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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 693

Warning: This library includes all items relevant to health product marketing that we are aware of regardless of quality. Often we do not agree with all or part of the contents.


Publication type: book

Locke J.
An essay concerning human understanding


From Chapter 17

“… it may be worth our while a little to reflect on four sorts of arguments that men, in their reasonings with others, do ordinarily make use of to prevail on their assent, or at least so to awe them as to silence their opposition.

First, The first is to allege the opinions of men whose parts, learning, eminency, power, or some other cause has gained a name and settled their reputation in the common esteem with some kind of authority. When men are established in any kind of dignity, it is thought a breach of modesty for others to derogate any way from it, and question the authority of men who are in possession of it. This is apt to be censured as carrying with it too much of pride, when a man does not readily yield to the determination of approved authors which is wont to be received with respect and submission by others; and it is looked upon as insolence for a man to set up and adhere to his own opinion against the current stream of antiquity, or to put it in the balance against that of some learned doctor or otherwise approved writer. Whoever backs his tenets with such authorities thinks he ought thereby to carry the cause, and is ready to style it impudence in anyone who shall stand out against them. This I think may be called argumentum ad verecundiam.

Secondly, Another way that men ordinarily use to drive others and force them to submit their judgments and receive the opinion in debate is to require the adversary to admit what they allege as a proof, or to assign a better. And this I call argumentum ad ignorantiam.

Thirdly, A third way is to press a man with consequences drawn from his own principles or concessions. This is already known under the name of argumentum ad hominem.

Fourthly, The fourth is the using of proofs drawn from any of the foundations of knowledge or probability. This I call argumentum ad judicium. This alone of all the four brings true instruction with it and advances us in our way to knowledge. For: (1) It argues not another man’s opinion to be right because I, out of respect or any other consideration but that of conviction, will not contradict him. (2) It proves not another man to be in the right way, nor that I ought to take the same with him, because I know not a better. (3) Nor does it follow that another man is in the right way because he has shown me that I am in the wrong. I may be modest and therefore not oppose another man’s persuasion; I may be ignorant and not be able to produce a better; I may be in an error and another may show me that I am so. This may dispose me, perhaps, for the reception of truth but helps me not to it; that must come from proofs and arguments and light arising from the nature of things themselves, and not from my shamefacedness, ignorance, or error.”


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