Friday 19 June 2020

The 'ad hominem' argument is Not a fallacy - but you need to get it right!

"The argumentum ad hominem, is an attack on an argument made by attacking the character, motive, or other attribute of the person making the argument, rather than attacking the argument directly."

This is usually regarded as a logical fallacy; but most of the time it is Not - and especially in a world ruled by evil liars, hence permeated by Satan-serving lies.

In such a world the single most important fact to establish is the nature and motivation of the arguer of a purported source of information - in other words, (here-and-now) all argument ought-to-be 'ad hominem': directed towards the person (or institution/ organisation) making an assertion.

Since this world is ruled by a single, linked bureaucracy: The System; and since The System communicates with us via the Public Relations (PR) interface and the Mass Media (which now structures and controls what used-to-be autonomous sources such as academia) - the main task we have is trying to understand and interpret PR and Media communications.

It ought to be clear that it is utterly futile even to try and analyse and compare the fire hose of PR-Media propaganda which deluges us every day (and which is, for the past few months) mandatory - if we fail to know the latest diktat on, for example, social distancing; we might get a hefty on-the-spot fine. Such a task would be combinatorially impossible; as well as more than a full-time job and intrinsically corrupting.

Fortunately, there is an alternative; which is to make an inference about the motivation of the source/s of communication; and understand and interpret the communication on that basis.

And (again fortunately) that is easy; because we know (we ought to know) that all the highly prioritised and sustained information which comes to us from PR and the Media emanates from a unitary origin that is an evil liar (or, more exactly, a relatively small community of evil liars).

There we have it! An immediate solution to the much-agonised-over problem of Information Overload!

Of course; it means that the majority who assume that the PR-Media communications are basically well-motivated and truthful will call you a 'conspiracy theorist' - but, we can put up with that (I assume?) when we are about the (clearly more vital) business of our theosis and our salvation!


William Wildblood said...

The validity of an ad hominem argument is something I have increasingly come to recognise. It's a question of good faith and bad faith. When an argument is made in bad faith, as so many are now, ad hominem is perfectly justified. If the one presenting a particular argument is ill-motivated and seeks to manipulate through lies and sophistry then it is correct to point this out. We see this kind of thing more and more.

Otto said...

Similarly, I have found that the "Slippery Slope Fallacy" and the "Fallacy of Relative Privation" are not fallacies.

The Slippery Slope is a fact, as for example we rapidly went from gay marriage to trans surgery for young children, people being fired for not baking gay cakes, etc.

Relative Privation is also Not a fallacy, as everything requires making choices and choosing priorities, and some things are worse than others.

Bruce Charlton said...

Matthew T has left a comment:

...half the "fallacies" that get batted around are not fallacies in the proper context. Otto already beat me to my most-loathed favourite, the "slippery slope".

Most of this rhetoric about "fallacies" is just another way to tell people that their instincts and natural mode of thinking are false.

Similar to what you've said about the "ad hominem", I have observed many numbers of times that it's perfectly relevant to bring someone's psychological profile or makeup into your overall calculus of whether you buy what they're selling - very often it really is true that a person subscribes to a position for emotional reasons and this can be important to know, particularly for someone new to a given argument who might be impressionable.

(I'm thinking, for instance, of the university student who abandons faith, which usually occcurs because they want to have illicit sex, no matter what "great arguments" against the faith they might proffer.)

Bruce Charlton said...

@MT - Good example about the illicit sex.

And now we also know that even when a self-styled Christian church allows all forms of illicit sex; Christianity is still rejected.

By observational data; illicit sex and Christianity Just Don't Go Together.

...Which I find compelling, albeit roundabout, evidence that illicit sex Really Is anti-Christian - Even If all scriptural, theological and traditional forms of 'evidence' are disregarded.

Karl said...

@Bruce Charlton

Illicit sex is a sin. Please explain why you call it anti-Christian. Is every sin anti-Christian? If not, what is so special about this sin as compared to e.g. murder or theft.

Bruce Charlton said...

@K. Of course it's a sin. I am saying that we can know it's a sin even without using scripture, theology or tradition as evidence; by observing that those who deny it is a sin find that Christian belief is prevented, weakened or subverted. Even when that denial is supported by a self identified Christian church, that church will fail to convert to strong faith, will fail to recruit, fail to sustain itself.

Ranger said...

This. If someone is mistaken, you can talk with them. If you discern someone's an evil-motivated liar (EML) STOP interacting with them. You may think that you can convince him of the truth. That's your pride talking. You cannot. He can choose to turn from evil and repent, but, until then, there's nothing you can do but pray for their conversion.
Treebeard made the mistake of trying to convince someone he KNEW to be an EML of the truth. I think about a 100 hobbits paid for that mistake with their lives.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Ranger - Agreed. Although Gandalf also bears responsibility IMO -

Ranger said...

Good point. Though Gandalf had, retired already, the troubles of Middle-Earth were not his troubles anymore. However, if I remember correctly, he only made that explicit to the Hobbits when they are leaving Bree.

So, who could have dealt with Saruman when he was found on the Road going North? I'd say Merry and Pippin, both for being, respectively, representatives of the Kingdoms of Rohan and Gondor, and for being the people in the Company most personally wronged by Saruman (which they even mention after letting him go). If they'd moved to stop Saruman, I don't think Gandalf would have stopped them or condemned it.

So I think Gandalf's responsibility lies more in not making explicit beforehand that he had, indeed, retired, not in failing to exercise jurisdiction.

But all this is more off-topic. The point is DON'T TALK TO AN EML!

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

"The main task we have is trying to understand and interpret PR and Media communications."

Well, it's certainly not *my* main task! I prefer to read old books, interact with honest people, and let the media go to hell.

LordSomber said...

Falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus.