ;)

      "Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted." -- MLK Jr.

      by mahakali overdrive on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 12:56:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I disagree. (0+ / 0-)

      Do you have an example of an ad hominem argument which you feel is valid?

      "Any sensible person right now would join an anticapitalist organization." -- David Harvey

      by Cassiodorus on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 01:10:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes. When someone is a pathological liar (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        foufou, miss SPED, soothsayer99

        for example. It may be that they state the truth, at times, but that doesn't mean one ought to trust their argument on the basis of its own merits. That was the first to come to mind. Ethos, in general, is comprised of multiple components, and one of those is very much credibility. There are many instances where someone's claims can be completely compromised, of course. And some are rightfully so. Another example is when someone has any sort of stake in making a false claim.

        I was trying to think of more similar examples... sorry for the delay but had to make lunch for the husband... Google is revealing.

        The best examples are those ad hominems NOT thrown out of court, essentially.

        You can Google this to your heart's content, of course, but here is one:

        http://www.wordiq.com/...
        Valid Ad Hominem

        The second form of the ad hominem was identified by John Locke in his An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, when he wrote that it was to press a man with consequences drawn from his own principles or concessions. This is already known under the name of argumentum ad hominem.

        For example, if an Atheist sent his children to a religious school on the ground that discipline or teaching was better there, an opponent might point out the inconsistency with the anti-religious atheism of his beliefs. Another form of the valid argument ad hominem can be applied to the testimony of a witness in a court-case. Ad hominem is fallacious when applied to deduction, and not the evidence (or premise) of an argument. Evidence may be doubted or rejected based on the source for reasons of credibility, but to doubt or reject a deduction based on the source is the ad hominem fallacy.

        Premises discrediting the person can exist in valid arguments, when the person being criticized is the sole source for a piece of evidence used in one of his arguments.

        A committed perjury when he said Q
        We should not accept testimony for which perjury was committed
        therefore, A 's testimony for Q should be rejected.

        This is probably why my first thought was about "liars." When we perceive someone to be a liar, in general, due to knowledge of previous lies, then it can compromise other things that they might say.

        Here is another, drawn from Scientific America:

        What types of ad hominems might then be justified? Walton argues that an ad hominem is valid when the claims made about a person's character or actions are relevant to the conclusions being drawn. Consider, for example, former New York governor Eliot Spitzer, who was caught on a wiretap arranging to hire a prostitute for $4,300. Because this behavior ran counter to Spitzer's anticorruption platform, its unveiling would prevent Spitzer from governing successfully; thus, criticizing this aspect of his character was relevant and fair. In an earlier scandal, in 1987, televangelist Jimmy Swaggart was seen at a motel with a prostitute. Because his behavior undercut his preaching and status as a Christian role model, a character attack based on this incident would have been spot-on.

        http://pactiss.org/...

        There are probably better examples out there. But these are two that aren't mine, as well as one that is mine. And they all center around the same idea -- that a person CAN incriminate themselves in such a way that to attack their character IS to attack their argument, and that the two are, at times, essentially inseparable.

        "Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted." -- MLK Jr.

        by mahakali overdrive on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 01:43:31 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  This can be interpreted as follows: (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          TracieLynn

          The standard criticism of ad hominem comments is that criticism of the speaker's personality substitutes for criticism of the speaker's argument.  As far as I can tell, all of your examples examine your speaker's argument.  The fact that the speaker's personality constitutes supporting evidence against the argument does not itself count as a dismissal of the speaker's argument.

          "Any sensible person right now would join an anticapitalist organization." -- David Harvey

          by Cassiodorus on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 02:09:13 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I was referring to the fact that (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            soothsayer99

            a speaker cannot always be separated from their argument. From the actual veracity of their argument. Because much argument, many claims, are constituted OF opinion. Not fact. Opinion. Which could be defined as "the perspective of the person making the claim." Which can reasonably be attacked as fallacious.

            Such as if a person has 20/200 vision is on the stand and says, "I saw a blonde man attack a woman down the street."

            They may believe that is true. Of course. And they may not be lying. But it would then NOT be an ad hominem attack to say, "They are legally blind and their claim is untrue."

            I use this example because my husband has, if I recall, 20/200 vision or close to it. I wouldn't trust what he sees without his glasses, nor would I feel it incorrect to point out that he can't see worth a damned without them.

            Opinion is similar to vision.

            If we're talking about 2+2=4, as below, that's different.

            But the examples you gave, about David Sirota, et al., could easily be addressed through the lens of various bias, agenda, etc...

            Point being that SOME ad hominems ARE acceptable in court and debate both. For the purposes of this board, I would advise against using them. But if someone's ETHOS has been called into overall question, people will have a difficult time believing in their other perspectives. Particularly if it's due to a tendency to lie, or other things (like financial agendas) that may compromise their opinion.

            Recall we are talking about OPINION. We aren't speaking about verifiable fact. Very, very little that is ever discussed on political boards is verifiable fact.

            So it's going to all potentially be open to character analyses. The more I think on this, the more certain I am about it. And many of us have long-standing opinions of various people based on their statements over time. Which will influence the rhetorical reception of any argument they make. Is this wrong? I'm having a lot of trouble saying that it's wrong.

            "Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted." -- MLK Jr.

            by mahakali overdrive on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 02:30:20 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Try this experiment: (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              catnip, miss SPED

              Get yourself a classroom full of reasonably educated people.  (Yeah, I know this is going to be hard to find.  Use the classroom of a tenured professor friend or something.)  Divide them into teams.  Have one team analyze a number of controversial statements without reference to the authors.  Have another team analyze the same statements, except you tell this team who said what.

              Now bring everyone together and compare results.  Is it really all that important that we all know who said "philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways -- the point is to change it" before we examine such a statement for its relevance to our lives?

              See my point?

