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Ad Hominem - A Fallacy?

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  1. 1. Argumentum Ad Hominem A Fallacy?
  2. 2. CONTENTS iContents1 Introduction 12 Fallacies – A Historical Overview 23 The Argumentum Ad Hominem 54 Under certain circumstances fallacious 7 4.1 Walton’s approach . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 4.2 Govier’s approach . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 85 Non-fallacious 9 5.1 Johnstone’s approach . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 5.2 Perelman’s approach . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 5.3 Hitchcock’s approach . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 106 Always fallacious 11 6.1 Locke’s approach . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 6.2 Van Eemeren’s & Grootendorst’s approach . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 117 Conclusion 13 7.1 Recapitulation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 7.2 Further research . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14R´f´rences ee 15
  3. 3. 1 INTRODUCTION 11 IntroductionThis paper is aimed at giving two overviews, an historical overview about fallacy theoriesand a systematical overview about approaches to the argumentum ad hominem.The historical overview about different approaches to fallacies constitutes the first part ofthe paper. The history of fallacy research is far too broad to be presented fully here. Thispaper can provide only an overview of the main approaches in the history of the research.At the center of this historical overview are the approaches to fallacies of Aristotle, JohnLocke, Richard Whately, Charles Hamblin, John Woods, Douglas N. Walton, Else Barth& Erik Krabbe, Christopher Tindale and Frans van Eemeren & Rob Grootendorst.The second part of the paper concerns one of the pragma-dialectical fallacies in detail:The ad hominem fallacy, which is one of the most widely and controversially discussedfallacies. The ultimate goal of this paper is to provide a systematic description of differentapproaches to the argumentum ad hominem. In order to do so, it is the task to clarify whatsort of approaches regard the argumentum ad hominem (1) as fallacious in certain contextsand under certain circumstances, (2) as non-fallacious or (3) as always (per definitionem)fallacious and how these approaches cohere with each other. Within this systematizationthe three widely accepted variants of the argumentum ad hominem (direct, indirect andtu quoque variant) are discussed and linked up to the three main views (under certaincircumstances fallacious, non-fallacious and always fallacious).Finally there is a brief comparison of the approaches with regard to the problems arisingwithin the three different trends. The question here is also, if there is a variant of theargumentum ad hominem where all the approaches conform with each other in their viewon the fallaciousness. At last a short overview is given, on what further research couldconcentrate on.
  4. 4. 2 FALLACIES – A HISTORICAL OVERVIEW 22 Fallacies – A Historical OverviewThe study of fallacies began with Aristotle (384–322 BCE). In De sophisticis elenchisAristotle put the study of fallacies in a dialectical context and listed 13 different typesof fallacies, categorized into fallacies dependend on language (in dictione) and fallaciesindependent on language (extra dictionem). Fallacies of the first type “are connected withambiguities and shifts of meaning”, while fallacies of the latter type “can also occur in anartificial ’perfect’ language” (van Eemeren, 2004, p. 159). In general he defined a fallacyas an argument wich seems to be valid but is not (De sophisticis elenchis, 164a). This def-inition dominated the study of fallacies and remained authoritative up to the last decades.And although Francis Bacon (1561–1626), a British philosopher, was of the opinion thatthere are more important fallacies than those Aristotle mentioned, he favoured the Aris-totelian approach.1John Locke (1632–1704), also a philosopher, later made the most important additions tothe Aristotelian list of fallacies: The ad Fallacies. In An Essay Concerning Human Un-derstanding (1690/1995) he introduced and discussed four ad arguments, among them theargumentum ad hominem, which will be dicussed later in detail. But it must be kept inmind, that Locke did not yet “explicitly states that he considers the ad arguments to befallacious” (van Eemeren, 2001, p. 142).Richard Whately (1778–1863), a logician and rhetorician, replaced the Aristotelian defini-tion of a fallacy with a wider one: “Any argument, or apparent argument, which professesto be decisive of the matter at hand, while in reality it is not” (1826/1995, p. 142). Alsohe suggested that “rules should be given for a division of Fallacies into logical and non-logical”2 (1826/1995, p. 71). In the group of logical fallacies, the conclusion does notfollow from the premisses, whereas in non-logical fallacies the ’fault’ has nothing to dowith invalidity. Whatelys approach