Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Ad Hominem Arguments: Not Just For Politics

Until I saw the phrase in a blog post last week, I hadn't heard or thought about the phrase ad hominem ("to the person") since high school debate tournaments. In case you don't recall, the whole phrase is argumentum ad hominem, and refers to an argument directed at the person, rather than the idea. It was wrong in high school debate, it's wrong in current politics, and it's wrong when it (or a variant thereof) occurs in reviewing a book, play, or movie.

One of the two-edged swords of marketing by a publishing house is making a book available as a free e-book for a short period of time, hoping to get new readers who will then buy other books by the same author. The first time this happened with one of my books, I was depressed by the large number of reviews that trashed the novel, not because of my writing, but because it was Christian fiction. Not exactly ad hominem, but if the translater I consulted is right, it's ad conceptum, "to the concept." If it's Christian (or Jewish, or Muslim, or vegetarian, or...) it's bad.

I'd love to see our society leave off the ad hominem arguments and get on with business. I'm ready for discussions to center on principles. How about you?

(photo via freedigitalphotos.net)


Anonymous said...

Geesh...don't mean to be a stalker on your blog but I DO enjoy your musings and comments. ;)

I think the ship of thoughtful and intelligent discourse/debate has long sailed. Or in your case, thoughtful reviews. (OUCH.)

It seems that today if you can't make an intelligent statement, you just attack the person. Or in this case, take offense at the Christian message.

I have to remind myself that when I'm writing something that I *know* will tick off someone, I need to remember to write to my audience and not, as Seth Godin said, try to please the heckler in the back of the room.

Richard Mabry said...

Theresa, You're no stalker, and you're always welcome here. I agree with you--unfortunately, that ship has sailed. Good point about writing for your audience, not the vocal minority that's sure to emerge.
Keep coming back, and keep commenting. Thanks.

C.L. Dyck said...

I noticed the same thing happened to Jim Rubart when Rooms went free for awhile. It would have driven me nuts if I were the author, but honestly, I kind of sat back and laughed at the sheer moral outrage of atheists who were offended that a Christian book came in such deceptively good-quality packaging. It's reprehensible, you know, those Christians making their books look like real books...

Richard Mabry said...

CL, thanks for the comment. I've been accused of writing "Christian propaganda," although I don't think there's any way my novels could be classed as such. I suppose it's just a knee-jerk reaction from people who find their own lifestyle threatened, so I try to shrug it off.
Appreciate your coming by and commenting.