(un)common ground

a commonplace book

Ad Hominem Reasoning and Political Correctness

Ad hominem reasoning lies at the core of the political correctness phenomenon. A speaker’s violation of protocol turns attention from the worth of his case toward an inquiry into his character, the outcome of which depends on what is known about the character of others who have spoken in a similar way.

Glenn C. Loury, “Self-Censorship in Public Discourse: A Theory of ‘Political Correctness’ and Related Phenomena” (1994)

Is it possible that the generally tactical lens of political analysis in the news exacerbates this tendency?

The rub of this statement is the word “protocol.” Every social group, as Loury argues, inevitably applies some protocol to the public speech act as discourse. It feels unfortunate that the result can be this inattention to the violating speech itself and rather the individual–and that based on other individuals.

I wonder if this phenomenon can be conditioned to occur so fast as to skip the whole “inquiry” step altogether. It seems to me that for some, violating bounds in speech produces a near-instantaneous ad hominem judgment, rather than inquiry. But I think Loury probably leaves room for this to happen in his analysis.

Perhaps on a socio-cognitive level, this dynamic stems from the practice of stereotyping.


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This entry was posted on November 11, 2015 by and tagged , , .
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