[discuss] [IANAtransition] Troll

Shatan, Gregory S. GShatan at ReedSmith.com
Wed Apr 16 03:16:41 UTC 2014

I was going to say that you were the confused one, but instead, I did some research.  My conclusion is that the usage itself is hopelessly confused.  (In other words, neither of us are confused per se.) 

A quick survey reveals that the use and meaning of the terms ad personam and ad hominem seem to be so thoroughly confused and jumbled, both in academic use and popular discourse, by so many people, that it is probably better to stay away from them entirely, and just say what one means without resort to Latin. 

 Indeed, it appears that there are so many whole essays and scholarly articles -- even books -- written on the various meanings of ad hominem, that it would be worthless for us to discuss it.  I expect that if you brought a Classicist, a logician, a philosopher and a student of rhetoric (Classic? "New"?) together to discuss the meaning of ad hominem (and ad personam), they would probably come to blows.  And I'm sure that each one would say he (or she) was right and the others were wrong.  An argument among scholars of argument about differing theories of argument would be rather amusing....

Contrast the following:

A.  From Peter A. Angeles, Dictionary of Philosophy-- published by Barnes and Noble, copyright 1981.

3. Fallacy of argumentum ad hominem (argument against the man) . The Latin means "argument to the man." (a) Arguing against, or rejecting a person's views by attacking or abusing his personality, character, motives, intentions, qualifications, etc. as opposed to providing evidence why the views are incorrect. Example: "What John said should not be believed because he was a Nazi sympathizer." 
6. Fallacy of argumentum ad personam (appeal to personal interest). Arguing by appealing to the personal likes (preferences, prejudices, predispositions, etc.) of others in order to have an argument accepted.

B.  Arthur Schopenhauer, The Art of Controversy, XXXVIII:

A last trick is to become personal, insulting, rude, as soon as you perceive that your opponent has the upper hand, and that you are going to come off worst. It consists in passing from the subject of dispute, as from a lost game, to the disputant himself, and in some way attacking his person. It may be called the argumentum ad personam, to distinguish it from the argumentum ad hominem, which passes from the objective discussion of the subject pure and simple to the statements or admissions which your opponent has made in regard to it.

C.  Listverse, 30 Latin Terms Explained:

Ad Hominem: An ad hominem argument consists of replying to an argument or factual claim by attacking a characteristic or belief of the person making the argument or claim, rather than by addressing the substance of the argument or producing evidence against the claim. It is most commonly used to refer specifically to the ad hominem abusive, or argumentum ad personam, which consists of criticizing or personally attacking an argument’s proponent in an attempt to discredit that argument.

D.  The American HeritageR Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright c2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

ad hom′i・nem′ adv.
Usage Note: As the principal meaning of the preposition ad suggests, the homo of ad hominem was originally the person to whom an argument was addressed, not its subject. The phrase denoted an argument designed to appeal to the listener's emotions rather than to reason, as in the sentence "The Republicans' evocation of pity for the small farmer struggling to maintain his property is a purely ad hominem argument for reducing inheritance taxes." This usage appears to be waning; only 37 percent of the Usage Panel finds this sentence acceptable. The phrase now chiefly describes an argument based on the failings of an adversary rather than on the merits of the case: Ad hominem attacks on one's opponent are a tried-and-true strategy for people who have a case that is weak. Ninety percent of the Panel finds this sentence acceptable. The expression now also has a looser use in referring to any personal attack, whether or not it is part of an argument, as in "It isn't in the best interests of the nation for the press to attack him in this personal, ad hominem way." This use is acceptable to 65 percent of the Panel. ・ Ad hominem has also recently acquired a use as a noun denoting personal attacks, as in "Notwithstanding all the ad hominem, Gingrich insists that he and Panetta can work together" (Washington Post). This usage may raise some eyebrows, though it appears to be gaining ground in journalistic style. ・ A modern coinage patterned on ad hominem is ad feminam, as in "Its treatment of Nabokov and its ad feminam attack on his wife Vera often border on character assassination" (Simon Karlinsky). Though some would argue that this neologism is unnecessary because the Latin word homo refers to humans generically, rather than to the male sex, in some contexts ad feminam has a more specific meaning than ad hominem, being used to describe attacks on women as women or because they are women, as in "Their recourse ... to ad feminam attacks evidences the chilly climate for women's leadership on campus" (Donna M. Riley).

