The Age of Ad Hominem

The Gorean Compass is a class given every Thursday by Master Gorm Runo.  Classes are held at the Gorean Campus and are given at noon and 6pm SLT.  All are encouraged to come and join in the amazing discussions. This class was held on October 4, 2018

Tal and greetings

Welcome back, everyone. I am really excited to begin this new series of classes and discussions. I have said that we would be calling this Seminar, “The Higher Ground” and we would be talking more about the type of superior person that John Norman introduced us to in the Gor Novels. This superior person would be balanced, rejecting both the “too soft” of Earth and the “too hard” of Gor to find a middle ground.

I wanted to start off by talking about a few things that prevent us reaching that higher middle ground. The first one is what is called “the ad hominem attack” “Ad Hominem” comes from Latin and means, “to the person.” Here is a definition from the dictionary.

1 : appealing to feelings or prejudices rather than intellect an ad hominem argument

2 : marked by or being an attack on an opponent’s character rather than by an answer to the contentions made made an ad hominem personal attack on his rival

The first definition defines it as “appealing to feelings or prejudices rather than intellect.” The second one talks of an attack on an opponent’s character, and I would like to suggest a third definition. Rather than an attack on a person’s character, it can also be support for an argument based on something positive.

In the famous tavern scene in Raiders of Gor, when the tavern keeper is defending Surbus’ decision to throw the slave girl to the urts in the canal, he makes this comment.—

“I have sold her for five,” said the proprietor, “to this noble gentleman. Do not interfere, Stranger, this man is Surbus.”
Surbus threw back his head and laughed. “Yes,” he said. “I am Surbus.”
“I am Bosk,” I said. “from the Marshes.”

Page 121 Raiders of Gor

This is an example of what I am calling the “positive ad hominem” argument. This argument claims that something is either right, or it is wrong, based on the standing of the person or persons involved, and not on the merits of the thing itself.

Back in the early days of online Gor, when a venue called AOL was one of the centers of Gorean interaction, a fellow opened up a really fancy message board to allow fans to discuss the Gorean novels. The problem was that this man hated Gor, and he hated anyone who thought of themselves as Gorean, especially if they claimed to be lifestylers of any sort. He used his message board to set them up, and then to tear them apart and embarrass them in his answering posts.

In one of our exchanges on the board, he claimed that a recent poll had established that 51% of the people polled had agreed with him, and only 48% with me, with 1% undecided. This, he claimed, proved that he was right and I was wrong. More people agreed with him.

This is an example of the “ad hominem” thinking. It was establishing the absolute right or wrong of a matter by taking a vote on it, and accepting if a few more people believed it, it had to be true.

I have always been amazed in our Earth society on the use of sports and entertainment celebrities not only to endorse products in advertising, but to become spokespersons for all manner of political and social causes. The idea seems to be that if a person is a good athlete, it automatically makes him a better judge of razor blades, or if he appeared as an actor in a successful motion picture, it automatically makes him an authority of social issues.

It is true that the Goreans in the novels did not have mass media, but, it is clear that they had heroes. We hear of great Kaissa players known planet wide, and the factions that supported Tarn racing in Ar appear no different than our Earth sports fans, and thus would have favorites and heroes. However, I get a very strong feeling that the average Gorean would not view them as authorities outside Kaissa or Tarn racing, and would not be looking to them for moral guidance and advice on shaving.

The inward looking approach of Goreans would work against looking outward for answers and truths that must be found by self examination, and not by hero worship. In the quote from Raiders, we see the proprietor making this kind of positive ad hominem claim. The argument can be made thusly:

“Surbus is a well known captain. He is a rich and powerful man. He is reputed to be the best swordsman in Port Kar. He does this kind of thing all the time, therefore, throwing slave girls to the urts for displeasing must be morally acceptable.”