of syllogistic and inductive fallacies therefore providesa logical point of view. Whatelys influence on the textbook tradition was noteworthy.3The Standard Treatment of fallacies in logic textbooks was problematized by CharlesHamblin (1922–1985). He portrayed the Standard Treatment in his book Fallacies (1970).Hamblin came across this idea because he found a remarkable degree of uniformity in thevarious approaches to fallacies: Fallacy theory deals with errors in reasoning and insteadof Aristotles’ division of fallacies into those dependend on language and those independenton language in textbooks a distinction between fallacies of clearness (they correspondendmore or less with Aristotles in dictione) and fallacies of relevance (this category also in- 1 The Aristotelian list was the starting point for a group of French scholars working on fallacies, too.In Logic or the Art of Thinking (Arnauld, 1996) the Port-Royal Logic included these fallacies in this firstmodern approach to fallacies. 2 He developed a tree of classification which shows the fallacies in detail (1826/1995, p. 75). 3 Another British philosopher, John Stuart Mill (1806–1873) in A System of Logic, Ratiocinative andInductive (1865/2002) advanced the idea of a category of inductive fallacies (whereas Whately advanced theidea that reasoning should conform to the syllogism) but this led to no significant theoretical innovations.
  5. 5. 2 FALLACIES – A HISTORICAL OVERVIEW 3cludes the ad fallacies) can be found.Hamblins criticism was devastating. Not only he criticized the definition of a fallacy, butalso he stated that there is “no theory of fallacies at all, in the sense in which we havetheory of correct reasoning or inference” (1970, p. 11). After a closer examination of thispart of his general critique it becomes clear that Hamblin is right: Most of the fallaciesdiscussed in the Standard Treatment do not fit with the definition, and only a few fallacies(e.g. affirming the consequent and denying the antecedent) as formal fallacies fall underthe definition.The reactions to Hamblins critique were noticeable: Some authors were of the opinion thatthe theory of fallacies should be dropped out of logic textbooks at all (e.g. Lambert andUlrich), others paid attention to the conditions under which a specific argumentative moveshould count as a fallacy (e.g. Hitchcock (2007), Govier (1981) and Brinton (1985/1995)),and only a minority (among them Copi) adhered to the Standard Treatment and referto fallacies and it was done before. John Biro and and Harvey Siegel (1997) came upwith an epistemic approach representing a different view on fallacies as failed attempts toexpand our knowledge.4 Quite another thing did Jaakko Hintikka (1987) who viewed theAristotelian fallacies as interrogative mistakes in question dialogues.But amongst the post-Hamblin approaches to fallacies, the contribution of the logiciansJohn Woods and Douglas N. Walton was one of the most ambitious. They aimed fora better and much more coherent treatment of fallacies with the help of the theoreticalframework of logic which goes behind the pure syllogistic, predicate and propositionallogic.In classifying fallacies, they make a distinction between grades of formality. In their text-book Argument: The Logic of the Fallacies (1982) these grades of formality are specified:The first grade summarizies those fallacies which are in a very strict sense formal (e.g.the classical fallacy of four terms). Fallacies of this type can be technically described andanalyzed with the vocabulary of formal logic. Fallacies of the second grade are not formalin a strict sense, but their commission can be made explicit by reference to logical forms(e.g. the fallacy of ambiguity). Fallacies which are formally analyzable in an even weakersense (e.g. petitio principii ) are fallacies of the third grade of formality.In the 70s, a formal-dialectical approach by Else Barth and Erik Krabbe attracted interest. 4 The article Epistemic, Normativity, Argumentation, and Fallacies (1997) develops their theory fur-ther. For them, a theory of argumentation must fully engage the normativity of judgements about argu-ments, which means some sort of evaluation whether the argument is a good one or not. They contrasttheir normative approach to descriptive ones, which fail to explain why good arguments ar good and badones bad. They regard fallacies as epistemic failures, as arguments which fail to produce knowledge of, orto justify belief in, their conclusions. As a consequence, Biro and Siegel suggest epistemic seriousness asa necessary condition of non-fallaciousness. So, fallacies – and failed arguments more generally – must,in their opinion, be seen as failures of rationality. Their epistemic approach often was often criticised,especially by Jonathan E. Adler and Gy¨z¨ Sz´ll (1993 and 1995), who defended the argumentation theory o o edeveloped by Frans H. van Eemeren and Rob Grootendorst (2002, 2004, 2009), whereas e.g. Blair andJohnson (1993), Feldman (1994) and Lumer (1990, 1991) also defend an epistemic account of argumenta-tion.
