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[P]
The Purpose of Argument

By Logan in Op-Ed
Sun Aug 12, 2001 at 10:50:55 AM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

One of the greatest learning tools that the Internet provides is the increased capabilities for holding debates. The Internet provides many forums where you can safely expose your own views and examine those of others, and there is nothing at stake but your own worldview. Yet there are those that seem to want to ruin it for those of us that truly enjoy and desire good debate.

I am speaking mainly of those that inexplicably and inevitably get emotional about every argument. They may be capable of holding a reasonable debate initially, but, when their opponents refuse to concede their position, they resort to ad hominem attacks and emotional bullying. They seem to be offended by the mere fact that someone believes they are wrong. They attack anyone that seems to wholeheartedly believe in the values they espouse, and they will consider any attack on their own views as a personal one.

I will attempt to speculate on what drives such people to behave in the manner in which they do. I will examine their possibile motivations and the effects their behavior have on those that truly care about rational discourse. And, finally, I will propose a theory as to why such people exist and what might be done about them. I will make many gross generalizations in the process, and make several assertions that my view of reality is correct. If the prospect of this seems to offend you, then perhaps you share some of the traits about which I will soon discuss.


Unfortunately, I will need to make many generalizations. This is a very unscientific exposition. I have done no systematic studies. I have little formal education regarding human psychology. These are simply my impressions based upon years of net usage and participation in online discussions and debates. While I believe this lends me some credibility, the following should still be read with the above disclaimers in mind.

Whom Am I Talking About?

I have already described a few of the primary traits of the type of person I am discussing. They all seem to be reduceable to an inability to separate emotions from discussion. These people seem to like to argue, but only when they are "winning". They become angry, frustrated, and offended when others refuse to "submit" to their viewpoint. They often resort to personal attacks. They will assert that anyone that believes that his own viewpoint is more correct than another's is fundamentally evil.

They also seem to view arguments as battles, to be won or lost. To be proven wrong on a point is to be humiliated; to prove someone else wrong is a victory. An attack on views is an attack on any person that holds those views. The most insulting statement a person can make is to call someone "Wrong."

Possible Motivators

So what is it that motivates people to behave in this manner? There could be several possible reasons. The first (and most arrogant of me to presume) is that they are really uncomfortable with their own views. When faced with arguments that they can't defeat, they are forced to question their own views. However, they are unable to do so; to question their own views makes them extremely uncomfortable. As a defense mechanism, they lash out at their opponents instead. By ignoring their opponents' reasonable arguments, they can continue to believe that their own views are "safe." In this case, their views are not based on reality, but instead consist of whatever ideas make them most comfortable.

I do not believe that this is the prime motivator in most cases. I'd like to give my opponents more credit than that. It is not without its own irony, however. In order to have to avoid modifying his own views, such a person would attack others, accusing them in turn of refusing to modify their views, all just to avoid modifying his own! However, I believe that there are more likely explanations.

One more likely explanation is simply that they become frustrated. When faced with an opponent that remains unconvinced by their arguments, they become impatient and go on the offensive. When presenting their ideas clearly and criticizing their opponents' ideas rationally fails to convince others of the rightness of their cause, such an individual might resort to personal attacks. This strikes me as a very immature way to act, but it also seems a very likely motivator.

Another possible motivation is some strongly held belief that strongly held beliefs are inherently incorrect. It is obvious that I find such a notion nonsensical, given the ridiculous manner in which I formulized it, but it seems to be a notion that many people hold. These are the people that are often reduced to spouting about the nonexistence of truth. These are those that assert that there are no absolutes, nothing can be proved, and thus their opponents must be wrong for insisting that they are correct. This strikes me as a self-contradictory viewpoint, and it is one which is impossible to argue against. Or, rather, having any sort of discussion about reality with such a person is a waste of time. What point is there in holding a discussion with a person that believes that nothing can be known?

The Fundamental Mistake, and the Consequences

So far I've only asserted that such people exist, and speculated a little bit regarding their nature by proposing possible motivations for their behavior. However, I have not addressed why I believe these people are behaving wrongly. What is so wrong about behaving so defensively and irrationally?

The main cause for the existence of such behavior, I believe, is a fundamental misunderstanding of the purpose of arguments. I believe that, in general, such people do not see an argument as some sort of rational debate. Instead, they seem to view an argument as a battle, to win or lose. The mere fact that such people speak of "winning" or "losing" these arguments (as I see so many do) is indicative of this misunderstanding.

The very word itself -- argument -- tends to have two possible meanings in everyday conversation. The first meaning is the one I've been using throughout this exposition. In this case, argument is a synonym for debate, a discussion where various viewpoints regarding a particular subject are examined and dissected. To me, the purpose of such an argument is not to convince anyone of anything. Instead it is an opportunity to examine one's own reasons for holding one's views, and develop one's abilities to explain these views to others. It also serves as a means to clarify one's own views. Indeed, while the main purpose of an argument may not be to convince, it may still have that effect. If it turns out that one has made a mistake in one's reasoning, leading to an incorrect view, that mistake can be exposed in argument, either by refutation by an opponent or by inability to present one's view consistently. Thus it becomes a learning process, by all parties involved, allowing our own views to mutate towards something that best describes reality.

The other common meaning of the word argument is the more emotional one. This is the sort of argument that results from conflict. This is where personal attacks, emotions, and violence belong. Arguments between spouses, siblings, and drunks are not rational discourse -- they are the release of emotions. While it is possible that such arguments have strong emotional value, providing a means for venting and catharsis, they contribute nothing to the pursuit of knowledge or policy.

I believe that many people conflate rational discourse and this second meaning of the word argument. This is evident by the mere fact that emotion tends to get involved at all. This is also evident by the notion that some have that there are winners and losers in a debate. In a proper debate, everyone is a winner. By not seeing that arguments are ideal methods in which one can safely expose flaws in one's own views, one fails to improve one's views at all. Thus, in a way, people with such behavior harm themselves.

They not only harm themselves, but others as well. First, they give arguments a bad name. By turning every good argument into a disastrous, immature flamefest, they influence others to believe that debates belong to the second class of arguments I described, rather than the first. They flood discussion boards with noise, interfering with the ability of those that truly care about rational debate to have a peaceful discussion. Perfectly good arguments and ideas get buried under a wasteful mass of whining and vitriol.

What Can Be Done?

I do not expect everybody to magically grow up. I'm sure most of us (myself particularly included) have engaged in at least some form of the behavior I've described at some time or another. But there are things we can do to help minimize the effect such immaturity has on our ability to hold reasonable discussions.

First and foremost, we need to govern our own behavior. If you find yourself getting emotionally involved in a discussion, perhaps you should take a break. Examine the nature and cause of your emotions before going on the offensive, and always think before you post.

Second, when someone behaves immaturely, you should not respond in kind. Though it is tempting and sometimes satisfying to respond to a personal attack with one of your own, it only makes things worse. Not only does it further reinforce your opponent's immaturity, but it also detracts from the value you can take from the discussion. Perhaps ignoring such individuals, or cooly and rationally pointing out their behavior, would be the best policy.

Finally, I believe that more people should be educated on the purpose and value of good argument. When experiencing the mess into which some discussions can unfortunately degenerate, many people dismiss arguments as inevitably leading to such messes. I've often encountered people that simply do not understand why I argue, thinking that I simply enjoy getting people all riled up. Such people avoid arguments altogether, for fear of upsetting people. I feel that this is the worst casualty of immature behavior in discussions. Nothing contributes more to the learning process than a good debate with peers. My most extreme fear is that this desire to not upset others will lead to such a rigidly politically correct society that rational discourse will be impossible altogether.

I hope that, despite my heavy generalizations, speculation, and blatant assertions, I have been able to contribute some insight to this matter. It seems a tragedy to me that so many people are incapable of participating in a good argument, and I hope to see more people capable of doing so in the future. Regardless of whether I am right or wrong, I hope this generates more good discussion of the subject than it does flames.

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Poll
Why do you argue?
o Pursuit of knowledge 22%
o To clarify my own views 21%
o To win! 13%
o So I can impress people with my knowledge 3%
o To develop my ability to produce rational arguments 9%
o To learn what other people think 16%
o Other reasons 5%
o I don't argue 7%

Votes: 127
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Also by Logan


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The Purpose of Argument | 163 comments (152 topical, 11 editorial, 0 hidden)
I Hope Iīm not the only one (4.00 / 3) (#8)
by tomte on Sat Aug 11, 2001 at 02:55:28 PM EST

that found himself captured here and there.
I usually consider myself as grown-up enough to give-in if my arguments in an argument are outnumbered; but in certain situations I canīt help but get angry, and following that unfair, harsh and stubborn, loud, you name it.
I canīt remember a single degenerated argument, after which I didnīt beg for pardon, even if I still see my point as the correct one, so I agree with your conclusion to try to calm down and think about it. Otherwise some arguments need to get out of control to turn out to be worthy...didnīt they?
--
Funny. There's a brightness dial on the monitor, but the users don't get any smarter.
For some reason... (4.00 / 2) (#18)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Sat Aug 11, 2001 at 06:05:15 PM EST

... you reminded me of a 'policy' I used to have (back in teen years) about argumentation. I would never yeild ground during the argument itself, and considered skill to be a measure of how well one made one's point, but this was strongly coupled to the requirement that, after the argument, one had to go back and try to fairly evaluate the position of the other person, even to the point of fixing any mistakes that one found for the other person and telling them about the fixes. This second part was, by far, the more demanding part of the policy as it required one to switch sides from what one had vehemently fought for.



[ Parent ]

The danger of Argument - the path to Nihilism. (4.45 / 20) (#10)
by bc on Sat Aug 11, 2001 at 04:02:59 PM EST

Picture yourself a lithe, snappy youngster in your salad days. You come across an internet discussion forum, and being passionate about various issues and causes, you participate fully, espousing your particular immature viewpoint.

Nomatter what your views are, there will always be someone better than you, more capable, more intelligent, a priestly King of Usenet come down to slum it in the weblog world perhaps, or an ancient wolfish radical, soured by increasing conservative instincts but with a keen eye for the injured young buck stumbling through the undergrowth, seperated from the herd.

Your lamb hide is theirs, and will be repeatedly. You will doubtless learn, and perhaps change your views, but eventually you are sure to become something of a subjectivist, and then, worse, a Nihilist. Every view you take is easily demolished, soon you take to not caring, you become an intellectual coward.

Perhaps in times gone by you would have had proper mentors, a small circle of real life friends, elders and tutors to hone your intellectual development and shield you from annihilation and despair. The modern internet affords no such comforts, every year thousands of green kids are plunged into a world of incrimination and one upmanship, and whilst the fools, those who don't learn, may rehearse effective defenses and become stolid, turgid, unthinking defenders of their own silly creeds, the open minded are on a one stop path to just not giving a flying fuck, surrendering under the intellectual impact of thousands of contradictory and yet plausible views.

Argument may be passionate, but it leads to insipidness and doubt, in the end.

♥, bc.

You believe there are no correct viewpoints? (4.16 / 6) (#12)
by Logan on Sat Aug 11, 2001 at 04:42:53 PM EST

You seem to miss the point. Argument shouldn't be passionate. If "every view you take is easily demolished," perhaps there's something fundamentally wrong with each view you've taken. Ideally, shouldn't a correct view be hard to dispute? The only way it can be "demolished," then, is if you make a mistake and accept an incorrect objection.

The key is to remain emotionally disconnected, so instead of becoming hostile or upset at objections to your viewpoint, you can instead examine such objections. You may find flaws with the objection, or you may find flaws with your viewpoint, but either way you have will discovered a little bit more of the truth. I've found people to be a bit more stubborn than you've described (myself included). It is far more common to modify specific aspects of one's views, rather than to discard them completely and begin anew.

And maybe subjectivism or nihilism is correct. :P I actually lean rather heavily towards subjectivism and even nihilism when it comes to morality, although regarding other areas of philosophy I have completely different ideas.

Logan

[ Parent ]

Passion should be invisible. (4.60 / 5) (#14)
by bc on Sat Aug 11, 2001 at 05:00:49 PM EST

You seem to miss the point. Argument shouldn't be passionate.

Perhaps in an ideal world, but argument is passionate for the majority, and always will be. How can one set down one's most cherished views 'pon the page and see them crushed without feeling? Are you saying we should avoid saying what we feel to be right, in favour of delicate intellectual bubbles of dispassionate logic? To be sure, we must avoid displaying emotion in an argument, at least where it obstructs discourse - but this is entirely different from feeling attached to your views. But your insistence that we must not feel at all I cannot agree with.

Is the collapse of the distinction between public and private space and feelings so pronounced in America that people are no longer able to appreciate the difference?

The key is to remain emotionally disconnected

No, the key is to appear to remain emotionally disconnected, and to be keep your intellect in charge of your emotions. One can feel passion, but still learn. The two are not incompatible.

And maybe subjectivism or nihilism is correct. :P I actually lean rather heavily towards subjectivism and even nihilism when it comes to morality, although regarding other areas of philosophy I have completely different ideas.

Myself also. If anything I suffer from being chronically open minded, such that I am receptive to everything, but believe nothing.

♥, bc.
[ Parent ]

Perhaps I look at arguments in a different way... (3.50 / 2) (#15)
by Logan on Sat Aug 11, 2001 at 05:44:47 PM EST

The way I see it, your views absolutely cannot be crushed by anyone but yourself. Granted, another person might provide you with the tools to do it, by making apparent certain implications of your beliefs, for instance, but no view can ever be crushed unless you believe it is no longer valid. In this case, why be upset?

What does it mean for something to "feel to be right"? I usually do not take seriously anyone that speaks of something "feeling" right, but perhaps you mean something else. Are you speaking of not knowing something very well, so your views on the subject are incomplete and tentative, and perhaps naïve? If this is what you mean, I do agree that some people can be overly contemptuous regarding "newbies" in any domain. I think this, however, is outside the scope of what I was discussing.

Is the collapse of the distinction between public and private space and feelings so pronounced in America that people are no longer able to appreciate the difference?
I don't understand what you're referring to here, but it sounds potentially interesting. Perhaps you should expand on this.
No, the key is to appear to remain emotionally disconnected, and to be keep your intellect in charge of your emotions.
I think this is just another way of saying "emotionally disconnected." I agree that it is good if you feel passion, yet can control it.

Logan

[ Parent ]

Emotion is the progenitor. (4.50 / 2) (#21)
by bc on Sat Aug 11, 2001 at 06:50:56 PM EST

The way I see it, your views absolutely cannot be crushed by anyone but yourself. Granted, another person might provide you with the tools to do it, by making apparent certain implications of your beliefs, for instance, but no view can ever be crushed unless you believe it is no longer valid. In this case, why be upset?

I agree up to a point, but people are not rational creatures. Having one's views crushed by one's own open mindedness can be a devastating experience. For example, Charles Darwin was surely in a great intellectual turmoil when he posited the theory of evolution, as he was a commited Christian. The Christians of the time who were persuaded of his views were still feeling creatures, and many were torn apart emotionally by the arguments of Darwin and Huxley. Even though the ultimate persuasion may be by you yourself throwing in the towel or modifying your views, it can be an emotional experience, especially if the views you cherished were central to your world view.

What does it mean for something to "feel to be right"? I usually do not take seriously anyone that speaks of something "feeling" right, but perhaps you mean something else. Are you speaking of not knowing something very well, so your views on the subject are incomplete and tentative, and perhaps naïve? If this is what you mean, I do agree that some people can be overly contemptuous regarding "newbies" in any domain. I think this, however, is outside the scope of what I was discussing.

No, beliefs and views are complex things. Very few people are perfectly logical creatures - in fact, none are. If they were, then there would be very little disagreement anywhere and arguments would be simple and quick, as the processes and axioms of logic are universal. People have viewpoints for a variety of reasons, and sometimes logic will be one of them. But, for me at least, feeling that something is right can be the first step, and the most important one. No amount of logical argument can overcome an emotion, and no amount of emotional invective can overcome logic. It is all very, well, complicated :) Not a process of logic alone - feeling that something is right can be perfectly valid. People will often attempt to argue logically for something that they feel, or know, to be right. This creates the problems you illustrate in your article. I would say people have to be honest with themselves why they believe what they do, and where it is based on emotion or feeling alone, attempt to find out more to back assertions up, or be honest to others.

The reason there are so many different political philosophies and such a wide spectrum of opinion is that people come over to certain viewpoints based on feeling first of all, and then back up with logic later. In this sense, logic is just a useful tool to back up your feelings, for the great majority. Very few people build up entire philosophies based on logic from the ground up - in fact, I would argue that would be impossible. There has to be a human element.

♥, bc.
[ Parent ]

Do people know the difference (4.00 / 2) (#71)
by tcdk on Mon Aug 13, 2001 at 06:43:28 AM EST

Are you saying we should avoid saying what we feel to be right, in favour of delicate intellectual bubbles of dispassionate logic?

The problem with using feelings in arguments is that you have to make it absolutly clear that what you are expressing is an emotion and not something that you see as fact.

Lots of people (usually the ones less logic infested than the ones you'll find in a place like this), sees no really difference between what they feel and actual real fact! If they feel that crystals will heal them, they will act (and argue) as if it's fact.

This is usually the kind of people that is quite easy to win over in an argument, as they often stand without real basis for anything they believe. The real problem is that they dont really believe you, even if you won, because they cant really feel the truth behind your logic.

If somebody startes their argument with "I feel that...", everybody would react differently to it than if it started with "It is clear that...".
--
TC / http://sfbook.com
[ Parent ]

You seem... (4.25 / 4) (#16)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Sat Aug 11, 2001 at 05:56:47 PM EST

... to treat discourse and the evaluation of views as if it takes place in something like a well-defined system with a set of truth preserving rules. This is not the case. I say this because of your statements, "If 'every view you take is easily demolished,' perhaps there's something fundamentally wrong with each view you've taken. Ideally, shouldn't a correct view be hard to dispute?"

The correct view need not be some unassailable fortress of logical consistancy. If the domain of discourse is complex the best view may simply be the one that doesn't suffer from the more obvious flaws. Or it may be the one with the more harmonious gestalt.

Talking about there being some "correct view" strikes me as fundamentally missleading. What is the correct view of Mt. Everest? If you only look at it from one angle, then surely you miss a good deal.

I think I also agree more with the other reply about how emotions must play a fundimental role in the communications between people. Or perhaps I've just yet to hear enough of how you think they fit in.

Good day.



[ Parent ]

Perhaps (3.00 / 1) (#17)
by Logan on Sat Aug 11, 2001 at 06:03:20 PM EST

Perhaps I should substitute "the correct" with "a good". Would this make my arguments make more sense?

Logan

[ Parent ]

Well... (4.00 / 2) (#19)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Sat Aug 11, 2001 at 06:16:31 PM EST

..., I'm not sure about "more sense", but I think that may just be a difference of term usage. It does most certainly make me more willing to accept more of what you say. By saying "a good" one implicitly allows for the whole range of "very bad", "o.k.", "sorta good", "great", and so on. This, in itself, helps defuse the notions that some might have about "winning" an argument, since both of the represented sides might very well end up with the same 'score' on this (potentially infinitly divisible) graded range. If there is "the correct" view out there, then laying claim to that position excludes other views from being as good. Using this range also helps one lay plain the fact that the measure of goodness is itself relitive to some viewpoint (practicality, simplicity, harmonious gestalt, etc).

Now I'm sorta hoping you have to do a rewrite, so this preemptive defusing has a chance of being worked in.



[ Parent ]

Revision (none / 0) (#20)
by Logan on Sat Aug 11, 2001 at 06:25:48 PM EST

Now I'm sorta hoping you have to do a rewrite, so this preemptive defusing has a chance of being worked in.
I agree. :P That, and a few other reasons, are why this should probably be revised.

Logan

[ Parent ]

There Is One Truth (4.00 / 2) (#27)
by kaatunut on Sun Aug 12, 2001 at 12:03:29 AM EST

Talking about there being some "correct view" strikes me as fundamentally missleading. What is the correct view of Mt. Everest? If you only look at it from one angle, then surely you miss a good deal.

I find that a flawed analogy. One angle to look at Mt. Everest is not the only 'correct' angle because Mt.Everest is a 3-dimensional object, whereas we are only able to see a 2-dimensional projection of it, and thus, it's impossible to see everything about Mt with one viewpoint. Now; since you equate this with "correct views", I must take that you imply that no idea/doctrine/theory is able to completely encompass The Truth. I think you should tell this to (theoretical) physicists, for starters; their main job is looking for that Truth. Yes, that is the Truth. Yes, it is.

Really, that sort of, what you call it, "subjectivism" (?) strikes me as a bit odd. Tell me, do you truly believe there is no Truth? With Truth I don't mean anything mystical; I simply realize (as in making real) the very human assumption that, no matter how many perceptions there are, there is only one source from which these all perceptions come from. If I look at a ball and see it falling and you're hanging upside down from a tree and see the ball falling upwards, clearly there's still only a single truth of ball falling towards the Earth, and apparent differences in our 'viewpoints' turn out to be superficial and our observations fundamentally the same once direction is generalized. No, QM doesn't change this, it only changes the nature of Truth. Really.

So, please elaborate; do you deny the basic assumption of science, that there is a consistent reality, or do you claim that it is impossible to develop a theory that can contain the whole of the truth? And if so, how come? On what mathematical notion do you found this assumption? For, unless proven otherwise, it seems to me that the Truth being finite (or is it? maybe I should say 'subset of Truth relevant to us'?), there is a finite theory containing the whole of the Truth.

And, if you're clear on the nature of this Truth, I'm trying to be general. You were talking about arguments and viewpoints in them. One could take on an argument about, say, anarcho-capitalism. Other side would claim laissez-faire capitalism is more fair, and other would say that definitely stalinist planned economy was the way to go. Now, there are extra considerations, but in theory, I see no reason why it would be impossible for creatures with lots of time, knowledge, processing power and the complete data on the world to, through simple brute force if nothing else, run some simulations and determine once and for all which model can be built to make a society that people are happier to live in (or whatever was assumed to be the purpose of society in the argument in first place).

Yes, it's impractical. That's not the point. Your "relativity" argument so often seen in such forums as this, seems to imply a simply ridiculous viewpoint through a false analogy; that one can't know the Truth because there isn't any. This is of course my own opinion, but I claim that every human has within himself builtin the assumption of single, consistent reality, and people who act in the aforementioned relativistic fashion are simply being inconsistent.

I try to imagine the world with no Truth, but I can't. Is this the pathetic Argument through personal incredulence? Maybe. But it might also be a sign that such world is not possible. Whenever I try to imagine a world with no truth, no actual state it is in, I end up with some sort of 'random' system which in the end boils down to system that does have a truth (of probabilities of states, wave functions, whatever). To make this discussion easier, let me ask this: do you believe in souls (souls being something that simply can't be simulated through mechanistic processes)? If the answer is yes, ignore this post (if you didn't otherwise); I am likely unable to understand your viewpoints. If no, then proceed if you will.

Sorry about the lengthy, boring rant. Just because I wrote this at 7 am doesn't mean I'm not serious.


--
there's hole up in the sky from where the angels fall to sire children that grow up too tall, there's hole down in the ground where all the dead men go down purgatory's highways that gun their souls
[ Parent ]

Right, so where to begin... (3.00 / 1) (#47)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Sun Aug 12, 2001 at 06:23:36 PM EST

I think your brain did a lot of work to read a lot more into what I said than I put there. You have run down all of these different paths of what I might be trying to imply or might have presupposed, and only as an afterthought, it seems, did you actually ask me. Then, before giving me the chance to answer, down another trail you go running...

Since I like to give people the benifit of the doubt, I'll think that this was something closer to overenthusiasm and further from rhetorical device. And away we go...

I find that a flawed analogy. One angle to look at Mt. Everest is not the only 'correct' angle because Mt.Everest is a 3-dimensional object, whereas we are only able to see a 2-dimensional projection of it, and thus, it's impossible to see everything about Mt with one viewpoint. Now; since you equate this with "correct views", I must take that you imply that no idea/doctrine/theory is able to completely encompass The Truth.
Dude, I don't know what this "The Truth" that you are talking about is supposed to mean, so I would be quite remiss to go about stateing or implying much of anything about it, and you would be equally remiss to deduce that I have made such statements or implications. I've given you the benifit of the doubt, I would like the same.

