Annnnnnd @daveweigel doesn’t understand ad-hom.

It’s a wider problem then just with Weigel, of course. Still, mildly embarrassing, what?

Here’s the exchange, for those morbidly interested.

  • Original post by Weigel: “Erick Erickson’s Bad Advice.”
  • Leon Wolf’s response: Hey @daveweigel, I am sure @EWErickson cares what an Obama voter thinks about his advice to the GOP. [By the way, Weigel did – along with a lot of other people who should have known better.]
  • Weigel’s response to Leon: @LeonHWolf Your ad hominem argument is an excellent rebuttal to my history-based one. Well done!

Yup, it’s the classic mistake.  You see, an ad hominem attack is when you respond to an argument with an unrelated insult.  In other words, if I were to say “Dave Weigel is wrong because he’s a poopyhead:” that would be an ad-hom.  What Leon instead did was to inform Weigel that his historical record of incredibly bad judgement calls (i.e., he’s a self-identified libertarian type who voted for Obama, which is roughly equivalent to a nun voting for Satan) has to be taken into account when assessing whether his judgement calls are accurate right now.  In other words, “Dave has been such a stupid dumbass in the past about this sort of thing that you really can’t take him seriously now” is not an ad-hom.  It may not be true – dice have no memory, a broken clock is right twice a day, even a blind squirrel finds a nut now and then, and a thrown dart has to land somewhere* – but it’s a legitimate point to make.

Moe Lane

*I love cliches.  They’re like little introns of language.


  • Demosthenes says:

    Actually, Moe, what you describe as an ad hominem does not exhaust the term. There are actually three variants: abusive, circumstantial, and tu quoque. What you described is an ad hominem abusive…that is, “refuting” someone’s argument by noting something completely unrelated to the argument. An ad hominem circumstantial involves “refuting” someone’s argument by noting their related self-interest (“Why should we listen to you when you say education funding should be raised? You’re a TEACHER!”). And an ad hominem tu quoque, sometimes just referred to as tu quoque and treated as a separate fallacy, involves “refuting” someone’s argument by noting their actual or perceived hypocrisy (“So, NOW you want us to not raise the debt ceiling, huh? Like we can trust you. Remember before, when you voted to raise it EIGHT TIMES?!”).

  • Rich says:

    No, ad hominem arguments are sometimes related to the issue at hand.

    Also, they are occasionally relevant and logical, as opposed to inherently false. Leon Wolf’s sensible ad hominem argument is an example.

  • Demosthenes says:

    Having said that, let me hasten to add that I don’t think this is an example of an ad hominem of any stripe. It would be an ad hominem circumstantial if the main point was “Why should we listen to you? You voted for Obama!” And I think that’s what Weigel may have been digging at. But it sounds more to me like you’re characterizing Leon’s main point accurately, in which case — no, no ad hominem. As you said, it’s not ad hom to question someone’s advice-giving skills on the basis of (actual or perceived) past bad advice. That is both a related and a germane characteristic to accepting the underlying premise of their argument.

  • Finrod says:

    I wonder if Dave Weigel still defends his vote for Obama, like Ann Althouse does.

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