What is it called when someone attacks your character

a doctor tells her patient to lose weight, and the patient thinks: “if my doctor really believed that, I wouldn’t be so fat”. a moviegoer criticizes tom cruise’s latest movie because cruise is a scientologist. a homeowner ignores a neighbor’s lawn care advice because the neighbor is… whatever: Democrat, Republican, Christian, or atheist. these examples illustrate the classic uses of ad hominem attacks, in which an argument is rejected or presented based on a personal characteristic of an individual rather than reasons for or against the claim itself.

Putting the focus on the arguer or person being discussed can distract us from the issues that matter. Instead of concentrating on the character of an individual, we should, in these cases, ask ourselves questions such as, is the doctor’s advice medically correct? Is the cruise movie entertaining? Is the neighbor’s lawn healthy? meanwhile, ad hominem attacks can also unfairly discredit a person, especially since such criticism is often effective.

Although ad hominem arguments have long been considered errors of reasoning, a recent analysis suggests that this is not always the case. In his new book, Media Argumentation: Dialectics, Persuasion, and Rhetoric, philosopher Douglas Walton of the University of Winnipeg proposes that fallacies like ad hominem are best understood as perversions or corruptions of perfectly valid arguments. Regarding ad hominem, Walton argues that while such attacks are often fallacious, they can be legitimate when a character’s criticism is directly or indirectly related to the point being made.

If Walton is correct, clearly distinguishing between these cases is important for evaluating the validity of the claims people make to us about each other. good or fair uses of ad hominem criticism should, in fact, persuade us, while unjustified uses should not.

corruptions what ad hominem arguments should we try to ignore? In the abusive ad hominem call, someone argues that because a person has a bad character, we should not accept that person’s claims. For example, during the 1800 presidential campaign, John Adams was called “a fool, a great hypocrite, and an unprincipled oppressor.” His rival, Thomas Jefferson, on the other hand, was considered “an uncivilized atheist, anti-American, a tool for the godless French.” accusations like these can easily shut down intelligent political discourse about what might make either candidate a good president.

Another illegitimate form of ad hominem is the tu quoque, or “you too” version, which is an attempt to discredit someone’s claims because they haven’t followed their own advice. the example of the overweight doctor prescribing weight loss falls into this category. its use is unfair because, after all, there are good reasons to lose weight, and the fact that a doctor has failed to follow their own advice should not deter others from trying to follow it.

the cruising attack, on the other hand, exemplifies “poison the well”, another type of ad hominem attack in which the attack on the character is launched before the listener has a chance to form their own opinion on an issue , in this case, the cruise movie. If it’s successful, the reminder that Cruise is affiliated with Scientology will bias the listener against the film. This bias is unwarranted, because Cruise’s religious affiliation is unrelated to her acting skills or the entertainment value of her film.

fair use what types of ad hominems could then be justified? Walton argues that an ad hominem is valid when the claims made about a person’s character or actions are relevant to the conclusions that are drawn. Think, for example, of former New York Governor Elliot Spitzer, who was caught wiretapping when he arranged to hire a prostitute for $4,300. Because this behavior went against Spitzer’s anti-corruption platform, revealing him would prevent Spitzer from ruling successfully; therefore, criticizing this aspect of his character was relevant and fair. In an earlier scandal, in 1987, televangelist Jimmy Swaggart was seen in a motel with a prostitute. Since his behavior undermined his preaching and his status as a Christian role model, an attack on the character based on this incident would have been in order.

In another case, when President Bill Clinton lied on national television about his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, the accusations that he was a liar were not entirely unfair. Although a supporter might argue that Clinton’s sex life was not directly relevant to his ability to govern, his ability to adhere to the truth certainly might be, and his willingness to lie on this occasion might call into question the veracity of the claim. comments from him on other topics. .

Of course, we shouldn’t discount everything anyone says, no matter how discredited. Just because a person lies or behaves inappropriately one time does not mean that he or she lies or behaves inappropriately all the time. again, a criticism of a person’s character should not preclude further examination of the arguments in question. after all, which position is correct is usually independent of a person’s character or conduct.

Being aware of how the ad hominem attack works can help us assess which instances of its use we should ignore and which we should consider. ask yourself: how relevant is a political candidate’s character or action to his or her ability to serve in office? How relevant is any person’s past or group affiliation to the claims that person makes or to that individual’s experience in a specific domain? if character-based attacks aren’t relevant to these larger issues, they’re best ignored. instead, we should attend to what is really important: what is a person claiming? why does he or she offer a particular point of view? Is that point of view defensible?

This story was originally published under the title “Character Attacks”.

Content Creator Zaid Butt joined Silsala-e-Azeemia in 2004 as student of spirituality. Mr. Zahid Butt is an IT professional, his expertise include “Web/Graphic Designer, GUI, Visualizer and Web Developer” PH: +92-3217244554

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