I'm glad that you moved us to talk about dimensionality of these things, that is good terminological ground on which to work. So, now that we are on it, perhaps you could clarify my muddled understanding of this other term you are trying to communicate with, "The Truth". How many dimensions would it have and on the same measure (which will need its own explicating, no doubt) how many has the typical human of our day (as input or in mind)?

Oh, and please don't set me up as being against the powerful theoretical physicists. They are oh so scary. (That was sarcasm, and you deserved it.)

Really, that sort of, what you call it, "subjectivism" (?) strikes me as a bit odd. Tell me, do you truly believe there is no Truth? With Truth I don't mean anything mystical; I simply realize (as in making real) the very human assumption that, no matter how many perceptions there are, there is only one source from which these all perceptions come from.
I don't really call it anything, and I have certainly not made anything like the claims of some schools of thought which go by the name you have tried to label it with. If it looks like I have to you, then I can only suggest that your viewpoint or disposition is leading you to read that into what I say.

If that wasn't plain enough, I'll be more so: I am not a Subjectivist. You might should use that admission in some modus tollens operations with those interpretations you built on top of my previous words.

Do I believe there is no Truth? Such an odd question. Would a yes mean that I don't believe that there are any truths? That is, does {yes} ->{!(exists(x) and "istrue(x)")} ? --wish I knew the codes to make this channel we are using show that in more proper syntax, sorrry-- I certainly don't wish to imply that consequent. Yet, still I don't know what you intend that capital T to mean, so I can't easily say that I believe there is a?/some?/a few?/many? Truth(s). By leaving standard terminology behind with no explaination about how you have extended it, you have confused our channel of communication.

And when I look around me I see a few separate trees, a couple of individual computers, a number of distinct pieces of furniture, some larger than 1 number of books, and a great deal of other things, all of which I would quite plainly identify as being sources of my perceptions. If you lump them all together so as to call them one, then this is as much a product of your measure on them as it is a product of anything essential to them.

Shit, I've run out of time to respond (I'm self-limiting my k5 usage these days), but would love to respond to the rest of what you brought up and carry this conversation on further past this. Email me if you are interested in such (I don't limit that channel), and feel free to include any of the points from your post that I didn't get a chance to get to. Have a wonderful evening.



[ Parent ]

An attempt at slightly more coherent response (3.50 / 2) (#53)
by kaatunut on Sun Aug 12, 2001 at 07:10:00 PM EST

I'm not completely sure whether you were being sarcastic in a nasty way or not in the final paragraph, so I stick here...

Now, my capitalization of Truth was more of a rhetorical device. What I meant was the hazy notion than on a single subject there always exists an answer for which (1) every part of the answers corresponds to 'reality' or 'truth' (see? pretty circular. YOU try defining truth.), and (2) there is no aspect of reality (or whatever it was that was being examined) that is not in this truth.

This is easiest to understand when we talk about physical truth (just made that term up), the question of what really happened. I might claim there are unicorns, and you might claim there is not. To make our argument more clear-cut, let's say that both refer only to our current universe, and with 'unicorn' we shall mean a thing which both of us, if we are completely honest, would agree to be an unicorn if we saw such a thing. Again, since I assume you're not a "soulist" as Hofstadter put it, this unicorn-ness determining procedure could something like:

Slurp complete data on my body and yours (what exactly belongs in our bodies may be determined by a human running the experiment). How this is done is irrelevant; Matrix-esquely, this is certainly not impossible. For every object whose unicorn-ness is to be determined, place me, you and unicorn in an arbitrarily chosen space capable of supporting my life and yours in such fashion that we are able to give a clear yes/no answer on whether it's an unicorn or not. Repeat the test for every object (every combination of particles) in the universe.

Yes, it's a gigantical calculation, but it's conceivable and that is enough to understate that the definition "whether something is unicorn" is clear (when implemented in this way).

So, the physical truth of question "are there unicorns?", or rather, "are there something we think are unicorns?" is determinable. Of course, that's a bit silly question since we might be easily fooled. No matter. Onwards.

Now to the question "capitalism or communism?". This question is a more tricky one, but I'd say it would involve gigantic world-history reruns by taking snapshots from places in time and changing them ever so minorly to cause a history to take different course (like, say, Trotsky beating Stalin in politics). Again, the hazy question of "is this society communist or not?" is best left to those asking the question since labels like "communism" are by no means exact; the method of determining this would be similar to the unicorn-test above -- a long series of copies of the person's root copy evaluating communist societies.

Now, my response sounds probably just as crazy as the one above did, but you asked for an exact answer on what I mean with "Truth". I'm trying to answer that; inaccurately put, truth is any question about properties of some system whose answer is 'yes' (for example; question: "is two prime?", answer: "yes", truth: "two is a primse"). Since truth can also be a compound question ("are two and three both primes?"), I now state that the Truth about [some area] is the union of all truths belonging to this area. In the scene of mathematics this doesn't make sense, but in sociology and such, the area is typically pretty ranged; for example, "what is the best economic system?" expects as an answer a description of system(s) with highest performance evaluated by wanted meter (typically some sort of average happiness of inhabitants); for this question, there are no aspects, but a description of a single system which simply fares better than all the others. Of course, this sort of answering mechanism typically gives answers that aren't what people were looking for ("best economic system? drugs for all! infinite happiness till you die!"), but that is the problem of people who don't know what they're asking, not of Truth. Truth is.

Sorry if I'm not making sense. But maybe I'll act as nice data on the story poster's argumentator observations.


--
there's hole up in the sky from where the angels fall to sire children that grow up too tall, there's hole down in the ground where all the dead men go down purgatory's highways that gun their souls
[ Parent ]

So... (4.00 / 1) (#61)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Mon Aug 13, 2001 at 02:34:50 AM EST

... basically take me, remove a bunch of relivant restrictions that go into how I build pictures of the world in my head and sentences, then extend to that new domain one of the classificatory ideas of which some relitively tiny brained primates are fond, and everything will be hunky-dory.

One never knows what field of study another has gone down on this kind of communication channel, so I must ask, do you know of Tarski and his work with truth predicates? (The short of it, they can have problems doing what one might, at first, think that they can.) It has been a while since then, and it is pretty safe to say that sort of stuff is endemic, hell even epidemic in languages as they get bigger. Problems with completeness was just the tip of the iceberg even in the small languages that we build carefully. In natural languages, worse. Stuff crops up all over the place. So, Tarski showed that there were problems with "istrue(x)", even in the simple languages, and I'm betting that our genetically grown interagent discourse might just also have some issues surrounding "Hey, x is true."

Then you step in and ask me to run your mental experiment and pick an outcome. Sorry, I don't like the odds. Don't get me wrong, I'll buy your answer if you insist and such, but only if it is cheap. I'll also very likely hedge my bet by buying some perhaps contradictory sounding theories. However until the terms and understanding of the domain settle down a bit more, I think it best to hold out on deciding just what is contradictory with what.



[ Parent ]

ps (5.00 / 1) (#62)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Mon Aug 13, 2001 at 02:42:55 AM EST

I wasn't being sarcastic about the switch to email. Over such limited channels as this, I try to remember to mark all sarcarm pretty clearly, like with cute "</sarcasm>" or just using english. Once I stared, I found it pretty easy to be way polite (and easy to criticize) on text channels. Wow, this post script is actually back on topic, because I think that over politeness is one pretty good answer to the problem with anger and such in online venues. Like many such answers it has an uneasy work function to adopt. More's the pity.



[ Parent ]

Ph? (4.00 / 1) (#88)
by kaatunut on Mon Aug 13, 2001 at 05:21:50 PM EST

Hmm. No, I didn't know there were problems with truth, I thought they were mostly with decidability. Oh my. Still, in the above rants I drifter a bit when my point was simply that just because most of our theories turn out to be incorrect/inaccurate, doesn't mean there does not exist a theory that is correct. I've seen a lot of people these days mutter things that amount to "nothing is true" and, well, I find that pretty contradictory to what I thought everyone assumes (and which, I figured, was pretty much the basic assumption of some things we humans do. That something isn't both untrue and true, as long as the question is well defined).


--
there's hole up in the sky from where the angels fall to sire children that grow up too tall, there's hole down in the ground where all the dead men go down purgatory's highways that gun their souls
[ Parent ]

It sort of matters... (none / 0) (#104)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Mon Aug 13, 2001 at 11:59:25 PM EST

... how you say it. I'm not sure about problems with "truth". That is a noun or name or some such and one problem that might first crop up would be on figuring out just what it refers to, if it does indeed refer to some thing(s) at all. The predicate "true()", on the other hand, that is what Tarski dealt with. So, I suppose if you use the noun to refer to the things that the predicate applies to, then the problem spreads to the noun too.

As for the "nothing is true" crowd, whatever. Some people like to say things that under normal interpretations are completely wrong while thinking/using a special interpretation that makes them quite fine. I know I do sometimes, it can be fun holding the opposing sets of ideas in mind. Confusing and possibily pissing off those that refuse to be budged from the normal interpretations or insist that there can only be the one interpretation is just icing on the cake. Sometimes. Other times it just seems like an idle game, and it seems that the grander game is actually trying to harmonize interpretations with other peoples' and extend them through communication. A much harder game sometimes, and quite frustrating. But the "holding multiple interpretations" game, it turns out, is really pretty good practice for the communication game. It limbers ones words and notions.

Blah blah blah... words words words... My time is up. later.



[ Parent ]

That's my gripe (none / 0) (#113)
by kaatunut on Tue Aug 14, 2001 at 09:09:37 AM EST

You, both singular and plural, keep talking about interpretations. Despite everything you've said about truth predicates, I find it hard to believe there is no such attribute as 'correct' to an interpretation.


--
there's hole up in the sky from where the angels fall to sire children that grow up too tall, there's hole down in the ground where all the dead men go down purgatory's highways that gun their souls
[ Parent ]

Objective vs Subjective truth - a third position (4.00 / 1) (#55)
by swr on Sun Aug 12, 2001 at 07:36:00 PM EST

If I look at a ball and see it falling and you're hanging upside down from a tree and see the ball falling upwards, clearly there's still only a single truth of ball falling towards the Earth, and apparent differences in our 'viewpoints' turn out to be superficial and our observations fundamentally the same once direction is generalized.

So it would seem, if you assume that truth is objective in nature. But can you prove it in a way that is not logically circular? That is, create a proof of objective truth such that the proof does not assume objective truth as its basis.

I must take that you imply that no idea/doctrine/theory is able to completely encompass The Truth. I think you should tell this to (theoretical) physicists, for starters; their main job is looking for that Truth. Yes, that is the Truth. Yes, it is.

Many theories have been produced. None has explained everything. What makes you so sure that there is such a theory?

I like the scientific method. Not because I expect it to find the One True Theory For Everything, but because it has produced theories that people find useful.

in theory, I see no reason why it would be impossible for creatures with lots of time, knowledge, processing power and the complete data on the world to, through simple brute force if nothing else, run some simulations and determine once and for all which model can be built to make a society that people are happier to live in (or whatever was assumed to be the purpose of society in the argument in first place). Yes, it's impractical. That's not the point.

Since nobody has ever gained perfect knowledge of everything, you can't use that as evidence for objective truth.

It may sound like I'm arguing in favour of subjective truth. I'm not. I'm only arguing against objective truth. I would suggest that, because of the total lack of hard evidence either way, any firm belief in the objectivity or subjectivity of truth is purely a matter of faith.

I personally find it more useful to assume that there is objective truth. It's easier to get work done that way. But I'm not prepared to truely believe in either form of truth. There are arguments for both, but no proof of either.

Heck, I'm not even sure you can argue that there is one or the other without assuming objective truth. If that is the case then objective truth is logicaly circular and subjective truth is not self-consistent. Meanwhile I'm sitting on a fence that may or may not actually exist. :)



[ Parent ]
Quite so,... (none / 0) (#59)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Mon Aug 13, 2001 at 12:59:03 AM EST

... neither was I doing anything so grand as "arguing for subjective truth", and especially not to the exclusion of objective truths, Kaatunut's interpretation notwithstanding. Nor would I want to do such a thing.

But since we have started this off-topic game, I am a bit confused, you seem to suggest that nothing is subjectively true, which I find odd. What do you make of it when I say, while pointing at a flower or some such, "there is beauty"? Is that not true in a way that is "characteristic of or belonging to reality as perceived rather than as independent of mind"?

I would also like to submit an objective truth for consideration, "Let S be a set. Then there exists a free group (F, f) determined by S. Furthermore, f is injective, and F is generated by the image of f." Is that not true in a way "relating to or existing as an object of thought without consideration of independent existence"? Or more mundane, in the physical world, "my hand is not bleeding"? That would seem to be "perceptible to persons other than the affected individual".

But notice that I had to restrict the domain in different ways in each case. In that way, I figure that there are both objective and subjective truths. I'm still not sure what "the Truth" is supposed to mean, and I fully oppose anyone trying to reduce one type of truths to the other. I would submit that it could be more the combining of the terms subjective and objective with this domain independence that seems to be connected to the notion of "the Truth" that you really don't like. (Just a thought :)



[ Parent ]

etc. (4.00 / 1) (#64)
by swr on Mon Aug 13, 2001 at 04:24:35 AM EST

But since we have started this off-topic game, I am a bit confused

Only a bit? I would've thought you'd be a lot more confused after what I wrote. I also thought you would be confused in ways other than evidenced in your reply, but if it weren't for such suprises I wouldn't bother posting. :)

But if you're expecting to become less confused by reading this response, stop reading now!

you seem to suggest that nothing is subjectively true, which I find odd.

How am I suggesting that nothing is subjectively true? If I am indeed suggesting that nothing is subjectively true, then I also find that odd. :)

What do you make of it when I say, while pointing at a flower or some such, "there is beauty"? Is that not true in a way that is "characteristic of or belonging to reality as perceived rather than as independent of mind"?

Seems reasonable enough. BUT, what if the subjectivity of beauty is itself subjective? If that is the case, then beauty does not have to be subjective... or something.

I think the point of my previous post is that classifying things as subjective or objective may be, if you scratch the surface, meaningless. Not that that invalidates the practice... It seems to me that any sort of classification becomes meaningless if you dig deep enough, including the classification of classifications as meaningless (do you follow?). But we still have to use meaningless classifications and pretend that they are objective (or subjective or whatever other classifications we apply to our classifications) in order to function.

I'm not sure if this is any simpler, but here goes... Take the concept of sense versus nonsense. Does the very concept of sense versus nonsense make sense, or is it nonsense? How can any answer to that question not be circular? If it is circular, does that make it nonsense? Etc.

One of these days I'll put my thoughts into bits properly and post them for everyone to point and laugh at. :)

[ Parent ]

Robert Pirsig would agree with you. (none / 0) (#81)
by Count Zero on Mon Aug 13, 2001 at 02:01:12 PM EST

I think the point of my previous post is that classifying things as subjective or objective may be, if you scratch the surface, meaningless.

He was specificially talking about Quality instead of Truth, but the essence remains the same.



[ Parent ]
You... (none / 0) (#102)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Mon Aug 13, 2001 at 10:42:37 PM EST

... are pretty amusing. Good style it seems. Keep up the good work.

Sure, one can have plenty of fun thinking about how under the layers of meaning our words and signs just become so much abstract nonsense (as my abstract algebra teacher says) when you dig down beneath them. But at the end of the day... or perhaps I should say, at the beginning, I would lay odds that up into your awareness there comes ideas clothed in words, plans layed out in sentences with "if"s and "after"s and "then"s. We are built to do this, as much as any animal is built to cry out or bellow or stomp or grunt. These things we use are as real as the walls and roofs around us. Perhaps not as real as the air, but they certainly make us capable of understanding it. What more "meaning" or "sense" could one ask for. Sense is not by some special, unique addition made from nonsense. It is as common for us as the dirt. We make it like we make shit, without effort, without wanting to, and we are hard pressed to stop.

As for the circularity of these things: circular reasoning is only bad when it is founded upon itself only. There can be feedback loops with scant, hard to see external support. Patterns can develop in the feedback that would forever remain to small to resolve were it not for the feedback. I've heard these sometimes called "virtuous circles" by my fellow philosophers. One need not worry much about founding ideas upon them.



[ Parent ]

There's more than one category of Truth (none / 0) (#148)
by Defiant One on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 12:28:14 PM EST

Having participated in this very discussion many times over the years, both online and offline, I can surmise that none of you are going to add anything new to it.

So, allow me to suggest that the fatal flaw you all share is in your assumptions that there is one, and only one, way for Truth to occur. Some believe Truth is Subjective because of our perceptory mechanism; others believe Truth is Objective because of our perceptory mechanism. The short response here is that both camps are right, but it's more complex than that.

There is a dynamic set of Truth categories, and it is the mixing up of them which fuels many debates. Surely there are Objective facts, either temporal or immutable, which are independently true of any observer or theorizer, but likewise, there are definitely Subjective facts, either true in the moment or true over a longer time, which are dependent upon the subjectivity in question, but which may be dismissed by others. There are also many levels of "composite" T/truths or facts, which involve a synthesis of conscious beliefs and instrumental observations. Many ethical disputes can be left in one or more of these grey areas, which is the very reason they become the focus of so much talk.

Furthermore, there are at least two different ways that people generally incorporate these Truths into their lives and minds. One is to accept only those suggestions which fit with the already accepted beliefs, and the other is to continually re-evaluate accepted beliefs in light of new evidence. One can even mix these approaches up, depending upon the subject matter at hand, so that a single methodology doesn't have to speak for the whole system.

Even though I've not given a complete rendering of all the possible combinations and how the various approaches mesh when two people are arguing, I think you can now see that the age-old, quite sophomoric, debate over Subjective vs. Objective Truth is oversimplified from either direction of travel...


"What can I say, I believe in total, honest democracy. I also believe this American system can work."
- Woody Allen, Stardust Memories


[ Parent ]
Online debates different than real ones (5.00 / 4) (#28)
by mami on Sun Aug 12, 2001 at 12:07:04 AM EST

Argument shouldn't be passionate.

The key is to remain emotionally disconnected, so instead of becoming hostile or upset at objections to your viewpoint, you can instead examine such objections.

I think that's an impossible request. Basically you can't be just "for" or "against" emotions, you either have them or you don't. They pretty much happen to be there, if you want it or not. What you can do is to train yourself to surpress, reroute or deflect them, but they won't go away.

This being said, I think that the arguments and point of views are created mostly through some distinct pain-or joyful experiences you have lived through.

So, if the Mount Everest does look quite different from the north, east, west or south, middle, bottom or top, and you just had the expererience to look at it from one point of view, you most probably will have just one set of arguments, because you climbed just one route to the top in bright sunshine. Wiithout having gone through another different experience like the north route in a winterstorm, you won't have a lot of other arguments than the sunny ones, aside from the theoretical ones you copy from the great thinkers you happen to study in college or later on.

Then you enter into a debate for the sake of the debate, like those artificial partisan "talkshow" debates, where everybody has his defined "point of view" on each side of isle and nobody cuts through to the truth or to one specific point after having balanced out all pros and cons.

So, the best a debate or argument can bring, IMHO, is to be able to listen to other people's experiences and their conclusions about a subject. I would rather argue that it is sometimes much easier to understand the real meaning of an argument, if an argument is loaded with emotions, honest, spontaneous ones, not purposefully placed and manipulated ones. It is very easy to recognize where emotional arguments come from and the person who listens can deduct from there for what they are really worth and why or why not they relate to the subject discussed.

I understand though your request for emotional disconnectedness, especially if you look at online debates.

It is clear that it's much harder to deduct the truth from emotional online comments. What would be very useful in a real life debate, is lost through the online medium. What happens is that "to make the point absolutely clear" a commentator "hyperventilates his emotions" so that there is no doubt whatsoever where he stands at. Because you need to stay anonymous those "artificial emotions" have no basis, because you won't let your personal experiences on which your emotional arguments are based cross over to the public medium (at least you try not to).

Consequently the listening audience is set back, because no one thinks that they have said something that merits such an "out of the range emotional comment" and the whole argument is devalued and considered a troll, an attack or a humiliation. This then effectively shutds down an honest attempt for a counterargument, because one already has given up on being listened to or heard out.

So, I think, it would help a lot to be less emotional online in his comments, but I guess, then most readers would think it's not cool enough and fall asleep on their keyboards like Jin Wicked.

Which I am sure you all will do after having read this sermon. :-) Was that comment now too emotional ?

[ Parent ]

demolished views... (5.00 / 4) (#40)
by crayz on Sun Aug 12, 2001 at 04:07:05 PM EST

...may not be incorrect views, but simply an indication that one person is a better arguer that the other. The fact that one person can "win" an argument against another hardly proves that person is correct.

For example(and I hope no one will cry Godwin's law, this is not meant as an attack against anyone): Someone who is a holocaust revisionist may have all sorts of phony statistics and "proofs" that the holocaust never really happened, and if someone who knew little about the actual events(like me) engaged in an argument with him, I might well lose.

Another example is that there was a Bible-thumper who would stand outside at college last year. One day I was just sitting nearby his yelling and finally got sort of sick of all the crap he was spouting and went to talk to him. He had all the classic "evolution disobeys the second law of thermodynamics" or "the sun is shrinking" type arguments that are easily proven false, but you'd probably only know they're false if you've participated in these types of arguments online already(which thankfully I have). If you're just someone walking to class and happen to say to him "I think evolution is true" he'd make you look like an idiot. He'd win the argument. But he wouldn't be right.

And that, I believe, is what the original post referred to. Some crotchety old usenet debater may know every trick in the book, and be able to out-argue a newbie. It doesn't really help anyone understand what the truth is though.

[ Parent ]
emotion vs logic (none / 0) (#50)
by kubalaa on Sun Aug 12, 2001 at 06:51:04 PM EST

As many have pointed out, logic is no more valid for establishing truth than emotion. If it were, it would be impossible for logical people to disagree. Or maybe there are no logical people, but that has the same ultimate effect.

Emotions are just another thing that comes out of your brain. They tend to be less well-examined than your more conscious thought processes, but they are driven by slightly different sources and thus provide on objectivity check. If a decision you reach intellectually leaves you depressed or repulsed, then you should take that as a sign to reconsider and usually you can bring your intellect and emotions to some harmony.

To completely deny your emotions is to blind yourself to the effects they have on your rational judgement, which is much more dangerous than acknowledging them and incorporating them into your arguments.

[ Parent ]

Everyone has two philosophies (none / 0) (#68)
by eWulf on Mon Aug 13, 2001 at 05:25:26 AM EST

I think it was Bertrand Russell who said that everyone has two philosophies. The one that they believe without knowing why, and the one they construct to back up the one they really believe in a way which they hope cannot be contradicted (or something like that anyway).

[ Parent ]
the domain of debates (4.00 / 6) (#30)
by glasnost on Sun Aug 12, 2001 at 11:04:32 AM EST

It doesn't have to be a slippery slope to nihilism. It's true, that philosophically speaking, there is no ultimate Truth to be referred to (at least not in a way that is guaranteed to human minds in a fool-proof manner.) Realizing this can be the start of nihilism, OR it can be the start of a more practical standpoint on philosophy and debate. The key realization is that debate is based on a certain few operations of logic, within a system composted of a set of axioms or assumptions. Once a set of axioms is agreed on by all parties, debate can ensue without fretting about slipping into nihilism. Another advantage of keeping this in mind is that its easy to avoid useless and emotional flame-wars if you can quickly establish that the axioms are disagreed upon. An explicit call for agreement on some assumptions is a good way to philosophically limit the discussion so some progress can be made, and helps people see clearly their own bases of argumentation.

[ Parent ]
You've got it backwards (4.66 / 3) (#45)
by piman on Sun Aug 12, 2001 at 05:36:44 PM EST

As a youngster who spends a lot of time on Internet forums expressing a viewpoint many consider immature, I can say that being online has helped me reinforce and refine my views much better than my small circle of real life friends.

Growing up as a bisexual pagan anarchist in the town where Joe McCarthy was born and the modern home of the John Birch society, where anti-abortion and pro-Christian rallies on the sidewalks outside school are commonplace, I can say with certainty that all the views I had would have been smashed to pieces if I didn't have my online friends - and I say it because I've seen it happen over and over again to people I know. But it didn't happen to me, because many of my friends online are also bisexual, pagan, and/or anarchist.

