29 January 2023


Recently, I explained ... not for the first time ... the phrase Argumentum ad hominem. I was concerned to refute the idea that it means using personal abuse to attack an idea that someone has put forward.

It doesn't ... or, it it does, it does so only by being a mistake which has now confusingly deceived so many poor souls that we are expected to accept it on the ground that usage is prescriptive. (If enough people are firmly convinced that the word water means "coloured orange", we shall eventually, regretfully, have to accept the judgement of Usage.)

I think it might also be useful to deal with the phrase datum sed non concessum

Literally, this means "Given but not conceded".

As commonly used in discourse among the educated classes, it was employed very usefully to mean something like this:

"Proposition X has been advanced to support idea Y which you trying to persuade me to accept. I don't think that proposition X is true; but, in order to enable our argument to continue, I am prepared to treat X as if it were true. This is, frankly, because even if X were true, Y would still be complete nonsense."


Michael Leahy said...

Nevertheless, I find that many, in debate, choose to play the man rather than the ball. It seems much more common in those of the more progressive persuasion.

Titus said...

Is there a work, Father, that has a taxonomy of these terms and concepts? I would scoop such a book up in a heartbeat. It would come in handy in my line of work.

frjustin said...

Wikipedia has an entertaining but regretfully deficient list of Latin words and phrases used in English: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Latin_phrases_(C)

There was nothing under "datum" or "concessum", but the first entry under C has the diverting phrase "cacatum non est pictum", which is dutifully translated as "That what's shat, is not painted."

A Note explains that "Contemporary critics applied this epithet to both of Turner's Regulus (1828 and 1837)."