              "Any sensible person right now would join an anticapitalist organization." -- David Harvey

              by Cassiodorus on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 02:40:09 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I teach at the University (3+ / 0-)

                still. My husband is a full-time Professor as are the vast majority of our friends. Wish I had played with this on Sunday, because we had a birthday dinner for one, and we had folks from Philosophy in as well as English ;)

                So yes, I see your point here. I tend to favor Barthes' Death of the Author, personally. But I DO feel that ethos (ETHOS! ETHOS! ETHOS!) is absolutely and completely vital when it comes to the political, rather than the literary. There's too much at stake when it comes to political punditry for me to not want to know what the speaker of any comment might be inflected by. Some of the examples you gave, for instance, like David Sirota or Jane Hamsher, I'm not interested. If Jane Hamsher says, "The world is round," while it may be true (it's a verifiable fact, after all), it's still irrelevant to what I perceive to be her opinion. After all, the woman insisted I worked for the pharmaceutical industry. Really. Truly. So when she says, "Rahm Emanuel is secretly controlling the White House," I'm going to have problems believing that claim. Because why would she get my profession wrong, publicly, and then try to make claims about the inner workings of the White House and expect to be in any way credible.

                When it comes to non-verifiable fact... ethos matters. And part of that, a huge part, is credibility. So if someone points out a lack of credibility on the part of a speaker, is it important? Yes. It could be important. In politics. Where opinions influence factual outcomes more than vice-versa.

                I can't recall why I dislike David Sirota, mind you. Nothing quite so inspiring as that anecdote.

                Just keep "fact" and "opinion" separate and none of this should be an issue anyways. Or, well, there is really no such thing as fact. Just mass opinion.

                :)

                "Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted." -- MLK Jr.

                by mahakali overdrive on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 02:50:47 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

          •  Mmm... I haven't read this but (0+ / 0-)

            This guy, Douglas Walton, seems to have written an entire book on the matter. I know nothing of him, so I can't speak to the book, or his points of view, but the blurb seems to suggest something similar about perspective that I've been trying to also put my finger on.

            http://www.amazon.com/...

            Douglas N. Walton considers the question of whether the conventions of informal conversation can be articulated more precisely than they are at present. Specifically, he addresses the problem of the fallacy of ad hominem argumentation as it occurs in natural settings. Can rules be formulated to determine if criticisms of apparent hypocrisy in an argument are defensible or refutable? Walton suggests that they can, and ultimately defends the thesis that ad hominem reasoning is not fallacious per se. He carries his analysis to the core of action--theoretic reasoning--by examining a number of specimen arguments. As suggested by the title, the conclusion of ad hominem argument is demonstrated to be relative to the arguer's position. In the appendixes of the book, articles by Gerald McAuliffe and Gordon R. Lowe illustrate vivid and powerful cases in which Walton's contentions are put to the test.

            It would be interesting to read. It was my training, and again, this is going back some time now, that SOME ad hominems were acceptable in argumentation. I could also ask, once the summer ends, my colleague who is specifically a teacher of (mainly Classical) Rhetoric, who is just an exceptional human being all around. He would have a far, far more cogent answer than I do, naturally. I will ask him. I'm curious if Walton is a crack pot, as well as if there is a giant hole in my logic that I'm glossing over.

            "Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted." -- MLK Jr.

            by mahakali overdrive on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 02:41:02 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  2 + 2 = 4 (0+ / 0-)

      Even if Dick Cheney says so. Ad hominem attacks are NEVER valid.

      •  If the assessment made is that (0+ / 0-)

        2 + 2 = 4, according to Dick Cheney, you are correct that it would be incorrect to say "He's wrong." That is factual information. You cannot skew it.

        When it comes to opinion-based information, or anything not patently quantifiable in a "black and white" sense, however, ad hominems can be QUITE valid. See above for more explanation.

        "Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted." -- MLK Jr.

        by mahakali overdrive on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 01:56:34 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  So I can be both an asshole and correct? (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    catnip, slatsg, Cassiodorus, Eric Nelson

    You just validated my existance!

    It's called the Dodd-Frank bill. What else do you need to know?

    by roguetrader2000 on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 12:56:36 PM PDT

  •  My simple take: (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mftalbot

    A lot of verbiage, but I get the point w/o wading through it.  But I think you must consider these two points:

    What you take to be an ad hominem attack is often really an effort to impeach the credibility of the source.   This is particularly appropos if the person being attacked is positing something factually controversial.

    If the person has suspect motives or a poor history of veracity, then yeah, he or she is going to get attacked.

    The other point is, yes, there are plenty of personal attacks here on conservatives or their allies, but quite a lot of that is venting and not meant to be exactingly analytical.

  •  What is the form of fallacy ... (0+ / 0-)

    when a conclusion is attacked because someone made an erroneous argument in favor?

    Remeber the facts about GW Bush's shady service in the National Guard? Once the Right wing media discovered an inconsequential flaw in the CBS report (the document was not an original, but contained facts nonetheless).

    After that, you couldn't talk to the far Right about Bush getting out of serving in the National Guard because the neocons were all giddy about the mistake made in the CBS report.

    Of course, talking logic to the neocons ... let's just say it's all Greek to them (actually Latin but let's not quibble).

    Anyway, I don't know the term for that fallacy, other than it's a non sequitur.

  •  The issue of substance here (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MotherTrucker

    Republicans are often posited as out-messaging Democrats. Their stupid blunt appeals, which combine logic and emotion, are deadly effective.

    Whatever the solutions to the problem are, invocation of fourth century b.c. rules of rhetoric are not much part of it.

    Studying what is effective in political persuasion doesn't have to follow from what Republicans do. But it has to be reality based.

  •  Great diary! I was just talking about this...n/t (0+ / 0-)

    "My voice just echos off these walls...." -- NIN

    by MotherTrucker on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 01:03:11 PM PDT

  •  ad hominem (7+ / 0-)

    There's a difference between an argument and an assertion, however.  And an ad hominem is perfectly valid against someone's assertion, because it speaks to their credibility.  If a person makes an assertion that implies a certain political philosophy is true or valid or reinforced, then knowledge about that person's political leanings and agenda are very much relevant.  The fact is that there are way too many assertions out there that are completely false, and no way of recording in one place that such assertions have been completely disproven.  Mitch McConnell asserted that tax cuts pay for themselves in revenue.  What's faster, to get a sufficient economic background to post the graphs refuting his claim, much like Krugman and Ezra Klein did, or to simply point out that he's Mitch McConnell and therefore full of shit?