  6. 6. 2 FALLACIES – A HISTORICAL OVERVIEW 4They envisaged in From Axiom to Dialogue (1982) a theory of rational argumentation as afinite set of production rules for rational arguments. Arguments which cannot be producedwith these rules are per definitionem fallacious. Within this framework, there is thereforeno list of specific fallacies, but with an analysis they can be ’unmasked’ as fallacies.Christopher Tindale also supports Hamblins criticism of the Standard Treatment, andlisted some other problems of dealing with fallacies, (e.g. the problem of relativity (inhis opinion arguments are in some contexts fallacious but in others not), which was alsodiscussed by Charles Willard.5 After discussing different definitions of fallacies6 he makesclear that he sees fallacies as ’bad process’, which “concerns the breakdown of the com-munication process between arguer/argument and audience in rhetorical communication.”(Tindale, 1999, p. 180)Besides his work with Woods, Walton published a large number of book on fallacies onhis own. His pragmatic approach, which deals with informal fallacies and which markeda new stage in his development, is well known. He combined the study of individual falla-cies with examining real-life cases. He developed a theory of fallacies as shifts in dialoguetypes: “During the course of a conversation between two or more parties there can be achange in the context of argumentation or dialectical shift from one type of dialogue toanother.” (1992, p. 137)Finally, the pragma-dialectical approach, developed by Frans H. van Eemeren and RobGrootendorst, links up with formal dialectics. They adopted the idea of developing a setof rules which makes it possible to analyze fallacies in a systematic way.In pragma-dialectics, fallacies are viewed as wrong discussion moves in the communicationprocess. Within the ideal of a critical discussion, which aimes at resolving a differenceof opinion between at least two parties, there are ten rules for critical discussion7 , whichensure that the difference of opinion is not being hindered. In principle each of these tendiscussion rules constitutes a separate and different standard for critical discussion. Inthis approach, fallacies are seen as violations of rules for a critical discussion that preventor hinder the resolution of a difference of opinion. 5 In Failures of Relevance: A rhetorical View (1995) Charles Willard provides a rhetorical andrelativity-characteristically view on fallacies: “Fallaciousness never did reside solely on logical form. (...)The most credible fallacies theories always did focus on the fits between messages, situations and intentions(1995, p. 157). 6 One very remarkable definition was done by Johnson, who gave a very general and wide definition:“A fallacy is an argument which violates one of the criteria/standards of good argument and which occurswith sufficient frequency in discourse to warrant being baptized” (1987/1995, p. 116). An example for sucha criterion is ’relevance’. 7 In the book Argumentation (2002) van Eemeren provides ten rules, whereas in A Systematic Theoryof Argumentation (2004) 15, more technical rules are presented
  7. 7. 3 THE ARGUMENTUM AD HOMINEM 53 The Argumentum Ad HominemWith this historical background knowledge we can turn now to the systematic part. Asin the introduction already decribed, within this systematic part not fallacy theories ingeneral, but approaches to a certain fallacy – the argumentum ad hominem – are examined.A closer view on the different approaches to fallacies of the historical overview reveals thatthere are nearly as many different approaches to fallacies as people who were engaged inthis particular research topic. Nevertheless, some basic trends can be identified:First, there is a group of scholars who focus on the circumstances of fallacies and thecontext in which they occur. Most of them belong to the group of informal logicians,among them Walton and Govier.The second big group of researchers dealing with fallacies, among them Johnstone, andHitchcock, have a more rhetorical view and regard fallacies not as ’fallacious’ moves, butas legitimite arguments.The third group is the one around van Eemeren, in which fallacies are per definitionem,and therefore always, fallacious.The argumentum ad hominem as one of the arguments often discussed in the varietyof fallacy theories seems to have a special position in research: Often, it was simplysaid that the argumentum ad hominem is obviously fallacious (e.g. Copi) without givingexplicit reasons, and in nearly the same frequency it was discussed if it is a fallacy atall. Within the huge amount of articles that has been published on this issue, thesethree gerenal trends can be found: Arguments like the ad hominem can be (1) fallaciousunder certain circumstances, (2) non-fallacious or (3) always fallacious. Due to the largeamount of research that has been done on this particular instance of argumentation, notall approaches can be