• Baden
    10.7k
    Because it's come up a lot recently...

    When someone makes an appeal to authority or source to support a claim, they may accuse you of an ad hom fallacy when you demonstrate that their authority or source is not credible.

    The first point to make here is that the appeal to authority itself is a fallacy, at least unless the reliability of the authority has been established or can reasonably be agreed upon.

    "An argument from authority (argumentum ab auctoritate), also called an appeal to authority, or argumentum ad verecundiam, is a form of defeasible argument in which the opinion of an authority on a topic is used as evidence to support an argument. It is well known as a fallacy, though some consider that it is used in a cogent form when all sides of a discussion agree on the reliability of the authority in the given context."

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_authority

    In the case of using sources to back up claims, whether certain sources are generally considered to be reliable depends on the type of claim. For example, for medical claims, scientific evidence, should be required, such as the studies or supported statements of reputable scientists or medical professionals. Needless to say, scientists or medical professionals who are known to make pseudoscientific claims cannot be considered to be reputable and it is legitimate to dismiss their claims on this basis. Note that dismissing a claim is not the same as refuting a claim. You cannot refute a claim on the basis of its source. You need either a good argument of your own or counterbalancing evidence from a reputable source to do so. And it's this conflation of dismissing claims with refuting claims that those who would accuse you of an ad hom when you question the credibility of their authority play on in order to support their accusation.

    To summarise, when you present a claim as credible based on an authority, you implicitly make the claim that the authority is credible. If the authority is found not to be credible, you need to find another way to add credibility to the claim. You cannot simply defend an accusation that a claim is not credible with a counter-accusation of an ad hom because it is you who are appealing to an authority and therefore you who need to establish grounds for the mutual acceptability of the authority.

    Have I missed anything here?
  • remoku
    29
    To summarise, when you present a claim as credible based on an authority, you implicitly make the claim that the authority is credible. — Baden

    You do not claim the authority is credible, it is rather powerful or author-i-tious.

    Is the law credible, or is it just the law? Otherwise I see a lot of criminals deserving freedom - perhaps even compensation.

    Law is based on the desires of the public, it is pure fantasy. If one makes an appeal to the judge, they do not have the chance to argue towards 'credible' law.

    In an ideal world the law would be credible, but an authority is assumed more than credible(otherwise it is not an authority).
  • frank
    5.1k
    If you're accused of ad hom, it just means you're attacking the source instead of the content.

    Sometimes attacking the source is warranted.

    Sometimes appealing to authority is appropriate.

    So neither accusation rightly ends a discussion that is intended to approach agreement as opposed to measure genitals.
  • Baden
    10.7k
    Sometimes attacking the source is warranted.

    Sometimes appealing to authority is appropriate.
    frank

    Yep.
  • Outlander
    363
    Anyone or anything can be discredited for reasons other than being discreditable.

    I could be wrong 10,000 times but if I happen to be right about something, is it any less true? Perceptively, yes. Objectively...?

    Trusting authority is a huge part of research. Have you or anyone reading ever seen an electron? A black hole? A tardigrade? Have an absolute, meticulous understanding of the carbon dating process ensuring its reliable? Probably not. And yet.
  • unenlightened
    5k
    for medical claims, scientific evidence, should be required, such as the studies or supported statements of reputable scientists or medical professionals. Needless to say, scientists or medical professionals who are known to make pseudoscientific claims cannot be considered to be reputable and it is legitimate to dismiss their claims on this basis.Baden

    So on the basis of a long long history of officially sanctioned invented mental illnesses, (hysteria, Drapetomania, homosexuality, etc etc, along with a whole range of frankly sadistic and obviously highly damaging "treatments", no medical professionals can be regarded as deriving any authority at all from their professional qualifications. Do I have that about right?

    Trusting authority is a huge part of research.Outlander

    It is the only currency of culture. Trust, or start civilisation again from scratch and alone.
  • Baden
    10.7k
    So on the basis of a long long history of officially sanctioned invented mental illnesses, (hysteria, Drapetomania, homosexuality, etc etc, along with a whole range of frankly sadistic and obviously highly damaging "treatments", no medical professionals can be regarded as deriving any authority at all from their professional qualifications. Do I have that about right?unenlightened

    I've asked my doctor and he denies all knowledge of inventing Drapetomania, whatever the fuck that is. Of course, he might be one of the lizard people, in which case, he would, wouldn't he? :razz:
  • unenlightened
    5k
    no medical professionals can be regarded as deriving any authority at all from their professional qualifications.unenlightened

    I've asked my doctorBaden

    I asked my cat and she said you are not following your own guidelines.
  • Baden
    10.7k


    Must be a black and white cat.
  • fdrake
    3.9k
    So on the basis of a long long history of officially sanctioned invented mental illnesses, (hysteria, Drapetomania, homosexuality, etc etc, along with a whole range of frankly sadistic and obviously highly damaging "treatments", no medical professionals can be regarded as deriving any authority at all from their professional qualifications. Do I have that about right?unenlightened

    Someone's authority is contextual/domain specific. Even within discipline. That there are treatments that have been shown to be effective for some disorders in some situations, though usually not proved beyond some reasonable doubts, can coexist quite peacefully with the horrible histories; and sometimes the still horrible present; of mental health treatment. And those coexist peacefully with the borders of mental health diagnoses being fuzzy, and also mental health institutions being at times an organ of public discipline (or fronts for selling drugs too readily).