    •  An interesting claim (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      poemworld, triv33, Mike Peterson

      Mitch McConnell asserted that tax cuts pay for themselves in revenue.  What's faster, to get a sufficient economic background to post the graphs refuting his claim, much like Krugman and Ezra Klein did, or to simply point out that he's Mitch McConnell and therefore full of shit?

      You run into problems with this type of thinking in instances where Mitch McConnell (or whomever) is in fact correct.  In this instance, Mitch McConnell is wrong because the tax cuts being demanded are cuts in progressive taxes, and such cuts simply exacerbate the inequities of income which are the ultimate origins of the crisis of overproduction.  But you have to be able to argue that to know it.

      "Any sensible person right now would join an anticapitalist organization." -- David Harvey

      by Cassiodorus on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 01:16:35 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yes, thank you. This is sort of what I was (0+ / 0-)

      getting at somewhere above. I believe the difference is in the ad hominem attack vs. the ad hominem argument, which can roughly be broken down as what you're saying about an assertion vs. an argument.

      I would completely agree with what you've suggested here as well.

      "Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted." -- MLK Jr.

      by mahakali overdrive on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 02:56:23 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Exactly. As humans, to expect logical discourse (0+ / 0-)

      in all decisions is not only ridiculous, it may be dangerous.  Sure, you should gather as much facts as you can and evaluate them, but, we are human and that means we also rely on gut instinct and trusted sources.  It's evolution, life is real time and much of the time you must react quickly.

      Whether those sources are to be trusted or not is something each person determines for themselves.  This is natural to develop these trusted sources of information because it streamlines critical decision making and allows you to interact with life without timeouts to go and study something to death.  

      The problem today is not that people don't think logically, or emotional, everyone does both, as flawed as their process may be.  The problem 1) is too much information, and much of it is incomplete, suppressed, outright lies and fallacies;  2) what people are willing to accept as information is based on that persons worldview and core beliefs of how things work and how things should be; their outer frames;  and 3) how they are as a person, their beliefs, prejudices, pettiness, generosity of spirit, etc.  Their inner personal frames.  

      This is what it really makes this all very difficult in a world with more and more voices.  There is no absolute standard of how a thinking reasoning human should be (not do yo uwant one if the species is to survive).  It's a blend of culture, upbringing, genetics, etc.  Things we would think horrible are perfectly acceptable in other societies or in other times.  While there are general standards for the time, some more hard and fast, others looser, it's all relative.  

      This is   why it is so important to develop of "vision" of how you think things should be, to develop a sense of right and wrong, that others can agree with you on.  That allows you, and society to develop standards to move toward.  Great leaders, big changes in society, often occur when someone puts out a vision and pulls other people to it.  Still, it's all relative so things change over time.

      From all this we develop trusted sources but that does not mean you should not reevaluate them from time to time to be sure they are still worthy of your trust.  Take as clear and unemotional reality check as you can and go for it.

      The problems with many, especially those on the right, is 1) a unpleasant world view that they may not like but that they accept ("he deserved that...") and a matter of ego (another big factor).  No one likes being duped, played the fool, wrong.  So much of what they promote and believe in is just plain wrong when put to a vision of a society based on all men are created equal, a society where it founders had a vision of providing for the general welfare, common defense,... and so on.  Ideas of the Enlightenment vs. Hobbes Leviathan.

      They do not take this into consideration when they make so many of their judgments and develop their "trusted sources" which they also hang much of their ego (self identification) on.  Couple this with the internal frames they already have and they become calcified, unable to change without a great emotional outburst and a healing/forgiving phase.  This is where religion, especially Christ with the concept of forgiveness can come into play, but, alas, that has been badly twisted to suit their frames in the first place and it will not usually proved the path back for them.

      The solution.... pain, bloodshed and death, which allow change and rebirth.  It sucks.  I wanted Star Trek, and what we are getting is Blade Runner, or worse.  Another way is to be insistent, firm but fair resistance, with people.  Allow admission of their foolishness/crimes and forgiveness of those actions (to a point).  Like South Africa had with its Apartheid Commissions to start a healing of the rifts.  Still, if one side wants to destroy you, utterly, the Ghandi approach may not work; at least long enough for you and your descendants to live to see.

      Oh, one other thing to help, education, lots of good, quality science, history, match based education.  That is really lacking today.

      Well, sorry this is such a jumble, I have more to say, but I have to think it through and trim it down.  Written off the cuff and I have to go.  Hope it made some sense for those to counter.

      Obama needs to channel TR+FDR: Walk Softly, Carry a Big Stick and Welcome Their Hatred. He has Walk Softly down pat. Time to get on with the rest...

      by FightTheFuture on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 04:48:32 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Your point is flawed (6+ / 0-)

    It's trickier than the way you describe it here.  

    If you want to avoid the ad hominem fallacy, then, you will examine all arguments on their own merits,

    There are times when avoiding one fallacy leads you into others.  This approach you describe is valid in most cases but it ignores the main trick of some of the worst scoundrels in our politics.  They flood the zone.  They simply throw one outrageous lie or argument out there after another.  And if you don't chase their ball around, "examining all arguments" then you're not being Fair or Balanced and you're the one painted as crazy.  

    I'm not saying that you don't have a point but it's just not that simple.  

    Whatever else you do, help us kick GOP grAssley in Iowa this year.

    by Sun dog on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 01:13:38 PM PDT

    •  Big arguments are made up of little ones. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      poemworld, Sun dog, miss SPED

      They flood the zone.  They simply throw one outrageous lie or argument out there after another.

      In such a case you are justified in questioning whether the whole picture being painted before you stands or falls on its merits.