If you have been following the political arena in the United States, you have seen the majority of the discussion focused on the character, or lack thereof, of the President, and very little on the actually issues represented by the opposing sides. The policies, we are usually told, must be wrong, because the President is crude in his language and behavior. The policies of the previous President were much more valid because he was polished in his manner, and charismatic in his speeches. This, again, is pure ad hominem thinking.

I suppose all of this would be merely of passing interest, and not directly related to Second Life Gor if ad hominem thinking did not permeate our online interactions. Sadly, I believe that it does. I, personally, deal with it constantly both in the dealings with the slaves in my Slave House, and with my fellow citizens in my role as Administrator.

I am told that this girl must be wrong, because everyone knows she is a bitch. I am told that this man’s opinion is not valid because he is not well liked by certain people. It is so easy to fall into the ad hominem trap. Skin color, sexual orientation, gender, and a number of other factors are being factored into the moral arguments of Earth, and we tend to bring this baggage into our online Gorean world, despite the fact that the books seem to be telling us they have no place here.

The Alar, Hurtha, in Mercenaries of Gor, says he is not sure if there is any such thing as “right”, because he has never tasted it, or seen it, or felt it. Tarl responds by asking him if he has ever tasted or seen or felt Honor, and Hurta replies that he has seen it, felt it, and tasted it, although it was not like tasting bread or seeing a sword, or feeling a woman. Tarl suggests that, perhaps, right is like that.

I think right is like that. I have seen it, and I have tasted it, and I have felt it, and I suggest all of you have done the same. In our tavern scene, I have yet to hear one person argue that Surbus was in the right. It wasn’t even a 51% to 49% split, so maybe there was an absolute right involved there.

The quote that, to me, sums up our quest to become the type of person envisioned and promoted by John Norman, is found in Marauders of Gor.

“I envy sometimes the simplicities of those of Earth, and those of Gor, who creatures of their conditioning, are untroubled by such matters, but I would not be as either of them. If either is correct it is for them no more than a lucky coincidence. They would have fallen into truth, but to take truth for granted is not to know it. Truths not won are not possessed. We are not entitled to truths for which we have not fought.”

Page 7 Marauders of Gor

I fear that a major part of the conditioning of those of Earth is to jump too quickly into the ad hominem attack. As with much of this, that is the easy way. To reject something, and even to accept it based on who is saying it, and what you think, personally, of the speaker, frees us of the responsibility of fighting for the Truth.

One of the goals of “The Higher Ground” philosophy of Second Life Gor is to free us from this kind of conditioning and easy cop outs. We have to train ourselves to do this. I saw a movie when I was a young man, and have since forgotten the plot, or even who was in it, but I have always remembered the title. “The Singer, not the Song.” I think I began my own personal journey toward the rejection of ad hominem thinking by understanding what that meant.

This influenced my experience with Religion, for example. When people would talk about the hypocrisy of the Church, or the horrible behaviors of certain Christians, or of a certain Pastor who had been caught doing something horrible, I would hear a little voice telling me to stop listening to the singers who were butchering the melody, and couldn’t carry a tune, and start looking for the song itself.

I think this applies to Second Life Gor as well. The vision of Gor and the idea of superior people rising above the petty, shaking off their conditioning, embracing Natural Order, and seeking Truth is a beautiful song. The fact that for years it has been sung by some rotten singers should not be the criteria for judging the song itself, but it is what we do too often.

This might be a difficult mental adjustment for us to make. Not only do we tend to attack the singers, we are often stubborn and blind to our own positive ad hominem assertions. “Yes, he laughed, “ I am Surbus.” Do we do that? Are we arguing that we are right because we are us, and they are merely them? Do we replace logic and reason with personality and status?

I think Earth society is failing miserably to accomplish this. We are living in the “Age of ad hominem” down there. It is never about what is right or wrong anymore, but it is always about who said it, and who they are, and what group they belong to, and a host of other factors that, when you really understand this, have nothing to do with right or wrong, or with Truth.
I think we can be better than that here.

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