Argumentum Ad Hominem

An ad hominem (Latin for “to the man” or “to the person”), short for argumentum ad hominem, is an attempt to negate the truth of a claim by pointing out a negative characteristic or belief of the person supporting it.  Wikipedia

Do you use Facebook?  Have you suddenly been slammed by another for expressing an opinion or sharing a link with which they didn’t agree?  If so, welcome to the large and growing club!  During this election cycle the “dialogue” has often degenerated to unprecedented levels of vitriol and venom.

Recently, I “friended” a younger guy I knew when we played golf together years ago.  He is the nephew of a famous amateur and the good golfer gene made it’s way to him.  We always enjoyed our time on the course and I loved watching his swing and the results it produced.

As soon as I was connected to the man, however, his political views and beliefs were immediately evident.  They are far from mine and I knew that I didn’t want to see or hear them, so I cut our tie right away.  I was honestly a little shocked that this guy had become so bitter and hateful toward those who choose to think differently.

After a few days, he appeared again by making a comment to another man with whom I am a friend.  These two are closer in age and were in school together, but former affiliation stood for nothing when political beliefs came up!  The name calling and personal accusation was startling.

The golfer called his friend a racist, a “liberal”, and basically an idiot for feeling strongly about his beliefs.  The responses were dripping with condescension; it was frightening to read the depth of his antipathy.  To me he said he wished we could debate this face to face, and I thought, “Yeah, right, like I’d ever want to discuss this with you.”

The point is that over the past few years the political discourse has devolved into personal attack when people feel attacked via social media.  Argumentum ad hominem is the Latin phrase for it.  When a point can’t be made with legitimate argument and thoughtful response, the personal attack begins.  It is nasty to see and makes me want to reconsider whether more social networking is a good idea during these highly divided times.

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About mentorboom

I was born in the first month of the first year of the Baby Boom generation. Over my life I've been blessed with the teaching and friendship of some extraordinary people. I want the wisdom I've learned from them to outlive me by sharing it with others. This blog, MentorBoom, is intended to do that and to help us all find ways to live in more satisfying and fulfilling ways.
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6 Responses to Argumentum Ad Hominem

  1. John W. Graham says:

    Excellent post.

  2. Sandra Gordon says:

    Couldn’t have said it better. Glad to know the Latin term.

  3. Oh so true, Robert! Thank you for stating what I’ve been thinking. I’ve been shocked by some of the things I’ve seen floating around FB too – and the people attached to the exclamations, who in their other life seem so docile.

    • mentorboom says:

      It is sad, isn’t it, Diane. Otherwise bright, loving people going all snarly. Years ago someone pointed out that we would never angrily shove aside an old person walking in front of us, we’d go around. But nowadays the shoving has begun in earnest.

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