      "Any sensible person right now would join an anticapitalist organization." -- David Harvey

      by Cassiodorus on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 01:18:41 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  a good example is what i call the "HAH" fallacy.. (5+ / 0-)

      or "hypocritical ad hominem" fallacy. accuse your opponent of what you yourself are doing. that way you put them on the defensive while distracting from yourself. karl rove used this all the time and was credited if not actually heralded as turning his enemies' strengths into weaknesses. all by the unchecked, uncalled-out use of a fallacious argument. fwiw

      "A union is a way of getting things done together that you can't get done alone." Utah Phillips

      by poemworld on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 01:39:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Wow that just happened to me. (6+ / 0-)

      They simply throw one outrageous lie or argument out there after another.  And if you don't chase their ball around, "examining all arguments" then you're not being Fair or Balanced and you're the one painted as crazy.  

      A commenter made an assertion.  When I and another poster asked for the documentation, I was challenged to find it myself.  Over the two and a half hours I spent reading legal documents searching for the verification, the commenter switched midstream and told me a different website to look in. Which I did.  After skimming 236 pages, I found no mention of the commenter's assertion.  It because my fault for not finding it.  
      Back and forth over two and a half hours, for something she made up. I kept saying to myself, "why are you doing this?" and then I kept giving her the benefit of the doubt. That's the last time.  I don't have to use that experience as the basis for an ad hoc.  I just will never communicate with that poster again.

      •  This is scary (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Cassiodorus

        Over the two and a half hours I spent reading legal documents searching for the verification....

        Someone can be wrong on the Internet and the world will not end.

        Strength of character does not consist solely in having powerful feelings, but in maintaining one's balance in spite of them. - Clausewitz

        by SpamNunn on Fri Jul 16, 2010 at 05:27:52 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  A bit too simplified (6+ / 0-)

    Ad-Hominems work because we humans are trust-based evaluators.
    Otherwise we'd be drowning in the sea of information and opinion.

    There is an opposite form of attack which is the Word Salad:

    WORD SALAD, a.k.a. SESQUIPEDALIANISM:

    This is a recipe for sophisticated babbling. Ingredients include: philosophic sounding words and sentence structure, unintelligible Latin terms, banal folk wisdom, jargon, catch phrases, truisms, etc. Sprinkle lightly with a few words that appear to pertain to the subject. This will sound very impressive without really saying anything and will buy time to think of something meaty to say while your lips are flapping. In some circles such machinations can actually be passed off as an answer--or a point!
    "In view of the federal budget deficit, civil unrest, and international politics, we need to consider that, notwithstanding the mitigating circumstances, this country has got to get back on its feet. Don't you agree?"

    Fact is, if you have a trusted source who has an opinion (even if it's not relevant), you are more likely to both evaluate that opinion higher.

    Do you really think every word that Limbaugh says is valid?  He's disproven his trustworthiness to any rational listener.

    Sometimes we have to ignore some data because we know it's corrupt, and  examining it is a waste of time...  and thus are open to ad-hominem lines of argument.

    A relevant link:
    Conversational Terrorism

    --
    Make sure everyone's vote counts: Verified Voting

    by sacrelicious on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 01:16:40 PM PDT

  •  This is an ironic response (6+ / 0-)

    To the fact that we have substanceless diaries cluttering up the recommended list, not because their arguments were weighed and judged to be good, but simply because they were written by (or written under the name of) somebody who enjoys a transient popularity.

    Ad hominem works both ways.  It is as problematic to endorse an argument on the strength of its author's reputation, as it is to condemn it because you doubt the character of the author.

    But this type of discussion is inevitable.  As long as vapid diaries continue to be published, there is virtually nothing to say about them except to reflect upon the character of their authors.  Deplorable as that is, it's hard to engage with an argument that fails to make its appearance.  It's like a debate with one podium -- and an audience ready to throw eggshells as soon as someone critiques their absent idol.

  •  Interesting list (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    carlos the jackal, foufou

    just because Cenk Uygur or Jane Hamsher or David Sirota or Rachel Maddow or Ed Schulz (or for that matter Grover Norquist or Joe Lieberman or Rand Paul) makes a particular argument ("claim X") does not mean that "claim X" can be dismissed outright because Cenk Uygur or Jane Hamsher or David Sirota or Rachel Maddow or Ed Schulz or Grover Norquist or Joe Lieberman or Rand Paul is a "tool" or "stupid" or "self-aggrandizing" or "mendacious"

    But if it's Rahm Emmanuel, or Ken Salazar, or Tim Geithner, or Lawrence Summers or Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi making the argument, then it's okay to call them "tools" and reject their arguments out of hand?

    I think it's a little strange that the quoted list cites a bunch of people who are usually not challenged, and says nothing about the people -- Democrats in Congress and members of the Obama administration -- who are ripped as "tools" on a daily basis.  Not to mention President Obama himself.

  •  The only problem (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Unduna

    I have with this...

    An ad hominem argument comes into being when one uses the implied presumption that bad people can only make bad arguments.  

    ... is that when dealing with the modern day Republican Party it is in fact safe to assume that whatever argument they are making is a bad argument full of slander, malice and deceit for purposes devious, selfish and destructive.

    You'll have to forgive me if I allow to law of probabilities to play alongside the laws of logic and rhetoric.

    When Rush Limbaugh speaks, no matter how sound his argument may be by the rules of argumentation... he is full of shit and not to be trusted simply by the fact that he is Rush Limbaugh and I do not feel ashamed to say so before reading his argument.

    Peace,

    Andrew

    REBOOTNY.org - Time to reboot the New York State Senate

    by Andrew C White on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 01:33:25 PM PDT

    •  I disagree. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      catnip

      it is in fact safe to assume that whatever argument they are making is a bad argument full of slander, malice and deceit for purposes devious, selfish and destructive.

      Assume all you want.  It's still not safe.

      "Any sensible person right now would join an anticapitalist organization." -- David Harvey

      by Cassiodorus on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 02:05:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The law of probabilities says it is safe (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Unduna

        The rules of logic say it's not. In any ivory tower it is one or the other. In the real world they play side by side and we have to use our discernment as to which controls our judgement.