    Well, not necessarily peacefully, but business as usual.
  • Baden
    10.7k
    On the positive side, we're only arguing over who/what constitutes a legitimate authority here and have got past the "You questioned the legitimacy of my authority, therefore ad hom!" silliness.
  • Echarmion
    1.4k
    Have I missed anything here?Baden

    Not something you missed, but two things that I think are useful to keep in mind when dealing with the "named fallacies" are:

    1. There is technically only a single logical fallacy, and it's non-sequitur. So if there is fallacious reasoning, you should be able to explain why it doesn't follow without using the name of a specific fallacy. If you can't, that suggests you're missaplying it.

    2. All the fallacies are only fallacies in the context of strictly analytic deductive arguments. As soon as you leave that narrow field, they become guidelines that can no longer be strictly applied.

    Appeals to authority tend to come up when we deal with questions that are at least partially about facts, and therefore aren't purely deductive exercises. Appealing to authority is a perfectly valid heuristic for determining the facts.
  • Baden
    10.7k


    Yeah, thanks, probably the main take away here is just that accusations of an ad hom fallacy (or even, conversely, an argument from authority fallacy) should not be get-out-of-jail-free cards for lazy thinkers. But further to that, yes, they are concepts that should probably be used in far more limited circumstances than they are as they are too often set up as roadblocks rather than routes to reason.
  • unenlightened
    5k
    Someone's authority is contextual/domain specific.fdrake

    It didn't work that way with the original example. A bad call on one illness undermined other advice on another illness.

    If a group of doctors who think HIV doesn't cause AIDS say we should end the shutdown, I say that's an excellent reason to keep it going.Baden

    I'm not calling out the hyperbole here, but making a serious point. The state of society is parlous because trust has been too often betrayed. Authority is institutional, and if the institutions are not trustworthy, there is no context in which they become trustworthy.

    If a group of doctors who think homosexuality is an illness say chips make you fat, I say that's an excellent reason to eat more chips. Yes, no, maybe?
  • A Seagull
    538
    Is the law credible, or is it just the law? Otherwise I see a lot of criminals deserving freedom - perhaps even compensation.remoku

    The law is a 'fact', the opinion of an 'expert' is an 'opinion'.
  • Echarmion
    1.4k
    The law is a 'fact', the opinion of an 'expert' is an 'opinion'.A Seagull

    I'd say the law is subject to interpretation. Wo while the text of the law is a fact, the rules that the text establishes aren't
  • frank
    5.1k
    What are your credentials in this area?
  • Baden
    10.7k
    A bad call on one illness undermined other advice on another illness.unenlightened

    It wasn't just one bad call, the dudes are a nutty right-wing cult pontificating on a political issue that largely breaks down on right vs left-wing lines. Their position is as predictable as it is worthless.

    I'm not calling out the hyperbole here, but making a serious point. The state of society is parlous because trust has been too often betrayed. Authority is institutional, and if the institutions are not trustworthy, there is no context in which they become trustworthy.

    If a group of doctors who think homosexuality is an illness say chips make you fat, I say that's an excellent reason to eat more chips. Yes, no, maybe?
    unenlightened

    The part you quoted wasn't just hyperbole, it was, as I've explained twice already, a joke. The answer is obviously, no. Justified scepticism of the source of position A is not evidence of opposing position Z. As for the rest, black and white thinking again. Authorities are trustworthy by degrees and trust is never absolute, but there's a certain point (e.g. when 99% of climate scientists say global warming is real) when objections are either tiresome posturing or irrational or both.
  • fdrake
    3.9k
    It didn't work that way with the original example. A bad call on one illness undermined other advice on another illness.unenlightened

    Hmmm. I suppose that's possible. I'd guess it's a matter of degree, and of expectations of basic competence. I'd say that knowing HIV causes AIDS is a matter of basic medical competence, and if there is any factor that would make a supposed authority not display basic competence in its supposed field of expertise, that is a good reason to mistrust the organisation. I think maybe that works for mistrusting that medical institution about medical stuff.

    I'd be hesitant to say that historical examples of failure and lack of basic competence; eg regarding homosexuality being a pathology, and mental illness being used to make labour camps; are a sufficient reason to dismiss an entire field of study when there are other reasons for those failures; societal prejudice promoting it as a diagnosis and societal prejudice resulting in a way above average rate of mental illness on gays.

    "Medicine is wrong because doctors used to prescribe bloodletting to get the humors circulating better" doesn't sound right to me. So "Mental health treatment is wrong because of its horrible history" seems wrong too.