Neither am I a "stolid, turgid, unthinking [defender] of [my] own silly creed". I can hold my own in a debate, but I am constantly refining and redefining my views - not throwing them out on the long path to nihilism, but adapting, evolving, and subtly changing as I learn more about how things work. My friends online help me through this, because although I have friends who are like me, I also have friends who are Democrats, Christians, and straight.

The modern internet has no effect on whether or not children can think properly. The intellectual cowardry you see is because children are never taught how to analyze, synthesize, or evaluate; only accumulate vast stores of information which they may or may not understand, and which may or may not be true. The internet only exacerbates this, because it makes so much more information available, but it does not cause it.



[ Parent ]
Emotion isn't a problem. (3.20 / 5) (#22)
by RobotSlave on Sat Aug 11, 2001 at 07:01:26 PM EST

Frankly, I don't want to live in a world where argument is devoid of passion. I think the "problem" is not that people bring too much emotion into online argument, but rather that too many people have a poor understanding of their own emotional makeup, or only rudimentary insight into the emotions of others, or both. But that's got nothing to do with the internet, per se.

Also, I really enjoy baiting the occaisional overwrought zealot from time to time. Sure, it's evil. No doubt you'd disapprove. Perhaps you'd even grind out another 2,000 words delineating the damage that I'm doing to the world. That would crack me up.

No (2.00 / 1) (#23)
by Logan on Sat Aug 11, 2001 at 07:11:07 PM EST

I'd disapprove more of the overwrought zealot.

Logan

[ Parent ]

Aw, that's no fun. (3.00 / 2) (#24)
by RobotSlave on Sat Aug 11, 2001 at 08:03:05 PM EST

The internet, and I suppose civilization at large, would be a lot less fun without all the zealots and crackpots. One might feel a bit safer in such a world, I suppose, but I'm sure it would be a lot less fun. I like fun. Fun is good. Bring on the fun!

[ Parent ]
the domain of emotion (3.50 / 2) (#31)
by glasnost on Sun Aug 12, 2001 at 11:11:46 AM EST

Note that a debate wouldn't get very far if emotion was part of the debating itself. That is, you can't include appeals to emotion where logic would normally go. And I believe that is what Logan is referring to.

You have a point about passion. But the role of passion is to bring people to debates, to get them thinking on their toes, and to give them enough energy to keep going. In this respect, passion only helps us learn more. It gives our debates more value.

Think about this distinction. I think you'll agree that passion is good, but emotional debating is downright nonsensical. It dont see why it really shouldn't be possible to separate the two (or at least strive to.)

[ Parent ]

Fiddlesticks. (4.50 / 2) (#43)
by RobotSlave on Sun Aug 12, 2001 at 04:30:55 PM EST

If we lived in a world where the application of reason could produce only one correct resolution of any given issue, then it would make sense to argue dispassionately. We don't. Rational argument isn't going to clarify anything when differences are not only fueled by, but in fact based in emotion.

In such situations (and I would posit that almost all enduring political conflicts fall under the rubric), more can often be gained from understanding the emotional complexities of your opponent's position than from retreading the exhausted rational dogma that you have built up to support your own emotional position.

Incidentally, the irony of using rational technique to defend emotional debate does not escape me. So here's a more "emotion-based" approach:

I think that you, Logan, and others object not to emotional argument per se, but to expressions of anger in debate. When you're not somewhat adept at dealing with angry people (and this is a skill that most people would rather avoid learning), then expressions of anger are almost always interpreted as hostility, as an implied threat, and the "argument" turns, on an emotional level, from an attempt at persuasion to an attempt at coercion. Your proposed solution is to banish emotion. I would prefer to see people learn to diffuse anger when possible, and stand up to coercion when necessary.

This is an area in which I dearly love the internet-- it is much easier to stand up for oneself in writing, and a bit more difficult to diffuse anger, but this vast, anonymous, written exchange provides an excellent place to practice.

[ Parent ]

On the other hand... (3.00 / 1) (#51)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Sun Aug 12, 2001 at 06:53:32 PM EST

... one can't substitute logic based appeals where emotion would normally go. The catagory error cuts both ways, you see.

For instance, many try to use abstract notions about rights or souls or fairness or whatnot in order to convence others that we shouldn't be so cruel to so many animals. This is a catagory error. It would be more natural to appeal to the sympathies of others. Those who have heard an animal cry out in pain, felt the horror in its voice, and only later learned that it was an animal have had their sympathies invoked in said way.



[ Parent ]

sympathies (none / 0) (#83)
by Ken Arromdee on Mon Aug 13, 2001 at 03:38:56 PM EST

The problem with this is that this sort of appeal can sometimes be *wrong*. Look at a lot of anti-abortion rhetoric, for instance. Or better yet, look at the way civil liberties are being restricted because of fear of pedophiles, terrorists, and drug smugglers.

I mean, what's a little monitoring and encryption restrictions and lack of anonymity, when we're fighting *terrorists*?

[ Parent ]

You are still on the wrong channel. (4.00 / 1) (#100)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Mon Aug 13, 2001 at 08:33:26 PM EST

I mean, what's a little monitoring and encryption restrictions and lack of anonymity, when we're fighting *terrorists*?
That isn't the type of appeal I was talking about. You are refering to emotions, but you are still using words. I'm talking about showing someone suffering as they die from malnutrition in order to tap the feeling of anguish-at-the-suffering-of-another in the one who sees it.



[ Parent ]

Terrorists and pedophiles (none / 0) (#116)
by Ken Arromdee on Tue Aug 14, 2001 at 11:03:08 AM EST

There's a reason why the anti-abortion movement made "Silent Scream". To exploit just the effect you're talking about--to show pictures of a fetus in a way which taps those feelings of anguish at the 'suffering' of the fetus. Sure, you can say that the fetus isn't really a person and that even insects twitch when killed, but that criticism is based on rationality, and the video is meant to appeal to emotions and not to rationality.

And every time some government official says they have to restrict civil liberties to protect from "terrorism" or "pedophiles", it's a similar appeal to emotion. Just because they aren't showing you an actual picture of an abused kid doesn't mean that they're not inviting the audience to imagine such a thing and feel exactly the kind of disgust at the image--even if only in their own mind--that you're talking about.

[ Parent ]

Getting better. (none / 0) (#131)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Wed Aug 15, 2001 at 12:50:58 AM EST

"Silent Scream" is an excellent example, and I am among those greatly effected by it. If one does indeed try to conjour up images of bodies burned by terroist bombings, then that too is on the channel in question. But I really don't think that is the intention. I think that most talk about terrorists and such counts on a different sort of emotional response (a far more conditioned one). If they do mean to use the same channel I'm talking about, they are doing a pathetic job of it. The channel I'm talking about isn't made to carry much in the way of abstractions and inferences. It needs to be immediate, graphic, visceral.

Btw, if even bugs twitch, wouldn't the more straight-forward conclusion be that even they feel pain?



[ Parent ]

EVERYONE is blinded by their own ideology (4.00 / 5) (#25)
by maynard on Sat Aug 11, 2001 at 08:34:42 PM EST

Everyone is limited by a perceived world view which excludes certain possibilities, and that these limitations are the primary cause of emotional reactions against ideas which break the boundaries of their paradigms. This is the primary focus of books such as Kuhn's "Structure of Scientific Revolution," or Korzybski's "Science and Sanity" which deal with the philosophy behind, and in some ways the physiological manifestations of, paradigms shift and radical change in thought and belief. That individuals would be fluid in their beliefs in childhood while becoming more set and finally rigid in their belief systems across the aging process is a well understood phenomenon. Old scientists rarely discover breakthrough new ideas.

How this relates to ideological clashes between various factions of society is easily understood in this context of rigid belief systems as an underlying physiological outcome of our brains. We tend to continue to believe those ideas we have believed since childroon, and will fight internally and externally for the "truth" of those beliefs, new facts be damned. None of us, me included, is immune to these limitations. Nor are you. It is simply a fact of our nature, and probably an outcome of the neurological "pruning" process of adolescence.

I gotta stop typing... my wrists are hurting.

Cheers,
--Maynard

Read The Proxies, a short crime thriller.

I'm not! (5.00 / 1) (#99)
by anansi on Mon Aug 13, 2001 at 08:31:12 PM EST

(insert big yellow happy smiley/large green mr.Yuk here)

Your point seems valid when talking about scientists doing science, since the underlying foundation of all their work is that they are developing One True Reality(tm)

When shifting focus to the less concrete areas of religion, it is increasingly common to find practitioners who aren't troubled by a different paradigm. While Khomni's fatwah agains Salmon Rusdie gets all the press, Interfaith councils, unitarian churches and many neopagan circles are all working to include all varieties of traditional faith.

The more troublsome question to ask, is if scientists and theologans are working to describe the same world? If you answer no, then you risk becoming an examle of the very character flaw you describe. If you answer yes, then you've stumbled into the murky realms of epistemology, where a wave can be a particle, and half-living cats debate godel's theorum.

I've constucted an elegant proof that neither view is incorrect, but there's not enough room in this margin to write it down, alas.

Don't call it Fascism. Use Musollini's term: "Corporatism"
[ Parent ]

well, some expansion of this. (4.00 / 4) (#29)
by Maniac_Dervish on Sun Aug 12, 2001 at 12:55:35 AM EST

you're treating "the emotional" as if being primarily an emotional person is a bad thing. it isn't. smart people get called "geek" and "nerd" and "chump" because they overexert the rational without similarly developing the emotional or affective side of their being.

go read up on jungian psych, keirsey's _please understand me_, the enneagram, and some other things in that vein - the common argument is that it is possible to be HIGHLY effective from any of a number of perspectives - provided that you are able to manage and manipulate your strengths while simultaneously seeing your own weaknesses.

overemphasis of the rational is a major problem in about half the conversations that highly intelligent people try to have with "real human beings" - you're on the cusp of talking about something that's really, truly, seriously important. broaden your scope a lil bit, and you'll have something really cool. (i voted +0, but its not that i don't care - its that your story is in never-never-land for me right now. :)

(worth noting - the emotional and the logical appeal are both rooted in classical rhetoric vis a vis plato - and are given equal footing.)

dervish.

a couple misunderstanding (3.00 / 1) (#32)
by glasnost on Sun Aug 12, 2001 at 11:24:56 AM EST

I think you are misunderstanding a couple things.

Firstly, I did not glean from this essay that the author believes all emotion is bad. What I did take away was that it's bad to be emotional in a debate.

Secondly, there is a clear difference between arguing to win and arguing to learn. In fact, that was discussed in the essay. The books you have suggested (according to your synopsis) tell you how to win an argument. I gather that these books show one how to gain a social advantage (or manipulate, in your own words) via argmentation. Frankly I am not much interested in those things when I enter into a bona-fide debate that I expect to have value as an end in itself, and I don't think the author of this essay is either.

Overemphasis of the rational is is indeed a problem, but only with respect to philosophical moorings, not the argumentation process itself. I don't see myself ever conceding that its going to be O.K. to replace logic with emotion in an argument, beyond what we agree on as axiomatic.

Worth noting : classical rhetoric is dead =]

[ Parent ]

Keirsey / Jung (5.00 / 2) (#34)
by ninjaz on Sun Aug 12, 2001 at 01:38:28 PM EST

The books you have suggested (according to your synopsis) tell you how to win an argument. I gather that these books show one how to gain a social advantage (or manipulate, in your own words) via argmentation.
I haven't read the book, but a synopsis is available here: http://www.keirsey.com/Please.html

I am familiar with Jungian personality theory, thouigh. It was devised as a way to prevent therapists from projecting their own worldview onto their patients and analyzing themselves through their patients (as Jung accused Freud of doing).

It essentially describes the different personality types in a method similar to astrology, but based on the individual's personality makeup instead of the position of the stars when they were born.

At the Keirsey site, they've got a personality sorter - http://www.advisorteam.com/user/ktsintro.asp Unfortunately, Keirsey unleashed their lawyers on the original on-line test, and took its innards and made it an ASP w/ registration required.

You can find free information here: http://www.ibiblio.org/personality/ (In case you're curious, I'm INTJ, but fall very near its border w/ INTP.)

To bring this full-circle and back to the matter at hand, on the point of "arguing to win" vs. "arguing to learn", I believe understanding personality types is actually helpful on both counts if you've got a valid argument. For instance, if a non-rational suggests that we should ban drugs "because they cause so much harm", "my sister was forced into prostitution to fuel her addiction", etc, you can point out that much more harm is caused by drugs being criminalized. I.e, even though drugs were highly illegal at the time, the theoretical sister still ended up addicted, and due to black market prices and shadiness, she ended up much worse off than if she'd only had the drug problem.

So, you can acknowledge the emotional aspect, and point out that it would be mollified by your alternative. I believe an argument such as this addresses the "opponent"'s concern in this case (as opposed to only arguing principles or statistics). No matter how convicing your argument is to yourself and the others of your personality type, if it doesn't click for the other parties to the discussion, no one is gaining much insight.

[ Parent ]

re: "Worth noting : classical rhetoric is dea (none / 0) (#154)
by Maniac_Dervish on Sat Aug 18, 2001 at 08:18:44 PM EST

first - you should probably go read the books i listed in previous post, if you're not already famililar with them. they are useful, on a personal level.

second - rhetoric is very much alive and well, just under other names. what do you think english, speech, communications, journalism, and technical communications departments have their historical background in? =) the tenor of the university system lately, and the tendency, has been such that departments calling themselves "rhetoric" are being reborn. slowly, and gradually, people are figuring out that fragmentation (to the extent that it has been practiced) is pretty stupid and not very useless. specialization is great, but not if it isolates you from disciplines that would be useful to your own work. :)

all the posts in this thread were great... very cool stuff.

dervish.

[ Parent ]

Are you sure about this? (4.80 / 5) (#39)
by JetJaguar on Sun Aug 12, 2001 at 03:41:45 PM EST

overemphasis of the rational is a major problem in about half the conversations that highly intelligent people try to have with "real human beings"

I would argue that the converse of your statement is just as big a problem (if not bigger). To wit: Overemphasis on emotional arguments is a major problem in about half the conversations that "real human beings" try to have with highly intelligent people.

I'm not saying you're wrong, but my own personal observations would lead me to believe that my reworking of your statement is true just as often, probably even *more* often than yours. I mean, take a look at any potentially controversial issue that gets covered by traditional media. If there's an emotional spin that can be put on it, that one will be used to the extreme and anything that sounds even remotely rational is played down as though the rational argument is totally inconsequential and meaningless, irregardless of any serious logical flaws in the emotional argument.

Taken a slightly different way, I think your statement implies that rational arguments are unemotional and irrational arguments are emotional. I don't think this is true, and I don't think that's what you were trying to say, but just to clarify. Emotions aren't really rational or irrational, arguments can be rational or irrational, but emotions are simply responses to said arguments.. Dubious arguments (emotionally based arguments often, though do not always fall in here) are often constructed by various unscrupulous people to elicit strong emotional responses amoungst people who have never had to examine the basis of an argument, and hence don't take the argument for what it is...an attempt to manipulate regardless of the facts. Similarly, lay people tend to construct their arguments in a fashion similar to what they are familiar with, without realizing their logic may be faulty, leading to a general overemphasis on emotionally charged arguments by the general public. (Ok, I'm rambling a bit, and I'm going to ramble a bit more...) .

Anyway, my point is, I've met many highly intelligent people and only a very small minority were, by my own judgement, unhealthily disconnected from their emotions. They do recognize when their arguments (and the arguments of others) are coming from an emotional level, which tends to put them in an excellent position to examine those emotions to see if they are justified, which is a very good thing, imho. I would argue that most people don't do that analysis, and are hence manipulated into a "frenzy" by bad arguments that were intended to elicit just such a reponse.

Either way, make your own judgement about this, it may be true that smart people are too disconnected from their emotions, but I don't really believe that to be the case. Even if you are correct, I think on average, the "more intelligent folks" take a much more balanced approach to their emotions, than those that are less experienced at evaluating an argument and are swayed simply by the emotional aspects of an argument (be it rational or irrational). Hence, my contention that emotional arguments are overempasized over rational arguments. Ideally, some kind of balance should be struck, but I doubt I will see that happen in my lifetime (if ever).

[ Parent ]

my quibbling (4.00 / 4) (#33)
by garbanzo on Sun Aug 12, 2001 at 12:55:13 PM EST

To me, the purpose of such an argument is not to convince anyone of anything. Instead it is an opportunity to examine one's own reasons for holding one's views, and develop one's abilities to explain these views to others.

Quibble 1 is a bit of wordsmithing: the definition above is a good description of "debate" wherein opposing "arguments" are aired and presented. However, the purpose of an argument IS to present in such a way as to convince or persuade others to that presented view. What the arguer may do in her/his noggin behind the speech may vary (e.g. internally questioning, clarifying, etc.). Argument that just opens questions is not argument. It's "questions".

Quibble 2 is that not all debate is rational, nor should it be. I admit a strong personal bias towards rational debate. Logic is very comforting. More comforting than emotional stress and strife. A thing is or it isn't.

But not all things can be decided by rationality. The fundamental assumptions (e.g. "liberty of opportunity" versus "equality of outcomes"--these are and should be emotional and passionate. They are value judgements, decisions about what is most important to us. These judgments are not always rational. Is it right to shut up heretics? I might not think so, but the Spanish Inquisition did. Speaking heresy (by their lights) endangered the immortal souls of those who heard it.

Is it valid to commingle these two: logical rationales and fundamental values? I'd "argue" that it is. My "rationale" is that it is useful to challenge the underpinnings and assumptions, even in the context of a rational, logical debate. It helps me, at any rate, to consider the fundamental values of an argument. It helps to clarify things to those who hear.

Agreed, though, it is often from such mixtures that the quality of discourse degrades. Unless there is a middle ground where some values are stipulated (e.g. "democracy is good") while others ("libertarian markets vs. statist safety nets") are not, the emotional temperature will probably rise and boil over. If only people would all work from the same values and assumptions (i.e. mine)! But that would not be a very robust system, would it?

What truly does not belong in debating are many of the tactical gaffes you raise: ad hominem attacks, reduction to sophistry, and trolling.



sure, it's all fun and games--until someone puts an eye out

Plenty of forgotten debate (3.66 / 6) (#35)
by overtoke on Sun Aug 12, 2001 at 02:37:15 PM EST

Too much discussion is wasted. The articles and comments are pushed out of the way after 1 or 2 days and forgotten. How many world leaders do you think read sites such as this?

me too! (none / 0) (#46)
by yesterdays children on Sun Aug 12, 2001 at 06:04:20 PM EST

aol-ism aside, I support this. I've noticed that usenet can have really really long threads, but this also may be because your average threaded newsreader (attached to a newsserver of course) much more efficiently handles a thread. Then again, maybe it could just be the lack of finely focused web forums. Conversations on these web forums are shallow and abandoned pretty quickly.

[ Parent ]
Wiki (5.00 / 1) (#56)
by Sunir on Sun Aug 12, 2001 at 07:59:31 PM EST

Try a wiki.

"Look! You're free! Go, and be free!" and everyone hated it for that. --r
[ Parent ]

Passion's Role (4.66 / 6) (#36)
by mech9t8 on Sun Aug 12, 2001 at 02:40:32 PM EST

There's nothing wrong with being passionate about an argument... when things seem to fall apart is when Person A makes an assertion, and Person B ignores that assertion, and simply makes more assertions of their own.

This is what happens on all those talk shows on CNN, which ostensibly show "both sides" - the "left" makes a point, the "right" makes another point, usually unrelated to the first one. And viewers go "yeah!" to whatever side they agree to.

The trick, when you strongly believe in a particular position, is to remember you're never going to convince anyone if you don't make a genuine effort to see things from their point of view, to clearly delineate what you agree on and what you disagree on, and solicate compromises on every point where a compromise can be made. Often, you'll find the other side will see the merits of your position... and, more often than not, you'll see the merits of theirs. And even if you can't come up with a solution that you both agree is perfect, you'll at least be able to come up with a compromise you can both live with.

--
IMHO

emotions are not evil (3.37 / 8) (#37)
by picasso on Sun Aug 12, 2001 at 02:54:21 PM EST

motions, i think, are a part of life. they are not something that we need to tuck away. personally i would rather have an emotive passionate argument. often i become emotional when i hear conservative rhetoric or misinformed viewpoints. i view this as serious because many of these narrow viewpoints are having a real effect on our globilizing world. i know i should be kinder to those unaware and save my anger for the ones who, aware of the facts, chose these viewpoints. evil. i am not a big fan of greedy, mean-spirited, small-minded people.

Depends on your point of view... (4.00 / 2) (#77)
by darthaggie on Mon Aug 13, 2001 at 12:53:30 PM EST

i am not a big fan of greedy, mean-spirited, small-minded people.

Why, that's mighty small-minded and mean-spirited of you...

I am BOFH. Resistance is futile. Your network will be assimilated.
[ Parent ]

A bit too complex, IMHO (4.14 / 7) (#38)
by Robert Hutchinson on Sun Aug 12, 2001 at 02:55:34 PM EST

To me, the purpose of such an argument is not to convince anyone of anything. Instead it is an opportunity to examine one's own reasons for holding one's views, and develop one's abilities to explain these views to others. It also serves as a means to clarify one's own views.
This is the one part of your article that I can decisively disagree with. Would you acknowledge that people wish to convince others that their views are correct? What is one to call such endeavors? As far as I can tell, the only "convincing sessions" that wouldn't become arguments are those where the two parties already agree, or where the second party is unable to express his disagreement. The former removes the need for convincing, and the latter is (mostly) a waste of time.

In the poll, I picked "To win!" because it came closest to what I believe the purpose of argument is: to convince as many people as possible that one's arguments are correct ... including oneself. IMO, getting as many people as possible to align more closely with what is right and what is factual is the very definition of "winning" an argument. The first two options include parts of this, but both of them seem to focus only on the arguer, and not all those engaging in or reading the argument.

To be frank, I think you're going too far in trying to discover the reason arguments can and do dissolve into name-calling. Humans get frustrated when others don't agree with them, no matter how valid or invalid their views are. I believe that "intelligent" arguments (where all sides have reasoned positions) can avoid frustration for much longer periods of time, but eventually, every argument ends with the subject agreed upon, dropped, or ignored in favor of finding different and ever less rational ways of "winning."

Robert Hutchinson
No bomb-throwing required.

I am lying (2.00 / 2) (#41)
by reflective recursion on Sun Aug 12, 2001 at 04:23:41 PM EST

haha I WIN!

erm. wait a minute..


An Angry Young Man's point of view (4.56 / 16) (#42)
by greenrd on Sun Aug 12, 2001 at 04:26:27 PM EST

As a bona fide Angry Young Man (vegan socialist transhumanist and an obsessive reader of online discussions) I feel I have something to contribute here, as to why some people get so angry, manifesting itself either in blatantly irrelevant attacks, or "barbed language" (my favourite example of this - or rather, I should say, the example of this that I most hate, is "stop whining", which I feel is more often than not used as a sneering contemptuous ad homenim attack, rather than an objectively justified comment.)