E.  Argumentation Theory after the New Rhetoric, Frans H.  van Eemeren (in l’analisi linguistica e letteraria xvii (2009) 1)

In their definition of argumentum ad hominem, Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca refer to Schopenhauer.  Unlike Schopenhauer, they see nothing reprehensible in this form of argumentation. They even argue that without ad hominem argumentation it would be impossible to win others over to a particular standpoint.  In their view, ad hominem does not denote a specific (and incorrect) argumentation technique, but a general characteristic of all successful argumentation.  According to the new rhetoric, arguing ad hominem means starting from the audience’s opinions concerning facts and values.  Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca place ad hominem on the same level as arguing ex concessis.  Arguing ad hominem amounts to utilizing what the audience is prepared to concede (concedere).

Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca also discuss the argumentation technique of personally attacking the opposition.  in order to avoid confusion, they do not call this technique argumentum ad hominem but argumentum ad personam. They do not reject a personal attack on the opposition. They do warn, however, that in certain cases it is not so expedient because it may have the reverse effect.  Scientific audiences in particular, have a low esteem of personal attacks. Then the attack on the opposition backfires and the speaker’s (or writer’s) own standing, prestige and credibility are reduced.

F. Jefsey

"This is all the easier in English in that the confusion between the two phrases [ad hominem and ad personam] already belongs to the common language."  http://www.ietf.org/mail-archive/web/iucg/current/msg00610.html   (Part of a very long thread devoted to use/misuse/differing use of "ad hominem")

-----Original Message-----
From: Michel Gauthier [mailto:mg at telepresse.com] 
Sent: Tuesday, April 15, 2014 7:03 PM
To: Shatan, Gregory S.; 'Jefsey'; Jay Daley; ianatransition at icann.org; discuss at 1net.org List
Subject: Re: [IANAtransition] Troll


I am afraid you confuse ad hominem and ad personam. I think one should be carefull at not cofnusing terms, because this would to exactly do what Jefsey wants: to show the NTIA, the world and FLOSS that the ICANN MS community can only ban competition and is unable to cooperate with VGN Masters. This would legitimate their claim that they must develop their own "fail secure plan for the net" in case they are unwelcome.  They would love that you ban a network pioneer: 
he would make the head-lines during Sao Paulo, and ten other ones would replace him.


At 23:53 15/04/2014, Shatan, Gregory S. wrote:
>"Ad Hominem is a general category of fallacies in which a claim or 
>argument is rejected on the basis of some irrelevant fact about the 
>author of or the person presenting the claim or argument."
>I don't see anything ad hominem about Jay Daley's message, since it 
>goes to the nature of the texts, not the writer.  On the other hand, 
>accusing someone of being a mouthpiece for another organization or 
>"blundering", strikes me as ad hominem.
>Greg Shatan
>-----Original Message-----
>From: ianatransition-bounces at icann.org 
>[mailto:ianatransition-bounces at icann.org] On Behalf Of Jefsey
>Sent: Tuesday, April 15, 2014 5:45 PM
>To: Jay Daley; ianatransition at icann.org; discuss at 1net.org List
>Subject: Re: [IANAtransition] Troll
>At last!
>It took time! To know what would be the ICANN decision!
>So it is delivered through an NZ ad-hominem. Good, now we know.
>Sorry, I am quite buzzy right now....
>I will come back on this later on.
>PS. If this was not an ICANN decision but an individual blunder, ICANN 
>people can let me know.
>At 22:51 15/04/2014, Jay Daley wrote:
> >Are there others out there who would agree with me that this list is 
> >being overwhelmed by messages from at least one troll?  In particular 
> >messages that make ludicrous claims, provide nonsensical analysis, 
> >follow arbitrary directions and altogether are disruptive to the 
> >conversation taking place?
> >In my view this list is too important and already too time consuming 
> >to allow any trolls to disrupt it in this way.
> >If so then what if any process do we have for removing such a troll?
> >I note that the IETF, which is a long established multi-stakeholder 
> >organisation has also had problems like this and has occasionally had 
> >to ban people.  Those bans were then subject to two levels of appeal:
> >
> >https://www.ietf.org/iesg/appeal.html
> >https://www.iab.org/appeals/
> >
> >cheers
> >Jay
> >
> >PS I have posted the same message to discuss at 1net.org
>ianatransition mailing list
>ianatransition at icann.org
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