        In the case of a Limbaugh... and most modern Republicans... the law of probabilities trumps the rules of rhetoric.

        Peace,

        Andrew

        REBOOTNY.org - Time to reboot the New York State Senate

        by Andrew C White on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 02:10:28 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The problem here is that (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          catnip

          it will lead you to potentially big contradictions.

          If Limbaugh suddenly comes out in favor of allowing gay marriage, for instance, will you suddenly think it's now a bad idea? (I'm assuming you're in favor of it, so forgive me if that is not the case).  I would think the wiser thing would be to examine the argument he makes itself rather than just assuming that if person X says it, it's wrong.

          If Person X is usually wrong, then there's no need to assume they're always wrong, we should easily be able to examine whatever arguments he makes and determined if they're valid.

          I finally put in a signature!

          by Boris Godunov on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 03:27:07 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Why... (0+ / 0-)

            If Limbaugh suddenly comes out in favor of allowing gay marriage, for instance, will you suddenly think it's now a bad idea?

            ... would I do that? It is not a logical follow-up. The logic follow-up is that I would be thoroughly suspicious of his motives not that I would change my views based on his.

            I would think the wiser thing would be to examine the argument he makes itself rather than just assuming that if person X says it, it's wrong.

            In most cases absolutely correct. But in the case of the Limbaugh's and Beck's of the world the wisest thing to do is to save your brain by not trying to delve into their way of thinking...

            Ok... snark aside... the wisest thing to do is to either ignore them as I usually do or to listen to them long enough to understand what you are up against on the other side but none of that has anything to do with trusting a word or taking seriously a word that comes out of their mouths. They lie. They are professional propagandists. It is what they do. It makes no sense whatsoever to attempt to give them the benefit of the doubt and treat them as if they are fair actors on the political stage.

            Don't get me wrong. I think this is a great diary and that the diarist is absolutely correct in their presentation of the rules of argumentation. I do not disagree one iota.

            All I am saying here is that in the real world of our modern day politics we have professional propogandists of the Beck/Limbaugh ilk. 99 times out of 100 they are purposefully full of shit. Hence my insistence that the law of probability is on the side of treating them that way.

            In a discussion between me and you or any other person here I would never treat you that way unless and until you proved to me that you were a troll... but that would only occur after giving you a fair hearing and due consideration obviously.

            Peace,

            Andrew

            REBOOTNY.org - Time to reboot the New York State Senate

            by Andrew C White on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 03:45:22 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  It's essential to learn from experience. (0+ / 0-)

        Failure to do so makes you retarded (and I mean that factually, as in clinically).

        This learning means being able to asses accurately, and "assessment" and "assumption" have the same base for meaning, for good reason.

        Again, assessing a history, letting our experience guide us to assumption, matters enormously developmentally.

        We can safely assume that Cheney and Limbaugh are not good faith actors; failure to do so at this juncture would be politically developmentally retarded.  

        Our safest bet is to always keep an open mind to the fact that they may make sense one day and we will want to use that, if possible.

        We (people) not only will but should make assumptions based on experience. But we should also keep an open mind, ready at all times to review the factual basis of presented material.

        That is the best trajectory, developmentally. Ah, the middle way...
        And I think the basis of discussing all of this carefully is that we both very much want DailyKos to assess and avert the developmental retardation that seems to threaten it on occasion.

        "In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder, a secret order." Carl Jung

        by Unduna on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 03:16:07 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  thanks cassiodorus! (6+ / 0-)

    i was attempting to combat ad hominem arguments yesterday on david sirota's diary. probably i mistook some personal attacks as ad hominem and for that i appreciate the clarification. i'm really into critical thinking (what chomsky calls "intellectual self-defense") and no one is better at truly dialetical criticism than writers like chomsky and terry eagleton. for piercing the big lie being foist upon us evermore frequently by a panicked corporate media, i can recommend no higher.

    again thanks and solidarity forever

    "A union is a way of getting things done together that you can't get done alone." Utah Phillips

    by poemworld on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 01:34:54 PM PDT

  •  If we all were guided by your point (4+ / 0-)

    There would be far fewer diaries; and far, far, far fewer comments here.

    "I want to apologize for that misconstrued misconstruction." Rep Joe Barton

    by Catte Nappe on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 01:37:56 PM PDT

    •  and what fun would that be!!! trying to persuade (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Catte Nappe, mahakali overdrive

      a vast herd of cats that they should all run the same direction or not fight each other over the cat food is futile and impossible.

      I am not at all sure either that teaching debate and logic to a class full of students is the same thing as trying to point out the reasoning and logic in the art of argument.

      As far as unwarranted personal attacks are concerned I would be very surprised if the people making the attacks would make them face to face at the water cooler.

      The study of on-line group behavior is a brand new field of study and i am really enjoying observing the trends.  I guess i don't' take it as seriously as most seem to, at least not enough to argue for hours over whether an uprated HR is warranted or unwarranted or who insulted who first and what exactly constitutes an insult.

      Its a never ending stream of entertaining drivel usually, but useful in learning how to behave in the new cyberspace medium of communication.

  •  Example: (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    catnip
    1. Liberal Daily Kos member makes statement X= Statement X is crap and member is a troll.
    1. Obama repeats the exact statement= Obama is soooo right and statement x is soo true but the Liberal Daily Kos member is a troll anyway.
  •  I think the 'ad hominem' effect works both ways (0+ / 0-)

    This is why an agreeable spokesmodel like Ronald Reagan could convince so many working people and middle class aspirants that skewing the tax table so rich people payed less and poorer people picked up the slack was a "good idea."

    Call it the "I'd like to have a beer with him" effect on policy debates.

  •  You would like us to use logic... (4+ / 0-)

    instead of knee-jerk reaction. Okay!