Logan talks about having one's point disproved as if it were the only possible source of anger/resentment/emotion. This is emphatically far from true. Here are a number of different emotional reactions which I often feel in online discussions. Some of them are actually quite complex. For each of them I give an example of what might provoke that emotion (some of them are exagerrated - some of them sadly aren't)

  • Example: "Those protestors should all be shot.". Reaction: That was probably baiting, not meant seriously (at least I hope so). Still, it's outrageous. It makes me very angry. As I am a sometimes protestor myself, it's very close to saying "you should be shot for expressing your opinion in a protest". Also, there's the disturbing thought that a non-trivial proportion of Americans might literally believe that for certain types of protestors (according to Noam Chomsky, who was among the first anti-Vietnam protestors, undisguised hatred and threats against non-violent protestors were common in that period of the 60s, because protestors could be perceived as "unpatriotic" - a cardinal sin, of course.)
  • Example: "Socialism has been invalidated by the fall of the Soviet Union." Reaction: frustration (heard this bogus argument far too many times before), coupled with an angry suspicion that the speaker might be using that bogus point as a way to win the argument, knowing full well that it was invalid. It is invalid if what was meant by "socialism" was nothing like what the Soviet Union actually practiced. The suspicion of disingenuous sophistry angers me because it is a proven fact that sophistry is effective at duping people (e.g. religious TV, politics, astrology, many new age movements, cults etc. - cults in particular can recruit even highly intelligent people with effective psychological techniques), and it appears to me that sophistry often runs rampant and unchallenged in many political debates on the net - simply because too few people present are both capable enough of pointing out the flaws in the argument, and motivated enough to do so. In other words, it's a big problem (to understand this, you have to understand that I actually believe - unfashionably - that ordinary people's political views matter because they influence elections), and not enough is being done to combat it.
  • Blatantly provocative language. Logan does seem to implicitly acknowledge this as a problem by referring to "flamefests", in which one flame sparks another - so I think we agree on the obvious fact that blatantly provocative language (even if not intended as such) can make people angry. No example needed.
  • Example: "If you support taxation you think you know better than I how to spend my money, so being pro-tax is inherently arrogant". My reaction to this is complex. Firstly, the statement is obviously false - as even extreme minarchists will agree - and I want to digress to explain why for a minute. For example, if there were no tax, there would be insufficient incentive for any individual person to fund a military (the classic free-rider problem), and therefore there would be no military - but this would open up a country to invasion and plunder, which is obviously not desirable. Someone who is for the existence of tax (not necessarily the current levels of tax!), like myself, is not necessarily arguing on the basis that I know better than X how X should spend his or her money. Rather, we might argue that, in practice, unbridled individual rationality - whether egoistic or altruistic - is unable to supply certain public goods like the military (i.e. there would exist market failures if there were no tax). This is standard, mainstream economics. (E.g. take post-Soviet Russia - the military there was/is underfunded even despite taxation - private philanthropy did not step in to safeguard the nuclear weapons facilities and reduce the risk of an accidental nuclear holocaust, contrary to what anarchocapitalists would have predicted.)
  • But back to why the "pro-tax is arrogant" statement above and why it angers me. Firstly, I suspect that when it is made, it is often made by "libertarians" who don't really believe it is valid for cases like the military. So again, it is a case of disengenious sophistry - which also has the effect of an ad homenim - painting the opponent as extremely arrogant and even (in some formulations I have seen) totalitarianist. So it also angers me because it is completely ass-backwards - it presents the pro-tax person as the arrogant one, when really it is the self-styled "anti-tax" speaker who is arrogant - either because they stupidly believe their argument is right and feel justified in painting their opponent as stupid; or because they Machiavellianly use it as an ad homenim attack to beat someone about the head with (yes, that's really what it feels like - metaphorically speaking!) in full knowledge that it is a bogus argument.
I think that my thesis that I am an Angry Young Man has now been proved beyond reasonable doubt. ;) But that was not the main point of this post - the point was to outline just a few of the many reasons why people may get angry in an argument - other than that they feel they've "lost".


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes

I regret... (2.00 / 2) (#48)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Sun Aug 12, 2001 at 06:38:31 PM EST

... that I have but five points to give you. You deserve far more.



[ Parent ]

Thanks! (none / 0) (#69)
by greenrd on Mon Aug 13, 2001 at 06:16:56 AM EST

Thanks! It's nice to get some encouragment once in a while!


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

pro-tax argument (3.20 / 5) (#49)
by kubalaa on Sun Aug 12, 2001 at 06:40:30 PM EST

I think the argument which angers you so much is basically correct, but could be phrased more convincingly.

Point 1: Arrogance is the presumption that you are equipped to make decisions for someone else.

Point 2: You believe voluntary taxation is impossible. Therefore we're talking about involuntary taxation, in other words one group making another pay taxes whether they want to or not.

Point 3: This use of power is controlling and not control-limiting. (i.e. hitting someone is controlling; making a law against hitting is control-limiting). In this case, not paying taxes affects nobody but yourself, so it is not a controlling act, while forcing someone to pay taxes affects the taxee so it is controlling.

Point 4: Therefore, taxation is arrogant.

You have basically refuted your own claim; you say that supporting taxation is not arrogant, but that people would never give money voluntarily. Therefore, taxation necessarily involves one group forcing their will upon another with the presumption that the first group knows better than the second what's good for them. That may or may not be correct or good, but it is arrogant.

[ Parent ]

Definition of arrogance? (3.40 / 5) (#63)
by Locando on Mon Aug 13, 2001 at 04:22:39 AM EST

Point 1: Arrogance is the presumption that you are equipped to make decisions for someone else.
Um...my American Heritage here says that arrogance is the state of being "overly convinced of one's own importance; overbearingly proud; haughty." You seem to have made up your definition. Methinks you're going to have to prove how your definition is valid, because your entire argument depends on the validity of that definition.

I'd also like to point out that it's arrogant to make up a definition of "arrogant" and assume that it is correct without proving it to be so, since we're talking about arrogance already.

People are strange.
[ Parent ]

Free riders (4.66 / 3) (#70)
by greenrd on Mon Aug 13, 2001 at 06:28:25 AM EST

I don't think you understood my point. Let me put it like this. Even if there were a nation of a million highly intelligent individuals, say PhD level computer scientists for the sake of argument, they could all support the principle of taxation and yet not want to pay any tax themselves. They would all know that tax is good for them as a nation (because it funds the military, and public services), but they don't want to pay tax individually because if one person evaded paying tax, it would not make a significant difference (unless that person was very rich). So it is individually rational not to pay tax. (Just as if one person taken individually doesn't vote, it doesn't usually make any difference.) This is known as the free rider problem.

In this hypothetical sitation, none of them would be saying "I know better than you how to spend your money", because they all believe that taxation is good for the nation. Rather, they would be entering into a nationwide binding social contract, which would avoid the free rider problem by imposing severe penalties on people who attempt to avoid paying tax. (Obviously this is all very idealised, but this is just a hypothetical example to show why pro-tax is not necessarily arrogant.)


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

correction (3.66 / 3) (#73)
by Three Pi Mesons on Mon Aug 13, 2001 at 09:53:46 AM EST

Point 1: Arrogance is the presumption that you are equipped to make decisions for someone else.

...if you are not in fact so equipped. It could be argued effectively that a democratic government does know better than individuals, and is able to collect tax without being arrogant.

:: "Every problem in the world can be fixed with either flowers, or duct tape, or both." - illuzion
[ Parent ]

however (3.00 / 1) (#74)
by kmon on Mon Aug 13, 2001 at 12:10:39 PM EST

It can be argued that a democratic government knows better than individuals, but as a conglomeration of the ideas and ideals of all individuals, it most likely represents the ideas of the average individual. Therefore the government knows better than the average individual. Conversely, the government doesn't know better than those who are above average. So, taxes should only be levyed against people who are average or below average. A correlarry would be that laws should only be obeyed by the average and below average.

It's nice to see how far twisted logic can take you. (By the way, when I mention that communism is invalidated by the fall of the Soviet Union, I'm usually shouted down before I have a chance to argue my point. I especially like, "You idiot! They were under attack from all sides!")
ad hoc, ad hominem, ad infinitum!
[ Parent ]
Invalid (none / 0) (#89)
by Loundry on Mon Aug 13, 2001 at 06:03:53 PM EST

It could be argued effectively that a democratic government does know better than individuals, and is able to collect tax without being arrogant.

How can this be argued effectively? Why does a person's winning of office allow them to know better than individuals? This is the idea behind socialist taxation: the government knows better how to spend your money than you do.

If elected officials are gods or angels or hyper-intelligent aliens who have the gift of infallibility, then I would agree that they can make decisions better than I can. As is, all of our officials are fallible humans just like you and me and all of us. They are selected from the same group from which comes millions of bigoted, ignorant fools.

Once you agree that someone else is capable of making decisions for you, then only question is that remains is, "To what degree?" Should they decide who you marry? Should they decide where you should live? Should they decide what religon you follow? Where do you draw the line? If elected officials can spend my money without being arrogant, then why can't they also make those other decisions for me without being arrogant?

These are not unfair questions. I reject any notion that another fallible human can make better decisions for my life than I can.
-- Dare not to be in agony, but in truffles!
[ Parent ]

Interesting Point (3.00 / 1) (#91)
by Logan on Mon Aug 13, 2001 at 06:18:27 PM EST

They are selected from the same group from which comes millions of bigoted, ignorant fools.
This is an interesting point. One might argue that, rather than a statstically well-distributed sample of the general population, which would at least be more likely to provide average intelligence, our government is instead composed of individuals more likely to abuse power and less likely to make intelligent decisions. One popular argument is that people become politicians because they have no useful talents.

Logan

[ Parent ]

Dilbert (none / 0) (#117)
by Loundry on Tue Aug 14, 2001 at 12:18:00 PM EST

One popular argument is that people become politicians because they have no useful talents.

Hard to disagree with you there. :) It reminds me of a funny Scott Adams quote where he says (if I may paraphrase it grossly), "Individuals with the least talent and ability are consistenly moved to the place where they can do the least amount of damage: management."
-- Dare not to be in agony, but in truffles!
[ Parent ]

the idea behind socialist taxation... (2.00 / 1) (#121)
by theantix on Tue Aug 14, 2001 at 01:35:37 PM EST

It could be argued effectively that a democratic government does know better than individuals, and is able to collect tax without being arrogant.
How can this be argued effectively? Why does a person's winning of office allow them to know better than individuals? This is the idea behind socialist taxation: the government knows better how to spend your money than you do.

How? It's simple. If it was left up to people we would pay very little tax, if at all. Public services that we all rely on (Defense, Roads, etc) would not be able to exist because there would be no reason for an individual to contribute. Your contribution will make little difference unless everyone else does as well, and if everyone else contributes you don't need to. Circular and destructive argument -- that the government helps us out of by doing it for us in a democratic fashion.

So in a sense they don't know any better than any of us, but make us all be a little bit nicer than we would be on our own. I'm actually writing a full-length article on this, watch for it in the queue soon.

--
You sir, are worse than Hitler!
[ Parent ]

Nice try (none / 0) (#133)
by Loundry on Wed Aug 15, 2001 at 09:49:59 AM EST

How? It's simple. If it was left up to people we would pay very little tax, if at all. Public services that we all rely on (Defense, Roads, etc) would not be able to exist because there would be no reason for an individual to contribute.

They are not "public" services, they are government services.

So in a sense they don't know any better than any of us, but make us all be a little bit nicer than we would be on our own.

This is your argument? You're actually agreeing with me! You are stating that government officials do not know any better than I do how to spend my money, yet they get to take it at gunpoint anyway? Explain to me how this makes any sense.

My point stands: taxation is arrogant, and so is socialism, for that matter. It is not the job of government to "make us all be a little bit nicer."
-- Dare not to be in agony, but in truffles!
[ Parent ]

ok I'll try again (none / 0) (#142)
by theantix on Wed Aug 15, 2001 at 05:59:59 PM EST

I don't think you are understanding what I am trying to say. I'm going to limit the discussion to public services such as roads and defense to keep focus.
They are not "public" services, they are government services.
They are services for the public that are provided by the government. They are public services because they benefit "the public". Let's not split hairs here, you know exactly what I mean.
This is your argument? You're actually agreeing with me! You are stating that government officials do not know any better than I do how to spend my money, yet they get to take it at gunpoint anyway? Explain to me how this makes any sense.
In these cases, government officials are not any smarter than you or me, but represent all of is in order to try to help improve the situation for all of us. The defence system and roads would very likely not get enough funding if it were done on a voluntary basis. Please don't dispute this, it's bloody obvious. See here if you want to know why. Since we know that these public services will only work if we all contribute, so we elect a government to enforce these decisions. Yes, it comes to gunpoint in extremely rare circumstances as libertarians love to point out (I was one at one time).

To restate my argument again for clarity.
1) Everybody (gov. officals and us) know that we will be better off spending our money on Defence and Roads
2) These will only be funded properly if everyone contributes
3) Most people will not contribute unless compelled to because of the free-rider problem
4) Elected officials, acting on the same knowledge as the rest of us, enforce the collection of money in a mannered fashion
5) Thus, the money is spend more wisely without them being smarting than you or I. And it does not make them arrogant.

I'm not saying the government is always right, that would be foolish. I'm saying that there is a strong place for government in society in order to help us be "nicer" and work for the benefit of all.

I hope that cleared up your confusion with my argument.

--
You sir, are worse than Hitler!
[ Parent ]

Like this (3.00 / 2) (#127)
by Wah on Tue Aug 14, 2001 at 06:19:02 PM EST

How can this be argued effectively? Why does a person's winning of office allow them to know better than individuals? [in the context of spending tax dollars]

Do you spend all day listening to the complaints of various citizens? Do you spend your professional time analyzing society data from a variety of sources? Have you spent your life analyzing the history of such endeavors? Have you been elected by a majority of your fellow citizens to represent their views? (yea, that one's self-inflected but still valid (it's called "democracy", crazy stuff but I agree with it))

Once you agree that someone else is capable of making decisions for you, then only question is that remains is, "To what degree?"

Well, if you put that "you" in the plural sense, then the next question has the same answer. As much as you decide. And to expect infallibility of anyone, much less a politician, is setting yourself up for a lifetime of disappointment.

And I agree that no one can make better decision for your life (singular) but I would prefer a full-time dedicated elected individual working on the general rules and direction for your life (plural).
--
Some things, bandwidth can't buy. For everything else, there's Real Life ĐŪ | SSP
[ Parent ]

Non-response (none / 0) (#134)
by Loundry on Wed Aug 15, 2001 at 10:17:22 AM EST

Do you spend all day listening to the complaints of various citizens? Do you spend your professional time analyzing society data from a variety of sources? Have you spent your life analyzing the history of such endeavors? Have you been elected by a majority of your fellow citizens to represent their views? (yea, that one's self-inflected but still valid (it's called "democracy", crazy stuff but I agree with it))

You've tried to answer a question with a barrage of more questions, and the answers to any of those still don't answer the question. So I'll ask it again. Maybe this time I'll get a direct answer: Why does a person's winning of office allow them to know better than individuals?

Well, if you put that "you" in the plural sense, then the next question has the same answer. As much as you decide.

As I'm from the South, I'll use the more precise "y'all" where you use the plural "you." In that case, the question is, "Once y'all agree that someone else is capable of making decisions for y'all, then the only question that remains is, 'To what degree'?" And your answer is, "As much as y'all decide." Bullshit. You know just as well as I that the government will seize power without the consent of individuals. Remember Clinton's Executive Order 13083? If you get your news solely from the liberal media, then probably not. Government does not wait for our consent to seize power. They just do it. Answer me this: how many states violated their constitutions in "ratifying" the 16th amendment?

And to expect infallibility of anyone, much less a politician, is setting yourself up for a lifetime of disappointment.

Non sequitur. I only expect infallibility of those who are somehow deemed capable of making decisions for my life. Wouldn't you?

And I agree that no one can make better decision for your life (singular) but I would prefer a full-time dedicated elected individual working on the general rules and direction for your life (plural).

These are the kinds of arguments that come out of leftists that just blow my mind. "I agree that no one can make decisions for my life, but I'll accept it anyway if they're full-time, dedicated, and elected." What the hell! Why would you accept anyone to make decions for your life if they will do it worse than you can? To this you're probably going to respond with a collectivist argument. If you choose to do that, then be ready to tell me how a collection of individuals squashes the rights of the individuals which comprise it.
-- Dare not to be in agony, but in truffles!
[ Parent ]

woosh (none / 0) (#136)
by Wah on Wed Aug 15, 2001 at 11:31:15 AM EST

You've tried to answer a question with a barrage of more questions, and the answers to any of those still don't answer the question.

Since you didn't answer those questions. I'll go with my assumption that all your answers would have been "no". Which would, IMHO, make you less qualified to make those kinds of decisions than one who could answer "yes" to them.

You're asking me to give a point by point defense of Democracy, which I don't feel up to.

I only expect infallibility of those who are somehow deemed capable of making decisions for my life.

So you expect infallibility from yourself. Like I said, lifetime of disappointment.

Government can only seize power because we have given it to them. If you don't like this, become a silly anarchist. If you can accept this then work to change your government. There's so many ways you can start doing this I can't even begin. A good one is to become that government yourself. Then your infallibility becomes a boon to all.

I'm not sure how democracy and socialsim became intertwined in this discussion, but whatever. The decision and rationale that you as an individual use to direct your life are different from those that should be used to direct the course of a nation. And the way the two sides spend money and consider their priorities are vastly different.

Anyway, I think my position can best be summed up by a statement I tried to introduce to the k5 collective a week or so ago. You can draw whatever conclusion you do.

The mark of a sentient species is a desire to improve its condition. The best way to do this is an impossible question. A better way to do it is an eternally pursuable one.


--
Information wants to be free, wouldn't you? | SSP
[ Parent ]
whoosh right back at ya (none / 0) (#141)
by Loundry on Wed Aug 15, 2001 at 05:25:17 PM EST

Since you didn't answer those questions. I'll go with my assumption that all your answers would have been "no". Which would, IMHO, make you less qualified to make those kinds of decisions than one who could answer "yes" to them.

Since you have already stated "I agree that no one can make better decision for your life," then, by your own admission, there is no one qualified to make those decisions, regardless of the answers to your irrelevant questions. I also notice that you failed to answer the question I asked immediately afterwards. In fact, you completely dodged it. I'll ask it a third time. Maybe this time I'll get an answer!

Why does a person's winning of office allow them to know better than individuals?

You're asking me to give a point by point defense of Democracy, which I don't feel up to.

I asked no such thing. Most people in the world don't even know what democracy is. (Here's a hint: think "mob rule")

So you expect infallibility from yourself. Like I said, lifetime of disappointment.

I expect no such thing of myself. My statement was, "I only expect infallibility of those who are somehow deemed capable of making decisions for my life." It should have been clear from my viewpoint and earlier comments that this statement would exclude myself. Furthermore, it should have been clear without my previous statements. I am in control of my actions 24x7. If I didn't feel capable of my own actions, then how would I be able to survive? Since you and I both know that I couldn't expect infallibility of myself, your statement could only be a troll.

Government can only seize power because we have given it to them.

I repeat: Bullshit. Did you read Clinton's (failed) E.O. 13083? I notice that you didn't respond to this from my previous message. Do you know how many states violated their constitutions when they "ratified" the 16th amendment? I notice that you ignored that as well. Did the German people democratically elect Hitler to become supreme chancellor after the Reichstag burned? Your statement that government power is only gained through the consent of the governed is contradicted by history more times than I can count. If you read this paragraph and still believe your false point of view, then I expect you to also be able to answer the questions in this paragraph, for those questions destroy the credibility of your position.

And as for your quote:

The mark of a sentient species is a desire to improve its condition. The best way to do this is an impossible question. A better way to do it is an eternally pursuable one.

And I assume you believe that the improvement of our species will be done through the force of government. Am I correct? Answer me this: how many people did Hitler (indirectly) kill? Then answer me this: how many people did Stalin (indirectly) kill? This is big government in action.
-- Dare not to be in agony, but in truffles!
[ Parent ]

oh well (none / 0) (#144)
by Wah on Wed Aug 15, 2001 at 07:41:17 PM EST

Godwin's law. And another quote.

Libertarianism is for people who think everyone is/could be as educated, wealthy, rational, and intelligent as they are. Which explains its popularity.

When one directly associates democracy and "mob rule" I know we don't have enough of a common understanding to communicate effectively. And I don't have the time to explain all of this to you.

Good day, you've made enough of an ass out of us both.
--
Information wants to be free, wouldn't you? | SSP
[ Parent ]

Typical (none / 0) (#146)
by Loundry on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 10:33:51 AM EST

The first thing I notice is the sense of resignation coming from you. I get this all the time when I show things such as evidence and reason to leftists. Leftists and fundamentalists don't do well with those things, and they usually just give up.

The second thing I notice is your abject failure to answer any of my questions. Not one. And they aren't hard questions to answer. Many of them have their answers etched into the annals of history.

The third thing I notice is your post is just one big ad hominem. Instead of attacking my argument, you attack me. In other words, you have no argument.

If I may slaughter your quote: "Libertarianism is for people who think everyone is/could be as educated, wealthy, rational, and intelligent as they are. Which explains its popularity." This is a lie. I do not think that everyone is or could be as educated, wealthy, rational, or intelligent as I am. Some are less, and some are more. Instead, as a Libertarian, I believe that the only things which should be illegal are those acts which deprive another or life, liberty, or property. (I usually get a black stare from leftists when I make that statement.)

When one directly associates democracy and "mob rule" I know we don't have enough of a common understanding to communicate effectively. And I don't have the time to explain all of this to you.

I think instead that you lack the capacity to explain it, since you don't realize that democracy is mob rule. The United States government is not a democracy; it is a Constitutional Republic. If we were a democracy (one person, one vote), then what do you think would have happened to minorities' rights in the sixties? Perhaps you have heard this quote: "Democracy is two wolves and one sheep voting on what to have for dinner."

Good day, you've made enough of an ass out of us both.

Tell me, what is asinine about asking questions to which the answer destroys your argument? And what about you should I conclude when you fail to answer the question and attempt to slander me?
-- Dare not to be in agony, but in truffles!
[ Parent ]

Probably going to regret this (none / 0) (#147)
by Wah on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 11:36:42 AM EST

since I already won this argument, at least by the generally accepted rules of Internet debate.

You didn't answer any of my questions either. The ones that would have disqualifed you for making any decisions affecting people other than you. The idea that having special people trained to make these calls is what democracy is all about. Yes, it's a constitutional republic BASED ON THE MERITS OF DEMOCRACY! Or do you ignore all that "voting" stuff in the Constitution. And assuming everyone who isn't a L is a hardcore "leftist" is what makes discussing things so difficult. And as to your ad hominem accusation, I didn't say your were an idiot, just that your political ideology relies on a framework of understanding that only exists within a very small part of the population.

And I did answer your questions, I just don't agree with you. Please stop this. It's not that I don't realize democracy is mob rule, but that I don't believe it. If you have a better one than the anarchy that libertarianism posits, please explain that. We might as well start over, since you can't accept my other answers and I'm sick of restating them.
--
Information wants to be free, wouldn't you? | SSP
[ Parent ]

A Couple of Points (none / 0) (#150)
by Logan on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 01:08:36 PM EST

Now that this argument has somewhat deteriorated, I'd like to make a few points of my own regarding both sides. First, comparing democracy and libertarianism is like comparing apples and oranges. One is a method of generating policy while the other is a general guideline for policy. A democracy of libertarians would likely be a libertarian society. I'll explain more in my next point.

My second point is regarding the purpose of government. The purpose of government is not moral, as I am afraid so many libertarians and non-libertarians believe. Government is not there to tell us how to treat our neighbors. It is not there to explore new moral frontiers, as with our current Congress and its pitiful attempts to examine the moral issues involved with scientific research and the human genome. Instead, government is there to provide and enforce policy that makes life better for "most" people.

I put the word "most" in quotes because what I mean requires a slippery adjective. It is difficult to judge the threshold where some policy, which may harm some but will help many more, should become law and be enforced. This is why there are so many methods of determining policy, such as democracy. Democracy seems best by many because it has the concept of "most" built in, but it is by no means perfect. It certainly does not give legislators any sort of moral justification for whatever actions they do, simply because the population chose them. A democracy refers to the voting of policy, not the voting of representatives. The policy of the representatives does not necessarily represent the will of the governed. Thus we only have approximations of true democracy, which even in its pure form is flawed. Many also object to simple majority rule, since, in populations of large size, a minority of even 10% is still a vast number of individuals. But generating policy that 90% of the population would agree with is incredibly difficult (a libertarian would probably believe that this would be a good way to go about it, as most unnecessary laws would be filtered out).

Given this view of government, where does libertarianism lie? Mistrust of government, skepticism of its efficacy, a general tolerance for the behavior of others and a philosophy of "leave well enough alone" seems to constitute the ideas of most libertarians. While many will concede that government may be a necessary evil -- that is, there are some things that government can do that is beneficial to almost everybody -- they are also aware that governments tend to grab power, powers far beyond those initially granted. The US is a prime example of this tendency. What began as a small, strongly limited government has mutated into a vast, cruel, and steadily growing beast. Its path from libertarianism to authoritarianism is both tragic and typical.

Some believe the prohibition of the initiation of force as principle, but I think of it more as a good policy. The only way to have hope of keeping the government within the control of the governed is to only allow it to make and enforce policy that is absolutely necessary. Libertarians believe that prohibiting the initiation of force is a good general rule for determining whether or not a policy is necessary. Many claim this as a moral rule, but I would rather keep morality out of government. I would rather the government stick to the duties which I see beneficial to the population at large, so it will be too busy (and too small) to impose restrictions on individuals such as myself that do not provide some benefit to the population at large.

