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to force the other boy to exchange coats with him ’, you prove that 'the exchange would have been advantageous to both’; instead of proving that 'a man has not a right to educate his children or dispose of his property in the way
he thinks best’, you show that 'the way in which he educates his children or disposes of his property is not really the best'; instead of proving that the poor ought to be relieved in this way’, you prove that 'they ought to be relieved'. . . . A good instance of the employment and exposure of this fallacy occurs in Thucydides, in the speeches of Cleon and Diodotus concerning the Mitylenæans: the former (over and above his appeal to the angry passions of his audience) urges the justice of putting the revolters to death; which, as the latter remarked, was nothing to the purpose, since the Athenians were not sitting in judgment, but in deliberation, of which the proper end is expediency."'*
It is interesting to find counterparts of this story in the history of our own times. The following sentences from Bismarck's Autobiography (Chapter XX) refer to the Austrian proposals for peace after the Prussian victories in the war of 1866:
“I unfolded to the King of Prussia] the political and military reasons which opposed the continuation of the war.
“We had to avoid wounding Austria too severely; we had to avoid leaving behind in her any unnecessary bitterness of feeling or desire for revenge; we ought rather to reserve the possibility of becoming friends again with our adversary of the moment, and in any case to regard the Austrian state as a piece on the European chess-board and the renewal of friendly relations with her as a move open to us. If Austria were severely injured, she would become the ally of France and of every other opponent of ours; she would even sacrifice her anti-Russian interests for the sake of revenge on Prussia. .
* Whately, “Elements of Logic ", third edition, London, 1829.
“To all this the King raised no objection, but declared the actual terms as inadequate, without, however, definitely formulating his own demands. Only so much was clear, that his claims had grown considerably since July 4. He said that the chief culprit [Austria) should not be allowed to escape unpunished, and that justice once satisfied, we could let the misled backsliders (the smaller German states that had sided with Austria] off more easily, and he insisted on the sessions of territory from Austria which I have already mentioned. I replied that we were not there to sit in judgment, but to pursue the German policy. Austria's conflict in rivalry with us was no more culpable than ours with her; our task was the establishment or initiation of a German national unity under the leadership of the King of Prussia.
Passing on to German states, he spoke of various acquisitions by cutting down the territories of our opponents. I repeated that we were not there to administer retributive justice, but to pursue a policy; that I wished to avoid in the German federation of the future the sight of mutilated territories, whose princes and peoples might very easily (such is human weakness) retain a lively wish to recover their former possessions by means of foreign help; such allies would be very unreliable.”*
So Canning, in a speech in the House of Commons in reply to Mr. Percival, says: 'The question is not, as assumed by my opponent, whether we shall continue the war in the Peninsula, but whether it is essential to our success in the war that our present system of currency remain unchanged.' Thus it is not unusual, after a protracted debate, for the cooler thinkers to preface their remarks with reminding the audience of the real nature of the point on which issue is joined; and the longer and more heated the discussion, the greater the need for these monitory exordiums. For, especially when the field of debate is large, the combatants
* " Bismarck the Man and the Statesman”. (Harper & Bros., 1899.)
often join issue on the wrong points, or do not join issue at all. One goes to the east, another to the west; one loses the proposition in question, and wanders amidst a crowd of irrelevant details; another mistakes contraries for contradictories, or universals for particulars; and, after some hours of storm, they know not what they have been discussing. One has made out a case which his adversary admits, the more readily as it has not the least bearing on the question; another, having overthrown a similar collateral proposition, makes his pretended triumph resound over the field; yet another, having been rather shattered by reasons, appeals to the prejudices of his auditory, and, overwhelming his more rational antagonist with ridicule and abuse, comes off the apparent and acknowledged victor in the contest."*
There are many subjects that have to be discussed at some length before it is possible to tell precisely what the point or points at issue are; but whenever there is a definite issue we should try very hard in our discussions and in our private thinking to stick to it. In our courts of law the rule that all testimony must be relevant is enforced very strictly. Unfortunately the corresponding rule about parliamentary discussions cannot be enforced so strictly.
Two special forms of Ignoratio Elenchi are called the Argumentum ad Hominem and the Argumentum ad Populum. These terms are applied in a rather loose
hominem'. sense to any argument that appeals to feeling or that depends, not on the real question at issue, but upcn the personality of any of the parties involved, including the hearers. As mere appeals to the desires or passions of one's hearers these arguments have been discussed already. As involving confusion between the real issue and some false issue they have not. As a form of Ignoratio Elenchi the Argumentum ad Hominem often consists in supposing that we have won our case because we have succeeded in em
Davis, “ Theory of Thought”, pp. 277-8. (Harpers, no date.)
barrassing an opponent by some personal reference that has really nothing to do with it. If I am accused of extravagance
I do not answer the accusation though I may silence the accuser by proving that he himself is no better; if my opinions are attacked I cannot substantiate them by replying that my opponent once held them himself. Such a retort I may have a perfect right to make, but I have no right to confuse it with a vindication of my own position.
Undoubtedly it was the great danger of confusing issues when questions of personality are once introduced that made our common law exclude as irrelevant all evidence as to the general character of the parties concerned even in cases in which such evidence might seem to the layman very relevant indeed. The courts try to decide each particular case on its individual merits, and not to give any man a favorable or unfavorable verdict merely because his general character is good or bad; they know that in many individual cases good men are in the wrong and bad men in the right; and they know enough about human nature to realize that if questions of general character are dwelt upon the jury will be influenced by them far more than they should be in order to decide the real question at issue on its merits.
The Argumentum ad populum is practically indistinguishable from the Argumentum ad Hominem. It is defined as "an appeal to the passions, prejudices, etc., of the multitude”. The fallacy usually occurs in the course of long harangues, where the multitude of words and figures leaves room for confusion of thought and forgetfulness." Here lies the danger of brilliant oratory and startling metaphors. Whatever one may believe to-day about the comparative values of a single and a double monetary standard of value, and the wisdom of suddenly changing from one to the other, it is certainly startling to think how half the country was swept away, in the spring of 1896, and a difficult economic problem for a time apparently settled, by a dazzling though empty metaphor about thrusting a crown of thorns
upon the brow of labor and crucifying mankind upon a cross of gold. The real question at issue was, not whether laboring men should or should not be unjustly treated and mankind in general oppressed, but whether a given policy would tend in the long run to diminish injustice and oppression, or to increase it.