Author Topic: THE ETHICS OF DEBATING  (Read 379 times)

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Online dennis

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THE ETHICS OF DEBATING
« on: June 20, 2015, 10:42:42 PM »
THE ETHICS OF DEBATING by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (extracted from a recent post)
 
You can attack what a person *said* or what the person *meant*. The former is more sensational. The mark of a charlatan (say the journalist Sam Harris) is to defend his position or attack a critic by focusing on *some* of his/her specific statement ("look at what he said") rather than attacking his position ("look at what he means"), the latter of which requires a broader knowledge of the proposed idea. The same applies to the interpretation of religious texts. Given that it is impossible for anyone to write a perfectly rationally argued document without a segment that, out of context, can appear to be totally absurd and lend itself to sensationalization, politicians and charlatans hunt for these segments. So do some, but not all journalists.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Principle_of_charity

Twitter mobs indeed go by these sensationalized statements: extracting the most likely to appear absurd and violating the principle of charity. With the growth of the internet get ready for more.
And you can easily tell if someone is a charlatan at their absence of use of the principle of charity.
I just subjected the principle of charity to the Lindy test: it is only about 60 years old. Why? Does it meant that it is bogus? Well, we did not need it before before discussions were never about slogans and snapshots but synthesis of a given position. Read Aquinas, 8 centuries ago, and you always see sections with QUESTIO->PRAETERIA, OBJECTIONES, SED CONTRA, etc. describing with a legalistic precision the positions being attacked and looking for a flaw in it and a compromise. That was the practice.

UPDATE- Bradford Tuckfield wrote: " I think this principle is much older than 60 years. Consider in the book of Isaiah, chapter 29, verse 21: he denounces the wicked who "make a man an offender for a word," implying that people were focusing on specific words rather than positions, and that this is a bad practice."
So it seems that the Lindy effect wins.

(This link added by me for your convenience: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lindy_Effect)

If you believe in nothing for sure, you are liable to believe anything.

Offline Graybeard

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Re: THE ETHICS OF DEBATING
« Reply #1 on: July 06, 2015, 06:59:36 AM »
I didn't know that the "Principle of Charity" was the official name. There are a bewildering array of formal fallacies many of which are the same as. or a very slight variation on, others.

The example I usually use for what seems to me to be the "Principle of Charity" is "The three-legged dog effect.":

[A is trying to demonstrate that 2+2=4]

Misunderstood generality

A: "OK, imagine a dog. It has 2 legs at the front and two legs at the back. All dogs have 4 legs, therefore we can say "2+2=4."
B: "My dog's only has three legs... it had an accident.
C: "Yeh! Not all dogs have four legs - are you saying 2+2 can also be 3?"

Misunderstood individual

[A is trying to demonstrate non-linear effects]

A: "If you imagine that a dog can run at 30mph, we do not expect that it will be able to run at 75% of that speed if we remove one of its legs."
B: "How do you know? Have you ever cut off a dog's leg?"
C: "I think it's possible - that's only 22½mph... OMG! Did you cut off a dog's leg? That's sick!"

B and C fail to apply the "Principle of Charity". (They are trolls or idiots.)

The "Principle of Charity" merely restates: "The general example does not include the individual example and the individual example does not represent the general, except where the general is a law or the individual is an example of the law."

This all falls under the fallacy of equivocation, in which a particular word has (or is taken as having) one meaning in one part of the argument, and a slightly different meaning in another. Equivocation is the result of a lack of critical thinking. Politicians, the religious and salesmen are famed for their equivocation. I'm sure Isaiah was no different and it would not take much to find him equivocating.

Quote
UPDATE- Bradford Tuckfield wrote: " I think this principle is much older than 60 years.
Bradford Tuckfield needs to have his head examined. Here he is commenting on the "Principle of Charity", and what does he do? The first thing he does is "equivocate" and misunderstand for his own religious purposes!

Just look at what he has said rather than what he means: He means to say, "The name "Principle of Charity" was coined 60 years ago, but people have been behaving in the way described for much longer." - Well... what a surprise. He then goes on to mention Isaiah (c. 530BC) as if the first author of the first part of Isaiah in some way revealed this truth to the world because Isaiah was a prophet of a tribal Bronze Age god - there is no evidence that he did - Isaiah could have been quoting anyone. If Tuckfield looked further back to the Chinese or Egyptians, I would be surprised if he did not find that the principle was around them.

If we put Bradford Tuckfield's comments in a more obvious form, we have "I think Australia was there before 1606 when Willem Janszoon first mentioned it. Indeed Henricus Hondius assumed that it was there."

That said, Yes: beware of the "Principle of Charity" in debate, but do understand that we have to be clear on what someone did mean... and, where there is ambiguity, only they (bit not always) may know that.

« Last Edit: July 06, 2015, 07:03:30 AM by Graybeard »
Nobody says “There are many things that we thought were natural processes, but now know that a god did them.”

