In this post we have this exchange:
Box asks Tinitinnid whether there is a difference between a Lego castle and a random pile of Legos.
In comment 124 Tintinnid says that a pile of Legos randomly strewn across the floor is the same as a Lego castle.
Let us take up the thread here:
BKA @ 125:
Box, let it go. When someone says something as staggeringly stupid as the comment in 124 there is literally no sense trying to argue with them. They have proved they are beyond the reach of rationale argument.
I am accused of making an ad hominem attack against Tintinnid.
StephenB takes up the issue @ 128
You don’t understand. An ad hominem attack is an irrelevant attack on a person. It is not a relevant attack on a statement.
Tintinnid @ 131:
StephenB, thank you for correcting me. Calling someone’s statement staggeringly stupid is not technically a personal attack, although the tone is certainly beyond rude.
Daniel King @ 132:
Right, “staggeringly stupid” is an insult to the person who made the statement, not an ad hominem. And it has the merit of being irrefutable by the recipient.
My comment at 125, as StephenB observes, is not an ad hominem attack. Let’s see why:
Wikipedia describes an ad hominem attack as follows:
An ad hominem (Latin for “to the man” or “to the person”), short for argumentum ad hominem, is a form of criticism directed at something about the person one is criticizing
Assume that someone says “the moon is made of green cheese” and then refuses to back off of that statement no matter how much evidence and logic is adduced to counter it. His statement is staggeringly stupid and he is clinging to his irrationality.
There is such a thing as clinging to irrationality, and pointing out that someone is clinging to irrationality and is therefore immune to rational argument is an observation about the fact that they are clinging to irrationality. It is not an attack on their person. Therefore, Daniel King is wrong and Tintinnid is right; it is not an ad hominem attack.
Daniel King goes on to say that my statement is “irrefutable” by Tintinnid. Wrong again. If someone says the moon is made of green cheese and I say that statement is “staggeringly stupid,” they can refute my statement by demonstrating that the moon is indeed made of green cheese (or at the very least there is good reason to believe so). Similarly, if Tintinnid can demonstrate (rather than merely assert) that there is warrant for believing that a random pile of Legos is no different than a Lego castle, then he will have refuted my statement.
Finally, Tintinnid characterizes my statement as “beyond rude.” Let’s think about that. If someone says something that is indeed staggeringly stupid is it rude to point it out? Of course not. My purpose in making the statement is not to be rude. My purpose is to attempt to shame Tintinnid out of his irrationality. I am not hopeful that I will be successful given his track record here, but at least I am trying. If I am successful in shaming him out of his irrationality, I will have achieved my purpose and helped him. Therefore, far from being rude, my comment was made for the purpose of helping him do better. As KF often says in the vernacular of the islands, “ya can do better mon.” Exhorting Tintinnid to do better is not rude; it is kind. And has Hamlet famously said, “I must be cruel only to be kind.”
UPDATE. It has been brought to my attention that I attributed E.Seigner’s staggeringly stupid comment at 124 in the referenced thread to Tintinnid. I regret the error.