Talk:Argumentum a fortiori

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Bible example questionable[edit]

In earlier versions of the article Paul was mentioned as an example for a rhetoric usage of the phrase without concrete quote. With a re-write by Wahrmund (15:42, 29 July 2013) this made it into the main text, now making it sound like a valid logical example of the argument. (to my mind at least) While it may be true that Paul attempted that sort of argument, I don't think it serves as a very good example of it, as it is clearly fallacious. I think the previous paragraph was more useful, in pointing out that it is used as a rhetoric device, mentioning Paul as an example for this. Thialfihar (talk) 14:40, 27 May 2014 (UTC)

First example is convoluted[edit]

The first example in the Usage section is hard to parse. I had to read it a few times to figure out what it was trying to say and even then I wished there was a chart or something. Currently it reads, "For example, if a scientist observes certain phenomena to be present in conjunction a given percentage of the time, they may make the argument that each of the individual phenomena will a fortiori be present a greater percentage of the time (because the latter figures, but not the former, will include the occasions on which a given phenomenon is present but one or more of the others are not)." I recommend that the example should be concrete rather than abstract to make comprehension easier. I'd do it, but I'm not quite sure I understand it well enough to do it justice. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 24.19.180.50 (talk) 07:09, 16 April 2012 (UTC)

I second this.

I came to this page to find out what "a fortiori" actually meant, and I still don't know.

Some simple, concise, concrete examples, right near the beginning of the article might do the job. They don't have to be factual, and they should be free of expressions like "a certain phenomenon", "a given percentage".

As it currently stands, this article is bloody _useless_, except in such case that one learned in the art perusing aforesaid article for the titular termus latinum is a priori cognizant of the usage thereof, in which case he shouldn't fucking need to look it up.

120.18.243.128 (talk) 04:21, 4 March 2013 (UTC)

There have been improvements since the above comments, but one very strange omission was the fact that it's a Latin phrase. I've added that. ~ CZeke (talk) 05:35, 1 November 2014 (UTC)

Difference between a fortiori and argumentum analogi[edit]

I disagree with what is said that i Islamic law argumentum a fortiori is used like "reasoning by analogy". These two are different law techniques for interpretation of a Law. The analogy is made usally to make connection between two different spheres of law so the non-existent, provisions in one is substituted by very similar existing provisions of the other. It's inadmissible in the public law (e.g. penal law) but quite frequent in civil law. A fortiori interpretation, on the other hand, means usually that what is iperative to the stronger (higher, bigger), is quite so for the weaker (lesser, smaler). Exemple - if it's not allowed to drink alchol at age 20 it's most certanlly not alowed to do it at age 16. Beeing connected tightly with imperative law porovisions it's a trait of the public law and very rarely used in the civil law where dispositive provisions usually apply. At least that is the case under the Roman (Continental) system. If in Islamic law those two techniques are the same, taht, forgive me, but it's the one more proof that the Islamic law system is quite flawed! — Preceding unsigned comment added by 136.173.162.144 (talk) 15:35, 3 December 2013 (UTC)

In Islamic jurisprudence, a fortiori arguments are usually classified under qiyas, which is usually translated "analogy" or "analogical reasoning". Different thinkers disagree about whether a fortiori arguments are reasoning by analogy, though. A couple sources: A History of Islamic Legal Theories by Wael Hallaq; The Search for God's Law: Islamic Jurisprudence in the Writings of Sayf Al-Din Al-Amidi by Bernard Weiss (includes an explanation of why the author translates qiyas as "analogy" and lots more); or just google for qiyas fortiori. —Ben Kovitz (talk) 02:27, 14 November 2014 (UTC)

Request for authoritative source on the origin of the phrase[edit]

The current version of the article contains a number of translations of a fortiori which I think are mostly wrong. For example, I think "The phrase a fortiori is Latin for 'from [something] stronger]'" is wrong. I think the phrase is short for a fortiori ratione, which is ungrammatical Latin for "with [even] stronger reason". Correct Latin would be a fortiore ratione. I'm guessing that a fortiori started during the Middle Ages, when people often confused the dative with the ablative. But I have not found a source for this. These are only semi-educated guesses, not appropriate on Wikipedia. Can anyone suggest a good source for what a fortiori is actually short for? The only thing that's certain right now is that most of the sources we'd typically use, like ordinary dictionaries, are not reliable here: many that I've looked at contradict each other or appear to have treated the etymology sloppily. Ideally, we'd use a source by a credible historian of law or of Latin, but I haven't found one yet. —Ben Kovitz (talk) 02:49, 14 November 2014 (UTC)

Move request[edit]

The following is a closed discussion of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on the talk page. Editors desiring to contest the closing decision should consider a move review. No further edits should be made to this section.