    "War is the health of the state." Randolph Bourne "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel."Samuel Johnson

    by american pastoral on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 01:55:32 PM PDT

  •  This is utterly incorrect (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    onanyes, Unduna, CornSyrupAwareness

    the reputation of a person is cumulative. It is also information. We should analyze arguments based on all available information.    What you are arguing - and what frankly many of the more trollish members of this community are lapping up - is that we should make judgements about people's positions without context, without understanding motivation, cultural context, etc. These factors are more fluid and subjective, which bothers those who want everything in neat and utterly amoral little boxes.

    But human beings developed the ability to judge what is coming at them using both objective and subjective information because this is the most accurate and reliable way to move through a complex world.

    I would actually argue that the entire libertarian movement in this country right now is an extension of taking these sorts of rhetorical rules too literally - the idea that we must look at only the trees, never the forest, makes it easier to ignore things like institutional discrimination, for example.

    Is it possible that David Sirota has stopped riding waterskis over schooling sharks? Oh, I suppose. But I set the bar higher for him, just as I would Michele Bachmann, because I have information about him, his behavior, his motivations,  his affiliations.

    •  So you can ignore their arguments (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      TracieLynn, miss SPED

      if you don't like them personally?

      Do you think that will work out for you?

      "Any sensible person right now would join an anticapitalist organization." -- David Harvey

      by Cassiodorus on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 02:31:36 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  That's a terrible way of thinking. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      TracieLynn, Clues, Robobagpiper

      What you are arguing - and what frankly many of the more trollish members of this community are lapping up - is that we should make judgements about people's positions without context, without understanding motivation, cultural context, etc.

      Ironic that you include an ad hominem yourself right here.  At any rate, yes, we should judge positions in and of themselves, not based on who made them.

      Hitler thought smoking was a bad idea, and his reasoning was fairly sound: it was unhealthy (the Nazis made the cancer connection first), it created a public nuisance (noxious fumes that others would breathe, litter from cigarette butts), etc.  But just because it was Hitler, who arguably has the worst "cumulative reputation" in history, these are suddenly invalid points?  Of course not.

      Likewise, tolerating your kind of argumentation leads to the position of judging the arguments themselves based on who supported them.  After all, if it's permissable to disregard someone's point because of their bad reputation, it's just as logically sound to assume that a particular position is unsound/bad because some who have a bad reputation happen to have held it.  This is a favorite tactic for Creationists to try and cast disrepute on Evolution, by claiming since Joe Stalin or some other nasty person believed it was true, it must be part of some evil ideology.

      I finally put in a signature!

      by Boris Godunov on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 03:23:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Bravo! Excellent diary! nt (4+ / 0-)

    "It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so." - Mark Twain

    by Casey on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 01:58:38 PM PDT

  •  Thanx for this diary. (4+ / 0-)

    I just recently completed another academic program, and during that time I became really interested in logical fallacies and proper argumentation.  It is so important to understand why logical fallacies are our Achilles' Heel.  

    America: So many opinions, so many logical fallacies.  It really holds us back from discovering the truth.  And that prevents us from progressing as *a nation.

  •  big problem here (4+ / 0-)

    The way around the ad hominem argument, the ONLY way around it, is to EXAMINE THE ARGUMENT ITSELF.

    I disagree and here is why:  many areas are complicated and I certainly don't know the key factors, the nuances, etc.

    For example, if you have two people discussing the economy, I have a hard time telling whether or not the arguments are valid.  Therefore, I rely on the reputation of the person making the argument to see whether or not I should listen to it or not; one sometimes needs an initial filter.

    Example:  Argument X comes from Paul Krugman.  I think "he won a Nobel prize in economics" and has been correct in many of his predictions. Therefore, I might listen to him.

    Counter argument comes Y comes from Phil Gramm.  Ok, he has a Ph. D. and knows more than I do. But his ideas have often blown up.  So, I tend not to listen to what he has to say.

    Example:  So and so says that President Obama is violating the Constitution.  President Obama: Harvard Law graduate, and has taught a course concerning Constitutional law at the University of Chicago.  
    So and so:  has a youtube account; maybe has read "The Constitution for Dummies".  I safely ignore what so and so says, though there is a non-zero probability that he might be right...a very LOW non-zero probability.  

    So, to me, the credibility of the person making the statement is a factor, though technically speaking, their argument might be "right".

    "Obama won. Get over it."

    by onanyes on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 02:05:43 PM PDT

    •  So in other words if the President (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Cassiodorus

      does it it's not against the law?  Bush had some very "smart" guys advising him the torture wasnt' torture. So he was right listening to them instead of Olbermann?  

      I don't belong to an organized party, I'm a democrat.

      by thestructureguy on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 02:17:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The only way through for you -- (3+ / 0-)

      is to educate yourself about that which you critically need to know.  How much do you want to stake upon the notion that Krugman is right?  I personally would stake a lot upon the arguments of David Harvey:

      I know, it's incredibly long.  Sorry.  The best part is where Harvey suggests that the crises of capitalism are more and more difficult to overcome as we proceed through history, and so eventually we'll come to one where the capitalists won't be able to get over the hump.  All of what I've read about economics (Brenner, Hudson, Henwood and so on) justifies my qualified trust in Harvey's conclusions.

      As for your Obama example, you might attempt to resolve the problem by finding out the truth for yourself.  You have plenty of resources at your disposal for this: the Constitution itself, the Internet, your perhaps limited access to academic libraries being three.  You'd probably choose this path if there was a lot at stake in "violating the Constitution" for you.  Do posts such as this one motivate you to do anything?

      "Any sensible person right now would join an anticapitalist organization." -- David Harvey

      by Cassiodorus on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 02:23:05 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  That is only really a problem if you decide (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Clues, onanyes, Unduna

      to present Krugman's view uncritically in an argument/debate with someone else on the matter.

      If, however, you're engaging someone in argument and assert your point of view is correct and theirs is wrong, and the ONLY thing you can do to justify your position is point out that Paul Krugman told you so, then really you should not be arguing the point in the first place.  You don't have any grounds to debate someone if your only backing is some other expert and you admit you don't have the knowledge/expertise to substantiate your belief in and of itself.