discussed. Therefore, each of these three general trends will berepresented by first discussing the most influential or representative approach to thenaddress at least one other theory briefly as well in order to do justice to the extensiveamount of research that has been carried out.In order to do so, it will first be examined about which elements of the definition ofthe argumentum ad hominem the covered authors agree upon. First of all, ad hominem(Greek pros ton anthrˆpon) can simply be translated with ’toward the person’. They all oregard an argumentum ad hominem, as a piece of argumentative discourse, which has asits propositional content one or more proposition about a person, which plays a role inthis discourse.As a minimal consens of most of the apporaches to the ad hominem it can also be statedthat the ad hominem is some sort of attacking another person instead of responding to theactual arguments in question. This means that in most of the approaches the ad hominem
  8. 8. 3 THE ARGUMENTUM AD HOMINEM 6is classified as a fallacy of relevance8 , for example by Copi9 , Walton and Govier.As in the introduction already mentioned, there are three widely accepted variants of thead hominem. These variants were already included in the Standard Treatment of fallacies.The ways how a person can be attacked in argumentative discourse are as follows:(1) Direct Variant The first type is the direct personal attack on the other party.This variant is also called ’abusive variant’. In Argumentation van Eemeren describes thisfallacy as the “fallacy of depicting the other party as stupid, bad, unreliable, etcetera”(2002, p. 183). By cutting down one’s opponent by casting doubt on his intelligence,expertise, character or good faith the attacking person tries to make the opponent losinghis credibility.An example for the abusive variant of the ad hominem (B) is: A: Everyone buying a new car should buy one with a hybrid drive to protect the environment. B: How would you know? You don’t know the first thing about cars and hybrid drive.(1) Indirect Variant The second type is the indirect variant, also called ’circumstantialad hominem’, which consists of casting doubt on the opponents motives. By trying to makehim to appear suspicious, the attacking person tries to show that the opponent is biasedbecause of his personal interest in the matter.An example for the circumstantial variant of the ad hominem (B) is: A: Everyone buying a new car should buy one with a hybrid drive to protect the environment. B: Do you really think we should believe you? Surely, maybe it is better for our environment to buy cars with a hybrid drive, but isn’t it the case that your father is the only person in town selling those type of cars?(1) Tu Quoque Variant The last of the three variants is the so-called ’tu quoque’-variant. Here, an attempt is made to “undermine the other party’s credibility by pointingout a contradiction in that party’s words or deeds” (2002, p. 112). This could be aninconsistency between the current and past standpoint someone is attacking or defending,or an inconsistency between a standpoint and the corresponding behaviour. People usethis variant, because they think that someone who is not consistent cannot be right. Butnot being consistent does not automatically mean that the standpoint is wrong.An example for the tu quoque variant of the ad hominem (B) is: 8 van Eemeren and Grootendorst in the pragma-dialectical approach do not see the ad hominem fallacyas a fallacy of relevance, but as a fallacy concerning the freedom of action of the participants of a discourse 9 According to Copi fallacies of relevance have the characteristic that there is a psychological linkbetween the premisses and the conclusion, but the used premisses are not logically connected to theconclusion (1953/1972, p. 72). An argument which seems to be a fallacious ad hominem, but is in fact notbecause the issue at hand is about the ’attacked’ person, he calls pseudo-fallacy
  9. 9. 4 UNDER CERTAIN CIRCUMSTANCES FALLACIOUS 7 A: Everyone buying a new car should buy one with a hybrid drive to protect the environment. B: You’re not being serious! You are driving a Jeep on your own.4 Under certain circumstances fallaciousThe first variant to approach the argumentum ad hominem is to regard it as an argumentwhich is sometimes fallacious and sometimes not. To decide whether it is fallacious or notthe context and the cirumstances under which the argumentum ad hominem has been putforward, must be taken into account.Walton’s approach to the ad hominem, regarding it as an informal fallacy, meets withthis view on the argument. Govier, also belonging to the group of informal logicians, alsoregards at least the tu quoque variant as non-fallacious. Both approaches will be discussedin the following.4.1 Walton’s approachFor Walton, an argumentum ad hominem “criticizes another argument by questioningthe personal circumstances or personal trustworthiness of the arguer