    Though I do think there's a few good points to be made about "basic competence in mental health treatment" not being well established yet, considering that the etiological structure and symptoms of mental health disorders are still debated.
  • A Seagull
    538
    The law is a 'fact', the opinion of an 'expert' is an 'opinion'. — A Seagull
    I'd say the law is subject to interpretation. Wo while the text of the law is a fact, the rules that the text establishes aren't
    Echarmion

    Absolutely.
  • Baden
    10.7k
    On the positive side, some interesting conversation here. On the negative side, Hanny is probably ecstatic we've spent so much time on his brain fart. :lol:
  • Relativist
    1.4k
    Yes, I think you missed something.
    It is generally appropriate to appeal to authority to support one's position - it's a reasonable starting point. It becomes fallacious only when used to refute a contrary opinion (you must be wrong because expert X says so). The person arguing from authority then has the burden to dig into the expert's reasons for his opinion and to defend those.

    Regarding genetic fallacies: there often are good reasons to be suspicious of a claim that comes from questionable sources (e.g. suppose I claim carbon dating is completely unreliable, and support this claim by linking to articles on the website of the Institute for Creation Research). But suspicion alone is not enough - you would need to dig into the basis for the claims.
  • Outlander
    363


    If a philosophy is "proven" does it not graduate into the field of science?

    If apealing to authority to support a position (presumably referencing a fact or at least a hypothesis vs. a random opinion) is not rubbish as in is "true", how exactly would doing the same thing to refute or throw into question an opposing idea be "false"?
  • Baden
    10.7k
    e.g. suppose I claim carbon dating is completely unreliable, and support this claim by linking to articles on the website of the Institute for Creation Research). But suspicion alone is not enough - you would need to dig into the basis for the claims.Relativist

    I think I've more or less dealt with this, justified suspicion is not enough to refute the claim, but it is enough to dismiss the appeal to authority and if that is all the claim is based on, the claim itself as anything other than bare assertion. In other words, you're back to square one, how do we settle the claim? In the absence of direct methods to do this (in the case of scientific claims), more reliable authorities will need to be sought.

    Yes, I think you missed something.
    It is generally appropriate to appeal to authority to support one's position - it's a reasonable starting point.
    Relativist

    Sure, and I don't want to get hung up on fallacies one way or the other. But if all you have is an appeal to an authority and the authority is compromised, unreliable, or inappropriate in some obvious way then you have nothing.
  • Relativist
    1.4k
    I think I've more or less dealt with this, justified suspicion is not enough to refute the claim, but it is enough to dismiss the appeal to authority and if that is all the claim is based on, the claim itself as anything other than bare assertion. In other words, you're back to square one, how do we settle the claim? In the absence of direct methods to do this (in the case of scientific claims), more reliable authorities will need to be soughtBaden
    I think "direct methods" are the only hope of settling a disagreement - which means examining the basis of the expert opinion.
  • Relativist
    1.4k
    If a philosophy is "proven" does it not graduate into the field of science?Outlander
    We'll cross that bridge if we ever come to it.

    If apealing to authority to support a position (presumably referencing a fact or at least a hypothesis vs. a random opinion) is not rubbish as in is "true", how exactly would doing the same thing to refute or throw into question an opposing idea be "false"?
    It wouldn't. Dueling authorities results in no one's mind being changed. Not that minds get changed very often.
  • Isaac
    2.5k
    Good post. Only one small concern...

    scientists or medical professionals who are known to make pseudoscientific claims cannot be considered to be reputable and it is legitimate to dismiss their claims on this basis.Baden

    Isn't this a bit circular? How do we establish that the claims are psuedoscientific without appealing to the same authority we're trying to argue for? Say we're trying to appeal to a psychologist whose work is rejected as pseudoscience by the APA. We'd first need to demonstrate that the APA are not themselves espousers of pseudoscience (so that they're a valid authority). In order to justify that claim, we'd have to appeal to the fact that it is not judged to be so by the APA.

    I think you're on safer ground sticking to the original citation, that the appeal is justified on the grounds that both parties agree on the status of the authority concerned. Even if two Jordan Peterson fans are arguing some point (perhaps on the value of Benzodiazepine!) each could appeal to what their authority pronounced and that would be a valid appeal for their argument regardless of what garbage they might referring to.

    As you correctly pointed out, determining that an appeal to authority is invalid is not the same as refuting the associated claim. I think that has to apply to pseudoscience too. Demonstrating it to be nonsense is not the same as invalidating an appeal to authority.
  • Harry Hindu
    3.3k
    Trusting authority is a huge part of research.
    — Outlander

    It is the only currency of culture. Trust, or start civilisation again from scratch and alone.
    unenlightened

    It seems that you wouldn't need to do research if you trusted the authority.


    Sometimes attacking the source is warranted.

    Sometimes appealing to authority is appropriate.
    frank
    I love these assertions without any kind of examples to back them up.
  • remoku
    29
    Beautiful thread by the way, non-specifically, I think in the regard of author-i-tious notion (i.e. that which comes with an explanation).
  • Harry Hindu
    3.3k
    So if one makes an assertion without any source, and is called "authoritarian", then it is simply an ad hom attack as the assertion doesn't provide an authoritative source that is being pleaded.
  • Baden
    10.7k


    Good points. Thanks.
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