Therefore, if you can't demonstrate that your opponent is trying to counter your argument by attacking you, you can't demonstrate that he is resorting to ad hominem.
Actual instances of argumentum ad hominem are relatively rare. Ironically, the fallacy is most often committed by those who accuse their opponents of ad hominem, since they try to dismiss the opposition not by engaging with their arguments, but by claiming that they resort to personal attacks. Those who are quick to squeal "ad hominem" are often guilty of several other logical fallacies, including one of the worst of all: the fallacious belief that introducing an impressive-sounding Latin term somehow gives one the decisive edge in an argument.
Case study of the fake ad hominem:(debate between two Monks on Bhikkhuni ordination)
Second open letter to the venerable
Metta Forest Monastery
P.O. Box 1409
Valley Center, CA 92082, USA 22 December 2018
my respectful greetings. I read with interest your “Trojan Horse”, published at the end of last month. I
appreciate the time you have invested in clarifying your thinking. My reply takes the form of an article
on “The Case for Reviving the bhikkhunī Order by Single Ordination” in the Journal of Buddhist Ethics,
in which I focus on what seems directly relevant to the legal aspect of such revival. For the time being,
I have not taken up your criticism of my study of the Nandakovāda and of the first saṅgīti.
In that article I have also decided not to reply at all to the various instances of personal criticism raised
by you. This is not because I agree with the criticism or am unable to reply. On the contrary, I would
have quite a lot to say in reply, as without exception the accusations are unfounded. I am criticized for
positions I never intended to take or am depicted in ways that are inconsistent with my actual character.
Such criticism ad hominem seems to me to be a central thrust in your long paper, which culminates not
in a conclusion about bhikkhunī ordination, but rather in a conclusion about the supposedly bad character
of Anālayo, whom you consider to be so ‘dishonest’ that one should not even discuss with him.
Nevertheless, I have decided not to respond in kind in order to put into practice my own suggestion in
my last letter to you that “perhaps the two of us can at least ‘agree to disagree’ in a spirit of mutual
respect.” As I am fully confident of my position regarding the legal viability of reviving the order ofbhikkhunīs, I am able to afford this. Personal attacks or counterattacks will only be required by those
who feel a need to bolster a weak position.
When bhikkhunīs in Sri Lanka asked me to investigate the matter and I found that a legal revival can be
done in accordance with the Vinaya, I knew that standing up for it would make me the target of negativity
and antagonism. Discrimination against women is one of the most depressing features of the Buddhist
traditions, causing so much unnecessary pain. If my attempt to offer a contribution toward diminishing
that pain makes me the object of hostility and aggression, then I am ready for that. Women’s right to full
participation in the monastic life, which the Buddha originally granted them, deserves to be protected.
Yet, should we not express differences in the interpretation of Dhamma and Vinaya in a spirit of mutual
respect? Does protecting Dhamma and Vinaya not require that we embody the relevant basic principles
in all aspects of our conduct? In the realm of communication, would this not mean a high regard for
honesty and truthfulness, together with a strong dedication to non-anger and non-harming as implementations of right intention?sutvā rusito bahuṃ vācaṃ, samaṇānaṃ vā puthujanānaṃ
pharusena ne na paṭivajjā, na hi santo paṭisenikaronti (Sn 932).
When being provoked, having heard many words,
From recluses and worldlings,
One should not counter them with harsh speech.
Those who are at peace indeed do not retaliate.
Barre Center for Buddhist Studies
149 Lockwood Road
Barre, MA, 01005, USA
What's actually happening in that letter(Frank's comments on Ven. Analayo's open letter to Ven. Thanissaro)
In the court of public opinion, I suspect Ven. Analayo is going to win the debate in a landslide. He has impressive credentials as a scholar, with many published books and articles on his resume. He writes well, in a gentle and polite tone, in response to strong criticism. from Ven. Thanissaro.
He's also fighting for the side most modern people are overwhelmingly in favor of: More equality and rights for women. In the letter, he tries to portray himself as the martyr and victim of unjust character attacks, and an underdog hero fighting against unfavorable odds. Maybe in some Asian countries that would be true, but both of these monks are Westerners, living in a time of "Me Too". Who do you really think is David (underdog) here and who is Goliath (the favored and supported) in this debate, in western countries overwhelmingly in favor of fighting against a long history of discrimination against women (and other minorities)?
But the real issue here is Ven. Analayo repeatedly dodged key points in the argument that required response. In short he is intellectually dishonest, to say it in the most kind way. You can read the length debate between them and decide for yourself.
So what really is ad hominemFor ad hominem to be true in this case, you would have to show that Ven. Thanissaro is making personal attack on character as a way to win the debate or evade rational and valid discussion. I don't remember what words Ven. T actually used, but for example, say I call Ven. Analayo intellectually dishonest and supply evidence of that. If it's relevant to the disputed points of the discussion, it is not ad hominem.
Ven. Analayo is guilty of fake ad hominem attack, and ad hominem itselfIronically, Ven. Analayo, in accusing Ven. T of 'ad hominem', does so by using a fake ad hominem attack. In addition, Ven. Analayo is guilty of ad hominem, since he unjustly and falsely impugns the character of Ven. Thanissaro, who has backed up all of his criticisms of Ven Analayo's arguments with sound logic, reasoning, and consistent methodology in interpreting Vinaya.
Ven. Analayo's arbitrary inconsistent irrational cherry picking way of interpreting Vinaya is fatally flawed. Using his methodology, you could support just about any agenda you wanted to by piecing together a buffet of cherry picked passages from various Vinaya recensions that supported what you wanted, and blatantly ignoring the parts you don't.