Friday, October 12, 2012

Ad Hominem fallacy: Hitting the arguer rather than the argument

Are you questioned, not because of what you said, but because of who you are after declaring a statement? For example, you reminded someone because he’s late, only to rebutted because you’re surfing an irrelevant material from the internet during office hours. After writing or posting a material, instead of noticing what was written will start to ask if you have personal issues. After stating your argument, you’ll either be called “childish”, “immature”, or you’ll be ask, “Do you have a problem with your parents/family/brother/friend/etcetera?” If these things are confirmed, the biggest blow is, “how can we believe you? You are (______) (insert character flaws)” The aforementioned paragraph is describing what is called “ad hominem” fallacy. Now, to the anti-nerds/anti-geeks/edjumacated out there, it literally means “to the man”. This is a fallacy in which, instead of attacking the argument, the arguer’s personal life will be attacked. Normally, when this fallacy is answered by the arguer, he will be distracted. This is also like the rhetorical device called “poisoning the well”, in which, no matter how the water from the well is poured out, it is still poisoned. Now, instead of having a solid argument or by the fact statement, a person is already discredited, plainly because, the “well is already poisoned”. Worse than that, in a sarcastic or manipulative fashion, you’ll be portrayed as a lost soul or a problematic individual. Coupled with manipulated yes people that have witnessed that argument, negatively, the attention is now on you. Not only are your arguments wrongfully made invalid, but your persona was put into question. Worst, there are people who make use of this very well you’ll just shut your mouth off, even if the one who did that fallacy is doing something wrong. This type of fallacy is a below-the-belt fallacy. Not only that, it’s a self-righteous fallacy, similar to Tu quoque fallacy. Bluntly, this fallacy is used not only by cultic fellows, but also by people who can’t answer back a solid, valid argument. Now, maybe we deemed this topic as “very intellectual”, the sarcastic form of “senseless”, for using English or for making a big deal out of things. They may also add that this is only applicable to parliamentary procedures, court rooms, and the likes, and not to everyday life. In addition, they may add they are too poor to deal with this type of shallowness (this by the way is another form of fallacy called “appeal to poverty”, which we have written before). We’ll respect that opinion. However, like I said, if suspects of a crime have his day in court despite surmounting evidence, how much more in this situation that we often “petty” or “no big deal”? We have the tendency to question or, lightly, ridicule a person’s argument or his essay or articles because of two things: 1) the motivations behind the person’s spoken words and written materials, and/or 2) the character of the person itself. We often hear it in Tagalog words “may pinaghuhugautan” (roughly, “drawing out something”). Regarding those two things, let me tell this: all written words, be it in this social networking site or in other media, are inspired or have motivations one way or another. Even writing without thinking has an inspiration: the NOTHING. So if our attitude is to discredit or ridicule a person’s written materials and his spoken words just because of inner motives and inspirations, then let us ridicule ALL WRITTEN BOOKS, including the Bible. After all, all books were made or written with inner motives and inspirations, be it positive or negative. Let us still to the facts, not to the persona. You don’t necessarily need a degree or grammar know-how to do that, although those would be a big help. Stick to the facts, stick to the argument, as long as it is solid valid, and not malicious. I remember a former congregant in our church. He’s a good singer, eventually joining our choir. He’s a Licensed Engineer, an academic medalist in his Alma Mater, and a professor in that very same Alma Mater. He straightforwardly said to the younger choir members in a choir meeting to listen to the one speaking, no matter how funny or senseless that person is, because it shows character. I will be the first to accept the bullet of this article. Let’s stick to the facts, not merely to look and be smart, but also it indicates good character.