You Are A Jerk And Not Very Loving, Therefore Everything You Say Is Obviously False!

Chances are that you have either been a recipient or have implemented what is called "Ad Hominem" reasoning in an argument or discussion with someone that you disagree with.

Here is how it work!  Let's say that you are having a heated, yet civil, debate with your friend John.  In the midst of the conversation you remember an important factually grounded component that John is not considering.  You know that offering this new evidence to the discussion should essentially end the conversation and put the whole debate to rest, so you speak confidently with an element of care so as to not come across arrogant.  After you state this new evidence John fires back, "Why on earth am I dealing or talking to you.  People like you are narrow-minded and I simply refuse to be the target of your hate, condemnation and false hurtful reasoning!"  Congratulations!  You have just been a victim of Ad Hominem reasoning! 

Ad Hominem reasoning is an attempt to negate the truth of a claim by not confronting the claim itself but by pointing out a perceived or realistic negative characteristic in the person making the assertion in order to negate or dismiss their claim. In other words, “You are not loving, therefore, what you are saying is simply not true.”  

Ad Hominem reasoning is most painful and detrimental for both parties because:  
  1. It moves the discussion away from a specific subject to personal attacks.
  2. Typically, once the "Ad Hominem" shift has happened the other person in the conversation retaliates back with a personal attack, thus increasing hostility in the discussion.
  3. It avoids addressing the issue at hand, it is a tactic to dodge the real issue.
  4. Often times personal characteristic that have no relationship towards a particular subject are used as basis to validate assertions as true or false.
  5. It can be used as a justification why a person is believed to be wrong.  
The reality is that there are times when a person is simply a jerk yet their argument and position are true.  There are also times when a person is a perfect sweet angel and their argument is dead wrong.  In other words, one does not have to be nice to be right and one does not have to be mean to be wrong.  

So keep in mind that there will be times when you may or may not be loving towards someone in a conversation.  You also may or may not be right in your conversation.  However, let's not link the two and confuse the issue!  

To read more on this topic:
The Need For "Understanding" To Precede "Criticism"


Admiralgoofball said…
Here in Seattle, I see a lot of political debate from with left turn into Ad Hominem when someone speaks with reason and sense confronts them.