September 21, 2011
The argument, which can be about anything, usually goes something like this:
Larry: Eating meat is wrong...you haven't heard a word I'm saying.
Dave: What do you know; you're a brainwashed vegan masking serious problems you're not confronting about yourself.
As you can see there's no basis for a logical discussion.
Turn on the TV these days and you're liable to hear, amidst a heated discussion, "Please stop your ad hominem attacks.”
Ad hominem, short for argumentum ad hominem, is Latin for: "to the man."
Usually described as a logical fallacy, it's an attempt to negate the truth of a claim by pointing out a negative characteristic or belief of the person supporting it.
Briefly stated, you're an idiot, so nothing you say is worth hearing.
But it must be argued, it is not always fallacious; in some instances, questions of personal conduct, character and motives are legitimate and get in the way of being objective.
Just not all the time you disagree with a point.
Plato, Aristotle's teacher, was the first philosopher to collect examples of faulty reasoning in "Euthydemus," preserving a collection of fallacious arguments in dialogue form.
But then what does he know, since he "stabbed" Socrates in the back, (while posing as his friend), was just trying to get a book out and loved mathematics since it idealized abstractions.
So how expert was he at reasoning?
You can dismiss practically anyone.
Difficult as it is, it's better to confront the issues than denigrate the "messenger."