12.0366 argumenta ad risum

Humanist Discussion Group (humanist@kcl.ac.uk)
Mon, 25 Jan 1999 23:01:26 +0000 (BST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 12, No. 366.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

Date: Mon, 25 Jan 1999 22:58:35 +0000
From: Jim Marchand <marchand@ux1.cso.uiuc.edu>
Subject: argumenta

Having received a large number (2) of private requests for the list of
argumenta, I thought I might send it to the whole list. Be prepared to use
the delete button.

This is a handout for a privatissimum on argumentation. It is mostly based
on my misspent Tennessee youth, where we had to learn them in "forensics".

They are useful for watching congressional debates. In fact, I add a new
one: argumentum ad nuntium `argument to the message'. If we x or fail to x,
what kind of message are we sending out to the youth of America?


The Argumenta. Many of the material fallacies have fancy medieval names
beginning with argumentum ad ... They are all arguments not to the thing,
not argumenta ad rem, but to something other than the matter being debated.

argumentum ad baculum - argument to the stick - appeal to force.
argumentum ad crumenam - argument to the purse - appeal to money.
argumentum ad hominem - argument to the man.
argumentum ad misericordiam - appeal to pity.
argumentum ad ignorantiam - argument to ignorance - use of information
either unknown or to which the other cannot be privy.
argumentum ad verecundiam - argument to awe or custom.
argumentum ad populum - argument to the populace, sometimes called
argumentum ad captandum vulgus - argument to capture the vulgar mass.
argumentum ad judicem - argument to the judge - getting on the judge's good
ipse dixit - he himself said - appeal to authority.
tu quoque - you (did it) too - two wrongs don't make a right.
non sequitur - it does not follow - irrelevant argument.
Note that new argumenta occur over and over again and are ad hoc(ked) on
the spur of the moment.
argumentum ad hoc - ad hoc argument - argument made up to cover only the
particular case at hand.
argumentum ad convenientiam - argument to convenience - if we did x we
could not do y.
a fortiori - if x, all the more y.
argumentum a contrario - argument from the contrary - used in general to
indicate a
contradictio in adjecto - a self-contradictory argument - e. g. "all
generalizations are false."
cui bono? - to what good - the "So what?" argument
argumentum ad exemplum - argument to the example - arguing against a
particular example cited rather than the question itself. Extremely
common at scholarly meetings.
cadit quaestio - the question falls - poorly posed question.
argumentum ad veritatem obfuscandam - obfuscatory argument - bringing up
multiple irrelevant arguments.
accident - arguing from the general to the specific without taking into
consideration extenuating circumstances.
converse accident - hasty generalization.
non causa pro causa - a common medieval locution for
post hoc ergo propter hoc - arguing that one thing is the cause of another
merely on he basis of temporal sequence.
petitio principii - question begging argument, a mere restatement of the
argument in other terms, sometimes called
circulus vitiosus or argumentum in circulo
complex question - two things asked at once, the request to the judge being
to "split the question."
ignoratio elenchi - irrelevant conclusion - coming to a conclusion other
than that proposed or ignoring extenuating circumstances.
equivocatio - using a word sometimes in one meaning, sometimes in another.
amphiboly - making use of an ambiguous grammatical construction.
accent - changing the original emphasis - also frequently applied to the
misuse of words unfamiliar to the audience. "Some dogs are spotted;
my dog is spotted; my dog is SOME dog."
composition - arguing from each to all.
division - what is true of the whole is true of each of the parts - all to

Also usable: arriere pensee, bromide, captious, chicanery, casuistry,
cavil, cum grano salis, gullible, lapsus calami, lapsus linguae, logic-
chopping, logomachy, malapropos, parthian shot, pecksniffery, pettifog,
quibble, retort courteous (As You Like It).

It is interesting to make up new ones, along the lines of scholasticism:

argumentum ad lunam - (commonly heard these days) "It looks like a country
which could put a man on the moon could ..."

I warn you that these are dangerous. In our non-Latin-speaking world, you
can win an argument by saying, "I see that the learned gentleman is making
use of the argumentum more Luciae," or the argumentum ad nonnisi ad
nauseam, or some such. I leave you with the argumentum ad meridiem. An
American is admiring the marvelous paintings in the metro in Moscow. After
a while, he remarks to his host: "I haven't noticed any trains coming
through," which elicits the answer: "Oh yeah? How about the South?"
Jim Marchand.

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