I do not know how many libertarians will agree with me here, particularly regarding my views of morality and government. However, I believe this type of argument best addresses the objections many have against libertarianism and libertarians. Libertarians are no different than anyone else. We are on average no smarter, no more selfish, and no more arrogant than anyone else, despite the many straw man arguments to the contrary. Our only difference is that we are wise to the evils of big government, and see minarchy as the only possible way to keep government in control. Perhaps I should expand these ideas into a story sometime.

Logan

[ Parent ]

learning (4.00 / 1) (#153)
by Loundry on Fri Aug 17, 2001 at 05:39:30 PM EST

since I already won this argument, at least by the generally accepted rules of Internet debate.

For me, arguing isn't about winning. It's about learning. I don't care whether or not you think you've won or lost. If no one's learned anything, then we've both lost.

You didn't answer any of my questions either. The ones that would have disqualifed you for making any decisions affecting people other than you.

Since you think they are relevent, I will answer your questions: no, no, no, and no. The reason I didn't bother with them before is the same reason why the answers are meaningless: none of them have anything to do with the question in which they attempted to answer. The question is this (and this is the fourth time I've asked this question):

Why does a person's winning of office allow them to know better than individuals?

The idea that having special people trained to make these calls is what democracy is all about.

Wrong. Democracy is where each individual gets one vote, and the majority wins. Socialism is where "special" people who are somehow "trained" to know better than individuals get to make calls for others' lives. Don't confuse the two.

Yes, it's a constitutional republic BASED ON THE MERITS OF DEMOCRACY! Or do you ignore all that "voting" stuff in the Constitution?

No, I didn't ignore it. I agree with you that the constitution allows some of our government officials to be democratically-elected. Did you ingore all of the "stuff" in _The Federalist_ which talks about "The tyranny of the majority"? Much of the constitution was designted to thwart the power of the majority. It is for this reason that the electoral college was designed. Answer me this: Suppose you have a democracy, and the white majority votes that the jewish minority should be executed. What happens? This is the tyranny of the majority.

And assuming everyone who isn't a L is a hardcore "leftist" is what makes discussing things so difficult.

It is not my assumptions, but your words which lead me to believe that you are a hard-core leftist. Your arguments are specious and laden with ad-hominems. You dodge questions and ignore facts. And you continue to preach the big-government word. If it looks like a socialist duck, and it quacks like a socialist duck, then it's a socialist duck. Maybe I have you pegged wrong. If I do, then perhaps you can redeem yourself by answering some of the many questions I've asked you.

And as to your ad hominem accusation, I didn't say your were an idiot, just that your political ideology relies on a framework of understanding that only exists within a very small part of the population.

I never wrote that you called me an idiot, but the implication could not have been more clearly made. You did, in fact, state that I've made an ass out of myself, which is, in fact, an ad hominem. Furthermore, the argument above might be an ad numeram argument: "Since only a few people believe in Libertarianism, it must not be valid." Is that what you intend to imply? If not, then could you tell me what the implication is?

And I did answer your questions, I just don't agree with you.

This is a lie. I will make a list of some of the questions that you have not answered:

  1. What is asinine about asking questions to which the answer destroys your argument?
  2. What about you should I conclude when you fail to answer the question and attempt to slander me?
  3. Why does a person's winning of office allow them to know better than individuals? (I've asked that four times now, and you have the nerve to write, "I did answer your questions.")
  4. Did you read about Clinton's (failed) E.O. 13083?
  5. Do you know how many states violated their constitutions when they "ratified" the 16th amendment?
  6. Did the German people democratically elect Hitler to become supreme chancellor after the Reichstag burned?
  7. How many people did Hitler (indirectly) kill?
  8. How many people did Stalin (indirectly) kill?
  9. Why would you accept anyone to make decions for your life if they will do it worse than you can?

I expect a little bit more honesty out of you if you expect me to even begin to be convinced to your point of view.

If you have a better one than the anarchy that libertarianism posits, please explain that.

Libertarianism is not anarchy, and I am not an anarchist. If you want to read up on Libertarianism (since it's obvious that you are ignorant and/or misinformed) then you can do so at The Libertarian Party Web Site.

We might as well start over, since you can't accept my other answers and I'm sick of restating them.

I don't accept your answers and I have given you my reasons for not doing so. Do you think my reasons are invalid? If so, then tell me why. I am willing to debate them. Furthermore, I am still waiting for lots of answers from you. How can I accept something I haven't even heard? If you need to know what I'm expecting, I am expecting answers to the questions that I've included in this very comment.

I don't think we should start over. I think instead you should start answering my questions. They are not unfair, and they are not hard to answer.
-- Dare not to be in agony, but in truffles!
[ Parent ]

I now regret it (none / 0) (#155)
by Wah on Mon Aug 20, 2001 at 10:12:27 PM EST

you've asked me to write roughtly an article, and I preferred to cover another topic.

Calling me a liar doesn't help.

Why does a person's winning of office allow them to know better than individuals?

Know what? (and we'll go fromt there)

Your questions:

1: Leading question. Not worth touching.

2: Again, I didn't slander you, just your ideology.

3: Democracy. Now argue against it.

4: No, why, I know that people abuse power, this has little to do with the question, just your answer to it.

5: No, why should states have anything to do with it. Why not address the umpteenth other ways the Federal gov't has grabbed power? What does it matter.

6: Dunno, don't care. Did they? Why?

7: Lots, what does it matter? (Godwin's law AGAIN)

8: More, yes, and?

9: Because I live in a society, and not in some shack out in the boonies.

I expect a little bit more honesty out of you if you expect me to even begin to be convinced to your point of view.

Where have I lied? That's a loaded accusation. Prove it!!!!

You hate big government, yet big government destroyed the Nazis, totalitarian Communists, and created the Internet.

What you seem to be arguing for is some impossible ideal (that's why your ideology sucks) that did exist, or at least something close to it, and then had to change because people are smarter than you, and me. They learn to break the system. The only way to do keep them from doing this is to not educate them, which I can't agree with. Yes, we have too many laws, and lawyers, but rather than say it all sucks, why don't you work to fix it?

Let's test your honesty. I'm 26 years old. How old are you? I'm guessing a teenager, based on your limited understanding of most of this stuff and rote typing of someone else's worldview. Feel like being honest?
--
Information wants to be free, wouldn't you? | Parent ]

Answers (none / 0) (#156)
by Loundry on Mon Aug 27, 2001 at 05:21:07 PM EST

Wow, I finally got some answers out of you, and, for one question, I only had to ask five times! So let's review your answers.

Leading question. Not worth touching.

This was in answer to my question, "What is asinine about asking questions to which the answers destroy your argument?" If you're not going to answer the question, then your implication that my questions are "asinine" is completely pathetic.

Again, I didn't slander you, just your ideology.

Please, a little more honesty. It's pretty clear to me that you think I'm a moron. Do you need me to go back and cut-and-paste the slanderous implications you've made against me?

Democracy. Now argue against it.

This is your answer? Pathetic! How can this be an answer when you can't even define the word "democracy"?

No, why, I know that people abuse power, this has little to do with the question, just your answer to it.

This was in response to my asking if you've read about Clinton's EO 13083. Your response is plain wrong, it has everything to do with the question. Your argument is that government only gains power when the governed consent to it. My argument is that government takes power without the people's consent. I am using Clinton's EO 13083 to support my argument. And now you are stating, "I know that people abuse power." So, do you agree with me that governments will take power without the consent of the governed?

No, why should states have anything to do with it. Why not address the umpteenth other ways the Federal gov't has grabbed power? What does it matter.

This was in response to my question about how many states violated their constitutions in ratifying the 16th amendment. "What does it matter"? Well, I'll tell you why it matters. The 16th amendment was fradulently ratified, but the federal government adopted it anyway and started taxing the people with an unconstitutional and illegal income tax. This supports my argument that the government seizes power without the consent of the governed, and it destroys your argument that the government only has power that the governed gives them. And here you are also agreeing with me that the federal government has "grabbed power." So much for your position.

Dunno, don't care. Did they? Why?

Because Hitler appointed himself chancellor. After that, he made the Nazi party the only legal party in Germany. After that, he implemented the "Final Solution." So much for the "consent of the governed," right?

Lots, what does it matter? (Godwin's law AGAIN)
More, yes, and?

You act as if this has no relevence. Stalin killed 100 million Russians. We know what Hitler did, but Stalin was far, far worse. This is big governments "greatest hits." Big government is responsible for more death, destruction, and misery than almost anything else in human history.

Because I live in a society, and not in some shack out in the boonies.

More slander from you. You treat me as if I am some kind of hermit who hates society, and then insist that you are not attacking me. You are a liar.

Furthermore, this is a pathetic answer. Humans are social creatures, and thus, by defintion, live in societies. This would happen regardless of the type of government these people lived under. What does this have to with allowing another to make decisions for you when you have admitted that you know they will make decisions worse than you can?

Where have I lied? That's a loaded accusation. Prove it!!!!

I'm happy to prove it. You claimed that you had answered my questions, and then I provided you with a list of my questions which you ignored. Sounds like a lie to me. All I did was go back through our dialogue and look for the question marks in my posts.

You hate big government, yet big government destroyed the Nazis, totalitarian Communists, and created the Internet.

Tell me exactly what laws and regulations destroyed the Nazis and the Communists. History tells me that it was armies that destroyed the Nazis and many, many factors which destroyed the Communists (not the least of which was the U.S. military action against the Communists). Furthermore, you state that big government created the Internet. Yeah, right. And big government runs Microsoft, Amazon, and all universities, too. More crap facts from you.

What you seem to be arguing for is some impossible ideal (that's why your ideology sucks) that did exist, or at least something close to it, and then had to change because people are smarter than you, and me. They learn to break the system. The only way to do keep them from doing this is to not educate them, which I can't agree with. Yes, we have too many laws, and lawyers, but rather than say it all sucks, why don't you work to fix it?

I am working to fix it. The fix is to get rid of it. Social (In)Security, Medicare, The Department of (fill-in-the-blank), The War on (Some) Drugs, all of it needs to go. We need a small government that preserves the liberty of individuals. Have you read any of Harry Browne's writings? If so, what parts do you specifically disagree with? If not, then what do you have to criticize? Me? I am a Libertarian, but I don't necessarily represent Libertarianism. It's not fair for you to be so anti-Libertarian when you aren't educated on what it is.

Let's test your honesty. I'm 26 years old. How old are you? I'm guessing a teenager, based on your limited understanding of most of this stuff and rote typing of someone else's worldview. Feel like being honest?

Yes. I'm 27. How would you know if I was being honest? Do you expect me to lie to you as you have lied to me ("I have answered your questions...")? And how did I "rote type" someone else's worldview? Please provide specific examples, and explain how this criticism cannot be levied against you for the way you've treated me. I remember questioning your ideology, but I don't remember type-casting it or you in any way.

Furthermore, your slander comes shining through once again, this time I am a "teenager" with which comes the labels of "immature," "arrogant," and "undereducated." Now there is no way you can claim that you were criticizing my ideology instead of me. Explain to me exactly what I have a "limited understanding" of. You apparently didn't want to get any more specific that "most of this stuff." Not very compelling. I'd say your criticism is more aptly attached to you! It is you who does not understand what "democracy" is (I have yet to hear a definition from you), it is you who continually mischaracterizes the views of the Libertarian party, and it is you who continues to distort facts ("big government brought down the Nazis"). Now, answer me: do you feel like being honest? It would be a welcome change!
-- Dare not to be in agony, but in truffles!
[ Parent ]

haha (none / 0) (#157)
by Wah on Wed Aug 29, 2001 at 06:58:45 PM EST

o.k. then, where do you go from here?

Huh? Libertarianism is great. Unfortunately, it's led to the government we have now. Because, if you look back, it's what we started with. You see, people will lie cheat and steal to get what they want. They will take advantage of those weaker then themselves, always and continuously. The only power the weak have comes from the shared power they get by allowing government. L posits that this isn't a problem, or maybe you can just tell me how it accounts for it. Cause I can't see that. At all.

Lots of people are the problem, not a big government. Fix that problem without killing them, then we'll talk.
--
Information wants to be free, wouldn't you? | Parent ]

not true (none / 0) (#158)
by Loundry on Thu Aug 30, 2001 at 01:41:38 PM EST

Huh? Libertarianism is great. Unfortunately, it's led to the government we have now. Because, if you look back, it's what we started with. You see, people will lie cheat and steal to get what they want. They will take advantage of those weaker then themselves, always and continuously.

Libertarianism, as a fairly recent political movement, could not have led to the government we have now. It was not I who said that it is the natural progression of government to get bigger and more intrusive. The reason for this is very close to what you said: people will lie, cheat, and steal to get what they want. The government, being the only entity with the legal right to use force to acheive their goals, is a wonderful vehicle for this. Libertarianism strives to stop people from abusing government by shrinking government down to only what is necessary.

The only power the weak have comes from the shared power they get by allowing government. L posits that this isn't a problem, or maybe you can just tell me how it accounts for it. Cause I can't see that. At all.

I don't agree. The "weak" (I'd like you to be more specific about who you're referring to) have the same constitutional rights as the strong have. Powerful corporate interests (Coca-Cola, for example) have taken advantage of government in insidious ways. The position of Libertarianism is that this is a government problem, not a corporate problem. We need to get rid of corrupt justices and lawmakers. What kind of power does the "weak" need that Libertarianism does not supply?

Lots of people are the problem, not a big government. Fix that problem without killing them, then we'll talk.

No, big government is the problem. Your implication here is that Libertarianism will kill people. How did you arrive at that conclusion?
-- Dare not to be in agony, but in truffles!
[ Parent ]

A Libertarian Contradiction (none / 0) (#159)
by Wah on Thu Aug 30, 2001 at 02:30:50 PM EST

The reason for this is very close to what you said: people will lie, cheat, and steal to get what they want.

Good, then we agree on that. However, one of your solutions doesn't allow for that.

We need to get rid of corrupt justices and lawmakers.

But we can't, because whoever they are replaced with will also lie, cheat, and steal to get what they want.

The "weak" (I'd like you to be more specific about who you're referring to) have the same constitutional rights as the strong have.

I'll keep it simple here and say the poor (money is power), the uneducated (knowledge is power), and the unarmed (power is power).

Powerful corporate interests (Coca-Cola, for example) have taken advantage of government in insidious ways. The position of Libertarianism is that this is a government problem, not a corporate problem.

Yes, but many Libertarians want to replace the Government with the Free Market, which would be even worse as it gives more power to the powerful. Mainly because then people won't pay for education (it's got no ROI), healthcare (fuck'em, they're poor and stupid), and abuse what little government is left (because now it is so weak).

No, big government is the problem. Your implication here is that Libertarianism will kill people. How did you arrive at that conclusion?

Because the only way to get rid of "big" government is to get rids of lots of people. This is where that "Democracy" thing comes back in. As each person gives a bit of their power to the government, more people means more power concentrated in the same thing, government.

So, what's the solution? (BTW: I'm trying to work on the groundwork for one in my latest diary entry, you can jump in there if you wish)
--
Information wants to be free, wouldn't you? | Parent ]

coming closer (none / 0) (#160)
by Loundry on Tue Sep 04, 2001 at 05:25:06 PM EST

But we can't, because whoever they are replaced with will also lie, cheat, and steal to get what they want.

It's an issue of degree. Certainly you agree that some people are more corrupt than others and that no one is perfect. This is why I think those who are in public office should be highly scrutinized for evidence of abuse of power. So I don't think what you've written is really true. The replacements for Ted Kennedy and Jesse Helms are not guaranteed to be as bad as they are. They can be Libertarians, after all. :)

Yes, but many Libertarians want to replace the Government with the Free Market, which would be even worse as it gives more power to the powerful.

The free market as opposed to the government-controlled market. Have you ever heard the saying, "Socialists want to end monopolies by replacing them with one big monopoly called government"? It's true. (For the record, I'm a Libertarian who also happens to believe in Antitrust laws, though I think they should be reformed.) No corporate entity is more powerful than government, as only government has the legal right to kill you if you don't obey their whims.

Mainly because then people won't pay for education (it's got no ROI),

This is not true. Under a free market solution, everyone would pay for their own education. Under the current government "solution," lots of people aren't paying for education at all (and they're getting what they pay for, too).

healthcare (fuck'em, they're poor and stupid)

I'm getting so god damned sick of people implying or stating that I have a "fuck you" attitude toward the poor because I'm a Libertarian. It pisses me off becuase it's an outright lie. Could you please tell me what gives you that impression about me?

and abuse what little government is left (because now it is so weak).

Government abuse will always happen, and for this reason it's better that government be small. Remember, government is the only entity that is allowed to use force to achieve its goals, so I'd much rather it be small and non-influential, wouldn't you?

Because the only way to get rid of "big" government is to get rids of lots of people.

What is your evidence that supports this notion? How will getting rid of the ATF kill "lots of people"? How will ending the War on (Some) Drugs kill "lots of people"? I'd like to hear your rationale, as I argue and can support that both the ATF and the War on (Some) Drugs are killing people now, and both of them are loved and adored by big-government supporters in the Republicrat party.

This is where that "Democracy" thing comes back in. As each person gives a bit of their power to the government, more people means more power concentrated in the same thing, government.

Are you quoting the word "democracy" because you haven't yet defined it for me? And you know now that the "each person [giving] a bit of their power to the government" is crap, since you've already admitted that government takes power whether we like it or not. Where did you get the notion that big government saves lives? I argue that big government destroyes lives, and I offer Stalin, Pol Pot, Hitler, and Mao Tse Tung as my evidence. Those four men and thier huge, huge, huge governments account for the deaths of 200 million citizens. How many lives have been taken by Libertarian principles?
-- Dare not to be in agony, but in truffles!
[ Parent ]

let's stay cool here (none / 0) (#161)
by Wah on Wed Sep 05, 2001 at 10:28:04 AM EST

The replacements for Ted Kennedy and Jesse Helms are not guaranteed to be as bad as they are.

Not immediately, but after spending that much time in the same system, it is quite likely.

The free market as opposed to the government-controlled market.

You're arguing in absolutes. And I don't think absolutes are a good way to argue. Please check this out to see (kinda) where I'm coming from. It's not one or the other, there are varying degrees in between. Also, if you can respect one of the best money managers to ever walk to earth, read a couple of his comments on the "free market". Heck, check out the whole book, it's called "Open Society" and will probably appeal to those who enjoy "Open Source".

No corporate entity is more powerful than government, as only government has the legal right to kill you if you don't obey their whims.

Again, this is an absolute. O.J. Simpson had a "legal right" to kill someone because he wasn't convicted. If you look at all the people who have died because of direct corporate actions, and how many corporations are in jail, you might see how that "legal" right is fiction.

Under a free market solution, everyone would pay for their own education.

And everyone without money would end up uneducated, with no way to become educated to make more money, to become educated. It follows quite simply that this becomes a vicious circle, the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, since they can't pay for their own education to pull them out of the cycle. And have to work so hard to make ends meet that they can't spend their extra time (and money) making laws for themselves like the rich can.

I'm getting so god damned sick of people implying or stating that I have a "fuck you" attitude toward the poor because I'm a Libertarian. Could you please tell me what gives you that impression about me?

Becuase I'm assuming that your answer will be the same one for healthcare that it is for education..."The market will sort it out, if people want it, they pay for it". Which, again, leaves anyone without a bunch of money, but with a bunch of sickness to sit in the street and decay. Libertarians are so fucking cold because they reduce everything down to money, or more simply "the free market". Like I tried to say to you before, it's not you, it's your ideology.

Remember, government is the only entity that is allowed to use force to achieve its goals, so I'd much rather it be small and non-influential, wouldn't you?

Not if I think of word "government" as an entity that protects my rights as a human being. Then I want it big and powerful and pure.

Are you quoting the word "democracy" because you haven't yet defined it for me?

Yes.

And you know now that the "each person [giving] a bit of their power to the government" is crap, since you've already admitted that government takes power whether we like it or not.

You are combining two thoughts in a way I wouldn't. Yes, we do give up some of our freedoms and our money to our government, which makes it powerful. And then this power becomes corrupting. But they are two different actions, not one in the same. That's my point.

How many lives have been taken by Libertarian principles?

About 6,000,000 since the "end" of the Cold War. Go read some declassified materials on how "American Interests" have been "defended" throughout the world. And did you mean Libertarian principles like owning lots of guns? We're at about 1 kid a day on that one now, and those are the accidents.
--
Information wants to be free, wouldn't you? | Parent ]

More inaccuracies (none / 0) (#162)
by Loundry on Fri Sep 07, 2001 at 01:16:56 PM EST

Not immediately, but after spending that much time in the same system, it is quite likely.

Can you list one Libertarian candidate who was elected and then corrupted? Please state explicitly how she/he betrayed Libertarian principles. I'm naturally curious about this because I want to be clear about people who claim to represent Libertarians principals but, in practice, do not.

Again, this is an absolute. O.J. Simpson had a "legal right" to kill someone because he wasn't convicted.

Totally wrong! O.J. never had a legal right to kill someone except in cases of self-defense. The fact that he wasn't convicted did not give him a legal right to kill anyone -- the fact that he wasn't convicted means that, in the eyes of the law, he didn't kill anyone.

If you look at all the people who have died because of direct corporate actions, and how many corporations are in jail, you might see how that "legal" right is fiction.

And if you look at those corporate actions which have resulted in human deaths, then you'll also notice the insidious hand of government corruption which saves the skins of those corporate murderers. Your implication is that Libertarians support corrupt corporations. We do not. People who break the law should be punished under it.

And everyone without money would end up uneducated, with no way to become educated to make more money, to become educated. It follows quite simply that this becomes a vicious circle, the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, since they can't pay for their own education to pull them out of the cycle. And have to work so hard to make ends meet that they can't spend their extra time (and money) making laws for themselves like the rich can.

The problem is that you're arguing "evil rich, noble poor." It's getting very tired, and very old. Libertarians do not believe that returning health care and education to the free and open market will exclude the poor. Otherwise, how could we support it? Have you read the Libertarian position on health care and education? Why do you continue to make false accusations about the Libertarian party when the information is available for you to read?

Becuase I'm assuming that your answer will be the same one for healthcare that it is for education..."The market will sort it out, if people want it, they pay for it". Which, again, leaves anyone without a bunch of money, but with a bunch of sickness to sit in the street and decay. Libertarians are so fucking cold because they reduce everything down to money, or more simply "the free market". Like I tried to say to you before, it's not you, it's your ideology.

I find it bizarre that you would say "Libertarians are so fucking cold" and "it's not you" in the same paragraph. I could just as easily have written, "Leftists are so fucking stupid becuase they think that big government is the source of compassion when history is replete with examples which show precisely the opposite." But invective gets us nowhere. Libertarians do not want people to sit in the street and decay, and you know just as well as I that people are going to sit in the street and decay no matter how much government you inject into the situation. Why don't you educate yourself about the Libertarians' true position? Spouting off outright lies about the Libertarian party will not convince me to your point of view.

Not if I think of word "government" as an entity that protects my rights as a human being. Then I want it big and powerful and pure.

You write this in spite of the fact that you've admitted that government seizes and tramples upon our rights. You write this in spite of the fact that you've admitted that government takes power without the consent of the governed. You write this in spite of the fact that there is no example of a government that is both powerful and pure. You have admitted that power corrupts, so a government cannot be both powerful and pure. They are, by your own admission, mutually exclusive.

Yes.

Let me put it bluntly: I dare and defy you to define "Democracy." Since you use it frequently in your arguments, don't you think it would be wise for you to be clear on what it means? Maybe for just the sake of semantics?

You are combining two thoughts in a way I wouldn't. Yes, we do give up some of our freedoms and our money to our government, which makes it powerful. And then this power becomes corrupting. But they are two different actions, not one in the same. That's my point.

It's a point that proves nothing. Yes, we give up some of our freedoms, and the government also takes freedoms if we don't want to give them up. The more power that people have, the more they are corrupted. And the government is composed of nothing more than fallible, corruptable, people. This is why I think the power of government, the power to use deadly force at will, should be limited. Does my logic make sense to you?