The result of the move request was: Moved as consensus to move the article (without any opposes in this case) has been established. (non-admin closure) Music1201 talk 02:02, 29 May 2016 (UTC)



A fortiori argumentArgumentum a fortiori – To be consistent with other forms of argumentation (Reductio ad absurdum, Argumentum ad baculum, etc.) Also, the title is inconsistent with the usage expert quoted in the section "Usage"; it treats it as an adj, which the quoted expert specifically advises against. Deus vult! Crusadestudent (talk) 15:54, 13 May 2016 (UTC) -- Relisted. Anarchyte (work | talk) 04:53, 22 May 2016 (UTC)

  • Support per WP:CONSISTENCY, WP:COMMONNAME (in actual reliable sources about logic and fallacies, not random schlubs' blogs), and WP:NEO, etc. It's completely abnormal to randomly mix-and-match English and Latin names for stuff, to concoct a "Frankenstein" construction like the current name.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  16:33, 25 May 2016 (UTC)
  • Support the more consistent title. Diego (talk) 23:02, 25 May 2016 (UTC)

The above discussion is preserved as an archive of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on this talk page or in a move review. No further edits should be made to this section.

Was the move a mistake?[edit]

@Crusadestudent: @SMcCandlish: @Diego: I'm wondering if changing this article's title from "A fortiori argument" to "Argumentum a fortiori" was a mistake. In my own readings about this topic, I've nearly always seen it called "a fortiori argument." That isn't conclusive, of course, but the "Frankenstein" construction is certainly not a neologism. Here is some information I've found:

  1. This Google Ngram shows "a fortiori argument" to be about 160x more common than "argumentum a fortiori" (in books, not random schlubs' blogs).

    Fortiori Ngram, English.tiff

  2. Google Books turns up 9470 results for a fortiori argument and 4740 results for argumentum a fortiori. I don't consider counts from sources like Google Ngrams to be conclusive, of course. Some human common sense needs to verify that the numbers are genuinely relevant. I've sampled some of the books using each phrase, and the numbers seem reasonable.
  3. Bryan Garner's remark about "resisting" using a fortiori as an adjective doesn't apply here. The adjectival use makes sense, it's just that good occasions for it are rarer than for the adverbial use, and often when people use it adjectivally, they would get a clearer English sentence if they dropped the Latin phrase entirely—hence the wisdom of "resisting" but not "banishing" the adjectival usage. Notice that a fortiori is used adjectivally in argumentum a fortiori. For the title of this article, we need to go by how the topic is normally named in print, how people normally look it up, etc., as explained at WP:CRITERIA, not by a usage writer's recommendations.
  4. Regarding the analogy between argumentum ad and argumentum a, I posted a question on StackExchange here. It might be possible to enlist some more expert advice from the folks there.

Can you folks bring up any more facts to throw some more light on this?

Ben Kovitz (talk) 20:47, 13 August 2016 (UTC)

Collapsing my response as probably moot (see proposal below, instead).
Extended content
I'm having a hard time caring, and Internet forums like StackExchange are not reliable sources (argumentum a ... is not wrong for this construction; see also argumentum a contrario). Neither are indiscriminate Google searches. Show us a survey of all major works on logic and fallacies, then show us that a majority of them use this particular mish-mash "Latinglish" name for this fallacy, then maybe you have a case. You'll find that phrases like "ad hominem argument", "ad hominem attack", etc, also outnumber argumentum ad hominem. This points out that the choice between these two names is a false dichotomy. We find other alternatives for this one, too, e.g. "argument a fortiori", which in recent publications greatly outnumbers cases of "a fortiori argument" [1]. The popularity of "Englatin" chimerae fluctuates wildly over time, while the use of "argumentum a fortiori" has remained a steady baseline "anchor" usage for over 200 years. Note also in that chart (the three-way chart I just linked to) that after the popularity spurt of "argument a fortiori" it has slacked, and it is, since ca. 2010, "argumentum a fortiori" not "a fortiori argument" that has gained in popularity.

Similar situations are going to be true of most or all fallacies with Latin names. Why? The obvious problems with the "just count Google hits" approach are that not every mention or passing reference is a naming and definition of the fallacy (the vast majority of such mentions are not – probably 99.9999% of them), and not every book with such a phrase in it is a reliable source about fallacies anyway. For some if not all of these phrases, not every use of the partial Latin string in question even pertains to the fallacy (Latin was an everyday, and then an ecclesiastical and learned, language for 2000-ish years before we started taking phrases from it as specific terms of art). This article is not about a phrase or neologism, in which case every mention in RS might be pertinent to establish the most common usage. It's about a particular logic and philosophical problem which has an actual, formal name as a concept. Not every side reference to it, in works that are not specifically about logic (or, by extension, philosophy or law), will get the name correct or complete, or even correctly reference the topic (many fallacies are frequently confused with each other).

