Ad hominem means "to the man" and refers to critiquing the speaker
rather than the argument. To use the language you did about the
members of the list is thus "ad hominem."
Latin is very useful. "Diatribe" and "invective" come from the Latin, as do
many of the words in your original diatribe. In fact, if we stuck with Anglo-
Saxon, most of our intellectual debate would be hard-put for language
given the history of English after 1066.
It is true that some of the recent posts are extremely political, but in an
intellectual community, it is very hard to police topics. The members of
this list are such a community and many find it a place to discuss, with
people they respect, other things than Eliot. I don't see why any individual
member should use ad hominem arguments on that account, whether they
agree or not with the posts. To demand that only directly related material
be allowed or used is a "personal consideration." Some of the most
interesting Eliot discussions--from my perspective--have come out of
previous unrelated posts. It is a continuum.
"How horrible of me. . . etc." is precisely the personalizing I objected to; it
shifts the discussion from ideas to you.
"Self-serving" and "ideologically driven" are ad hominem by definition and
not by interpretation since they address persons and not the content of
Who are you or any member of the list to define "what a forum is fit for"?
The forum, presumably, makes that choice collectively. It is not an issue
of knowledge but of a shared discussion. We are not an official body with
a mission statement and a set task.
"Outside any such place or set of ideologies" DEFINES "superior
intellectual position." It is based in much current theory of position and
discourse in contrast with assumptions of neutral truths that transcend
I found nothing threatening about what you said. I found it rude, especially
to Steve, whose post you mocked with "rah rah rah." He feels deeply and
for serious reasons, and you treated that as something to trivialize. That
is why I responded.
You are right that my last remark was sardonic and ad hominem. It was a
reaction to what I still feel was inappropriate language directed at deeply
felt commentary. There is no reason to apologize to me at all as it was
not my post you mocked and it was not to me you directed your satire. I
was sardonic because you made such a point about Latinate language
while using so many Latinate terms but mixing them with a style--affected
by Pound, Cummings, and others--of elaborate casualness.
I am answering all this with genuinely serious reasons since you seemed
to be asking for that rather than exclusively leaping back into personal
invective. I appreciate that and wish it would become a more common
kind of debate.
Date sent: Mon, 23 Dec 2002 07:50:53 -0800
Send reply to: "T. S. Eliot Discussion forum." <[log in to unmask]>
From: "Harm Tron v2.0b2r7" <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Re: 800 American professors and one student are wrong again
To: [log in to unmask]
>From: Nancy Gish <[log in to unmask]>
>To: [log in to unmask]
>Subject: 800 American professors and one student are wrong again
>Date: Sun, 22 Dec 2002 16:24:31 -0500
>Do you not see that YOUR post is ad hominem, vituperative, and in praise
>of ignorance (uninterest in any political position is just that)?
according to the american heritageŽ dictionary of the english language,
fourth edition, ad hominem means "appealing to personal considerations
rather than to logic or reason."
the objection i raised has to do with what i consider to be the self-
defeating nature of a community which is supposed to "foster & encourage
appreciation, study and DEBATE of tse" but instead diverges into chest-
pounding political diatribes sprinkled with latinate invectives.
now, i simply dont see anything ad hominem about the contradiction i was
pointing out. its perfectly logical to observe that time spent on
ideological discourse is time not spent on tse. one would expect these
arguments to at least invoke his specter (plenty has been said & written
of him & anti-semitism, no?) but that is not the case.
what "personal considerations" am i appealing to, prof. gish? the
"personal consideration" of expecting tse-related material on a tse
how horrible of me to entertain such outlandish expectation...
my three qualifiers, (a), b) & c), are ad hominems only to the extent to
which the reader interprets them as such. i went on to mention that i
affiliate myself with an institution which indulges in all three, havent
i? i personally find nothing objectionable about self serving,
ideologically driven descants in and of themselves; i read a fair amount
of editorials & quite enjoy the fray; what bothers me is the fact that
some if not a whole heap of tse list "contributors" pervert this medium to
serve whatever cause their own personal politics dictate. this isnt an
editorial page, & even if it were, it ought to at least MENTION the
knowing what forum is fit for what discourse is not "ignorance," prof.
gish. this has nothing to do with "uninterest in any political position" &
everything to do with awareness of what is a cathedra, what is a lectern
and what is a pulpit. im sure id find your and many others' "political
position[s]" fascinating, as long as they are articulated in the proper
>That your assumption of a superior intellectual position outside any such
>place or set of ideologies is both self-serving and absurd--and itself
pardon. for an english professor, your utter lack of textual reference is
most disturbing. please quote what part of my original reply implies "a
superior intellectual position."
>And that the mockery of academic communities (of which you are a member)
>is mockery of over a thousand years of accumulated knowledge and
>transmission of ideas, and that it is a shameless (and commonplace)
>self-aggrandizement appealing to anti-intellectualism--quite apart from
>being an undemonstrable sweeping generalization?
then it must be self mockery. i dont understand how i can be "appealing to
anti-intellectualism" when i am, as you astutely pointed out, a member of
the academic community myself. that you find any of my casual remarks
so terribly threatening is a testament to your own tendencies, not mine.
>If you have a point to argue, please do. This is not one, and it is
>certainly unworthy of the education you are privileged to be getting. I
>am assuming the grammatical incompetence is a Poundian self-assertion and
>not a failure of Berkeley.
some would take your concluding remarks to be "appealing to personal
considerations rather than to logic or reason," prof. gish, maybe even
"using, containing, or marked by harshly abusive censure," that is to say,
ive nothing to prove, certainly not to you or any other tse-list denizen.
if anything, i find it amusing that such a mild set of observations
ruffled your feathers & entailed such a defensive attempt at a rebuke.
but if i did somehow insult you, i apologize & hope you have & enjoy a
very merry christmas.
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