About 6,000,000 since the "end" of the Cold War. Go read some declassified materials on how "American Interests" have been "defended" throughout the world. And did you mean Libertarian principles like owning lots of guns? We're at about 1 kid a day on that one now, and those are the accidents.

Since when did Libertarians support those "American Interests" (such as funding death squads in Central America) that you have falsely attributed to the Libertarian party? Libertarians believe in removing ourselves from foreign intervention and ceasing being the selective policeman of the world. What you are describing are Republican principals, not Libertarian principals. I think you are fain to admit that you agree with the Libertarians more than you want to! Furthermore, I looked at the link you sent me, and it's absolute crap. What are the sources of the statistics? Furthermore, that site also speaks in absolutes, which you claim "aren't a good way to argue." It states, for instance, "Educate a child all you like, but you will never overcome a child's natural curiosity." Wow, never? Any child? And since when is it a Libertarian principle to own "lots of guns"? On what portion of the web site did you find that? Libertarians believe that individuals should have unfettered access to firearms, not that individuals should own "lots of guns." The gun control debate is one that you will soundly lose. The web site, for instance, mentions that, "1 child will die every day from an accidental gun shot." Nowhere does the site mention where this statistic comes from, nor does it mention how it defines a "child." Nowhere does the site mention the current crime rates in England and Australia where guns are illegal. Wouldn't you be interested in those? Certainly that would be illustrative in showing the effectiveness of gun-control laws, don't you think? I'm happy to argue this with you, for your facts simply won't hold.

And I'm still waiting for you to admit that you'll open your mind up just a little bit and start reading some Libertarian materials. It's obvious that you have many misconceptions about what Libertarians believe. Why don't you go educate yourself? You still have the right to disagree, and, if you do, you can disagree for honest reasons, not things that you are falsely attributing to Libertarians.
-- Dare not to be in agony, but in truffles!
[ Parent ]

I would attack point 3. (3.66 / 3) (#76)
by Count Zero on Mon Aug 13, 2001 at 12:52:55 PM EST

Point 3: This use of power is controlling and not control-limiting. (i.e. hitting someone is controlling; making a law against hitting is control-limiting). In this case, not paying taxes affects nobody but yourself, so it is not a controlling act, while forcing someone to pay taxes affects the taxee so it is controlling.

I disagree with the portion in bold. This in fact is what the previous poster is talking about, the classic free-rider problem. One could go so far as to argue that if you choose not to pay taxes, you are in effect "stealing" military defence from your neighbor. (amoung other things)This is the public/private goods problem.

I would go so far to say that the moment taxes become optional, we've turned society into a giant prisoner's dilemma, with all the problems that entails.



[ Parent ]
Free Rider "Problem" (2.66 / 3) (#78)
by Logan on Mon Aug 13, 2001 at 12:59:20 PM EST

You will probably find that the expenses required to eliminate "free riders" are unjustified. If you are imposing taxes (at what is, fundamentally, gunpoint) on everyone just to avoid inadvertently giving anyone a "free ride," then you're foolishly exerting a great expense, both on your part and that of others, just to avoid a non-problem.

Logan

[ Parent ]

Please explain (none / 0) (#92)
by greenrd on Mon Aug 13, 2001 at 06:18:47 PM EST

Unjustified? Probably? Non-problem? Foolishly? Please offer a non-zero amount of evidence or argument in favour of your position.


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

An Attempt At Explanation (4.00 / 1) (#95)
by Logan on Mon Aug 13, 2001 at 06:36:02 PM EST

I was hesitant to open an argument that is so unrelated to the original topic, but since you asked... This is an idea that I just encountered recently, so my explanation right now might be inadequate, but here goes.

Basically, it as economic argument. The argument is that, in certain (if not most) cases, it is uneconomical to enforce payment of services that can be freely received as an unavoidable side effect of providing that service. Take, for instance, instances of people hitching rides on freight trains, or people stealing cable.

The only conditions under which a certain amount of expense in enforcing payment of these services is justified would be if either the existence of the "free rider" is imposing greater costs or if the "free rider" would otherwise be a paying customer. Otherwise, there is no "economic" reason to go through the trouble and expense of eliminating "free riders".

An anecdotal example would be of a person I know that once "stole" cable, which could be considered comparable to piracy on the internet. Rather than go through the expense of prosecuting this individual, the cable company instead first offered the individual a deal to sign up for legitimate service. It would seem that, from the cable company's perspective, free riders were not a problem, but instead a potential customer base.

You must forgive me for not having this argument and idea more fully developed before mentioning it in my previous post. Some more thought on my part is needed before it can stand up to any sort of rigorous examination. I do believe, however, that if you take a close look at the current copyright fiasco that the US is going through, you may see where I get the idea. The music industry may even reflect my point: while anybody is capable of obtaining a "free ride" by simply downloading music, as a side-effect of how music is produced and distributed, it is still somehow profitable for the industry to continue providing services in the same way, without expending resources to prevent every instance of piracy (unlike how our government expends massive resources to track down and prosecute every instance of tax fraud that is perpetrated by non-politicians).

Logan

[ Parent ]

wouldn't work (none / 0) (#103)
by crayz on Mon Aug 13, 2001 at 10:46:25 PM EST

Interesting, but I think flawed. The reason enforcement is necessary is not to catch *all* people who would attempt free-rides, but to encourage people who don't want to risk something(could be a fine, embarrassment, jail time, or even pain/death) to pay. If you legitimized free riding as legal and just as acceptable as paying, how many people would pay?

As an example:

a movie theater. Sneaking into a movie without paying costs the movie theater nothing. As long as there was a free seat, you sitting in it really shouldn't matter to them. However, if instead of trying hard to enforce payment, they just opened the theater up with two lines: line 1 you pay, line 2 you don't. You really think many people would go to line 1?

Doing this actually does work sometimes, like at a "free" car wash run by high school kids who want money for the football team, or by a charity. But how many people do you really think would voluntarily choose to pay taxes?

[ Parent ]
Recalls (3.00 / 1) (#114)
by Monkey Baister on Tue Aug 14, 2001 at 09:47:37 AM EST

This sounds similar to whether or not a company will recall a faulty product.

There is the amount of money that they would spend on lawsuits (A), then there is the amount of money they would spend recalling all the faulty products (B).

If A is greater than B, they issue a recall, otherwise, no recall.

Your argument sounds similar in that there is the money spent in prosecuting vs. the money that is lost or could have been made.

This does not eliminate the free rider problem, though. It just means that you want to keep it under enough control to make sure that the effort spent on controlling is not more than the amount of money that could be made.

This is why with taxes, they don't care until you owe a noticable amount. Companies would have a harder time evading taxes than a $30,000 a year citizen, since the government could be missing out on millions of dollars instead of a few hundred and the costs of prosecuting could be in the thousands of dollars range.

[ Parent ]

Free Rider Problem (none / 0) (#94)
by greenrd on Mon Aug 13, 2001 at 06:29:51 PM EST

By the way, I suggest you look up free rider on the web, or go to the library and look up "free rider" in the index of some economics and game theory books. Even many extreme right-wing "libertarians" admit that the problem exists. You, therefore, may find that you are an extreme extreme right-winger.


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

Just a quick point (3.00 / 1) (#85)
by Simon Kinahan on Mon Aug 13, 2001 at 04:27:00 PM EST

"Socialism has been invalidated by the fall of the Soviet Union."

While I agree with you that this statement as it stands if not a valid argument, there is a more sophisticated argument that can be made that may be valid (I'm personally not sure).

If you start from the belief that socialism necessarily implies a largely planned economy, which appears to be quite common amongst socialists as well as others, you can argue that in order to work this needs a totalitarian state, as it implies the direction of everyone's ooccupation by some central authority. You can thus argue that while the system practiced in the Soviet Union was the inevitable consequence of trying to achieve socialism, even though it is not the goal of most socialists.

This is, essentially, the argument Frederich Hayek made in the 1940s, well before it became obvious the Soviet Union would fail. Arguable, the fall of the Soviet Union demonstrated his point.

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]

Participatory Economics (3.00 / 1) (#93)
by greenrd on Mon Aug 13, 2001 at 06:26:26 PM EST

Participatory Economics, a modern socialist theory/vision whose main advocates are Michael Albert and Robin Hahnel (don't know if I got that right), attempts to describe how socialism could work under a condition of vastly greater democracy (in workplaces, schools etc.), not less. (Indeed, many people would argue that socialism without democracy is not socialism at all.) See www.zmag.org

However, as a transhumanist I'm far more radical, in that I believe future technological changes may lead to more viable conditions for non-totalitarian socialism. There isn't really an theory on this AFAIK because there are too many unknowns. But that's true (too many unknowns) for anarchists and "libertarians" too - they just don't usually like to admit it.


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

ParEcon (3.00 / 1) (#98)
by Simon Kinahan on Mon Aug 13, 2001 at 06:55:43 PM EST

Participatory Economics, a modern socialist theory/vision whose main advocates are Michael Albert and Robin Hahnel (don't know if I got that right), attempts to describe how socialism could work under a condition of vastly greater democracy (in workplaces, schools etc.), not less. (Indeed, many people would argue that socialism without democracy is not socialism at all.) See www.zmag.org

I've scanned the ParEcon stuff a few times. As far as I can see, it is still planning, and because it is still planning, Hayek's argument still applies. He was quite explicit that even with democratic intentions, attempts to create a planned economy will always create forces that lead to totalitarianism.

I could try to go into details about how this applies to ParEcon, but since we're off-topic for this article, I'll suggest you read "The Road to Serfdom", if you haven't already. Try to ignore the book's association with libertarians. Hayek in his own words is pretty reasonable, though not, I think, entirely correct. If you want to discuss this further, I suggest we do so by email.

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]

Terribly Flawed (3.00 / 1) (#115)
by Loundry on Tue Aug 14, 2001 at 10:21:24 AM EST

You have made many flaws that are worth pointing out. For the record, I am a Libertarian, but that should be made obvious by the arguments I make.

Example: "Socialism has been invalidated by the fall of the Soviet Union." Reaction: frustration (heard this bogus argument far too many times before), coupled with an angry suspicion that the speaker might be using that bogus point as a way to win the argument, knowing full well that it was invalid.

I hear this argument often: "But the Soviet Union wasn't true communism/socialism!" Really? Then why don't you share with us what true socialism is, and how that differs from the government of the Soviet Union. From my point of view, I see that socialism is big government, communism is big government, and the government of the Soviet Union was big government. What is the difference? They all have the same principal elements in common: they they rely on the government's right to use force to achieve their goals, and they all do it to a huge and intrusive degree.

Example: "If you support taxation you think you know better than I how to spend my money, so being pro-tax is inherently arrogant". My reaction to this is complex. Firstly, the statement is obviously false - as even extreme minarchists will agree - and I want to digress to explain why for a minute. For example, if there were no tax, there would be insufficient incentive for any individual person to fund a military (the classic free-rider problem), and therefore there would be no military - but this would open up a country to invasion and plunder, which is obviously not desirable.

You didn't respond to the argument. The argument was clearly stated: taxation is arrogant because it assumes that someone else knows better how to spend an individual's money. You digressed in your response, but you didn't respond to the statement that it is, in fact, arrogant. Instead, you allege that the milatary would have no funding if there were no tax. It seems that you don't know much about Libertarianism, I suggest you go to http://lp.org and educate yourself. Answer me this: is is arrogant for any person to assume that she/he is better equipped to spend someone else's money then the taxpayer is?

Rather, we might argue that, in practice, unbridled individual rationality - whether egoistic or altruistic - is unable to supply certain public goods like the military (i.e. there would exist market failures if there were no tax).

As a socialist, you also probably support state-run medicine, state-run education, and massive income redistribution. I think you are trying to make your platform seem appealing by finding one thing which you think no one could disagree with. Did you consider that perhaps tariffs could fund the military? How did the United States do it before the 16th amendment was "ratified"?

This is standard, mainstream economics.

What a lie! Government is force, and "standard, mainstream economics" does not include any entity that is allowed to use force to achieve their goals.

private philanthropy did not step in to safeguard the nuclear weapons facilities and reduce the risk of an accidental nuclear holocaust, contrary to what anarchocapitalists would have predicted.

Perhaps some private property would have made the private philanthropy more feasible. Does it come as a surprise that many of the wealthiest people in the USSR were government officials? (As a side note, how many Russians died under Stalin's rule?)

But back to why the "pro-tax is arrogant" statement above and why it angers me. Firstly, I suspect that when it is made, it is often made by "libertarians" who don't really believe it is valid for cases like the military. So again, it is a case of disengenious sophistry - which also has the effect of an ad homenim - painting the opponent as extremely arrogant and even (in some formulations I have seen) totalitarianist.

Socialism is arrogance. Socialism displays supreme arrogance in the belief that a ruling class of government officials knows better than the dumb masses. You are assuming a point in dispute by insisting that taxation for the purpose of supporting the military is valid. And I see little difference between "socialism" and "totalitarianism." They are both big, intrusive government.

So it also angers me because it is completely ass-backwards - it presents the pro-tax person as the arrogant one, when really it is the self-styled "anti-tax" speaker who is arrogant - either because they stupidly believe their argument is right and feel justified in painting their opponent as stupid; or because they Machiavellianly use it as an ad homenim attack to beat someone about the head with (yes, that's really what it feels like - metaphorically speaking!) in full knowledge that it is a bogus argument.

You throw a lot of labels around here but don't back it up with anything. The pro-tax argument is the arrogant one becuase it follows the arrogant belief that government officials know better how others' money should be spent. This is not a "bogus" argument, it is a simple one. You call this argument "bogus," but you don't support why you think that. Instead, you call Libertarians "arrogant" (instead of calling their arguments arrogant -- i.e., this is an ad hominem), you imply that they are "stupid" and (this floors me) "Machiavellian." And you paint them as abusive in that they would "beat" someone with an argument they know is "bogus." I've rarely seen such a diatribe so pervaded with slander. Instead of responding to the argument, you whine about how "angry" you feel and descend into ad hominems (something you've accused your opponent of doing). You never did respond to the argument that taxation is arrogant. The argument that it is arrogant is simple. What is your argument that it is not?
-- Dare not to be in agony, but in truffles!
[ Parent ]

You need to abandon that word (3.75 / 4) (#44)
by jajuka on Sun Aug 12, 2001 at 05:35:08 PM EST

I think everyone should just stop trying to use the words argument and debate as if they were equivalent. Whether it has the official meaning or not, the fact is that argument has a very strong emotional connotation. Argument = fight in most peoples minds, you can debate until the sun explodes and you'll never change that.

As for why some people can't have a debate without becoming overly emotionally involved, I'll offer this thought. It's probably more common among serious internet users than in the population at large, but there are certain people who's entire self worth is tied up in their intellect. They aren't (or at least dont feel) beautiful, athletic, artistic, or whatever, but they think they're pretty smart. This is all they feel they have to set themselves apart, to justify their use of oxygen, to take pride in....

I think this type of person generally understands, and even appreciates the value of debate on some levels. But to someone who's entire self worth is based on their intellect, having someone else expose the flaws in one's thinking is often a painfull experience. They prefer to figure them out on their own. When it happens in a public forum, well it should be obvious how bad that can be. Making someone like that feel stupid is, at least emotionally speaking, about the worst thing you can do to them.

What percentage of bad behaviour in online debates this type of thing accounts for I don't pretend to know, it's probably pretty low, but I think it's definitely present.

On the other hand (3.00 / 1) (#65)
by Locando on Mon Aug 13, 2001 at 04:30:44 AM EST

Debate can have the connotation of something formalised and following a set of rules, as with Oxford debate or something along those lines. The way people argue on K5 does not seem to resemble this in any manner, so I would think that using 'debate' would feel a bit inaccurate. Besides, an argument is a fight. Two contesting ideologies duke it out. Both will often come out looking equally beaten, but each will say "but you should have seen how the other point of view looked..." Seems like a good analogy to me.

People are strange.
[ Parent ]
Emotional 'bullying' as a form of argument (4.33 / 9) (#52)
by hillct on Sun Aug 12, 2001 at 06:57:48 PM EST

You site two main faults you see in what you consider to be 'bad argument' which 'wrecks it for the rest of us'. First, you consider ad hominem attacks to be 'bad argument, and there, I agree with you. Ad hominem attacks do not have any persuasive value. Emotional 'bullying' does - and I take issue with your use of 'bullying' to describe this style of argumentation.

It is important, when developing your argument, to understand your audience. If that audience will be swayed by emotional argument, it is important as a participent in a debate, to use that. All good orators use emotional argument, if they feel, either that their audience wwill not be swayed by a logical argument, or, their audience is at a lower intelectual level than the presenter, and would be unable to fully comprehend the logical argument. This of course has the side effect of potentially insulting the audience, which is generally negitive, in the event the audience understands that they are being appealed to on an emotional level. As such, use of emotional argument, while it may be effective in certain cases, carries certain risks, such as alienating the target audience.

I have no desire to surn this debate about argumentation into a debate about abortion, but that issue is a convenient example of emotional versus logical argument

The chief argument of the pro-choice lobby is that a woman has a right to choose what happens in her body. The pro-life argument is that abortion is murder of a fetus; murder is wrong, ipso facto abortion is wrong.

These arguments are emotional arguments - not only that, they are completely disjoint, like trains passing in the night, the resolution of one argument will not be coincident with the resolution of the other. This is the value of emotional argument. The arguments are framed in such a way that no matter how much both sides might wish to resolve the issue, they will not succeed, because the two sides are not arguing the same issue.

Again, emotional argument is perfectly legitimate form of argument, provided the orator is not seeking a resolution, but simply trying to make his position known.

This is the flaw in your premise. You assume that all parties to a debate seek to - through argument - come to a resolution of the issue under consideration. They may wish to simply present their position and leave the forum, not actually enguaging in the debate.

It might be said that such people are not confident in the strength of the position they are arguing for, and are not willing to have to concede the issue. This should be acceptable, however those enguaging in the debate may wish not to consider the opinions of those not willing to participate in the debate.

It is also possible that these people might have some reason to feel they will be personally humiliated if they enguage in the debate and have their position proven (in some way) invalid. This would be a reflection on the forum of for debate and perhaps the other participents in the debate - perhaps due to the risk of ad hominem attack, which we both agree is inappropriate in these forums, but make a great deal more likely due to the shroud of anonymity aforded by the internet.

--CTH


--Got Lists? | Top 31 Signs Your Spouse Is A Spy
Another reason for ad hominem attacks (3.00 / 2) (#54)
by khym on Sun Aug 12, 2001 at 07:18:45 PM EST

One reason some people engage in ad hominem attacks is that they think their side is obviously right. If, after being exposed to their brilliant and lucid argument that any five year old could understand, you fail to agree with them, it can't be possibly because you still believe their side to be wrong; you must believe (consciously or unconsciously) that they are right, yet you still continue to advocate/do the wrong thing. The only type of person who would do the wrong thing when knowing it's wrong is evil; thus, you deserve to be insulted.



--
Give a man a match, and he'll be warm for a minute, but set him on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life.
You missed a few things (3.25 / 4) (#57)
by bediger on Sun Aug 12, 2001 at 08:45:07 PM EST

I've been around a while, and I've seen the folks you seem to speak of mainly in usenet. I have to admit that I've baited those silly pinheads myself, both for fun, and in anger.

But I think you've missed a few reasons why such people behave as they do. In no particular order:

  1. Mental illness. I believe that mental illness causes a lot of the bizarre, "ballistic" behavior one sees in usenet forums. Usenet and other electronic forums don't give any participant a lot of the non-verbal cues we'd use to avoid nutbars in real life, or to avoid acting nutty. I also think that a lot more folks have mental illnesses than generally supposed.
  2. "On the internet, nobody knows you're a dog." The relative anonymity or pseudonymity of on-line forums encourages folks to act a bit more extremly than they do ordinarily. This probably constitutes a contributing factor, rather than a primary factor, like mental illness.
  3. Lack of etiquette - I don't mean that folks don't follow etiquette, but rather that the on-line manners we have developed don't comprise a system as comprehensive as real-life manners. That makes it easier for people like me to bait pompous asses like Stephen Boursy, or to torque up sub-humans like John Grubor. I personally use wordings in usenet posts that I wouldn't dare to use in real life. Basically, in real life, I would never accuse anyone of deliberate, flat lying. In usenet postings, I don't hesitate.
  4. Lack of boundaries. We have mechanisms for keeping crazies from Preaching bizzaro, heretical doctrines in malls and the naves of churches. We don't have very effective mechanisms in on-line forums. Folks like Robert E. McElwaine post about Jumbo Cosmospheres in usenet forums related to astronomy, and inadvertantly provoke ordinary folks to go ballistic on the topic of Jumbo Cosmospheres or Larsonian physics. If on-line forums had the kind of boundaries that real life has, rants about "Eck" or plants with cosmic consciousness would get confined to the on-line equivalent of a soapbox in a park, rather than given the credence of a master's thesis.


-- I am Spartacus.
crazies (none / 0) (#111)
by sulphuroxide on Tue Aug 14, 2001 at 05:28:40 AM EST

uhm... personally, i think ppl post crazy things just for fun.. and that everyone is mostly capitable of behaving themselves. if they arent, then they're probably out doing something stupid getting themselves killed or arrested.

this whole on going discussion is kinda silly. i mean, no one can really help stopping silly posts.. in anycase its hard to decide where silly ends and clever-sarcasm (or whatever) begins... certainly that means taking in account the author's intentions... but so far, no one has really offered any decisive way to discover an author's intentions. everyone just assumes the intentions... immaturity, the inate ability to think clearly... (not even the original poster logan has done so).

yet i cant help myself. i dont think anyone's said this yet, so let me offer a reason why extreme feelings dont work for an online discussion. basically online discussions involve nothing but words. and words, in their often subtle ways, create shades of meaning which as so many people have noted 'model reality'. yet feelings being 'pre-linguistic', if you will, also 'model reality'... though feelings offer a different understanding of what is going on...

basically, because the two (words and feelings) do not generally mix... and people generally arent sophisticated to deal with both at the same time... we get discussions which switch paradigms... and become rag-fests and whatnot.

of course, im talking about discussions where the respondants actually try to address each other's points rationally... debates, such as the presidental ones on tv, can operate on a totally emotional level... in which the so called 'rational content' is only an expressional filter and not the basic mode of operation =)

[ Parent ]
NO, I AM SPARTACUS!!!!! (none / 0) (#151)
by Mr PoundKey on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 01:55:08 PM EST

#####

[ Parent ]
A rational model for debating (4.37 / 8) (#58)
by tmoertel on Mon Aug 13, 2001 at 12:12:25 AM EST

When I participate in a debate, I use a simple model to help keep the debate productive (and myself honest). I call the model "The Rational Model of Debating," and the glorified title makes me feel better about using it, although the model itself is rather simple:
  • The motivation for debating is to arrive at a better understanding of reality (i.e., the truth).
  • All participants share this motivation.
  • All participants are intelligent, rational human beings fully capable of drawing logical conclusions from facts.
  • The reason for disagreements is not because participants want to disagree but rather because their understandings of the facts differ.
  • Therefore, the objective of debating is to share facts until the participants' understandings are sufficiently in alignment that agreement or at least consensus is possible.
That's the model.

I should emphasize that it is a model, and I don't try to fool myself into thinking that it approximates reality. Rather, when I debate, I debate as if the model were reality, knowing full well that it is not.

The primary reason that I do this is because it allows me to participate efficiently and earnestly. Many otherwise hopeless debates have been restored to usefulness because of a single person who steadfastly refused to do anything but contribute in earnest.

Nevertheless, debates often go wrong. And that's the second reason I use the model. The model gives me something to compare with the debate at hand so that problems are easy to spot and classify. If a key participant refuses to accept demonstrated facts, for example, the problem is easy to see and classify: It's a debate killer. I know that there is no point in continuing. The debate is dead. Time to move on.

The model isn't perfect, but it does help me use my time effectively. I use to model to make sure that I behave in a manner that steers the debate toward a productive outcome, increasing the likelihood that the time I and the other participants have invested will have been worthwhile. And when a productive outcome is impossible, the model helps me spot the futility of the debate when it's early enough to do something about it.

