Ad Hominem Arguments

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University of Alabama Press, Sep 1, 1998 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 315 pages
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Essential to an understanding of argumentation and logic, Ad Hominem Arguments is a vital contribution to legal theory and media and civic discourse.

In the 1860s, northern newspapers attacked Abraham Lincoln's policies by attacking his character, using the terms "drunk," "baboon," "too slow," "foolish," and "dishonest." Steadily on the increase in political argumentation since then, the argumentum ad hominem, or personal attack argument, has now been carefully refined as an instrument of "oppo tactics" and "going negative" by the public relations experts who craft political campaigns at the national level. In this definitive treatment of one of the most important concepts in argumentation theory and informal logic, Douglas Walton presents a normative framework for identifying and evaluating ad hominem or personal attack arguments.

Personal attack arguments have often proved to be so effective, in election campaigns, for example, that even while condemning them, politicians have not stopped using them. In the media, in the courtroom, and in everyday confrontation, ad hominem arguments are easy to put forward as accusations, are difficult to refute, and often have an extremely powerful effect on persuading an audience.

Walton gives a clear method for analyzing and evaluating cases of ad hominem arguments found in everyday argumentation. His analysis classifies the ad hominem argument into five clearly defined subtypes—abusive (direct), circumstantial, bias, "poisoning the well," and tu quoque ("you're just as bad") arguments—and gives methods for evaluating each type. Each subtype is given a well-defined form as a recognizable type of argument. The numerous case studies show in concrete terms many practical aspects of how to use textual evidence to identify and analyze fallacies and to evaluate argumentation as fallacious or not in particular cases.




 
 

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Contents

Classic Cases and Basic Concepts
1
Abusive and Circumstantial
2
The Smoking and Tree Hugger Cases
6
The Bias Ad Hominem
11
Poisoning the Well and Tu Quoque
14
Genetic Fallacy Two Wrongs and Guilt by Association
18
Historical Origins of the Ad Hominem
21
The Contemporary Ex Concessis View
28
Panoramic View of the Argument
163
Personal Conduct and Character of Political Officeholders
166
The Equivocation Defense
171
Evaluating a Case
175
Character Deliberation and Practical Reasoning
177
What Is Character?
178
Place of Character in Critical Discussion
180
Deliberation As a Type of Dialogue
183

Actions Circumstances and Commitment
31
Person and Commitment
34
Conclusion
38
The Textbook Treatment
44
The Early Accounts
45
Growing Recognition of Nonfallacious Aspect
50
Wild Variations
55
Elaboration of Subtypes
59
Justifying the View That It Is Fallacious
64
Fundamental Disagreements
69
Nonstandard Systems of Classification
75
Increased Sophistication
84
Persistence of the Problems
92
General Problems Posed
98
Commitment and Personal Attack
104
Argument from Commitment
106
Relation to Circumstantial Ad Hominem
108
Form of Personal Attack
112
Person and Participant
115
Ways Out of the Dilemma
118
The Direct Ad Hominem Revisited
120
Context Sensitivity of the Circumstantial Ad Hominem
125
The Bias Attack Explored
129
Ad Hominem Attacks and Defenses
132
Prospects for Further Progress
137
A Longer Case Study
141
Problem of Fixing Ad Hominem Criticisms
143
Framing the Issues of the Dialogue
145
The Main Argumentation Stage
148
Closing Stages of the Argument
153
Analysis of the Opening and Confrontation Stages
155
Analysis of the Argumentation and Closing Stages
160
Practical Reasoning
186
Character and Practical Reasoning
189
Making Circumstantial Charges Stick
192
Character in Political Discourse
196
Aristotle on Ethotic Argument
200
Ad Hominem in Legal Argument
203
Actions Commitments and Character
207
Forms and Classification of Subtypes
211
Form of the Direct Subtype
213
Form of the Circumstantial Subtype
218
Critical Questions for the Circumstantial Subtype
223
Form of the Bias Subtype
228
The Poisoning the Well Subtype
230
Tu Quoque and Two Wrongs
233
Guilt by Association
237
The Situationally Disqualifying Subtype
240
Applying the Classification System to Cases
244
Summary of the Classification System
248
Evaluation of Ad Hominem Arguments
264
Dialectical Relevance
268
Subjective and Objective Evidence
271
The Credibility Function
273
Relevance of a Persons Credibility
276
Ad Hominem As a Reasonable Legal Argument
278
Evaluating the Direct Type
281
Evaluating the Circumstantial Type
284
Evaluating the Bias Type
288
Explaining the Fallacy
292
Notes
295
Bibliography
299
Index
307
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About the author (1998)

Douglas Walton is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Winnipeg.

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