who advanced it”10(1987, p. 317).While referring to the so-called dialectical shifts, Walton gives an overview about thecorrect and incorrect use of the ad hominem. Like pointed out before, a dialectical shiftaccording to Walton is a change from one type of dialogue to another. In Walton’s opinionthe ad hominem, and argumentation in general, could be fallacious in one type of dialoguebut correct in another, and a specific argumentation technique causing an illicit dialecticalshift of dialogue constitutes a fallacy. As the types of dialogue in which the ad hominemis fallacious, he mentions the scientific inquiry and the critical discussion11 . As examplesfor types of dialogue in which the ad hominem is not fallacious, he mentions legal cross-examinations and quarrels. Therefore, a ad hominem becomes a fallacy if it causes a shiftfrom a critical discussion to a quarrel “because the argument was originally supposed tobe a critical discussion” (1992, p. 140). Further, Walton says that textual and contextualevidence must be given when criticising argumentation as fallacious ad hominem – thisputs a serious burden of proof on the person who is criticising.In The Argumentum Ad Hominem as an Informal Fallacy (1987) Walton explains in detailunder what conditions the three variants of the argumentum ad hominem are fallaciousor not.In general in circumstantial ad hominem arguments not a logical but a pragmatic incon- 10 This seems to be a description of two variants of the ad hominem, namely the circumstantial and thetu quoque variants. Walton is very unclear in his texts concerning the three variants of the ad hominemIn some texts he provides three subvariants of the tu quoque variant, or speaks about a first and a secondtype of the ad hominem without mentioning to what type of ad hominem they belong. 11 Walton explicitly states that there a situations in which an ad hominem in a critical discussion canbe non-fallacious, but he fails to give examples or further information.
  10. 10. 4 UNDER CERTAIN CIRCUMSTANCES FALLACIOUS 8sistency is alleged. According to Walton in the circumstantial ad hominem attack thecritique put forward by an arguer claims that the statements or arguments advocated bythe other arguer are inconsistent with that arguer’s personal circumstances.12 Accordingto Walton this sort of ad hominem can be reasonable or – in some other cases – fallacious.The most important error, he calls it basic ad hominem, is “to conclude that because thearguer has advocated a proposition A, yet is committed by his personal circumstances tothe opposite of A, therefore the arguer’s contention must be false (per se)” (1987, p. 318).This is a sort of invalid argument and thus fallacious. A second type of a circumstantial adhominem fallacy is one, in which a drawed parallel fails, so there is a logical gab existent.To sum up, it can be said that the circumstantial ad hominem becomes fallacious if thearguer’s statement is rejected too strong or if the issue is evaded, and it can be reasonablebecause inconsistency of the position of an arguer should be open to criticism.The tu quoque variant seems to be – according to Walton – a basically legitimate typeof questioning or criticism, because if someone is not consistent in what he preaches andwhat he is doing, this person loses credibility.The abusive variant is much more difficult to handle. Walton asks: “Can an abusive adhominem argument ever by reasonable, or is this type of argument always fallacious?”(1987, p. 327) The answer is, that an abusive ad hominem can be reasonable, too. Butthis must be decided in each case individually. Each abusive ad hominem must be evalu-ated on its own merits and demerits, because the personal circumstances of every arguerare arguably different from the personal circumstances of any other arguer.4.2 Govier’s approachTrudy Govier published in 1981 the article Worries about Tu Quoque as a Fallacy. Thename is programmatic: Govier points out why she feels doubt on the traditional view oftu quoque as a variant of the fallacious ad hominem. She does not deny that a piece ofdiscourse, which can be reconstructed as the following: 1. Person A advocates that Proposition P be followed 2. A does not himself follow P 3. P is falseP is here of the form “A person, A, holds a principle, P, which is of the form ’People incircumstances of type (c) should do actions of type (a)’.” (1980, p. 2) In the reconstructionabove A affirms P, but do not follow the principle for his or her own. The conclusion isfallacious because it does not arise from the premisses. P is not automatically false, ifsomeone who affirms P does not follow P.But according to Govier, in argumentative contexts the scheme from above has to bereconstructed in another way, namely in a more subtle and plausible way. This is, because 12 The term ’circumstances’ here refers to the personal situation in which the arguer stands, his actions,personal practices, convictions and commitments.