      Rejecting Gramm's view out-of-hand in an argument while accepting Krugman's would be two logical fallacies in one: an ad hominem against Gramm and an Argument from Authority for Krugman.

      I finally put in a signature!

      by Boris Godunov on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 03:14:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Agreed (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        cbyoung

        If, however, you're engaging someone in argument and assert your point of view is correct and theirs is wrong, and the ONLY thing you can do to justify your position is point out that Paul Krugman told you so, then really you should not be arguing the point in the first place.

        That is correct.  What usually happens in my case is that I am saying "well, trying X isn't a crackpot idea because top economists A, B, and C advocate it though I honestly don't know is this is the best course of action."

        I hasten to add that I have books like "topic X for the layperson" in my house by the yard. :-)  But I know that even after reading them, my knowledge is limited.

        "Obama won. Get over it."

        by onanyes on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 06:38:17 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Well, but.... (0+ / 0-)

        "You don't have any grounds to debate someone if your only backing is some other expert and you admit you don't have the knowledge/expertise to substantiate your belief in and of itself."

        So I can't/shouldn't debate a global warming denier because I know that I don't have and can't attain the level of expertise of a global warming scientist and I rely on the experts in the field?

        •  That's not quite what I said. (0+ / 0-)

          You don't have any grounds to debate someone if your only backing is some other expert and you admit you don't have the knowledge/expertise to substantiate your belief in and of itself.

          The idea being that the argument is a fallacious appeal to authority, i.e., "Al Gore says X, he's a well-respected expert on this matter, so ergo it's correct."  You should be able to explain and justify why X is correct irrespective of Gore or anyone else saying it.  If the only way to justify a belief is to say, "well, so-and-so says it's true," then you really are not in any position to argue about it, because what you're relying on isn't sound evidence, but rather just an Appeal to Authority.

          Conversely, there's no problem with citing the opinion of experts to bolster an argument, it just can't be the sole contents of the argument.  For instance, a favorite Creationist canard is to play a sort-of "Reverse Appeal to Authority" in which they claim "lots" of scientists are now doubting evolutionary theory, so it ergo must not be true.  If presented with such an argument, naturally it would be entirely relevant to point out studies that show something like 95% of the world's scientists accept evolution as true, and well over 99% of biologists.

          But if someone asked me why I thought evolution was true and my only response was "because Charles Darwin said so," then I've got no business trying to argue the matter.

          I finally put in a signature!

          by Boris Godunov on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 08:12:20 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Sometimes it's enough (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      TiaRachel, 3goldens, onanyes

      to say , "I don't have a thorough grounding on this, and am not qualified to debate it."

      Everyone can't know enough about everything to be an expert all the time, and it's perfectly ok to say that something is outside your area of expertise.

      Sometimes I should be talking and sometimes I should be listening.  I try every day to understand those times better.  (And when you're listening and trying to form an opinion, it's really good to NOT prejudge your sources.  Listen to everything, and consider it, if you're trying to learn about something.)

  •  Oh you mean (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Unduna

    Ad hominen like this

     More Obamapologies from (6+ / 3-)

    Recommended by:
       CTPatriot, Cassiodorus, cybrestrike, Razorblade, Aeolos, CapeTown96
    Hidden by:
       Iberian, Lawrence, sephius1

    more Obamabots.

    Good luck in November

    ...

    Arizona is the meth lab of democracy

    by Iberian on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 02:14:24 PM PDT

  •  I agree completely (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassiodorus

    but all I have to say as regards the success of your message in terms of improving the level of discourse around here is:

    "lol internetz"

    "This machine kills fascists." -Woody Guthrie

    by SocialPunk on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 02:19:36 PM PDT

  •  This must be true because I agree with it! n/t (0+ / 0-)
  •  Most pertinent diary of the year. (9+ / 0-)

    Beautifully laid out and described.  Perhaps people have done this elsewhere, but here's some of the more popular current kneejerk  personal attacks which are used in ad hominem contexts:

    You're a whiner.

    You're an Obamabot.

    You want your pony.

    You're a cheerleader.

    You are full of hate.

    Alternatively, last night people were making the argument that the words "propaganda" and "apologist" are worthy of an HR.  I argued that these words both are descriptions, not insults, and are valid to use when making a substantive point.

    I've been wanting to see this diary for a long time.  Thank you so much.  I'm glad I didn't try it, because you did a much better job than I would have.

    Don't believe everything you think.

    by geomoo on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 02:24:58 PM PDT

  •  Ad Hominem attack is pernicious (5+ / 0-)

    as are guilt by association attacks, red herrings etc... I agree that the argument not the person should be the focus of discussion; however, if someone has a known agenda or is a known liar or is generally not credible, saying that they are is not an ad hominem attack. Uprooting the need to attack a specious argument by considering the source of the argument is not an example of ad hominem attack.

    If I hear an argument made that "taxes are bad" from Grover Norquist I am probably going to be inclined to disregard it, admittedly even if it has some merit, because I know his reputation and the underlying agenda. I don't listen to Osama Bin Laden on any matter and I would attack him out of hand were he to post here, is that ad hominem, well yes, in the strictest sense; however, it is not a block to general discourse or the flow of ideas, because his ideas are not worth discussing. I dismiss anything David Duke says, he may have a good idea now and again; however, its not worth my time sifting through the chaff to get to one kernel that's possibly thoughtful.

    Filters and frames are part of the human experience, we all filter out some sources of information and frame our own point of view, this is inevitable. Some sources of information are simply not credible and that's why they are attacked on their credibility and not on the substance of their arguments. When a source has demonstrated a consistent bias or clear disregard for facts or truth, yet continues to press their point of view regardless of its merit, then dismissing them out of hand is warranted.

    A relentless demagogue like Rush Limbaugh does not merit consideration of his "arguments" even if, as it is said, like the blind pig he comes up with an acorn now and then. I will attack him personally, his arguments and any position he takes, just as relentlessly as he poisons the political environment with his spurious and malicious propaganda.

