5 Reasons To Avoid Ad Hominem Arguments

Jon Miltimore, FEE

There are a great many logical fallacies we see in modern discourse. But of all fallacies, the ad hominem is king (and probably always will be).

From the Latin "to the man" or "to the person," it is a (fallacious) argumentative device that involves attacking one’s opponent instead of rebutting his argument.

Though timelessly popular, the ad hominem has found particular prominence in the current age, which combines plummeting intelligence with instantaneous, character-limited communication. (A toxic mixture, indeed.)

Despite the proliferation of the ad hominem, there are serious reasons it should be avoided. Here are five of them.

1. It Can Make You Look Unintelligent

Smart people use ad hominem arguments, it’s true. But ad hominem attacks are generally viewed as a sign of low intelligence. Even Urban Dictionary—hardly a forum for high brows—recognizes that ad hominem arguments are generally used “by immature and/or unintelligent people because they are unable to counter their opponent using logic and intelligence.”

There’s no doubt that some ad hominem attacks can be clever. But to be viewed as a person of intelligence, one must learn to counter and debunk arguments, not simply deride or smear people.

2. It Destroys Civil Discourse

People often forget that individual behavior shapes culture. Our choices matter. Calling someone a tree hugger, sexist, Nazi, or SJW might offer a positive sensation. It might even be true. But using such rhetoric has a corrosive effect on society, says Glenn Geher, Ph.D.

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