17 March, 2010

The Rules: Ad Hominem Arguments

The other night, I was accused of attempting end a debate with ad hominems. We will leave aside the fact that my correspondent used an adjective as a noun. Let's take the rule against that as read.

Argumentum ad hominem means argument against the person. Very roughly, it's Latin for playing the man and not the ball.

If you freely admit that you are mocking me and say that I am not open to rational discussion, that's ad hominem.
If I respond to your mockery, non-sequiturs and general attitude of entitlement by finally telling you to fuck off, that's not ad hominem, that's simply what I should have done two hours earlier when I thought I would be having a discussion about ideas.

Here's another clue for you all: 
When I say "with respect," I mean it.
When I say "with all due respect," it's a euphemism.
Use this trick wisely.


  1. I've never heard the expression before and damn it would have been useful over the years! My ex used to say, rather infuriatingly: 'ANYONE can quote facts to support and argument' when he was losing.

    And what does it mean it they just say: 'Respect!' Nothing? Thought so.

  2. 'ANYONE can quote facts to support and argument'

    Um, no. Only those whose arguments are supported by the facts.

    Joe Biden says you should never question your opponent's motives, which is a lovely, high-minded position, but I think sometimes you have to. I'm finding that the first ones to cry "ad hominmen!" are the ones who slyly use it as much as they can.

    My point is that telling someone to fuck off is not ad hominmen, it's abuse - and it's abuse I thought was justified for wasting two hours of my time.

    I must confess to using 'Respect!' once in a while

  3. I've always used "with all due respect" as a veiled insult when I don't believe that person is due ANY respect!


  4. I read something years ago that completely changed my approach to the internet. "Arguing with idiots never made anybody smarter".

  5. They drag you down to their level, then beat you with experience.