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Ad hominem Again

Reader comment on item: Hugging Iraq's Leaders
in response to reader comment: Brilliant ad hominem argument - how?

Submitted by Lee D. Cary (United States), May 3, 2006 at 15:50

An ad hominem argument , according to Webster's Dictionary, is one..."(1) appealing to one's prejudices, selish interests, etc. rather than reason, (2) attacking one's opponent rather than dealing with the subject under discussion." (The Latin is "to the man" as in arguing not against reasoning but against the persona holding the opposing view. The hominem is the accu. form of homo, and you accurately label it as singular. )

Your ad hominem argument is that Bush is stupid, and that those who voted for him twice are likewise stupid (I take "socio-political duds" as a rough equivalent of "stupid."), excepting those not of the "non-ruling class." (A puzzling term, indeed.) Your argument is clearly driven by some deeply held prejudice and is, therefore, on its face ad hominem.

Now, you could retort that to label an argument as ad hominem is itself ad hominem--prejudicial, that is. In that case, I would retort that when one categorically labels 54 million people, any 54 million people, as collectively "socio-political duds," or even, from the other direction, as "briliant socio-political thinkers," one's argument is clearly emanating from a deeply-held feeling that provokes firmly-prejudicial opinions that are ad hominem on their face. (If you're a voting US citizen, I speculate that you voted for Senator Kerry and have not gotten over the defeat yet.)

In reasoned discourse , the ad hominem argument is the fallback position of those who are either principally driven by prejudice, or prefer to conceal their true reasoning. They hurl, as In your case, categorical labels to discount those with whom they don't agree. That is the "how" by which your argument lacks brilliance.


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