As an example of rhetoric which pigeon-holes an author with a label instead of examining a position, I find this answer typical of responses in this community:

Then you appear to be either a moral non-cognitivist (see SEP metaethics, a further article, and the article on cognitivism vs. non-cognitivism ) if you think that moral claims are psychological statements and/or a moral relativist if your main point is that these things are decided by majorities in cultures.

The issue at hand is not how the OP appears as or how they are identified but instead the issue is the argument and the position the author asks a question about. Tho this is largely the result of sloppy rhetoric, the result is that the author is told what they think and how they are labelled which does nothing to address the question about the issue.

As written these kinds of answers are examples of the ad hominem fallacy as it is the person being described and not the position. Note, argumentum ad hominem is not technically pejorative or derogatory, just to the person instead of to the argument. Inasmuch, answers stating such a label are non sequitur.

It would be one thing if an author asked the question, "Am I a moral-cognitivist?" but the question "Is there an empirical system of ethics?" is clearly not about the author's personal identity.

Is there anything which can be done on the site to discourage such ad hominem rhetoric and improve the focus upon the message instead of the messenger?


I believe that you missed the point in the question to which this is an answer where the OP stated "But I think that an ethical statement such as "murder is wrong" is actually a psychological statement about how (the vast majority of) humans conceptualize murder. In other words,...." This puts the overall frame of the question into one regarding the relationship of that individual's beliefs with the stated question "Has anyone studied or described this kind of ethics?..." Thus the overall question is in regards to the OP's individual position on this question, and the answer you linked to reflects this overall structure of the question.

It might be a reasonable suggestion to not use the construction "then you are an..." due to the way that this can be interpreted as limiting/constraining/distorting a person ("then you are [only/just] a..."). If you think that the answer suffers due to this poor wording you are free to suggest an improvement via a comment or downvote if you think it makes the answer not-useful.

Though we all have the option to directly edit answers (low-rep users' edits need to be approved though; not sure what the cutoff is) however this is more risky in that even changes that seem like obvious improvements to you may not be well received by the content's original author -- many philosophers would think that the exact manner in which an idea is presented is crucial.

  • 1
    That's helpful. I've tried to reword the sentences in question. I don't know how much it really changes in the substance of the answer, but if the formatting is better, hey! why not?
    – virmaior
    Mar 12 '17 at 22:32

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