[linux-elitists] Argumentum Ad-hominem [was Re: Request for Comments: How to Deal with Internet?Trolls - the Cognitive Therapy approach]

Shlomi Fish shlomif at iglu.org.il
Mon Mar 7 22:26:33 PST 2011


Hi Rick,

thanks for your E-mail. Changing the subject - hope it doesn't FUBARs with too 
many gmail.com accounts, etc.

Sorry for the longish post, but I couldn't find a way to write a shorter 
message (or didn't have the time).

On Monday 07 Mar 2011 20:46:14 Rick Moen wrote:
> Quoting Nick Moffitt (nick at teh.entar.net):
> > I have also been partial to:
> > 	http://plover.net/~bonds/adhominem.html
> 
> That is indeed really excellent.  I have hastened to cross-reference
> that from my own piece.

Well, it is kinda long ("too long - didn't read"). However, quoting the second 
paragraph:

<quote>
In reality, ad hominem is unrelated to sarcasm or personal abuse. Argumentum 
ad hominem is the logical fallacy of attempting to undermine a speaker's 
argument by attacking the speaker instead of addressing the argument. The mere 
presence of a personal attack does not indicate ad hominem: the attack must be 
used for the purpose of undermining the argument, or otherwise the logical 
fallacy isn't there. It is not a logical fallacy to attack someone; the 
fallacy comes from assuming that a personal attack is also necessarily an 
attack on that person's arguments. 
</quote>

Now, the way I see it (and please let me know how I am wrong by quoting the 
whole context) is that the following sequence: (I've placed persons in [...])

1. [Alice] who is very experienced in licensing (and may have legal or pseudo-
legal background) claims that the "GPL has won".

2. [Sophie] is relatively inexperienced in dealing with licences, disagrees 
with [Alice] and claims that she thinks that it is too early to say if the GPL 
has "won" or that it doesn't matter too much, or that licences are not engaged 
in a war from which there's only one victor and that we should all live in 
peace, blah blah, etc. etc..

3. [Jack] says that because [Sophie] is much less experienced than [Alice], 
what she says does not hold water, and that [Alice] knows what she's saying.

Now, unless I misunderstood [Jack]'s objection in this case (and it's possible 
because the message of Rick (that [Jack] is his avatar) was a little too 
terse), it is an ad-hominem. However, if [Jack] just tells [Sophie] that she 
should respect what [Alice] says, because [Alice] is more experienced than 
her, then it is not an ad-hominem, but rather just saying "Please respect your 
elders." in nicer words.

However, like it or not, I think saying "the GPL has won" is too vague and 
non-factual. It's like saying "cats have won" or "dogs have won" or "PHP has 
won" or "Microsoft has won" or "Capitalism has won" or "Socialism has won" or 
all the other stuff like that. 

I might be a little dense, and I don't do "mind-reading" or neuro-lingual 
programming, but I'm usually intelligent enough to understand things when they 
are said correctly. If "Teh Enter-Nick" would be kind enough to explain what 
exactly he means by "The GPL has won.", then we can have a more meaningful 
discussion. Of course, I'm also in part guilty for responding to his "The GPL 
has won", possibly without properly getting to the bottom of his meaning. 
("Shlomif admits he has lost." - film at eleven - ;-)).

Regards,

	Shlomi Fish

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