Let's have a look. To cite one dictionary of logical fallacies, ad hominem arguments are those in which "the person presenting an argument is attacked instead of the argument itself."
Note the use of the word "instead." An ad hominem argument is one in which "the person presenting an argument is attacked instead of the argument itself." [Emphasis mine.] This means that is if one just baldy calls someone else an idiot without any valid argument for that judgement, then one is guilty of ad hominem. On the other hand, if one were to call Stalin, for example, a blood-soaked murdering swine then one would not be guilty of ad hominem -- one would simply be doing justice to the evidence and to Stalin's victims. Not to do so would be unjust, if not downright evasive.
The difference lies in whether or not an argument is proffered. Attacking a person instead of providing an argument takes out the man instead of the ball, which as any student of logic can tell you leaves the ball, ie., the argument, still in play. However, attacking a person on the basis of sound reasons to do so tackles both man and ball, something every good mid-field tackler these days aspires to do.
Whining that one has been attacked in such a fashion, or whining that one's friends have been attacked that way, is not an appeal to logic but nothing more than humbug. There is nothing wrong with judging someone -- in fact, speaking ethically, reality demands that we constantly judge others. As Ayn Rand explains, "Judge not that ye be not judged" may be the wet Cristian mantra on the subject; "judge, and be prepared to be judged" is a much sounder basis for evaluation of those one deals with:
"Judge not, that ye be not judged"... is an abdication of moral responsibility: it is a moral blank check one gives to others in exchange for a moral blank check one expects for oneself. There is no escape from the fact that men have to make choices; so long as men have to make choices, there is no escape from moral values; so long as moral values are at stake, no moral neutrality is possible. To abstain from condemning a torturer, is to become an accesory to the torture and murder of his victims. The moral principle to adopt... is: "Judge, and be prepared to be judged."LINKS: Attacking the Person (argumentum ad hominem) - Stephen's guide to the logical fallacies
TAGS: Philosophy, Objectivism