Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I was watching a debate which made me think of ad hominems

I loathe ad-hominems because they do not advance discussions or debates. They do not address the claims made but instead serve to detract the conversation to paltry details that have no bearing upon whether or not the claims presented are true.

Whether someone has a beard or not, is or is not obese, is or is not wearing makeup, is or is not physically disabled, is or is not heterosexual (the list goes on ad infinitum) has no place in an intellectual discussion.

Obviously, there will be a variety of opinions regarding someone’s style of presentation (or any other aspect of their person), but opinions shouldn’t enter a debate or intellectual discussion. Many fall prey to this because it is always easier to insert an opinion about one’s opponent than to counter a claim, or, conversely, to offer more information about that claim and why the claim being made is true.

Facts and claims to reality should be the issues discussed because there will be a true or false answer regarding a factual claim. A case can be built up to support a claim to reality. A case cannot be erected to show that the color yellow is the best color or that blouses of a certain color, style or cut are superior to another type of blouse. These are merely preferences determined by one’s subjective sensory experience. Each person will have a different answer so we end up wasting our time when the conversation derails down the “ad hom” path.

I cannot tell you the degree of tedium I experience when I witness people making ad homs throughout their feigned “intellectual responses” to other people’s claims. If you are offering an opinion about a person and are not responding to a claim that is made, you are not advancing the discussion, you are not contributing, you are stifling the discussion.


  1. Very cool Renee, makes your argument more pursuasive. Miss your Vids. Think you are a great intellect!

  2. Thank you so much! I appreciate it. I'd love to make another video again but my camera seems to be "skipping" and not picking up everything I'm saying. It's really annoying and sounds funny. I know it has been that way on my other videos to but it has gotten even worse. With all the parking tickets I've gotten lately and the price of gas, a new camera is not on my list. But I really want to make another short video sometime soon :) Thanks again!

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  4. But isn't a great deal of the argument for religion that people "feel" the presence of God? And if so, then why shouldn't the credibility of the people who feel that presence be questioned? If I am to rely on other people's feelings, I want to know that I am trusting good sources.

  5. I concur wholeheartedly. Where'd the stuff for the "big bang" come from?

  6. @Cowboy Will: argumentum ad hominem is a fallacy of relevance, if the argument exploits a person's feelings or beliefs as a premise, then they are not irrelevant.

    My 'favorite' fallacy of relevance is the appeal to ignorance (argumentum ad ignoratium); it's a theist favorite.