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The Latin phrase a posteriori refers to the process of inductive reasoning. It means “from what comes after” or a proposition based on experience. A close relative, also used in philosophical arguments, is a priori, which is knowledge based on previous understanding of the concept.  It means literally from what comes before. A priori can be a mathematical equation, or any other agreed upon fact deriving from the agreement.  It would be correct to call the statement “It is cloudy outside.” a posteriori because I looked outside and can see the fact that it is cloudy now. The statement, “Cumulous clouds are the harbinger of rain.” is an assumption based on scientific agreement, and therefore is a priori.  We agree on the definition of cumulous clouds without the need to experience them directly. “That bow is red” is another a priori belief.  We all have agreed on what red is…

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The practice of trash talking with personal insults rather than appeal to reason has dominated our political season.  This kind of logic is known as argumentum ad hominem, or ad hominem for short.  The personal attack is intended to discredit any statement made by the opponent. It is a logical red herring designed to distract from the business at hand.  It is the full time occupation of the Congress of the United States.

Ad hominem tu quoque is to use the “I know you are but what am I?” line of reasoning.  It translates to “You do that too.”  There is a big difference between a persuasive argument and a statement of fact. In order to reach valid conclusions it is important to distinguish guilt by association or circumstance from cold, hard, empirical facts.  All’s fair in marketing and politics.  The emotional ad hominem is used freely and frequently to…

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