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Ipse dixit arguments

  1. Nov 30, 2003 #1
    I abhor nothing more than the resortment to such a state of unreason.

    "My brother says you're wrong, and since he has a PhD in <insert field name> he knows what he is talking about!"

    A contrived quote to be sure, but I believe everyone knows what I am talking about. Why do people resort to such arguments?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 26, 2003 #2
    From experience, the person in question believes that the person he knows with a phd in <insert field name> is always right and that debate is unneccesary if the person he knows says something is right. He also assumes you believe the same.

    Or of course he is lying.

    I believe that this incident is somehow involved with this issue.

  4. Dec 27, 2003 #3
    Because the people who resort to them will do anything if it ensures that they will come out the "victor" of that particular argument. Since many people are intimidated by credentials, these people may believe that they can intimidate you thus to win the argument.
  5. Dec 27, 2003 #4


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    I dunno, I've seen it mostly used on people who have no clue about what they're talking. Such people are entirely convinced of their correctness that they refuse to listen to others explaining why their wrong (the others must be confused, mislead, part of a conspiracy...), so an appeal to authority forces such a person to raise their delusion to the next level if they want to continue holding their stance. (Of course, I've never seen such a person do otherwise...)
  6. Dec 29, 2003 #5
    my dad is not only the head of the cia, could have you hunted down for disagreeing, he has 10 phds and they all say you're all wrong about inappropritately appealing to authority being fallacious!
  7. Feb 13, 2004 #6

    Do brick walls talk, if they did, would you want to hear its answer. Talk to a child, it will tell you, what is important to hear.
  8. Feb 13, 2004 #7


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    While I agree with an aspect of the thread, reliance upon authoritative statements is the final product of the scientific method. Granted, it is not reliance on hearsay from a single source, but it is reliance upon a community of sources respected because of their credentials. Hopefully the trust is bestowed not merely for the existance of those credentials, but for what they imply - adherence to scientific principles.

  9. Feb 13, 2004 #8


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    There's a big difference between "my uncle said so and he has a Ph.d." and "we can my uncle [insert name] who has a Ph.d. in [insert field]."

    It's important to make sure that the authority you're appealing to is actually authoritative. In some environments, that's the way things are. (Consider, for example, calling balls and strikes in baseball.)
  10. Feb 13, 2004 #9
    I believe there to be a distinction between having an authoritative position (a referee in your example) and having an authoritative answer (strike when it was in fact a ball). Those in authoritative positions are not without fallability, and it's when we appeal to the position and not the answer that we succumb to erroneous logic. For example, consider the dogma of Newton's time with respect to the corpuscular nature of light. Who is to disagree with a wave nature of light when Newton says it is otherwise? Another example might be von Neumann's notorious miscalculation. No one questioned it simply because it was von Neumann.

    I believe there is also less appealing to the authority of those who achieved their position through proven results. For example, Einstein didn't achieve his position through calling foul balls. If he had a history of doing so we would obviously be less likely to consider his authority appealing at all. It's when we consider only the authority that I believe we are fallacious, and I know I'm certainly guilty of it at times.
  11. Feb 13, 2004 #10


    A lot of thought and explanation has been given to the arguement
    '..,and since he has a PhD in <insert field name> he knows what he is talking about!"'
    I prefer to attack the root, why choose that arguement? Obviously the argument is an old one or at least prviously debated, otherwise when would the claiment have had time to consult his learned brother, or if his brother were present, why didn't he volunteer the damning evidence himself. Unless the information has previously been revealed to the debater in a conversation with his brother I suppose but he states specifically 'my says you're wrong', but I digress.
    By using the brother all blame for any eventual inaccuracy is transfered to him thereby making the debater feel safe as he personally doesn't have to justify or prove his stance. He can then expand on his argument with his opponent having no way to attack the base arguement.
    So the ultimate goal of this claim is to gain control of or end the arguement by giving no recourse to the opponent.
  12. Apr 12, 2004 #11
    You should tell him that it is a logical fallacy, an argumentum ad verecundiam, and watch his easily influenced emotions succumb to the large Latin words.
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