April 17th, 2006


Ad Hominem

I have been watching a lot of debate recently on LJ...and here's what I have to contribute:

Ad Hominem is to attack the person instead of attacking that person's argument. Instead of saying, "your argument is stupid", in ad hominem, you say, "you are stupid because you argue like this." Instead of "I do not like your opinion", you say, "I do not like you."

Please, in all LJ discussions, everyone should, I think, avoid Ad Hominem. One should be careful to separate the opinion-holder from the opinion. If approached the right way, it is possible to change someone's opinion...or at least make the person see one's side of an argument. That is the essence of debate...and unless the decencies of debate are preserved, the exchange of views quickly degenerates into an argmument and then to a slanging match, with four-letter words being strewn around as the equivalent of stones or chappals.Even in print, it gives to just the kind of aggression and tendency towards violence that we have just seen happening. Surely we all want to avoid that.

I sound like a convent-nun headmistress, don't I? But since the other method of verbal abuse and "you are stupid" doesn't seem to resolve any conflict...how about trying the more polite way? When you see an argument that you don't agree with...don't react. Keep your temper, and after considering the other person's point of view, respect the fact that s/he has the right to differ from you, and then make your points calmly and logically. Emotions will not cloud up the issue and the debate can proceed.

It's the norm to be polite when you are agreeing and impolite when you are not. One should try being polite even when one is disagreeing strongly.

I have seen the efficacy of this in my own life.

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So please...in debate...no Ad Hominem!