If more people would use a model like this when debating, the problems described in the original story would largely be eliminated. I know it will never happen, but that's okay: I've got the Model to keep me out of pointless debates. ;-)

--
My blog | LectroTest

[ Disagree? Reply. ]


A minor point... (5.00 / 1) (#66)
by JetJaguar on Mon Aug 13, 2001 at 04:33:16 AM EST

I like your model, but I don't think you give it enough credit. If a model does not approximate reality, then the model is useless. Your debate model is a good approximation of reality for cases where it does not go awry, and when it does, you've learned something about the short-comings of your model.

On a more tangential point, there seems to be a lot of people today that have this "mystical" idea that reality always exists slightly beyond our reach, which really isn't true at all. Yes, we create simplified models of reality all the time, but we do so with full knowledge that reality is far more complex than any model will allow, but that doesn't mean that all the aspects of the real world are beyond our perception. If it were the case that reality existed beyond our perception, then we wouldn't be able to tell when or where our models fail.

Back on topic, you're right that if people used such a model for debates then less trouble would ensue, but many debates that occur in the big blue room, really aren't debates, The people "debating" an issue have already made up their minds. The "debate" is nothing more than a show to manipulate an audience and score points rather than an effort to build any real consensus of ideas.

[ Parent ]

Argument? (5.00 / 6) (#60)
by Kasreyn on Mon Aug 13, 2001 at 01:28:52 AM EST

"Look, an argument isn't just contradiction."
"Well it can be..."
"No it can't! An argument is an intellectual process. Contradiction is just the... automatic gainsaying of anything the other person says!"
"No it isn't!"
"Yes it is!!"

...sorry, couldn't resist. ;-P


-Kasreyn


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
Why some people are violent (4.00 / 4) (#67)
by tcdk on Mon Aug 13, 2001 at 04:46:27 AM EST

Kind of off-topic, but in the same ballpark...

There's was an articele in Scientific Americal April 2001 (it's mentionen here. The article it self isn't online). About how the usually helt idea that violent people have low self esteem is wrong and that it's basicly the other way around.

I don't have to article with me, but the short of it was that people who turn to violence (which can probably be translated to the threats and personal abuse/flames one can experience online) when they are "loosing" arguments, arent people with low self esteem. They just turn tail between their legs and go home. No, it's the people with inflated self esteem, that can't tolerate that they arent winning. Their self esteem is so important to them, that they can't believe that they are actually loosing, which then threatens their self esteem, which is kind of the only thing holding them together/up.

I've given copies of this article to all the people-people (mainly teachers), that I know.

It's the kind of article that makes people go: "Wow, why didn't anybody figure that out before this? It's just so logical!".

TC
--
TC / http://sfbook.com

Easy; that's not self-esteem (4.00 / 2) (#75)
by afeldspar on Mon Aug 13, 2001 at 12:35:36 PM EST

...the usually helt idea that violent people have low self esteem is wrong and that it's basicly the other way around. [...] it's the people with inflated self esteem, that can't tolerate that they arent winning. Their self esteem is so important to them, that they can't believe that they are actually loosing, which then threatens their self esteem, which is kind of the only thing holding them together/up.

Then I'd strongly challenge the notion that this can be called "self-esteem" in any true sense of the word. This is quite clearly "other-esteem" that means so much to them: not their own sense that they have value and worth, but their perception that others esteem them.

As well, it's important to note the difference between "self-esteem" and "self-confidence" (because this is a difference about which many unhappy people are confused.) Self-confidence is confidence about one's chances to succeed, confidence in one's abilities, while self-esteem is belief in one's worth -- which is not dependent on those abilities.

This is why people with real self-esteem can accept being wrong in an argument, and even go into an argument looking forward to being proven wrong; they do not have anything to lose. They know they remain valuable and worthwhile people even if they are mistaken in a belief, and if someone proves them wrong, they get to learn, and experience the pleasure of learning.


-- For those concerned about the "virality" of the GPL, a suggestion: Write Your Own Damn Code.
[ Parent ]

I don't see ... (none / 0) (#107)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Tue Aug 14, 2001 at 12:19:45 AM EST

... why someone couldn't be led to question the value they gave to the variable "my worth" after, in their own metric of reality, they "loose" an argument. Might go something like: I lost, people that are worth a lot are the ones that succeed, therefore I'm not worth as much as them, so I need to reduce the value on the variable "my worth" in order to make it more realistic. Fuck that! I know I'm fucking worthy! I'm the worthyest fucking person on the whole damned planet! That son of a bitch mother fucker must have pulled some rhetoric bull shit on me. Fuck him! He sucks, and so does anyone that believes that kind of bull shit.

Of course it might go differently. That was just a simulation. :)



[ Parent ]

So... (3.40 / 5) (#72)
by mattbee on Mon Aug 13, 2001 at 09:16:28 AM EST

I am speaking mainly of those that inexplicably and inevitably get emotional about every argument. They may be capable of holding a reasonable debate initially, but, when their opponents refuse to concede their position, they resort to ad hominem attacks and emotional bullying

Yes, rowing with your girlfriend is painful, but no, trying to rationalize things by starting a k5 discussion won't get you anywhere :-) Unexpected gifts work well, or a surprise trip to the seaside.

hth, Matthew



human behavior... (3.00 / 3) (#79)
by d0rkchic on Mon Aug 13, 2001 at 01:00:54 PM EST

I too know of these people of whom you speak. I also know a little bit about human behavior as a student of not only computer science, but of psychology as well. I would like to bring to notice something that wasnt heavily touched upon in your article. I believe that a big drive behind the way that these people react is the desire for control. With the internet especially (beware, I'm going to generalize bigtime here) many people feel that they can exersize some form of control through this medium that they do not have in their normal every day lives. Through discussion forums in particular, control can be exercised in being the dominant participant in a debate and end up in irrational lashings out and flamings. One can be a message board god (or goddess) and reign over the debatable land when one is really an introvert with a computer and an internet connection. -Just my two cents


Do you chat to your mother with those fingers?
um, yeah... (1.25 / 4) (#80)
by flummox on Mon Aug 13, 2001 at 01:15:20 PM EST

any attempt to "figure out" why someone does anything is an exercise in futility.

just enjoy the website. enjoy "argueing" with people in the forums. no offense to your "article", but i don't think this place would be any "fun" if everyone agreed to exactly the same things... is this the point of the website? to allow different people to express their ideas? seems kinda stupid for people who think the same to have a debate about something?

later,

cap'n flummox


...bring me my cheese...

did I miss something? (3.00 / 2) (#82)
by ChannelX on Mon Aug 13, 2001 at 03:01:15 PM EST

Did the original poster say that everyone should agree on the same things? I thought the article was calling for more rational debates and not the typical garbage one sees in newsgroups like comp.lang.java.advocacy.

[ Parent ]
no, you didn't miss anything (none / 0) (#86)
by flummox on Mon Aug 13, 2001 at 04:39:40 PM EST

i did...

i don't think i understood the cause of this person's article.

sorry. nevermind. i rescind my original posting.

i think i'm just off today...

later,

cap'n flummox


...bring me my cheese...

[ Parent ]
no problem (1.00 / 1) (#105)
by ChannelX on Tue Aug 14, 2001 at 12:05:38 AM EST

heh. interesting that someone rated my posting as a 2 ;)

[ Parent ]
that's bait... (none / 0) (#140)
by flummox on Wed Aug 15, 2001 at 03:35:22 PM EST

i'm not biting today...

...bring me my cheese...

[ Parent ]
A Nihilist's retort (2.66 / 3) (#84)
by mvsgeek on Mon Aug 13, 2001 at 04:23:00 PM EST

The bulk of the article strikes me as a refreshing (and admirable) view on the nature of discussion and argument. What Logan fails to realize is that emotional arguments are often of great importance to people. We're not computers, or machines, capable of mechanical rational consideration about every and any issue. People will often do things to make themselves feel better, will often hold a belief that makes them comfortable, rational or not. Would you be willing to go out and tell a Christian or a Muslim that his religion is "wrong" ? You may not believe it, you may even have a plethora of evidence, studies, and statistics all "proving" his/her beliefs to be no more than a chid's fairy tale crafted for political control.
Rational discourse has it's place in commonly accepted "rational" topics, to me these are things that I can quantify and prove with a highly skeptical and objective methodology (the scientific method as it would be). Any other argument falls into the grey area of ethics, morality, speculation and is where I no longer believe in "right" or "wrong", "good" or "bad", it all depends on context. There is no "right" way to argue logan, no "correct" way to be argumentative, it depends what your expectations from the discussion are.
  • Wanna to start a holy war ? Use emotional arguments.
  • Wanna end a conversation ? Use personal attacks.
  • Wanna discuss sort algorithms ? Use mathematical arguments.
  • These are those that assert that there are no absolutes, nothing can be proved, and thustheir opponents must be wrong for insisting that they are correct.
    Well, I may disagree with your insisting that you are correct but, I definately don't think you're wrong either, since there I don't believe you can be either right or wrong anyway, you just have a point of view.
    What point is there in holding a discussion with a person that believes that nothing can be known?
    We're probably the only ones who are truly emotionally seperated from any argument. A breath of "real" rationality perhaps ? ;)
    - mvsgeek
    Two problems. (none / 0) (#96)
    by Count Zero on Mon Aug 13, 2001 at 06:36:07 PM EST

    Why you can't properly agrue based on emotions:

    Person 1: I assert X.

    Person 2: X is wrong, because I do not like it.

    End of discussion, gee we sure accomplished a ton there. :-)

    Why it is pointless to hold a debate with one who believes there are no absolute truths:

    Person 1: I assert X.

    Person 2: There are no absolute truths, therefore there is no way to determine the correctness of X.

    Same result. While if every Internet debate went this way, it would save a ton of bandwidth, it would greatly reduce our intellectual stimulation. Of course, if you are stating that a Nihilist can more effectively play devil's advocate by temporarly accepting the possibility of truth for the sake of the argument, I can accept that as reasonable.

    [ Parent ]
    Normally I wouldn't bother writing a reply to this (2.55 / 9) (#87)
    by DranoK 420 on Mon Aug 13, 2001 at 05:01:46 PM EST

    But I have nothing better to do right now, and the article is sitting here on the front page like a silly freckled gnome smiling out at the miniture world.

    First, *smack* *smack* *smack* *smack*. That was for writing this in the first place. This poor soul must be exponentially more bored than I am now to write this slithering discertation into guess-games and hypothetical rhetoric concerning not only specific aquantances, but generalized blather drooling over humanity as a whole and the consequences of imagined actions upon an imagined solipsistic society which seems to exist only in the author's brain. *gasp*

    Of course, Mr. Author, we all subscribe to your moral code. We all believe what you believe, and we all endevor to become your archetypal perfect debater. Of course, I'm only being sarcastic here.

    Now then...and I feel a few more smacks coming up here...what to say about this... Well, before I get back to smacking let's go ahead and state the most blatent idiocy in this article:

    First and foremost, we need to govern our own behavior. If you find yourself getting emotionally involved in a discussion, perhaps you should take a break. Examine the nature and cause of your emotions before going on the offensive, and always think before you post.

    Ah, yes, the almighty rational God! Because, of course humans *must* be rational to be taken seriously. Of course humans *must* restrain their emotions and act stoically in a discussion. We must *NEVER* allow our emotions to rule an argument. This is wrong. Why? Apparently because the author says its wrong.

    You see, not-quite-friend, you assume in the wonderfly blinded way you view the world, that the societal invention of 'rationality' must be the One True Path to self-righteous salvation; that right and wrong can be described as how Vulcan-like one approaches a debate.

    Foolish human. He can't even see the different distortions of reality among his own race! -- let alone his entire species. *smack* *smack* *smack* *smack* *smack*

    Blake believed, much as I do, that restraint is an imaginary force; that if one does not take a certain action it is merely because his desire to take such action was not strong enough. The desire *not* to take such an action is so vastly stronger than the desire to act, in-action becomes action. Restraint. Stoicism. Blake would snicker at you from beyond the grave.

    Thank Pluto I'm here now to snicker at you: snicker

    Of course Blake offers only one of an infinite quantity of reflections of reality; you, however, offer only the same. One viewpoint.

    And in your supreme hubris you expect all humanity, or at least all of K5, to see the world through your blinders as well.

    If only there were enough bytes in the world available to finish smacking you...

    *smack* *smack* *smack* *smack* *smack*

    Cheers!

    DranoK


    Poetry is simply a convenient excuse for incoherence.


    Thank You For Illustrating My Point (3.25 / 4) (#90)
    by Logan on Mon Aug 13, 2001 at 06:13:27 PM EST

    I spoke less of some mystical "one way" to debate, and more about what attributes of debate serve to either contribute or interfere with the participants' ability to gain knowledge from a debate. Thus one can clearly see that I am not speaking of moral codes, but rather attempting to evaluate what good is served by participating in a debate and how certain types of behavior interfere with that good.

    I did not even once raise the issue of ethics, yet you immediately attribute to me certain commandments. Not once did I make a single moral claim. Yet you speak as if I have attempted to lay down obligations which every debater must follow. I would be concerned that my communication skills have failed me tragically, if not for the fact that you seem to be the only individual that I have observed that is deluded in this manner.

    You seem to take objection at my usage of the word "restraint." While I philosophically agree with you regarding the nature of "restraint," I see no reason why my use of the word is improper. After all, I debate to further my knowledge. If I must "restrain" myself, am I not just reminding myself of my own goals in an argument? When emotions tempt me to behave foolishly, a quick reassessment of my true desires will surely tell me that it is better for me to behave in a more mature manner.

    Logan

    [ Parent ]

    No, sadly, you miss the entire point (1.75 / 4) (#118)
    by DranoK 420 on Tue Aug 14, 2001 at 01:05:37 PM EST

    The fact that you write such nonsense illustrates to me your ... I can't even think of a word which means vilest of the vile ... well, vile arrogance toward your own viewpoint on life.

    You are so ignorant and foolish you can't even see the other points of view! What a pitiful example of humanity!

    I laugh in your face.

    *snicker*

    DranoK


    Poetry is simply a convenient excuse for incoherence.


    [ Parent ]
    Ignore Dranok (2.50 / 2) (#128)
    by JetJaguar on Tue Aug 14, 2001 at 07:37:31 PM EST

    Logan,

    Dranok isn't interested in exchanging ideas, he's only interested in tearing down everyone else's ideas (he's said so himself on at least one occaision). Meanwhile he lives his life in a self-constructed quagmire of pseudo-intellectual nonsense (if you don't believe me, take a look at his other posts). You only need to read a few of his responses to realize that he's only interested in puffing up his ego by belittling those he deems less than himself. He rarely contributes one iota of constructive criticism, all he wants to do is destroy. It's rare that you can really communicate with people like that. They generally think they have everything all figured out, because they already have all the answers at their finger tips. In reality, he really doesn't know jack. He's the kind of person that would argue with a stop sign, and get off on it. If we're lucky, he might grow up in a few more years, maybe about the time he reaches his mid-twenties. But for now, he's just a little shit that might've read a little philosophy and now believes that he has great intelligence and the amazing "ability" to project additional flaws into other peoples' arguments, regardless of whether or not they are really there. Self-delusions are fun! :)

    -Jet

    [ Parent ]

    For a while you were actually accurate (1.00 / 1) (#143)
    by DranoK 420 on Wed Aug 15, 2001 at 07:37:31 PM EST

    But then you strayed off. Let's take this one chunk at a time.

    Dranok isn't interested in exchanging ideas, he's only interested in tearing down everyone else's ideas (he's said so himself on at least one occaision).

    Ding! Someone's been paying attention! Woot! =)

    Meanwhile he lives his life in a self-constructed quagmire of pseudo-intellectual nonsense (if you don't believe me, take a look at his other posts). You only need to read a few of his responses to realize that he's only interested in puffing up his ego by belittling those he deems less than himself.

    Well, I, of course, would argue with you, but it seems pointless. This is your opinion of me. I have no problems with that. =)

    He rarely contributes one iota of constructive criticism, all he wants to do is destroy.

    Yes, yes yes yes YES! You do understand, don't you?!? I'm glad someone does.

    t's rare that you can really communicate with people like that. They generally think they have everything all figured out, because they already have all the answers at their finger tips. In reality, he really doesn't know jack.

    You were doing so good! Why did you stop here? Of course I don't know jack -- that's rather my point. Humanity is an ignorant, foolish, pitiful species. We know nothing. Zilch. Nada. If I am superior it is simply because I don't pretend to have god-like wisdom. Think about it, you stated it yourself: I never add to a discussion; I only destroy. As I admittedly know nothing, and believe nobody else knows anything either, it is rather simple to do. See? It makes sense. You of all people should understand this, Jet. You've come closer to understanding my motives than anyone else here.

    He's the kind of person that would argue with a stop sign, and get off on it. If we're lucky, he might grow up in a few more years, maybe about the time he reaches his mid-twenties.

    I have grown up. You'd have loved me when I was a teen. Debate club. Christian youth clubs. Charity work! I got a full-ride scholarship because of how good I was to society. Honor role, awards for outstanding citizenship -- then I realized how much I really hated humanity. I realized just how worm-like I viewed other people, and dropped out of college, and decided to be a jack-ass. See, I grew up *into* this -- I'm not bloody likely to revert. Just a FYI here.

    But for now, he's just a little shit that might've read a little philosophy and now believes that he has great intelligence and the amazing "ability" to project additional flaws into other peoples' arguments, regardless of whether or not they are really there. Self-delusions are fun! :)

    *sigh* You fail to understand me because you refuse to understand me. It's my own fault, I suppose. Trusting a pathetic human with the delusion that a pitiful worm could understand my thoughts -- I do not believe myself to hold great intelligence. I have very few admirable abilities. If I am superior, it is not because of my greatness, but because of other's inferiority. If I am superior for seeing everyone's life-long struggle to life, liberty and happiness -- of seeing everyone's goals and purpose and wretched cum-stained politics -- as the imagined shit of ineffable delusion, then so be it. But I do not view myself as superior. I view myself as a pathetic member of a silly inept species. If I am superior, it is merely because of your inferiority.

    Nice try Jet. You show a spark of hope. Maybe someday you will realize the futility of rationality and flame me for being the asshole I am.

    Cheers!

    DranoK


    Poetry is simply a convenient excuse for incoherence.


    [ Parent ]
    Impass (none / 0) (#149)
    by JetJaguar on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 12:37:09 PM EST

    We are at an impass then, as I'm sure you can see. Which is precisely why I said to ignore you.

    In my view, a nihilistic position has a lot to answer for. You disallow rationality, you disallow knowledge, and you take potshots at the "witchdoctors" of science, and yet the products of the rational process surround you, and have probably directly or indirectly saved your life (as well as millions of others). From the computer you use, to the car you drive, to the medical treatment your mother recieved before you were born, to modern farming and food production, to etc, etc. All these things were arrived at via rational means, and all of them rely on some form of knowledge building on top of knowledge. So you either have a very different concept of what knowledge and rationality is, or something very peculiar has been going on since the beginning of our recorded history (and before that as well). Either way, you have a lot of explaining to do. And, of course, I realize that you have no interest in doing that. By the way, I am not implying that you should somehow be grateful for these things, or that you should, as you might put it, "bow down at the alter of rationality." I'm merely asking you to explain how they came about, if not by rational means, then how?

    Deciding that humanity is a stupid, worthless mass (and in many ways I'm inclined to agree with you) does not justify your position that nothing is knowable, or that even you know nothing. And for the record, based on the account you've given of yourself, I probably would've hated you as a teen, much more so, than I am likely to now. You seem to want to require humanity to posess some kind of perfection before allowing it to acquire any sort of redeemable (not necessarily redeeming) value, and you assume that those of us in the rational camp arrogantly presume that humanity inherently posesses such qualities. That's a pretty bad misinterpretation of the rational point of view....although I know quite a number of "rationals" that also misinterpret that point, so you're not alone there.

    If I am superior for seeing everyone's life-long struggle to life, liberty and happiness -- of seeing everyone's goals and purpose and wretched cum-stained politics -- as the imagined shit of ineffable delusion, then so be it.

    So you claim to know nothing, but you can tell when everyone else is suffering from delusions? How do you know you're not suffering from a different delusion? Careful now, you're starting to sound very much like you think you might actually know something, and may quite possibly be harboring some primitive rational thoughts..even if they are nothing more than constructions of your own imagination, just as everyone's life-long struggle for life, liberty and happiness may be nothing more than a collective imaginative construction. If you know nothing, then who are you to judge a collective construction? Other than merely being a self-proclaimed asshole, you have no other justification for it (and you would probably say that you don't need any other, which is your right).

    Which brings me back to your final point, and my original one. I know you are merely being an asshole, and really aren't interested in anything else. So why should anyone bother responding to you?

    One final point, a question: Why is it that nearly all nihilists/existentialists are such assholes? Camus, Sartre, there was one other guy that slips my mind, they were all major assholes. There's nothing in nihilism or the premises of existentialism that require it. You can construct your world to be whatever you want it to be, and yet you choose to make yourself a righteous dick. Why? It's almost as though you choose that philosophy so you can be an asshole and not have to feel bad about it. If that's what you want to do, fine, but don't expect all that many people to join you, or respect you (not that I'd expect you to care that much if they did).

    -Jet

    [ Parent ]

    OK then (none / 0) (#152)
    by DranoK 420 on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 02:28:18 PM EST

    In my view, a nihilistic position has a lot to answer for. You disallow rationality, you disallow knowledge, and you take potshots at the "witchdoctors" of science, and yet the products of the rational process surround you, and have probably directly or indirectly saved your life (as well as millions of others). From the computer you use, to the car you drive, to the medical treatment your mother recieved before you were born, to modern farming and food production, to etc, etc. All these things were arrived at via rational means, and all of them rely on some form of knowledge building on top of knowledge. So you either have a very different concept of what knowledge and rationality is, or something very peculiar has been going on since the beginning of our recorded history (and before that as well). Either way, you have a lot of explaining to do. And, of course, I realize that you have no interest in doing that. By the way, I am not implying that you should somehow be grateful for these things, or that you should, as you might put it, "bow down at the alter of rationality." I'm merely asking you to explain how they came about, if not by rational means, then how?

    In your rational world you unquestionably assume that all these things are good, as if 'good' can actually exist. Obviously with billions of people living in a shared illusion of reality technological/philisophical/ethical standards and innovations will be made. This does not make them any more real, and in my view give them any more merit. No, I couldn't survive without the 'rational' society. But this is not my failing -- it is the fault of being raised in a self-delusional society. Simply because we fail to understand or comprehend what reality would look like without our delusions or rationality doesn't mean we're right. How ignorant to think such nonsense.

    Deciding that humanity is a stupid, worthless mass (and in many ways I'm inclined to agree with you) does not justify your position that nothing is knowable, or that even you know nothing. And for the record, based on the account you've given of yourself, I probably would've hated you as a teen, much more so, than I am likely to now. You seem to want to require humanity to posess some kind of perfection before allowing it to acquire any sort of redeemable (not necessarily redeeming) value, and you assume that those of us in the rational camp arrogantly presume that humanity inherently posesses such qualities. That's a pretty bad misinterpretation of the rational point of view....although I know quite a number of "rationals" that also misinterpret that point, so you're not alone there.

    Wrong. And this is coming from my unavoidable 'rational' part of my mind here, so I'll probably regret saying this in a few hours. I don't want humanity to posess perfection. I don't want humanity to strive toward perfection. It's pitiful as we define perfection in our own standards -- it's not some constant waiting to be discovered. I want humanity to realize how pathetic they are. I want humanity to realize the biological reality of being nothing more than a hairless mammal. And here comes the rational thing: I think if society as a whole humanity would be better off in terms of violence, abuse, terror, etc, etc, etc -- but all that's beside the point. Although my rational mind claims such an environment would be better, I know that I am simply passing judgement on things as to good or bad -- something I do a lot, we all do, but usually try to remember that it is simply a percieved notion of reality created by my mind inspired by society and bearing no more weight on reality than a chocolate sunday on Jupiter. That said, let's get down to what is relevant.

    As I said, I don't want humanity to strive toward perfection. This is almost as silly as religion. Combined with the realization that almost everything anyone says is irrelevant perception, this makes it quite easy (and fun!) to put down argument after argument after argument as...well...furry-nosed reaking dog shit.

    So you claim to know nothing, but you can tell when everyone else is suffering from delusions? How do you know you're not suffering from a different delusion? Careful now, you're starting to sound very much like you think you might actually know something, and may quite possibly be harboring some primitive rational thoughts..even if they are nothing more than constructions of your own imagination, just as everyone's life-long struggle for life, liberty and happiness may be nothing more than a collective imaginative construction. If you know nothing, then who are you to judge a collective construction? Other than merely being a self-proclaimed asshole, you have no other justification for it (and you would probably say that you don't need any other, which is your right).

