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The Semantics of the Ad Hominem

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Messages: 51 - 57 of 57
  • Message 51

    , in reply to message 47.

    Posted by Bx4 (U8367429) on Tuesday, 22nd January 2013

    in reply to #47

    Hi cucumber still v. busy in the world and also due psiomniac a reply in an involuted debate about the Christian polemicist Plantinga. so a substantive reply will be much delayed.

    Suggest that to avoid further interventions about AGW, the nature of extant scientific theories, etc., etc., etc. we change the conditional to.

    'If heat is composed of a type of fluid made of indestructible particles then those who say it is not are idiots.'

    and to avoid ambiguity we adopt this definition idiot:

    'A person of profound mental retardation having a mental age below three years and generally being unable to learn connected speech or guard against common dangers. The term belongs to a classification system no longer in use and is now considered offensive.' (The American Heritage Medical Dictionary)

    Must away
    bs

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  • Message 52

    , in reply to message 51.

    Posted by FowPah (U1746998) on Tuesday, 22nd January 2013

    www.youtube.com/watc...

    Report message2

  • Message 53

    , in reply to message 51.

    Posted by TooManyPosts (U2440869) on Wednesday, 23rd January 2013

    In reply to Bx4

    Hello, and there is no rush on replies of course.

    In a nutshell my last message boiled down to questioning what is meant by an "irrelevant premise". I think the same reasoning I have given applies to the new example also. But let:

    X: heat is composed of a type of fluid made of indestructible particles
    Y: those who say it is not are idiots

    However I think that that definition of idiot changes things too much as that definition of idiot has sufficiently well-defined observer-independent factual criteria so that we can be confident in saying that a certain belief in that heat business has no relevance as to whether these criteria are met; and so say that X=>Y is irrelevant to the argument that seeks to demonstrate idiocy.

    But the definition of idiot most likely to be used is a lot more woolly. It is going to be more akin to:
    "a foolish or stupid person '(Merriam Webster)".
    I do not think that this definition has clear-enough observer-independent factual parts to make it as simple a matter to decide whether not believing X has relevance to this term's definition being satisfied.

    I think that you will then argue, as you appeared to do before, that in this latter case even though the definition itself has no explicit observer-independent factual parts, the person that states X=>Y is adding one, X, as this has to be true and not believed in in order for the term idiot to apply according to the argument they are creating.

    But I don't see that going down this route changes anything, for reasons set out before. In fact X=>Y would be especially relevant to an argument that seeks to establish idiocy when this concept relies on X. Well it would be wouldn't it, as it is its existence that gave idiot this requirement in the first place.

    But as I say, no rush.

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  • Message 54

    , in reply to message 49.

    Posted by hotmousemat (U2388917) on Wednesday, 23rd January 2013

    Bx4
    Actually the truth or falsity antecedent is irrelevant as to whether the consequent is intended as an abusive ad hominem. 


    Why do you now bring in 'intention' to accompany the equally redundant 'abuse'? If this is about intention, then there is no need for semantics, the question is solved by asking the hypothetical person what they intended.

    However...as I keep saying, I agree the truth or falsity is irrelevant; it must be because neither side can (yet) prove which is right. That means any discussion of AGW is not which is correct, but which is most likely to be correct.

    In such a discussion we produce evidence, including 'expert testimony'. (You quote Popper for example.) If, in a discussion about AGW (or semantics) I quoted the evidence of some distinguished person to support my point, would you call that an 'ad hominem' argument? If not, then how can my opponent's disparagement of my witness be an 'ad hominem' one?

    A somewhat odd interpretation which seems to presume that the speaker of 'The IPCC are idiots' was blissfully unaware that in both its ordinary language and medical usage the term 'idiot' is deemed offensive.... 

    Once again, just being abusive does not make a comment ad hominem. 'The IPCC are ugly' is insulting, but it does not reflect on their ability as scientists. Since we are discussing science, it is irrelevant and thus ad hominem. But if we were discussing the IPCC's marriage prospects the same comment would be insulting but relevant, therefore not ad hominem.

    I would have thought the first question posed to the speaker should rather be 'What do you mean by "idiot"?' Though, of course, if her answer was 'Someone who use invalid data' then your argument would hold. 

    I think most people would get that without the need to spell it out! If in the context of a discussion of AGW, a supporter says 'the Met Office agrees with me about AGW', I think most people would get that they think the Met Office are a good witness. And if somebody else relied; 'The Met Office are idiots', I think most people would get that the context remained AGW and this was a criticism of their expertise in AGW. Who would assume we had opened a new topic, and were now referring to the Met Office's opinions on football, or their taste in sexual partners?

    I'm merely pointing out that I don't think it is a realistic reflection of anyone's actual usage. 

    I think that's what I m doing! I do not think that in the context of any real discussion, disparagement of the mental abilities of somebody being presented as an expert, however unsubtle, is irrelevant, therefore it doesn't qualify as 'ad hominem'.

    Report message4

  • Message 55

    , in reply to message 54.

    Posted by TooManyPosts (U2440869) on Wednesday, 23rd January 2013

    In reply to hotmousemat:

    I think that's what I m doing! I do not think that in the context of any real discussion, disparagement of the mental abilities of somebody being presented as an expert, however unsubtle, is irrelevant, therefore it doesn't qualify as 'ad hominem'. 
    I personally would make a distinctions regarding the basis of the claimed idiocy.

    "Only an idiot would believe in AGW therefore any evidence you present for it is non-credible as it is being presented by an idiot"

    versus the claim being made on some 'genuine' grounds such as the person's inability to add 1 and 1, as an extreme example.

    Although the former may come more under poisoning the well.

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  • Message 56

    , in reply to message 55.

    Posted by hotmousemat (U2388917) on Wednesday, 23rd January 2013

    "Only an idiot would believe in AGW therefore any evidence you present for it is non-credible as it is being presented by an idiot" 

    I think the 'as' in that formulation wouldn't quite fit, not if it means 'because'.

    "AGW is (plainly) wrong. Therefore evidence in favour of AGW is (plainly) wrong."

    So it would be an error to then say that the evidence for AGW is (plainly) wrong 'as/because' it is presented by an idiot. It would be wrong whoever presented it.

    (Perhaps I should say to anyone who chances on these posts that this discussion isn't really about AGW! Personally, I think the evidence for AGW is very strong. And I also deny being an idiot. Though I will admit I should be doing something more productive.)

    Report message6

  • Message 57

    , in reply to message 46.

    Posted by TooManyPosts (U2440869) on Wednesday, 23rd January 2013

    In reply to robtgore:

    I am interested in your comment:

    tests of truth appropriate to one discipline have been borrowed or applied in others. 
    Could you elaborate on that please?

    I can understand that "i x 3i = -17" is 'true' or 'false' in the sense of relative to a prior agreed system.

    And understand that "the Earth is round" is true or false in an absolute sense, independent of humans and their systems.

    And that ascertaining that that latter statement is 'true' in the absolute sense is, in scientific terms, not possible and that a judgment of 'very credible' may be as good as it gets.

    I suspect that most of the time when people talk about whether or not AGW is 'true' they would, if pointed out to them, accept that they need to be talking about whether it is 'true' that it is a credible theory as opposed to whether it is 'true' in the absolute sense, if they are to be ultra precise. And that 'true' will then be a relative-to-agreed-upon-systems truth.

    But where is the mixing up of tests going on?

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