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Re: Summary of the debian-devel BoF at Debconf9

Hi, Manoj:

On Wednesday 19 August 2009 02:10:04 Manoj Srivastava wrote:
> On Tue, Aug 18 2009, Steve Langasek wrote:
> > On Tue, Aug 18, 2009 at 03:25:30PM -0500, Manoj Srivastava wrote:
> >> > And really, if some logical conclusion is so broken that this
> >> > brokeness has its own name, then everybody should be able to see it.
> >>
> >>         This is a nice theory, but in reality one does see people arging
> >>  against the person, or their perceived personality, or their
> >>  traits, or ascribing motives to them all the time.
> >
> > Except that this is *not* the definition of the ad hominem fallacy.  The
> > ad hominem fallacy is claiming that a person is bad, *and therefore their
> > arguments are wrong*.
>         I would say it is attacking the character or motives of a person
>  who has stated an idea, rather than the idea itself. The most obvious
>  example of this fallacy is when one debater maligns the character of
>  another debater (e.g, "The members of the opposition are a couple of
>  fascists!"), but this is actually not that common. A more typical
>  manifestation of argumentum ad hominem is attacking a source of
>  information -- for example, responding to a quotation from Richard
>  Nixon on the subject of free trade with China by saying, "We all know
>  Nixon was a liar and a cheat, so why should we believe anything he
>  says?" [0]

It's only that no matter what Cal State may say that's not an 'argumentum ad 
hominem' by lack of argumentation.  If Richard Nixon states some facts and 
you pose them because of Nixon's authority (i.e.: I back those facts on the 
basis that Nixon said it) its acceptance becomes an 'argumentum aucthoritas' 
therefore is perfectly sensible challenging said authority.  You cannot 
revoke an argumentum (i.e.: a sylogism) by appealing against the reasoner's 
morals but you perfectly can challenge it when it is his morals (authority, 
reputation, etc.) the basis of it.  So, you can't challenge "if Cretans are 
liers and Epimenides is from Crete, then Epimenides is a liar" because Nixon 
said it but you certainly can challenge "China forced us into Korea's war" if 
all your argument is "Nixon said it".

And here comes the point why it's not such a good idea point out others' 
logical fallaies: they are so impervous through the whole history of 
enlightment, from ancient Greece to-dat,e because we're are quite bad at 
pointing them out, so you can bet a quite significant number of such " that's 
logical fallacy X, let's move on" will be as wrong (and as challenged) as the 
argument it's pointed against.

> > Pointing out that someone is being a jerk on the mailing list is *not* an
> > ad hominem fallacy.

Certainly it is not.  But it is a matter of opinion so I don't think pointing 
it out will make a constructive position.

>         But saying that their message should not be heeded because at
>  some other point in the past they had been jerks is one. Discounting a
>  message because of a (perceived) character trait of the author is also
>  suspect.

But very in the human character.  I think it is disrecpective and 
unconstructive pointing out something on the lines of "I won't follow your 
path because I know you are a jerk" but quite proper just passing through the 
messages of somebody without even read them "because I know he's a jerk" (in 
fact, that's what scorefiles are for).

>         So you are saying that I misidentified some mail as an attack on
>  a person. Which is perhaps an argument for my point: we need to
>  identify that such a post has been made. I do not see the basis for
>  your refutation here.

And who do you propose to be the "high tribunal" to state what are real 
logical fallacies and of what kind?  Will their decision be challengellable?  
I consider myself not absoluty obtuse on logics but I certainly won't appoint 
for such a position (of course, not that anyone asked me).

>          In all of these cases, the relevant question is not who makes
>  the argument, but whether  the argument is valid.

Quite true.

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