To the editor:

Feb 022005


Your big cartoon on Tuesday tried to discredit the idea of bugging out of Iraq by showing (a) how ugly is old Ted Kennedy who advanced the idea, and (b) how ugly and evil is Zarquawi–who (fictionally) "approved this message." The cartoon hinted plausibly that Zarqawi MIGHT WELL APPROVE of such a bug-out.

You did a great service here. In Philosophy 110, we teach about the deadly fallacy of "AD H0MINEM" – trying to discredit an idea by citing the defects of the person advancing it. This cartoon beautifully illustrates this fallacy.

It's sometimes valid to say "This expert said so, so it's true."

But it's NEVER valid to say, "This half-blind, ignorant villain said so, so this idea is FALSE!"

It's said plausibly that the devil can quote Scripture for his own wicked purposes. If this AD HOMINEM form of argument were valid, then the devil could FALSIFY THE WHOLE BIBLE MERELY BY READING IT ALOUD!


By the way, the French hostages held for months got to know guerillas pretty well. They said the guerillas WANTED BUSH RE-ELECTED, because the longer our bungling, ferocious troops stay in Iraq, the easier it is for guerillas to recruit new terrorists. So the "Zarqawi" hint may be just false.

Dan Lyons

Philosophy Instructor

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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