Literally meaning 'against the man', the phrase 'ad hominem' can be seen on every internet forum, spewed by the same conceited gits again and again. It's often used in conjunction with references to 'logic', 'rational' or 'critical thinking' and 'intelligence' as a mode of argument, and an explanation of how this elevates the arguer above the other. Because the other person definitely doesn't think they are also arguing logically and rationally.
Like most things construed by idiots, the ad hominem fallacy on the internet is usually used as a triumphant shout when an argument devolves into blatant name-calling. 90% of the time it is misused in one of two distinct ways:
- It is used to signify the end of an argument, as it's suggested that conversation can no longer continue because of personal attacks. This is probably applicable to formal debates where strict guidelines have been placed, but not in arguments with your mum.
- Ad hominem is applied to one or more premises in a given argument. Although this might effect the validity of an argument, it can still be sound, eg. all men are mortal, Socrates is a man, you're a cunt, therefore Socrates is mortal. The argument is sound but not valid. So even if someone was hostile in their method of argument, provided they don't dismiss what you say on the grounds that you're a cunt, it probably doesn't effect the soundness of the argument.