[ExI] Striving for Objectivity Across Different Cultures

Damien Broderick 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:

<http://www.clickdocs.co.uk/glossary/ex-concessis.htm> :

< 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:

<http://www.cuyamaca.edu/brucethompson/Fallacies/exconcessis.asp> :

<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 
in question.

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.)

Damien Broderick

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