Wednesday, August 6

a plea to the internet at large regarding the term "ad hominem"

The short version: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. Knock it off already.

The slightly longer version: I have observed that, of the people who use "ad hominem" in discussion on the internet, most do not know what they are talking about, and all but a tiny fraction of the remainder are engaged in an obnoxious, transparent form of rhetorical misdirection. Please do not be one of these people. It only makes others want to quote The Princess Bride at you like they are bookish 13-year-old homeschoolers.

A personal pledge: I hereby promise to abstain, in future, from all rhetorical & argumentative use of the term ad hominem. Even in situations where its use may be justified and convenient, I will resort instead to saying things like "you're attacking the man's character; he may indeed be a surly misanthropic prig without equal, but it does not logically follow that he is wrong about Boba Fett and socialized medicine."

See also: The ad hominem fallacy fallacy.

p1k3 / 2008 / 8 / 6