    I understand your position; however, it is not possible to weigh and balance every argument, no matter the source, there simply isn't enough time. One must consider the provenance of any argument, to judge its validity, and if its provenance is known to be questionable, to weigh that in the balance.

    "Intelligence is quickness in seeing things as they are..." George Santayana

    by KJG52 on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 02:41:40 PM PDT

    •  What you're referring to is the issue (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      KJG52, miss SPED

      of ethos vs. logos in an argument or debate or claim.

      Ethos is the character of the person engaged in the debate.

      Logos are the facts of that argument.

      These are two of the three main things that will influence perception of the validity of a debate.

      And in Classical Rhetoric, it has generally been stated that Ethos -- character, which includes credibility -- is more crucial than Logos -- or the material "evidence" of the debate itself.

      While poor Ethos doesn't mean that the Logos IS flawed, per se, it may render it very difficult to know, or care, whether it is. That's an extremely normal, if even sane, reaction to someone who does have a poor Ethos.

      So while ad hominems tend to, in a back and forth debate, be erroneous or worse, decrease the Ethos of the person pointing out that the Ethos of the OTHER person is bad, in general, an ad hominem won't necessarily, or even probably "kill" a debate. It can if the ad hominem is egregious enough. But if the primarily claimant has a poor enough Ethos to begin with, that, combined with any sort of reasonable Logos (like in the material facts of your example) are enough.

      I do feel that ad hominems have little place on this board, since they are rhetorical tactics used to distract from the issues. Thus said, I also believe we ought strongly call the Ethos of anyone who strikes us as continuously sketchy into question. Otherwise, we are operating solely through Logos, which is simply NOT the end-all, be-all in a debate.

      What you said is well stated and touches on a vital point, in my humble view.

      "Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted." -- MLK Jr.

      by mahakali overdrive on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 10:58:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Nominated for Diary of the Year. (4+ / 0-)

    More logic, please.

    Though KJG52 certainly raises some valid points above.

    There's a mosque in my town. But I face every day with courage, even though my life is obviously in constant peril.

    by VictorLaszlo on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 02:46:43 PM PDT

    •  adding: It's a "learn the rules (3+ / 0-)

      before you break them" situation.

      Cassiodorus is absolutely correct about the rules and the logic behind them.

      KJG52 is also right that you have to go with your gut sometimes. But can only effectively go with your gut once you've learned the rules.

      There's a mosque in my town. But I face every day with courage, even though my life is obviously in constant peril.

      by VictorLaszlo on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 02:57:55 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I disagree (0+ / 0-)

    I don't think that posters here are overfond of ad hominem arguments.  Rather, many of us use what I take to be this sort of argument:
    Person A makes assertion 'p'.
    Neither person A nor I is in any position to establish the truth of 'p'.
    Therefore, it is most likely that 'p' is false.
        This is a probabilistic argument, so talk of validity is out of place.
        Yes, it's always good to examine the content of an opponent's claim if possible, but this is not always possible.  That is generally the case when people make assertions about the underlying motives of those whose actions they dislike.

    •  You should visit the diaries about Sirota (4+ / 0-)

      -- many of which have appeared recently here on the rec list.  So I am being advised by FishOutOfWater (who has written a lot of good stuff here) to keep David Sirota out of my comments:

      It will create more heat than light if you leave him in.

      Well, a number of people here have a hard time getting around the fact that some rather good criticisms were made of the Obama administration by David Sirota.  The SUBSTANCE of these criticisms, however, never makes it to the floor.  So we should stop talking about David Sirota and Barack Obama?  I'd rather talk about ad hominem argument instead, since it's so common around here.

      "Any sensible person right now would join an anticapitalist organization." -- David Harvey

      by Cassiodorus on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 03:28:24 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  david sirota is a dishonest debater (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ozarkspark

        and he's a master of the ad hominem. Maybe you didn't get to the subtle points at Ohio state, but here's Sirota sleazing away:

        this is a telling indictment of the health care law itself,

        So the "indictment" is that a person who worked for insurance companies is now working for the Department of HHS. Not even an attempt to address the contents of the law.

        strongly suggesting that it was constructed by the Obama administration - as some progressives argued - as a massive taxpayer-financed giveaway to private insurers like Wellpoint.

        That's not even ad hominem, it's basic slander. He's accusing people of corruption on the basis of nothing.

        And let's be honest: In investment terms, Fowler has been a jackpot for the health industry. The industry maximized her public policy experience for their own uses when they plucked her out of the Senate. Then, having lined her pockets, they deposited her first into a key Senate committee to write the new health care law that they will operate under, and now into the administration that will implement said law. Any bets on how much Fowler will make when Wellpoint (or another health insurer) inevitably rehires her in a few years?

        Love that "let's be honest" - a true grifter's line.
        Wow! How's that "lined her pockets". Now if you throw in his grossly dishonest omission of Fowler's work history, e.g. as an aide to Pete Stark, you get a mess of personal attack, unfounded allegations of corruption, and dishonest smearing that would shame the Republican swift boat PR team. And you have the gall to introduce this sleazeball as a victim of ad hominem.
        Feh

        •  So if as a child -- (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          3goldens

          Fowler operated a lemonade stand, this in your eyes would negate any claims of "conflict of interest" that might arise from her work with Max Baucus or with Wellpoint?  "Look, she's done other stuff!"

          "Any sensible person right now would join an anticapitalist organization." -- David Harvey

          by Cassiodorus on Thu Jul 15, 2010 at 03:48:01 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  that's what's known in rhetoric as "misdirection" (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ozarkspark

            Or maybe you just don't know who Pete Stark is.

            However, I suggest you attempt to apply your understanding of basic ad hominem to an argument in which the supposed bad character of a person is being used to advance a claim that a law is bad.

            •  Actually it's not. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              3goldens

              My fundamental premise is that, even though Fowler may have done other work than that which she did for Max Baucus or for Wellpoint, this does not automatically invalidate any conflict-of-interest concerns we might have about her working on enforcement of "health insurance reform."  So far as I ca