I did not post this to “pick on” James McPherson. I posted it to make a point about people who attack other people instead of address their argument. This is called the fallacy of ad hominem and it is a very common in our society today – especially in journalism and education. Both of these “professions” should be concerned with avoiding this fallacy, but, today, they make their living on it. I have used SBJ as an example because he is both a “journalist” and a “professor,” which makes him the perfect example – especially since he provides such clear and easily explained examples of how this works.
James McPherson is lying to himself again. I know this is old and it seems childish, but it isn’t. This man touts himself as a “Dr of journalism” and he teaches college students. So this post goes to his credibility.
In the comment thread after my post, SBJ Tries to Claim High Ground by Lying to RNL, I read this comment from James (SBJ):
July 5, 2013 at 07:39
“what pseudonyms have to do with the topic of discussion”
It simply goes to credibility. The less I know about someone, the less I tend to trust their motives, biases or courage of their convictions. Perhaps you’re willing to trust anyone who comes along, as long as they seem to agree with you.
So, I replied with this:
July 5, 2013 at 10:05
Not to mention that it is TOTALLY fallacious to claim that the validity of a statement or an argument depends on the source. I guess nothing Mark Twain ever wrote has any credibility, huh?
And here is where James tries to tell the RNL that he either doesn’t understand the English language, or – most likely – that he thinks we are all so stupid that he can blatantly lie to us and we’ll believe him. His reply to my comment was:
July 5, 2013 at 10:51
“it is TOTALLY fallacious to claim that the validity of a statement or an argument depends on the source”
A claim I didn’t make, of course, so what’s your point? My argument had to do with the courage (or lack thereof) of the writer, and whether we should trust them or not. For example, I sometimes suspect that Augger is actually a liberal, hanging out here and making inane insults but contributing almost nothing to a conversation just to make conservatives looks stupid.
And frankly — not that you care — I have more respect for you now that you use your name than I did back when you were posting under a pseudonym. But I do find it tellingly appropriate that you choose to identify with a fiction writer in your argument for credibility.
OK, so he didn’t make the claim that not knowing who an author is shouldn’t discredit what they have to say??? So why did he double down and then make the claim right after denying it? Because, that is what this is – an assertion that anonymity discredits the validity of what is being said:
1st time: It simply goes to credibility. The less I know about someone, the less I tend to trust their motives, biases or courage of their convictions.
2nd time: My argument had to do with the courage (or lack thereof) of the writer, and whether we should trust them or not.
Both times, SBJ is clearly indicating that he believes he can dismiss an argument based on who makes it and/or why they make it. This is a fallacious assertion. In this case, the fallacy is called “against the person” or, as those who follow my posts will know, ad hominem.
Your reasoning contains this fallacy if you make an irrelevant attack on the arguer and suggest that this attack undermines the argument itself.
What she says about Johannes Kepler’s astronomy of the 1600′s must be just so much garbage. Do you realize she’s only fifteen years old?
(Complicated fallacy: please read the rest.)
In short, credibility doesn’t have anything to do with the validity of an argument. Neither does motive. Those issues apply to the credibility of things such as testimony, where people report what they claim to have seen. Testimony is not the same thing as an argument. When it comes to determining whether or not an argument is sound, rational and valid, an argument ALWAYS stands alone. It does not depend on who made it or why. This is why SBJ never goes after the argument but attacks the author – because he doesn’t know how to attack an argument – because he doesn’t know anything about reason.
BTW: This provides us with an excellent example of where credibility does apply. If SBJ demonstrates he has little to no understanding of logic and sound reasoning, then he has provided his readers with sufficient cause to doubt his ability to draw sound conclusions. And, if a person cannot draw sound conclusions, then we have just cause to doubt their ability as either a journalist or a professor, as both are supposed to be based on sound reasoning. See the difference? James has demonstrated he does not.
On a final note, the example I sued that James thinks is ironic was not just a “fiction writer,” he was a political satirist. James knows this, so, not telling the reader this and acting as though Mark Twain was just a fiction writer is another fallacy. In truth, most everything James posts on this forum (and his own blog) is riddled with fallacious reasoning/argument. And we wonder why our college kids are falling behind the rest of the world, or why our people are so ill informed. Maybe it’s because the rest of the world’s teachers and journalists pay more attention to logic and sound reasoning where ours insist on trying to create a reality from lollipop and unicorn dreams (or, in SBJ’s case, our own arrogance).