[ExI] Usage of "ad hominem", "ad personam", etc.

Lee Corbin lcorbin at rawbw.com
Thu Aug 21 23:04:49 UTC 2008

I appreciate very much the scholarly efforts of everyone
to properly define and distinguish among ad hominem,
ad personam, ex concessis, and so on, simply because
it's good to have knowledge to hand about what they
really mean.

However, as a practical matter facilitating discussion 
here and on other lists, it must be admitted that few are
going to master these subtleties (least of all, me). 

Stefano complained, finally,

> Yet, it remains the case that everyday usage of the two
> expressions is at least in my experience bizarrely reversed... :-/

to which I must sadly admit that if *he's* going to find these
terms confusing, then what about the rest of us? (Excluding
Bill and Damien, of course.)

Please criticize (or add to) these suggestions:

1. "Ad hominem" easily has a clear enough meaning
    that we may all use if without fear of confusion.
2. "Ad hominem" does *not* include attempts to
    expose verbal inconsistencies in someone's views.
3. So called "attacks" on a person's character by
    pointing out that he or she says one thing but in
    life does another, or appears in other words to
    be hypocritical may politely be undertaken without
    falling into the category of "personal attack" or "ad
    hominem", provided that an avenue of explanation
    of the apparent hypocrisy or inconsistency is left
    open (preferably by means of asking a question).
4. The usages of "argumentum ad personam" are so
    varied and so confusing that we ought not to
    employ the concept.


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