General Question

mammal's avatar

Do you accept ad hominem exchanges as a natural facet of debating?

Asked by mammal (9431points) June 10th, 2009

is it justifiable, acceptable, inevitable? does it cheapen the debate? does it add something visceral to the proceedings?

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16 Answers

nikipedia's avatar

Ad hominem attacks force a debate to decay into insults, which is unproductive and hard to recover from. If you want to resolve a problem, it’s not helpful. Then again, not all debates are about solving problems…

mammal's avatar

@nikipedia not all debates are about solving problems…too true, some manifestly create problems, some are mere tactical diversions from actually addressing the problem, and so on.

alive's avatar

if the ad hominem is wrong then it is problematic… but if it is right, well…
if the ad hominem is malicious then it is also problematic.

@mammal ad hominem fluther discussion

mammal's avatar

@alive i don’t see it as off limits, personally. However it can be pretty distracting.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

Ad hominem is common but not acceptable or much interesting to me. The distraction you speak of usually results in self embarrassment later.

alive's avatar

sorry i should have made a little note that the link starts off pretty bland, but gets better down towards the end…

knowledge does not just “happen” or appear out of nowhere. it must be validated through a process. it is humans that go through that process, therefore knowledge is “apart” of us.

feminists and postmodernists and some other theorists like non-white, non-male, non-straight, etc might argue that the process of validating knowledge cannot be taken out of its cultural, historical, and social contexts—

Then Knowledge is not separate from our existence. We are knowledge. Therefore, the ad hominem attack becomes necessary, or at least intertwined with the ‘regular’ attack on the argument. The two are inseparable… just a thought.

bythebay's avatar

I suppose that would depend on the topic of the debate. If it were a debate regarding character, then it would seem appropriate. If it’s a topical debate, I do think it shows weakness and often someone will fall into ad hominem when they have no other recourse for discussion.

Ivan's avatar

It is a logical fallacy. An ad hominem attack is not simply calling someone a name, it is the insinuation that someone must be incorrect because he/she is a <fill in the blank: derogatory term>.

For instance, “Barack Obama is an Arab” is not an ad hominem attack. “Barack Obama is an Arab, and therefore isn’t qualified to be president” is an ad hominem attack.

benjaminlevi's avatar

Thats usually when I stop debating them.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

Ad hominem attacks mean all meaningful discourse has ended.

Is it a natural course of debate? No because when this happens, it is no longer a debate.

susanc's avatar

To remind someone they, too, make mistakes… maybe. But usually what we mean by an ad hominem argument is just calling someone an idiot.

whatthefluther's avatar

@mammal…It is extremely difficult to avoid in heated debate, particularly when face to face. But here at fluther, we have a little luxury” called “check your work.” It would be time well spent, and provide the argument more value, if that check included not just reviewing spelling and grammar, but also ensuring the clarity of the words and meaning as well as the removal of any type of personal attack. If your argument is a good one, it needs no “baggage.”

Ruthi's avatar

I personally think ad hominem exchange is generally resorted to only when the party making the statement runs outta stuff to make the argument interesting. It generally boils down to being nasty and mean because maybe there’s no other way they see they can prove their argument better?

However, I guess if it’s effective it can be done…......I dunno, I generally try to stay far from it because I think it just looks petty.

alive's avatar

when it is not malicious, i give it the ok. because frankly you cannot discuss ideas separated from the brain that produced them. everyone has an agenda, but that also means if someone attacks my hominem i gotta deal with it

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