The redirects work, so people will get to the page regardless which construction they use. The majority of drama about page titles would go away if people remembered this. Remember also that WP:COMMONNAME is not one of the naming criteria at all; it's the default suggestion for how to most expediently, on average, arrive at a name that satisfies the actual WP:CRITERIA. We are not bound to always use the most common name; we just do so about 95% of the time, and there are always exceptions. In this case, doing so would conflict with WP:CONSISTENCY, and may also raise WP:PRECISION problems, without gaining us anything, and "the most common usage in passing, partial reference" is not the same thing as "the most common name", anyway. It's not impressive that various writers have historically chosen to mix-and-match English and Latin. There's no actual need to do so here. We can use a Latin name for this or an English one, without having to resort to a chimera. PS: Your math is invalid. 9470 / 4740 != 160; even if the real numbers were 94700 / 4740, that would still be a 20:1 ratio, so 160 is coming out of nowhere. What the charts (yours and mine) actually show is a consistent precise usage, and frequent, mutually competing, imprecise ones. By way of comparison see this N-gram: [2]; there is no way on earth WP would move Tsunami to Tidal wave on the basis of such a Google search.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  08:08, 14 August 2016 (UTC)

(Some of this is likely relevant to your new proposed solution in the next subsection, but I'm answering inside the box to make the thread easier to follow.)

1. First, thank you for tracking down "argument a fortiori". I do care about the title of this article, and I'd like to choose the one that best fulfills WP:CRITERIA, whatever it turns out to be. In my own readings, I've seen "argument a fortiori" much more frequently than "argumentum a fortiori" but not as often as "a fortiori argument". I was not aware of the peak that you found around 1992. I will see if I can find out what that was about.

2. I agree with you that mere automated counts like what Google Ngram and Google Books produce cannot decide these matters for us. We have to apply common sense, some understanding of what the topic is about, what kinds of books use each term, etc.

3. The number 160 comes from recent years of the Google Ngram, not from the numbers of Google Books results. I understand the ngram to graph the proportion of each phrase within of all trigrams in books published in each year, and the Google Books count to rather roughly reflect the total number of books that contain the phrase, published in all years. So, if a book contains forty occurrences of A and one citation of a work whose title includes B, it will contribute 40 to the ngram for A only for the year of its publication, 1 to the ngram for B in that year, and 1 to the Books counts for both A and B. Again, common sense, including actually looking at some of these books and understanding the reasons for the frequencies, is needed to make proper sense of any of this. Also, I haven't found Google's explanations of exactly how it calculates these numbers to be all that clear. It's a rough guide—a good start for further investigation, not a conclusive result. (I think we agree about this.)

4. I certainly wasn't suggesting that we treat the StackExchange page as a reliable source. I brought it up because the discussion there might lead us to some useful information or new ideas, especially regarding the matter of whether trying to treat the argumentum ad and argumentum a topics analogously might be a false form of WP:CONSISTENCY. I don't know for sure one way or the other yet; I'm seeking information, and thought I'd share one way that I'm seeking it. I think that page is worth a look by anyone interested in naming the various argumenta.

5. I'm not saying that argumentum a fortiori is wrong. It is certainly correct. In fact, replacing a with ad would be quite wrong, the meanings being opposite. The question I'm addressing is which phrase best fits WP:CRITERIA. By the way, all three names for the present topic are equally precise, and all have clearly established usage in reliable sources—not just any reliable sources, but leading, authoritative writings about the topic (the kind you rightly say we should look to).

6. Your point is well taken that all the redirects work, and I agree that all should go to the same page. I certainly concur that Wikipedia is not a dictionary, nor is it a thesaurus nor should articles cover every historical spelling and phrasing that has ever existed. The title of an article, as opposed to the redirects, communicates information to the reader: this is the predominant, customary, precise name for this topic. That's what I am trying to get right.