  11. 11. 5 NON-FALLACIOUS 9argumentative discourse occurs in reality solely in in contexts. Therefore, she claims, thereconstruction must be constructed in a more natural way: 1. A advocates that P be followed 2. A does not himself follow P 3. A does not take P seriously 4. Others need not take A’s advocacy of P seriously 5. Whatever reason people may have for following P, it does not presently come from ASeen from this point of view “there is either no fallacy at all, or a very unobvious one“(1981, p. 3). So at least the tu quoque variant of the argumentum ad hominem is, accordingto Govier, not compulsory fallacious.About the fallaciousness or non-fallaciousness regarding to the other two variants of theargumentum ad hominem the text says nothing, but supposably Govier regards them asfallacious discussion moves, otherwise she would not have had written a article with worriessolely about the tu quoque variant.5 Non-fallaciousThe second approach the ad hominem argument is to regard it as not fallacious. Thatmeans that every ad hominem argument, in whatever context and under whatever cir-cumstances it is put forward, is a legal and permitted argument.The approach of the American philosopher Henry Johnstone explains why in his opinionthere is no fallacious argumentum ad hominem. Perelman’s and Hitchcocks approaches,also rather rhetorical approaches13 , are introduced in the following, too.5.1 Johnstone’s approachJohnstone, influenced by Whately’s approach to ad hominem, goes a step further andclaims that there is no fallacious ad hominem at all, whatever variant is regarded. Hecontends that all philosophical argumentation is inevitably ad hominem and argues thatany objections that the ad hominem could be not fallacious are anchorless because for himthe ad hominem argument is a legitimate and reasonable way of arguing.In Locke and Whately on the Argumentum ad Hominem (1996), Johnstone gives a briefexplanation for his view on the ad hominem. He starts with his proposition that allphilosophical arguments are ad hominem, and distinguishes between positive and negativephilosophical arguments. The latter class “consists of attacks on the views of opponents”(1996, p. 93). Because only the ad hominem is suitable for philosophical polemic and 13 Hitchcock would not label himself as a rhetorician and his approach as rhetorical. But in my opinionhis approach to the argumentum ad hominem is rhetorical, because his argumentation why the argumentumad hominem is a legitimate way of arguing deals with the ethos of the orator (also he do not name it likethat).
  12. 12. 5 NON-FALLACIOUS 10because he does not see any reason to pause over arguments not mentionend by Locke andWhately, he states that his proposition is verified. Positive philosophical arguments, that isarguments in establishing principles instead of attacking them, have to be ad hominem, aswell. This is, because if one wants someone to achieve positive and the same conclusionsas oneself the dialogue must be carried “one step beyond the simple ad hominem (...)exposure of contradiction” (1996, p. 94).5.2 Perelman’s approachAs before in Johnstone’s work the Belgian philosopher Chaim Perelman sees no connec-tion between fallacies and any variant of the ad hominem argument. He regards the adhominem as a necessary condition for successful argumentation, and a good and legitimatetool to win others for one’s own standpoint.In La nouvelle rh´torique (1958) he and Lucie Olbrechts-Tyteca go into detail: They emake unambiguously clear that they see nothing reprehensible in every variant of the adhominem argument. For them, the ad hominem argument is a general characteristic ofsuccessful argumentation because in their opinion argumentation must be connected tothe opinions the audience already have to be successful. Perelman claims that argumen-tation should place stress on the specific persons taking part in the discourse. Accordingto him the argumentum ad hominem also could not be a fallacy of relevance becausethe “relationship between speaker and what is spoken is always relevant and important(Leff, 2009, p. 301). Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca further make a distinction betweenargumentation which is aimed at persuading a certain audience and argumentation for auniversal audience.145.3 Hitchcock’s approachHitchcock takes Govier’s definition of a fallacy as a starting point: “By definition, a fallacyis a mistake in reasoning, a mistake which occurs with some frequency in real argumentsand which is characteristically deceptive” (Govier, 1981/1995, p. 172). According to him,there is, assuming that this definition is valid, no ad hominem fallacy.The tu quoque variant shows an inconsistency between words and deeds, and thus is alegitimate way to critique because there is an appeal to commitments implicit in one’sbehaviour. The abusive ad hominem is either “a relevant attack on the opponent’s ethosin a rhetorical context or a diversionary tactic that does not involve reasoning” (Hitchcock,2007, p. 620) and is thus not a fallacy. The circumstantial variant finally raises legitimatesuspicion about the truthworthiness of a person because it attributes bias to the opponent. 14 Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca consider the argument ad hominem as argumentum ad humanitatemin case that someone imagines that he is able to convince the universal audience, because he then claimsto the approval of all reasonable beings.
