Friday, March 23, 2012

[PL 211] Ad hominem arguments

The following video seems like a fairly good illustration of a fallacious ad hominem:

For example, the fact (if it is a fact) that Ned Lamont is a bad singer is irrelevant to whether or not one should vote for him.

But what about the following video?

Are there claims made in this ad hominem attack on Harold Ford that, if they were true, would be relevant to whether or not one should vote for him? If so, what are those claims? Do they constitute a legitimate--as opposed to fallacious--ad hominem argument?


  1. I think that some of the claims made in the attack against Harold Ford would, if true, be legitimate and relevant to whether or not one should vote for him. While the ad may try to spin Ford's views to make them seem more outrageous, his foreign policy views or his stance on taxation are and should be of relevance to many voters.

    However, there are also things in this ad that are of no relevance. Whether or not Harold Ford looks good has nothing to do with his ability to lead nor does the 'fact' that he met an acquaintance at a playboy mansion. While it is true that things like these do play a part in some people's decisions to vote for or against someone, it does not change the fact that they are fallacious arguments.

  2. The definition of an ad hominem is “…if the argument is directed at an opponent in a controversy rather than being directly relevant to proving the conclusion under discussion.” In this commercial, it is considered an ad hominem because instead of Mr. Ford’s opponent speaking about his own issues he decided to attack Mr. Ford and disregard relevant information proving the conclusion to the issues for voters.
    In the ad hominem attack on Harold Ford, five claims made would be relevant to whether or not one should vote for him – if they were true.
    One claim is the man’s accusation, “when I die Harold Ford will make me pay taxes again” and another woman’s stating, “ I would love to pay higher marriage taxes.” These claims would relate to an election because these are issues that people base their vote on. If a candidate is going to increase taxes and it is a factual accusation, than these two people are arguing directly related to proving the conclusion of the best candidate. Another woman spoke on behalf of “terrorists needing their privacy”, and a man spoke about “Canada can take care of North Korea.” Foreign policy and threats to our nation are all valid points that will aid a voter in deciding who they will cast their votes for. The final point is in regard to a comment made by a male. “You’re right I do have too many guns” he was quoted saying. This is a popular issue, especially today with the policy on gun control and its strict laws. Some people are pro-gun laws and anti-gun laws so this point is just as important in a candidate race.
    The claims irrelevant to whether voters should vote for him are laughable. At the beginning of the video a woman claims to vote for Harold Ford because “he looks nice.” Another woman discloses that she met Ford at the playboy mansion. Finally, a male claims that Ford “takes money from porn movie producers.” All of these claims do not relate to the issues these men are running for; they are directed at the opponent.
    I think the points made in this article were mostly legitimate because they touched on issues that voters care about. However, fallacious points were also included in between factual points. Watching this ad, I would not care if my candidate was “good looking”, I do not care if he is taking money from the porn industry or if my candidate parties at the playboy mansion. I want to vote for someone whose issues I agree with. I want to know that my politician is looking out for my needs and that will ultimately be my guiding decision when it comes time to vote.

  3. I think the claims about Harold Ford on raising marriage tax, taking care of North Korea and gun control policies would be relevant to whether or not one should vote for him and therefore, these claims would be considered to be ad hominem. The claims that I have mentioned are legitimate ad hominem arguments because they are directed at Harold Ford and not at any arguments made by Harold Ford, but they can be used to make informed decision about Harold Ford.
    However, claims such as "Harold Ford looks nice" would be a fallacious argument since this premise cannot be used to conclude anything relevant. These claims cannot be used by anyone to make relevant decisions concerning Harold Ford except for the fact that Harold Ford looks nice or is a handsome guy.