Ben Kovitz (talk) 13:30, 14 August 2016 (UTC)
 — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  09:53, 14 August 2016 (UTC)

Proposed re-solution[edit]

@Crusadestudent: @BenKovitz: @Diego: We have our argumentum ad hominem article at the title Ad hominem, and this may be the best solution. There's no particular reason the present article couldn't be at A fortiori, since that phrase is common to all three of the major variants "argumentum a fortiori", "argument a fortiori", and "a fortiori argument". This approach could be applied to the other, similar cases. Ad nauseam, Tu quoque, Ignoratio elenchi, and several others are already at such short names, some have more common English-language names like Argument to authority and Appeal to novelty, but a few others could benefit from a move to the shorter Latin version from the longer one, for both WP:CONCISE and WP:CONSISTENCY reasons (possibly even WP:RECOGNIZABILITY, since their short forms are probably more familiar to more readers), e.g. Argumentum ad baculum, and Argumentum ad populum. These can be tracked down by doing a search on prefix:Argumentum, which gives us 8 pages to move [3], and reviewing List of fallacies and related articles, and Category:Logical fallacies and its subcats, for any that are at long Latin names, but not in "argumentum a[d] ..." form, and which could also be shortened, e.g. Reductio ad absurdum. That last is an especially good candidate for shortening, since it's also known as argumentum ad absurdum, and simply ad absurdum.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  09:44, 14 August 2016 (UTC)

@SMcCandlish: Trimming the title down to just A fortiori is an interesting new idea. Here are a few thoughts:

1. Ordinarily, Wikipedia article titles are nouns or noun phrases, though of course the specifics of a topic should always trump any supposed "rule". "A fortiori" is a prepositional phrase, and it's normally used that way in English as well as in Latin. Typical usage is "The sign says you can't walk on the grass, so, a fortiori, you can't run on the grass, either." To designate that form of argument, you have to somehow indicate that you are talking about the argument form or an instance of it. That's normally done by juxtaposing the word "argument" or "reasoning" with "a fortiori". By contrast, ad hominem is often used as a (phrasal) noun in English even though it's a prepositional phrase in Latin, so there's some basis for eliminating argumentum from the title of that article (though I think Argumentum ad hominem is the more authoritative and appropriate title for that article; tu quoque is a better example). It seems very strange and contrary to the usage I've seen in writings about this topic to reduce the title to A fortiori. So, I don't think that we can be quite so WP:CONCISE here.

2. Are you thinking that the present topic (by whatever name) is a logical fallacy? Actually, it's a valid form of reasoning, though some people dispute this; there is a famous controversy about it in the Islamic world. The a fortiori argument is particularly important and frequent in law, regarding applying statutes and precedents to new cases. I'm not sure one way or the other yet how far WP:CONSISTENCY legitimately applies here, but we're in some danger of "hobgoblin consistency" if we force a bunch of article titles to fit a pattern without even understanding what the topics are or what is the common terminology in authoritative writings about those topics.

In any event, I'd like to further investigate your suggestion in the collapsed box above, of "argument a fortiori", before making any changes to the current title. That is a reasonable candidate, with established usage in authoritative writings. It'll probably take me a few days to track down what caused the 1992 peak in usage that you found. Hopefully that will shed some helpful new light on what is the most appropriate title. Or, if anyone else already knows what that peak in usage of "argument a fortiori" was about, please post! —Ben Kovitz (talk) 14:26, 14 August 2016 (UTC)

As noted above, I really don't care much and already wrote more about it that I should have. The topics do not have to be exactly alike in order to follow the same naming pattern. "It's a long-winded Latinism often referred to in short form in English" is sufficient reasoning to use the short form. Whether it's a noun or not in the original Latin is immaterial; its usage by itself as a label for a type of argument is a noun in English, exactly as with Ad hominem, etc.  — SMcCandlish ¢ ≽ʌⱷ҅ʌ≼  16:41, 15 August 2016 (UTC)
I don't follow the connection between your reply and what I said above. A fortiori by itself is not normally used as a (phrasal) noun in English to designate the type of argument; please see item #1 above. The usage is not like argumentum ad hominem vs. ad hominem. The only exceptions I've seen are contexts where one of the three longer forms ("a fortiori argument", "argument a fortiori", or "argumentum a fortiori") was used earlier in the same passage to establish the topic. If you don't care, then do you think it would be best if you backed out of participating in forming a consensus? I am grateful to you, though, for finding the 1992 peak in "argument a fortiori", and I'd certainly like the decision to be well-informed, with more pairs of eyes checking it than just my own. —Ben Kovitz (talk) 23:10, 16 August 2016 (UTC)

Garner as authority[edit]

I have removed the unsourced claim that Garner is a usage authority. There is no similar claim at Bryan A. Garner, either. If he is an authority at all, he is a self-appointed one; writing a book giving your own opinions on a subject doesn't make you an authority. --John Cowan (talk) 21:26, 26 October 2016 (UTC)