Liberal Logic – Fallacies: Name-calling

Not to be confused with the only distantly related logical fallacy Ad Hominem.

Name-calling is the name that I personally give to the act of changing the name of some act or object or person, in an attempt to change the audience’s perception of it. Normally, name-calling is perfectly acceptable as a rhetorical device, but when it is used as an argument that purports to support or refute an argument, it is logically fallacious.

Simply changing the name of something does not change anything whatsoever about it. If I called a smartphone just plain “phone,” that still doesn’t change anything about the smartphone. It’s a phone. It’s a smartphone. It’s both. Using one term or the other doesn’t change anything.

I could use the word “smartphone” if I wanted to talk about the amazing things you can do with a device that fits in your pocket, or I could use the word “phone” if it was missing and I needed to call someone in a hurry. The synonyms are used to convey different connotations.

A more illustrative example would be murder. Common law murder is homicide committed with malice aforethought (usually intent to kill or seriously injure is enough for malice). If I shot a person in cold blood, intending to do so, it’s murder. It remains murder even if I try to use a nicer term for it: “I didn’t kill him, Your Honor. I … um … well … I was just making a population control choice, you know?” Murder remains immoral no matter what you call it.

Liberals consistently use the fallacy of name-calling to justify abortion, among others.

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