1: marked by an attack on an opponent's character rather than by an answer to the contentions made
2: appealing to feelings or prejudices rather than intellect
the Latin phrase suggests, the
typical ad hominem argument boils down an attack on the man. Such
an attack might go something like this: "Bob is such a jerk
that there's no use believing anything he says."
make his case, Fussell draws upon his personal experience on the front
lines in Europe, and he points out that critics of dropping the bomb
almost uniformly did NOT experience the brutality of war firsthand.
Fussell is so annoyed by his opponents that his own arguments spill
into ad hominem, as he acknowledges:
the historian Michael Sherry, author of a recent book on the
rise of the American bombing mystique, The
argues that we didn’t delay long enough between the test
explosion in New Mexico and the mortal explosions in Japan.
More delay would
have made possible deeper moral considerations and perhaps
laudable second thoughts and restraint. “The risks of
delaying the bomb’s
use,” he says would have been small—not the thousands
of casualties expected of invasion but only a few days or weeks
of relatively routine operations.” While the mass murders
represented by these “relatively routine operations"
were enacting, Michael Sherry was safe at home. Indeed when
bombs were dropped he was
going on eight months old, in danger only of falling out of
his pram. In speaking thus of Galbraith and Sherry, I’m
aware of the offensive implications ad hominem. But what’s
at stake in an infantry assault is so entirely unthinkable
experience of one, or several, or many, even if they possess
very wide-ranging imaginations and warm sympathies, that experience
is crucial in this case.