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Re: AM-INFO digest 28 "FREE"
On Wed, 12 Nov 1997, Jeffrey C. Ollie wrote:
>James Love wrote:
>> Mitch has an interesting point. Why is it so important for Microsoft to
>> refer to its critics as Microsoft Bashers? This was the term Slate used
>> to describe the Conference panel members, for example.
>It's called an "ad hominem" attack. If I had kept my Philosophy 101 textbook
>I could give you a better definition, but basically it's a method people use
>(consciously or unconsciously) to avoid rational discussion. One sure way for
>Microsoft to win is for people to start throwing insults rather than civilly
>working things out.
I knew the fact that I'm teaching a philosophy course this semester must be
relevant to this list somehow. According to Irving M. Copi's book, \\An
introduction to logic\\, an ad hominem argument is an informal, as opposed to
formal, logical fallacy. It is fallacious because it is or makes an irrelevant
point. If you and I debate the constitutionality of some law, and I respond to
a point you've made by calling you a ``knucklehead'' I've argued ad hominem.
It is a fallacy because your knuckleheadedness is irrelevant to the matter we
So, to wade through a lot of the ad hominem on this list, it is irrelevant to
the appraisal of MS whether the critics of MS are ``bashers,'' ``envious,''
``hateful,'' or ``technologically immature.'' In other words, all these things
may be true, and that fact is utterly irrelevant to the appraisal of MS.
You can without fear simply admit the truth of your opponents ad hominem
claims because they are logically irrelevant to the question at hand.
Note: every reference to or argument about an individual's status, situation,
circumstances, history, etc. isn't necessarily ad hominem. It is only ad
hominem when it is logically irrelevant to logical validity or invalidity of
an argument, the truth or falsity of some premiss.
Let's let Professor Copi have the last word:
The ad hominem fallacy ``is committed when, instead of trying to
disprove the truth of what is asserted, one attacks the person who made the
Cool, a little philosophy comes in handy sometimes.