  13. 13. 6 ALWAYS FALLACIOUS 116 Always fallaciousThe third variant to approach the ad hominem argument is to regard it as fallacious perdefinitionem. That means that every ad hominem argument, which meets with the defi-nition of the ad hominem fallacy is in fact fallacious.One approach, which gives such a clear and systematic definition for a fallacious adhominem, is the pragma-dialectical approach by van Eemeren and Grootendorst. Butfirst another approach, the one developed by Locke, is explained in the following.6.1 Locke’s approachIt is not quite clear what Locke had in mind when he published on four sorts of arguments.It cannot be stated for certain that he regarded the ad hominem as a fallacy or as alwaysfallacious. Why Locke’s approach norwithstanding can be found here, in the section’always fallacious’, will be explained below.Locke considers the ad hominem to be one of the arguments that men uses to prevailtheir assend. The ad hominem is the third of his four introduced sorts of argument, andpresses according to him “a man with consequences drawn from his own principles orconcessions” (1690/1995, p. 56). He admits that the ad hominem is “legitimate when thequestion in dispute is not the truth of a proposition but the self-consistency of the personwho proposes it” (1690/1995, p. 56). This seems to be a description of a legitimite variantof tu quoque. But therefore in a context in which the truth of a proposition is in questionthe ad hominem must be – vice versa – fallacious. Because the aforementioned exceptionis a special case (like as in the pragma-dialectical approach) Locke belongs best into thissection.6.2 Van Eemeren’s & Grootendorst’s approachWithin this pragma-dialectical approach15 a fallacy is seen as a violation of one or more ofthe rules for critical discussion. The rule, which is violated by the ad hominem is the firstrule, also known as the ’freedom rule’: “Parties must not prevent each other from puttingforward standpoints or casting doubt on standpoints.” (2009a, p. 108) The freedom rulemake sure that the participants of a critical discussion are not prevented from puttingforward standpoints or calling into question the standpoints of their opponent. In orderto resolve a difference of opinion it is a necessary condition to be able to fully externalizeit. If parties prevent each other from doing so, the process of resolution is hindered in aspecial way. 15 Frans H. van Eemeren, Bart Garssen and Bert Meuffels did empirical research to the ad hominemfallacy. This is very noticeable, because first no other approach did, and second the results of this researchabsolutely support the pragma-dialectical approach: They found out that there is a somehow predictablestructure and system in judging reasonableness of discussion contributions. Normal judges make a cleardistinction between fallacious and non-fallacious discussion contributions. Also normal judges can distinctthe three variants of the ad hominem fallacy and take the direct variant for the most unreasonable andthe tu quoque variant as the most reasonable but anyhow fallacious discussion contribution.
  14. 14. 6 ALWAYS FALLACIOUS 12If one of the parties is attacked with the abusive variant, this party seems to have lost theright to take part in the further discussion, because of for example his apparent stupidity.This is clearly a violation of the freedom rule, because of the attempt of disfranchisinghim as a serious discussion partner by discrediting his expertise, intelligence, character orfaith.If someone’s motives are called into question with an indirect ad hominem attack, theattacking party depicts the other party as someone who has not the right to take partin the discussion because he is apparently biased. Again, this is obviously a violation ofthe freedom rule because one party tries to disenfranchise the other party as a seriousdiscussion partner by discrediting his impartiality.An attack with the tu quoque variant restricts one’s party freedom of action, too. Ifsomeone is portrayed as a person whose words and deeds are inconsistent, the other partytried do ’dismiss’ him of the discussion with the reason of lost credibility. In fact thisinconsistency has nothing to do with the standpoint. Again it is obviously a violation ofthe freedom rule, because one party tries to disenfranchise the other party as a seriousdiscussion partner by discrediting his credibility.
