Reductio ad Hitlerum or Godwin’s law

by jbkeenanjr

Mike_Godwin_at_Wikimedia_2010Mike Godwin

Godwin’s law:

(also known as Godwin’s Rule of Nazi Analogies or Godwin’s Law of Nazi Analogies) is an observation made by Mike Godwin in 1990 that has become an Internet adage.

It states: “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches. In other words, Godwin observed that, given enough time, in any online discussion regardless of topic or scope someone inevitably criticizes some point made in the discussion by comparing it to beliefs held by Hitler and the Nazis.

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Godwin’s law is often cited in online discussions as a deterrent against the use of arguments in the widespread Reductio ad Hitlerum form. The rule does not make any statement about whether any particular reference or comparison to Adolf Hitler or the Nazis might be appropriate, but only asserts that the likelihood of such a reference or comparison arising increases as the discussion progresses. Precisely because such a comparison or reference may sometimes be appropriate, Godwin has argued that overuse of Nazi and Hitler comparisons should be avoided, because it robs the valid comparisons of their impact.

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Although in one of its early forms Godwin’s law referred specifically to Usenet newsgroup discussions, the law is now often applied to any threaded online discussion, such as forums, chat rooms and blog comment threads, and has been invoked for the inappropriate use of Nazi analogies in articles or speeches.

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Reductio ad Hitlerum, also argumentum ad Hitlerum (Latin for “reduction to Hitler”, with Hitlerum serving as a Latinized form of Hitler‘s name), is a term coined by philosopher Leo Strauss in 1951. According to Strauss, the Reductio ad Hitlerum is a humorous observation where someone compares an opponent’s views with those that would be held by Adolf Hitler or the Nazi Party.

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According to Strauss, Reductio ad Hitlerum is a form of ad hominem or ad misericordiam, a fallacy of irrelevance, in which a conclusion is suggested based solely on something’s or someone’s origin rather than its current meaning. The suggested rationale is one of fallacy of irrelevance, Its name is a variation on the term reductio ad absurdum.

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Reductio ad Hitlerum is sometimes called “playing the Nazi card.” According to its critics and proponents, it is a tactic often used to derail arguments, because such comparisons tend to distract and anger the opponent.

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