    It's harder than you think to rid yourself of rational thoughts. And I never said rationality was primitive. Of course I have rational thoughts. Most of my thoughts are rational. Jesus, I don't think I'd even have a job if I didn't bow down to my idol of logical thought. That doesn't mean I have to like it. And for a few minutes each day, sometimes, I can go full minutes without rationality invading my pathetic slab of neurons. I judge because I can -- because I was unfortunately born to a species who exist almost entirely in mass delusion. Think about it -- if I claim humanity is a pathetic worm-like species, how the fuck can I be any different? Obviously I'm not. I fail to see how this prevents me from seeing other people's stupidity, however.

    Which brings me back to your final point, and my original one. I know you are merely being an asshole, and really aren't interested in anything else. So why should anyone bother responding to you?

    I really have no clue. I wouldn't respond to me. *shrug* You responded. Why?

    One final point, a question: Why is it that nearly all nihilists/existentialists are such assholes? Camus, Sartre, there was one other guy that slips my mind, they were all major assholes. There's nothing in nihilism or the premises of existentialism that require it. You can construct your world to be whatever you want it to be, and yet you choose to make yourself a righteous dick. Why? It's almost as though you choose that philosophy so you can be an asshole and not have to feel bad about it. If that's what you want to do, fine, but don't expect all that many people to join you, or respect you (not that I'd expect you to care that much if they did).

    Again, I don't know. I can't answer for others. I can answer for me, however. Being a dick is fun. It's more productive from my silly rational point of view, as well. People who are easily offended are genereally (from my own experience, of course -- your milage may vary) those who are much more set in a moral code. I hate discussions with Christians. I hate discussions with scientists. I hate discussions that try to have 'merit'. If I flame and act like an asshole, I either 1) get to engage in more flame (which is fun fun fun!) or 2) actually have a relevant conversation with someone who can argue from a point of view other than their own misperceptions of reality.

    You're not quite #2 yet, but close enough to be enjoyable to talk to.

    DranoK


    Poetry is simply a convenient excuse for incoherence.


    [ Parent ]
    Blake was wrong (1.00 / 1) (#97)
    by localroger on Mon Aug 13, 2001 at 06:37:02 PM EST

    Blake believed, much as I do, that restraint is an imaginary force; that if one does not take a certain action it is merely because his desire to take such action was not strong enough. The desire *not* to take such an action is so vastly stronger than the desire to act, in-action becomes action. Restraint. Stoicism. Blake would snicker at you from beyond the grave.

    Unfortunately for Bill B. modern neuroscience has shown that just about every neural pathway is accompanied by a twin going in the opposite direction, and just about every afferent pathway is accompanied by a twin efferent pathway going in the same direction. In other words, at every level our nervous systems operate on a balance between the urge to act and the inhibition of that urge.

    While we may not know the exact mechanisms of consciousness, it's clear that they are very similar to the mechanisms of perception at low levels of abstraction (the cerebral cortex being homogeneous and all that), all of which depend heavily on inhibition to work right. Simple introspection reveals that there are balances at work, if you are sensitive to your own thought processes.

    I doubt if Blake would snicker at the current piece. His own work was a product of its time and philosophy has in many ways moved on. I'm sure he would snicker at you, though, for your presumption.

    I can haz blog!
    [ Parent ]

    Ignorant mammal! (1.80 / 5) (#119)
    by DranoK 420 on Tue Aug 14, 2001 at 01:08:50 PM EST

    Does scientific discovery lead to newfound understanding of human behavior or does newfound understanding of human behaviour lead to scientific discovery?

    In your pit of self-righteous masturbation you seem to fail to realize that almost every scientific 'discovery' is later proven wrong. Just as scientists before us, and scientists before them, what is 'real' constantly changes.

    But, since you worship rationality, why not worship the witchdoctors of science?

    So early in the day...so much snickering to do.

    *snicker*

    DranoK


    Poetry is simply a convenient excuse for incoherence.


    [ Parent ]
    Once again, DranOK is the weakest link...goodbye! (1.00 / 1) (#129)
    by localroger on Tue Aug 14, 2001 at 08:12:42 PM EST

    Given that you chose this particular response:

    Others have rated this comment as follows:
    DranoK 420 1

    ...then nothing else you have to say must be worth much consideration.

    P.S. I wonder why you didn't zero it. Could it be that it's because you can't because you aren't trusted? Imagine, an intellect of your calibre and wit and you can't even manage to acquire 3.5 mojo...

    I can haz blog!
    [ Parent ]

    Oh no! (1.00 / 2) (#138)
    by DranoK 420 on Wed Aug 15, 2001 at 01:14:09 PM EST

    Oh my God no! This can't be! NOOOOOOOOOO!

    Jesus, I don't have a 3.5 mojo? NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

    /me goes in the corner and cries...

    *sniff* No!! NO!! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

    Jesus Christ you fucking fool, do you actually think I care about ratings? Of course flame is modded down. *smack* *smack* *smack*

    Jesus, I have never liked you, but that was starting to change after reading some of your recent stories/posts...but now...

    God, go back to preschool; you could fit in better there.

    DranoK


    Poetry is simply a convenient excuse for incoherence.


    [ Parent ]
    always interesting to see how people respond (2.50 / 2) (#106)
    by ChannelX on Tue Aug 14, 2001 at 12:17:23 AM EST

    You seem to have taken the original posting as a direct attack on yourself. I think at most the original poster wants more interesting debate based on fact and not emotion. By emotion I'm assuming they mean based solely on emotion. Certainly some emotion is warranted...if you're not passionate about the subject whats the point of debating it?

    You, on the other hand, seem to have taken this as a personal affront. Could you stand to be involved in the type of debate the poster is asking for or can you only operate in a flamefest like comp.lang.java.advocacy?

    I'm quite curious as to your attitude because it seems like you read a completely different story than I did. Did you really read the whole thing?

    [ Parent ]

    Not quite... (1.80 / 5) (#120)
    by DranoK 420 on Tue Aug 14, 2001 at 01:16:53 PM EST

    I have taken the original posting as a direct attack on humanity. Just as I hate to see children defecating in public, crackwhores sleeping in their own piss, and presidents riding mammals on a ranch, I find the original article offensive by merely existing.

    comp.lang.java.advocacy? Does it have good flame? Is it topical or non-topical flame? If it's topical it wouldn't hold my interest -- flaming people's use of classes just doesn't seem as much fun.

    As to the question, "Why do I hate this article?" Fair enough. The answer is simple: The bitch who wrote this slimy piece of earwax-covered feces tries as hard as his little mind possibly can to be polite, nice, and considerate. All the while not understanding how arrogant and self-important his views are, or at the very least, could be taken. Hubris. But not wonderful Hubris, or brilliant arrogance, which I love -- no, arrogance wrapped in silk bunnies dripping chocolate compliments and cherry disclaimers; it's rather pathetic.

    DranoK


    Poetry is simply a convenient excuse for incoherence.


    [ Parent ]
    ummm....ok (4.00 / 1) (#124)
    by ChannelX on Tue Aug 14, 2001 at 03:50:56 PM EST

    I have taken the original posting as a direct attack on humanity. Just as I hate to see children defecating in public, crackwhores sleeping in their own piss, and presidents riding mammals on a ranch, I find the original article offensive by merely existing.
    Seems to be a bit of a strong response.
    comp.lang.java.advocacy? Does it have good flame? Is it topical or non-topical flame? If it's topical it wouldn't hold my interest -- flaming people's use of classes just doesn't seem as much fun.
    Topical and non-topical. Has absolutely nothing to do with programming in Java.
    As to the question, "Why do I hate this article?" Fair enough. The answer is simple: The bitch who wrote this slimy piece of earwax-covered feces tries as hard as his little mind possibly can to be polite, nice, and considerate. All the while not understanding how arrogant and self-important his views are, or at the very least, could be taken. Hubris. But not wonderful Hubris, or brilliant arrogance, which I love -- no, arrogance wrapped in silk bunnies dripping chocolate compliments and cherry disclaimers; it's rather pathetic. DranoK
    This is where it gets very funny. Your above response about the original posting seems to making the exact point of the article for the author. Maybe its an attempt to bait the original author and maybe not. Either way the vehemence shown to his point is completely out of proportion to the posting. The only statement I see that might be offensive is: "If the prospect of this seems to offend you, then perhaps you share some of the traits about which I will soon discuss.". The rest of it, as the author points out up front, is simply his opinion and he wishes to hear others thoughts on the subject. You are so offended by the posting that you can't refrain from expletives in order to discuss it? That is the reason I believe your posting isnt truly sincere.

    [ Parent ]
    You replied in 3 parts; here are 3 retorts (1.00 / 3) (#125)
    by DranoK 420 on Tue Aug 14, 2001 at 04:05:58 PM EST

    1) "Seems to be a bit of a strong response"

    So? It's what I felt like writing. There is no substance in your reply, and thus no need to continue this particular thread. Nuff said.

    2) "Topical and non-topical. Has nothing to do with programming in Java"

    I might check it out. There aren't enough flame resources anymore. *nostalgic sigh* I've often considered starting a list dedicated to flame. It'd be hard to get subscribers tho.

    3) "he rest of it, as the author points out up front, is simply his opinion and he wishes to hear others thoughts on the subject."

    Exactly! I am peeved that we live in a world where people actually think their opinions matter. A world where everyone is important, everything is important, and everyone can maintain safe levels of self-confidence by going to self-esteem courses. BULLSHIT. Fuck on a rock in your own salivating venomous anti-love. BOLLOCKS! BOLLOCKS!! BOLLOCKS!!!

    The author is a pussy. That's why he pisses me off.

    Anything this poor man writes spews from sugarless divinity excrement.

    Sincere? *grin* I'm always sincere in anymous flame wars. Only you're not flaming. *sigh* I hate one-way flame wars.

    Cheers!

    DranoK


    Poetry is simply a convenient excuse for incoherence.


    [ Parent ]
    bah..thats bs (3.00 / 3) (#130)
    by ChannelX on Wed Aug 15, 2001 at 12:24:16 AM EST

    Exactly! I am peeved that we live in a world where people actually think their opinions matter. A world where everyone is important, everything is important, and everyone can maintain safe levels of self-confidence by going to self-esteem courses. BULLSHIT. Fuck on a rock in your own salivating venomous anti-love. BOLLOCKS! BOLLOCKS!! BOLLOCKS!!!
    Certainly isnt the world I live in but YMMV.

    The curious thing is that if people's opinions don't matter (to you) wtf are you responding to postings for? Obviously you think your opinions matter or you wouldn't bother. Either that or you're just full of it and you're having fun. Still can't decide which.

    Incidentally I dont think you'd like c.l.j.a too much. Its a flamefest in the modern sense (ie: totally bogus compared to what was before). the amiga advocacy group ruled for flame wars. java.advoc is pretty tame.

    [ Parent ]

    Just because I enjoy what I'm doing (1.00 / 2) (#137)
    by DranoK 420 on Wed Aug 15, 2001 at 01:08:31 PM EST

    doesn't mean I don't have a goal. Pissing people off is more than simple entertainment -- sometimes it shuts them up.

    We live in a pussy world, friend, where everyone seems to think they're important and valuable.

    To me, most of the posters on K5 are dead weight. They have no independant thought.

    Although, despite their relative worthlessness, it is fun to play with them. =)

    DranoK


    Poetry is simply a convenient excuse for incoherence.


    [ Parent ]
    Different types of argument (4.00 / 1) (#101)
    by Stalyn on Mon Aug 13, 2001 at 09:28:50 PM EST

    When I think of an argument I think of it as more as a dialogue then anything else. Two or more people communicating their thoughts and feelings with language. When you delve further into this diaogue you find a distinction.

    There are ones about facts, ie X is Y or Y is X. These are the easiest to be resolved. Facts ars facts. Did Brooks Robinson bat .301 or .267 for a career average? You could look it up and find it was .267, this is something that can not be debated because it is simply a fact.

    Then there are arguments about beliefs. These are much more complex and I consider the most important. They range from moral and ethical to aesthetics. These are not so easily resolved. because beliefs are mostly not based on fact. They stem from personal feelings or emotions. Our personal beliefs rise from our environment, who we interact with, our parents, from personal experience.

    The arguments about beliefs are very personal and emotional. However I find these are the most important arguments because they focus on our behavior. They guide our actions againt each other and the world around us. Ultimately they have the most impact on the future. So how are arguments about belief resolved? Through logical debate? Not likely, only through personal experience and interaction do we modify our own personal beliefs.

    The best thing to do in an debate about belief is to be open minded and understand where the person is coming from. Try to put yourself in their shoes and you will understand their point of view. This will allow yourself to open up your own beliefs and be a more tolerant person.

    Language can be a very confusing thing. What we say and feel are linked to something deeper that can not be communicated through language. Debate should serve more as a tool for looking into the window of someone's soul.




    Put yourself in their shoes... (none / 0) (#112)
    by Obvious Pseudonym on Tue Aug 14, 2001 at 06:53:46 AM EST

    The best thing to do in an debate about belief is to be open minded and understand where the person is coming from. Try to put yourself in their shoes and you will understand their point of view. This will allow yourself to open up your own beliefs and be a more tolerant person.

    Remember: Before you resort to personal insults, always walk a mile in the other person's shoes. That way when you do insult them you will be a mile away and have their shoes...

    Sorry, I just couldn't resist the chance for cheap humour...

    Obvious Pseudonym

    I am obviously right, and as you disagree with me, then logically you must be wrong.
    [ Parent ]

    Enjoyed the post... (4.00 / 1) (#109)
    by dnos on Tue Aug 14, 2001 at 01:49:24 AM EST

    First, if you think about it, a lot of people that post on sites like this, /., etc. are computer geeks without much social skills...but that's probably just a small reason. (not trying to offend anyone, but its mostly the truth...and that isn't necessarily a bad thing, it makes you who you are...you don't need social skills to program algorithms or the like)

    Also, think about the topics that are discussed on sites like this...I think this is the biggest reason. Almost all the arguments are for or against a programming language, operating system, political crap, etc. where there is no definite 'right' or 'wrong'. (anyone up for a religious debate? not possible without eventually arguing....no solid things to discuss, only beliefs)

    Although even with all the possible reasons why ppl do this, its still not all there is. There is no way to decipher human behaviour as a whole. Every person is different....thats why there are no definite laws in psychology.


    Although... (5.00 / 1) (#110)
    by Mad Hughagi on Tue Aug 14, 2001 at 04:47:36 AM EST

    ... I can't say I don't fall under this "spell" as well sometimes (mostly for the childish reasons - *gasp*, it is fun to play the agitator sometimes!), check out the sig:
    HUGHAGI INDUSTRIES

    We don't make the products you like, we make you like the products we make.

    Are you trying to kill me? (5.00 / 5) (#122)
    by one time poster on Tue Aug 14, 2001 at 02:06:27 PM EST

    Disclaimer: I came here via the FARK link. I am predominantly a lurker. I typically spend months watching and reading before making any statements in public. Some discussions, however, prompt me to open my mouth and pray that my foot doesn't magically enter it. I usually wouldn't post on a one-time visit.

    Being a lurker, I have not overtly defined any place on the internet as my home. I do not associate any one online community with my identity because I do not actively participate in the development of that community. I have noticed in my travels that some others, who frequent the same online locations in which I lurk, are frequent posters. I believe that some of these people may come to feel that online locations become a portion of their identity.

    I believe there is a sense of ownership that comes with frequenting a place online or off. After all, the archives of such places are filled with each poster's opinions that define the overall atmosphere of the locale. They also provide the ambiance that either attracts or repels newcomers. This place, for instance, has attracted the likes of me. (Does this say more about me, each of the previous posters, or the topic in general?) At what point does the site become it's own identity and each of the voices in my head an alternate opinion that helps shape some new identity?

    I also believe that the mind is incapable of telling the difference between attacks on it's self and attacks on its body. Physiologically, the effects are the same. The only thing to stop us from entering fight or flight mode is our understanding of our environment. When someone does something to "our home" we feel that we have been personally attacked. We have to be able to tell our selves that the results of the attack are not enough to cause us to die. Our innate inability to do so, I believe, is one cause for the flame fests reported in other posts. Posters enter fight mode to defend their extended selves and the identity they have helped to create.

    Last year, I was a part of a retreat with my company. We went through several team-building exercises to help "bring us together." The one that contributed most to the development of our team involved all 12 of us being given the topic of "brushing your teeth." We were each asked to write down as many words or concepts as we could in a 3 minute period that came to mind as a result of this topic. Unbelievably, there was no single word that was the same on everyone's list.

    At this point the discussion and or argument or one's ability to participate is no longer the issue. Some word or tone in a post became inflammatory or degrading to the reader. Because we are not that other reader, we have no way of knowing what words will set them off. We do not even know what others mean by the words they use. (Think! What do you mean by "what" what do you mean by "do" what do you mean by "you" what do you mean by "mean" what do you mean by "by"…). The degradation of the ensuing discussion might take seconds or even many days and multiple topics. This depends entirely on the subconscious of the individuals involved. What will push one over the edge of reason?

    Throughout nature, the biggest and the meanest won in a fight to the death. With the development of intellect came a change in the types of weapons used to destroy an opponent. The development of language and tools allowed the smaller and weaker to participate. (Think: Rapier vs. Broad Sword). The internet allows us to hide our true selves and become who we think we need to be to protect ourselves from destruction. The models we have for protecting ourselves require wining and losing for to lose is to die.

    I believe flame fests result as the product of our own inability to put ourselves in other peoples' minds. First and foremost, we are accountable to ourselves. I think more of us need to be educated on the difference between a perceived attack on our mind and a threat on our body. We need to take those considerations into account when writing our arguments. Do the words I have used add to the value of the argument or do they add to the potential that some reader might be offended? I am not saying that we need to mind our manners and watch whose toes on which we tread. I'm saying that we can affect the way people respond to our ideas if we consider them carefully prior to sending them out.

    Please excuse my intrusion into your home. And thank you for creating a forum in which I felt comfortable enough to express my views.



    Pot, kettle, black (4.00 / 4) (#123)
    by breaker55 on Tue Aug 14, 2001 at 02:13:55 PM EST

    Hang on, this article is a personal attack on those who disagree with you!

    The Two-Way Street (3.00 / 2) (#126)
    by Scandal on Tue Aug 14, 2001 at 04:45:09 PM EST

    Disclaimer: I'm not anyone's idea of perfect besides my own, and that's only on a good day.

    I cannot say I know why people behave this way -- I can only say with some certainly why I've behaved this way at times when I have.

    Consequently, I'm out of the business of "why"'s.

    I do, however, have an illustration (which is NOT the thing, it's merely a convenient representation of the thing, so please don't think this is some sort of gospel I'm preaching).

    You (Logan) seem to be trying to improve the signal-to-noise ratio in posts and discussions in which you take part. This is not an unworthy goal. I would like to propose, however, an evaluation of that "signal-to-noise" idea.

    Let's call the meaningful discussion the "signal". In other words, the signal is the stuff you personally are interested in. Let's call the other stuff "noise". This would be the attacks, the emotional crap, whatever it is that you don't like.

    Note that the definitions of "signal" and "noise" vary from individual to individual.

    In order to receive the signal, you need to receive whatever is on the channel -- which often includes a lot of noise. Your message here is an attempt to improve the quality of the signal, likely to make it easier to be a "receiver".

    An alternative to improving signal quality, however, is simply becoming a "more sensitive receiver". In other words, if you simply filter out what you call "noise" and respond only to the part that is "signal", you no longer need to worry about the quality of the signal (i.e. the signal-to-noise ratio).

    If you cannot find any signal at all, then don't respond. If there is just a slight bit of "signal", grab onto it and respond to that.

    Granted, there might be tons of noise to filter through. It's not necessarily easy, and I'm certainly no saint on the topic. But I know first-hand that it's a lot easier to change my own viewpoint than someone else's.

    I can't change the broadcast from the radio station, but I can buy a bigger antenna and a better tuner.

    This comes, BTW, almost directly from your second point under "What Can Be Done", so I agree with you in that regard.

    I do not, however, totally agree with your first point. Yes, I agree that we need to govern our own behavior, but governing our own behavior isn't synonymous with being emotionless.

    As for your third point, I can agree with it or not. In an idealistic way, sure, I can agree with it, but I think there are more important things that people need to be educated on. No, I'm not going to offer any here, since that's rather off-topic.

    *grin*

    *Scandal*


    You miss a point (1.00 / 1) (#132)
    by svampa on Wed Aug 15, 2001 at 07:47:21 AM EST

    Yes, there is a lot of people that don't know the purpose of a debate is not win/lose. But a lot of people DO know that the purpose of debate is victory

    A lot of people thinks that every aspect of his/her life is a battle that must be won. Your concept of debate looks ridiculous and coward for them

    Have you ever seen a sportman hitting the oponent because is losing? then you see people in debate using every mean to win, attack ad homine etc.



    Debate? How about Questions? (4.00 / 1) (#135)
    by anonymoushero on Wed Aug 15, 2001 at 11:29:01 AM EST

    Why do people always think that debate is the best way to learn?

    I wouldn't always say that it's a bad way to learn, or even the worst way. But I've always found a thoughtful, well rendered question to be a greater benefit to learning than anything else. Granted a good debate will be full of good questions...

    So, if the internet stimulates debate, what will stimulate good sets of questions?

    I'd love sets of documents like this:
    http://www.garlikov.com/Soc_Meth.html

    -- Ender, Duke_of_URL

    It's a general problem in society (4.50 / 2) (#139)
    by Defiant One on Wed Aug 15, 2001 at 01:17:59 PM EST

    I have definitely experienced this problem both online and off. In fact, I would say it is a common trait of most people, based upon my viewpoint as a trained philosopher and writer.

    I used to spend a lot of time on Usenet, in the philosophy groups, but finally left them as my newbie enthusiasm gave way to seasoned anti-trolling. I don't know how many hours I've spent arguing detailed points online, only to have someone reply with "no it isn't" type responses. Although I got a book out of the experience, I had my share of online fist fights.

    The problem, as I encounter it, is varied; there are certainly a lot of trolls out there with differing skill levels, but the vast majority of people I've argued with both online and offline display an inherent insecurity which is rubbed the wrong way when someone questions their convictions, either directly or indirectly. Many people attach an emotion to this, and take the whole argument experience as a personal attack, rarely as the intellectual endeavour it is meant to be. Some respond with personal attacks, or claim personal attacks where there are none (like someone here claiming your article is a personal attack on those you describe).

    I think our culture fosters this kind of response, as it allows people to focus on themselves, but gives them no training on how to deal with the other people in society. Some of these emotive thinkers may have distinct beliefs, and may be quite secure about them on a rational level, but when confronted are forced to place their entire thinking apparatus into an irrational state. Consequently, they will stick to poorly constructed positions, and use personal jabs when able. Our whole culture is based on this, sadly. For example, name one sitcom on television which is not chock full of personal insults and quips: I can't think of any. We live in a world where people put each other down and run each other down and have no education whatsoever in how to defend themselves or put a foot toward a better argument, except to return one jab with another.


    "What can I say, I believe in total, honest democracy. I also believe this American system can work."
    - Woody Allen, Stardust Memories


    rate this down (3.00 / 1) (#145)
    by YelM3 on Wed Aug 15, 2001 at 11:25:56 PM EST

    Arguing on the Internet is like competing in the special olympics...

    ...even if you win, you're still a retard!


    Thank you.

    Attn: Mr. Pounkey (none / 0) (#163)
    by RTR The Legend on Fri Nov 08, 2002 at 11:44:07 AM EST

    I am seriously wondering who this fellow is...I read about him on this thing right here: http://www.psia-nw.org/articles/messageboard_lingo_and_verbiage.htm But this is the only place I found him posting anything on, and it's super confusing here... Basically I want someone to help me out here, but since I'm too stupid to post here and figure this stuff out, I would like Mr. Poundkey or anyone else to come to this board and give me a hand here: http://www.aimoo.com/forum/freeboard.cfm?id=351203&NoCaches=Yes Thanks.

    The Purpose of Argument | 163 comments (152 topical, 11 editorial, 0 hidden)
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