  15. 15. 7 CONCLUSION 137 ConclusionFirst there is a brief recapitulation of the approaches to the argumentum ad hominem, inwhich the approaches are in a few words compared and criticized. Finally there are somethoughts on possible and suitable further research.7.1 RecapitulationThe ad hominem, which means simply ’toward the person’, is some sort of attackinganother person instead of responding to the actual arguments in question. There arethree widely accepted variants: attacking the other’s party (1) intelligence, expertise,character or good faith (direct / abusive variant), (2) impartiality and motives (indirect/ circumstantial variant) and (3) credibility and consistency in words and deeds.A closer view on the different approaches to fallacies in general (historical overview) andthe argumentum ad hominem revealed that there are three basic trends.First, there is a group of scholars who focus on the circumstances of fallacies and thecontext in which they occur. Most of them belong to the group of informal logicians.Walton and Govier both regard the ad hominem as fallacious under certain circumstances.Walton’s approach provides a critical examination of every situation with any variant ofthe ad hominem to determine if it’s fallacious or not. Govier’s approach regards the tuquoque variant in most situations as non-fallacious. The problem with such approachesis that they require an evaluation in every situation and for every variant. This is time-consuming, and there is a problem of unambiguous terminology. Everytime someone usesa term like ad hominem it must be differentiated and specifically said if it’s a fallaciousor a non-fallacious ad hominem.The second big group of researchers dealing with fallacies have a more rhetorical viewand regard fallacies not as ’fallacious’ moves, but as legitimite arguments. Johnstone’s,Perelman’s and Hitchcock’s appproaches provide that there are no fallacies. Johnstoneand Perelman argue that especially the ad hominem is a necessary condition for succesfulargumentation; Hitchcock explains for every variant why this is no fallacious discussionmove. Such approaches have no problem of decision or terminology like approaches fromthe type above, but they can just be used in limited contexts like the rhetorical, persuasiveone.The third group is the one around van Eemeren, in which ad hominem arguments areper definitionem, and therefore always, fallacious. Locke defined the ad hominem firstas fallacious discussion move, whereas van Eemeren regards them as violations of specificrules for critical discussion. Such a point of view avoids problems of ambiguos terminologyand the necessity of an evaluation. But like in the rhetorical approaches there is also theproblem of a limited context (critical discussion). Nevertheless the pragma-dialectical isthe most systematic and clearest approach to fallacies in general and the argumentum adhominem in detail.
  16. 16. 7 CONCLUSION 147.2 Further researchIn antiquity (informal) logic, dialectic and rhetoric were disciplines with different topics.Today there is still a distinction between them, but they are no more seen as disciplineswith a different object, but as three perspectives to argumentation. We’ve seen that thesethree perpectives do put forward different approaches to fallacies (and the argumentumad hominem) respectively. But the most influential approaches can be subsumed to oneof the three mentioned perspectives. What is missing in today’s research to fallacies andespecially to the argumentum ad hominem is the serious attempt to determine how thethree perspectives cohere and what research results are overlapping. Especially the relationbetween (pragma-)dialectics and rhetoric is very interesting and unfortunately just a littleresearch was done up to now. This paper aimed at giving an overview and a very shortcomparison of different approaches to the argumentum ad hominem. The next step wouldbe to restudy these approaches in order to combine them.Especially the following research questions seem to be very fruitful, just to name a few: Inwhat specific rhetorical situations the fallacy-theory of pragma-dialectics plays a role?16Are there fallacies in rhetoric, or just blunders? Does rhetoric need a fallacy-theory (e.g.for the above mentionend specific rhetorical situations)? There is still some work to bedone in fallacy research, which can be well done with the pragma-dialectical approach asa starting point. 16 A good example for such a specific rhetorical situation would be corporate communications in thecase of redundancies, product defects etc.
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