[ExI] Striving for Objectivity Across Different Cultures
thespike at satx.rr.com
Wed Aug 20 17:54:46 UTC 2008
At 05:12 PM 8/19/2008 -0500, I wrote:
>I agree with BillK that the term "ad personam" itself is misleading;
>it would be preferable to have something more transparent in
>English. "Argument from thorough-going consistency with your deepest
>principles" is a bit of mouthful, though.
With Stefano's clarification to hand, I hoped "ex concessis [meaning:
arguing not from an "objective" truth, but from what is conceded by
your opponent to be true]" might perhaps be that very term! Thus:
< The Latin term "Ex concessis" means, in a UK legal context: "in
view of what has already been accepted". >
But I see elsewhere, rather surprisingly:
<Ex Concessis (Guilt By Association)
The argument attacks a position by pointing out that people who hold
the position sometimes act in ways that could be construed as
inconsistent with the position, or hold (or previously held) views
that could be construed as inconsistent with the position, or
associate with other people who act in such ways or hold such views.
The phrase "ex consessis" is a Latin phrase meaning "from what has
been conceded." It would seem to refer to an argument that begins
with premisses that have already been admitted or granted by the
opponent, although in practice it is used to label arguments in which
the opponent's "concession" of the premisses is merely assumed or implied.
"You can't criticize automobiles for causing air pollution. After
all, you drive a car, too."
"The Palestinians cannot really be interested in peace. Some of them
are known terrorists."
"Vegetarianism is un-American. Hitler was a vegetarian."
Ideas connect together. It is reasonable to expect people to hold
consistent beliefs, and it is desirable to hold consistent beliefs
ourselves. It is reasonable to expect people to act according to
their beliefs, and it is desirable to act consistently ourselves.
Opinions that do not sit comfortably with the rest of our beliefs and
actions certainly need to be examined. For this reason, it is not
necessarily bad reasoning to question opinions that are held by
people with whom we disagree on other matters, or by people who seem
to act in a manner that appears to be inconsistent with the opinions
However, there are many ways that ideas can be associated with each
other, and only some of these reflect a true logical connection. The
fallacy of Ex Concessis mimics the reasonable demand for logical
consistency, but it errs by demanding "consistency" on points that go
beyond the truly logical. Schopenhauer's example of the fallacy
illustrates the principle: "If you believe that suicide is morally
acceptable, why don't you go kill yourself?" It would certainly be
inconsistent of someone to kill himself while believing that suicide
is immoral, but there is no inconsistency if he fails to kill himself
while holding that suicide is morally permitted. Presumably he also
believes that it is morally permitted to remain alive!
Beliefs and opinions can become associated (often for no logical
reason) with ones friends, organizations to which one may belong,
ones geographic location, time period, hobbies, life circumstances,
etc. Beliefs and opinions can become associated with these things for
logical reasons as well. It may be reasonable to demand that someone
resign a country club membership if it turns out that the club is
engaged in discriminatory practices, but it is not reasonable to
question the sincerity of a person's views on (for example)
affirmative action on the grounds that he or she comes from Texas or
enjoys fly fishing.
Classification: A Fallacy of Irrelevance (a deductive fallacy of
soundness with a falsehood in the major premiss) in the Ad Hominem family.
Source: From the essay, "The Art of Controversy" by Arthur
Schopenhauer. Essays of Arthur Schopenhauer, trans. T. Bailey
Saunders. New York: Willey Book Co., n.d.>
If this is the usual way the term is employed, we're back looking for
a valid form of demanding consistency with one's announced or
disclosed deepest principles, or even with whatever has just been
conceded. (And of course that, too, might be too abstract a demand;
people are not sovereign unities of consciousness but often act in a
piecemeal and ad hoc fashion because that's the modular and ad hoc
way minds are constructed.)
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