  4. Steve M. Cahn states that ad hominem is, “if is directed at an opponent in a controversy rather than being directly relevant to proving the conclusion under discussion” (Cahn 52). Political campaigns advertisements are direct examples of ad hominem, as seen in two YouTube videos.
    The first video shows that the Politician Ned Lemont is mocking his opponents their style of attacking. Lemont decides show that he can’t make a good cup of coffee, he is a terrible karaoke singer, and has a messy desk. Ned Lemont shows that his opponent is going after Ned Lemont the person and not Ned Lemont the politician. The reason it is an ad hominem argument, “for it attacks…the man instead of offering direct reasons why his views are incorrect” (Cahn 52). Lemont is showing the public that his opponent’s attacks have no purpose to decide if he is a qualified candidate for the job.
    The second video shows people talking about various topics and mentions the candidate Harold Ford. Some examples of this advertisement are when the woman says “Harold Ford looks nice…it’s that enough” (Republican Committee) and another woman pretends to Ford, “I’m Harold Ford at the Playboy club” (Republican Committee). For example, the first woman is implying since Ford looks nice, that he should be the candidate based on physical appearance. The second woman mention’s Ford being at the night club and is suggests that Ford shouldn’t be at clubs However the video also mentions Harry Ford and taxes. The video is implying that higher taxes are linked with Ford, and people will pay them if he is elected. If these statements were true, it would be both irrelevant and relevant because they attack Ford’s physical appearance and his political decisions. The Ford’s physical appearance is an example of ad hominem, while Ford’s political decisions are legitimate points that the opposing party is making.

  5. Harold Ford's views on foreign policy, gun control, and taxes are all relevant to his campaign and whether or not someone should vote for him because all of those things will affect citizens during his term. It shows what kind of politician he is. Some of the claims made are ad hominem arguments because they do not pertain to whether or not people should vote for him. A few things mentioned are completely irrelevant, such as when the woman said "he's good looking isn't that enough" sadly that is what some voters base their decisions but it is in no way relevant to how he will perform his job as an elected official. The same is true for the implication that Harold Ford is linked with girls at night clubs and playboy parties, it is irrelevant to the kind of politician he will be if elected. What really matters are things beyond his personal life and appearance.

  6. In the Harold Ford attack if those claims made were true they would be relevant to whether or not people should vote for him. There are claims that both constitute legitimate ad hominem arguments as well as fallacious ones. An example of fallacious would be the comments on Ford being good looking or that he met someone the playboy mansion; which are irrelevant to his ability to be a good public official. While the rest of the attack was legitimate. Raising taxes, gun control, foreign policy are the best indicator of whether or not someone should vote for him. The way Ford's visions for these areas were presented to the viewer made him seem subversive, crooked, sleezy, and unconcerend for his constitutes. What he plans to do when is in office is important to the voters and that image painted is not the type of person most people would want to vote for. Everything was presented in a very extreme, over exaggerated, fallacious manner but none the less it would probably have an effect on his vote.

  7. The differences between the first and second video are apparent. The first video is (satirically) attacking elements of Ned Lamont's character that have nothing to do with his ability to lead. These criticisms are ad hominems because they focus on issues irrelevant to the argument in order to critique Lamont; a disorganized desk is not synonymous with poor leadership.

    The second video, however, combines ad hominem arguments as well as legitimate ones. There are several political issues brought up, including gun laws and taxes, that should affect voters' perspective on Ford. For example, if a person does not want to pay higher marriage taxes, they should consider whether or not Ford is the best choice as their leader. These are the issues that political arguments/debates should focus on.

    However, there are ad hominem arguments in this ad that should not sway a voters choice because those criticisms simply do not have to do with Ford's political agenda. The woman who claims to have met Ford at a Playboy party is a criticism about Ford's night life; however, does what Ford does for fun necessarily affect his ability to lead/his political values? Not really. Sure, some voters might find his lifestyle not an ideal, "normal" choice for a politician, but this should not be the deciding factor. If a voter agrees with Ford's policies and ideas, it should not matter what he did for fun or what he looks like, as the first woman shows. As long as Ford is not hurting anyone or doing anything illegal, these arguments should not matter.


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