Offline ParkingPlaces

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Re: THE ETHICS OF DEBATING
« Reply #2 on: July 06, 2015, 08:45:51 AM »
When it comes to debating on the web, there are many 'principles'.

Such as the 'Principle of ignoring everything those atheists say, because I'm here to convert them in droves", and the "Principle of ignoring that atheist's long and serious response to me and nitpicking about that one flippant remark rather than the many serous points that were made'.

I'm sure you theists have similar observations about us, like how we use the 'Principle of calling an idiot an asshole' and stuff like that.

Civility disappeared long ago on the Internet. On the second day, I believe. And its been downhill ever since. Don't look so surprised, dennis. But when I consistently post long, serious responses to something a theist said and all I get in return is half a sentence reminding me that all I have to do is open my heart to jesus, such theists shouldn't then complain about the lack of decorum. Few of you have ever come here to have serious discussions with the intent of informing both sides. Get over it.

And until theists stop doing things like using the 'Principle of parroting creationist Web sites verbatim' and its corollary, the 'Principle of never thinking for oneself', in every single debate we have about evolution, nothing is likely to change, at least here. And when theists continually throw out single bible verses here and there to prove their point, then complain that we're taking the verses we select in our posts "out of context", because we didn't include the text of the entire bible, so its out of context, debates here are usually doomed from the get-go anyway.

I'm willing to try, but once any given thread starts going downhill, the momentum seems to carry it all the way to the sewage treatment plant, where it belongs.
Anyone can beat around the bush. But unless you have permission from the bush, you probably shouldn't.

Offline Astreja

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Re: THE ETHICS OF DEBATING
« Reply #3 on: July 06, 2015, 10:04:31 AM »
You can attack what a person *said* or what the person *meant*. The former is more sensational.

"Sensational" has nothing to do with it, Dennis.  We are not mind-readers.  All we have to go on is what people say, so if we're misunderstanding them perhaps they should try writing more coherently.
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Offline DesuMaiden

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Re: THE ETHICS OF DEBATING
« Reply #4 on: July 06, 2015, 10:16:07 AM »
I avoid debating altogether. I just negotiate with people with different beliefs. The number rule when talking with anyone is to not use ad hominem attacks. You need to respect the person you are talking to even if they have radically different beliefs from you. In fact, the only way you can convince someone with a different belief to believe in what you are believing is to be nice and rational when talking with them. Meaning you must avoid personal attacks or ad hominem attacks at all costs. Do not be condescending and call the person you are talking to "stupid" or "moronic".  Just talk rationally and politely with other people, and don't debate with anyone. Remember debating is pointless. Just negotiate with people that have different view points than you in a polite and rational manner. 

Offline Nam

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Re: THE ETHICS OF DEBATING
« Reply #5 on: July 06, 2015, 11:54:19 AM »
Quote from: DesuMaiden
You need to respect the person you are talking to even if they have radically different beliefs from you...

Bullshit.

-Nam
Quote from: David Garrett Arnold
there are oceans of words aged in prayer,
against geometric lines, and cloudbeaten skies;
credulous allure—slowly captivated in hearts fair—
trees and flowers bloomed in grace upon one's eyes.

Online One Above All

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Re: THE ETHICS OF DEBATING
« Reply #6 on: July 06, 2015, 12:00:02 PM »
Quote from: DesuMaiden
You need to respect the person you are talking to even if they have radically different beliefs from you...

Bullshit.

Nam makes a compelling argument. Respect is not given; it is earned. I don't respect (or disrespect) you, for example, because I don't know you. For all I know you could be a dishonest asshole.

-Nam

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Offline ParkingPlaces

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Re: THE ETHICS OF DEBATING
« Reply #7 on: July 06, 2015, 12:22:14 PM »
I'm willing to give anyone, by default, a minor but usable amount of respect when I first encounter them. Its up to them to help me maintain and/or build on that respect, or dissolve it instantly, or whatever.

I give everyone the benefit of the doubt until they choose to erase it for me.
Anyone can beat around the bush. But unless you have permission from the bush, you probably shouldn't.

Offline Graybeard

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Re: THE ETHICS OF DEBATING
« Reply #8 on: July 06, 2015, 01:54:54 PM »
You need to respect the person you are talking to even if they have radically different beliefs from you.
Everyone else has commented, so:

1. Nobody has a right not to be offended
2. “All opinions are not equal. Some are a very great deal more robust, sophisticated and well supported in logic and argument than others.” (Douglas Adams)
3. Not enough people are told their ideas are terminally stupid. Only by doing this regularly and at every opportunity can we stop them infecting others with ignorance
« Last Edit: July 10, 2015, 10:29:07 AM by Graybeard »
Nobody says “There are many things that we thought were natural processes, but now know that a god did them.”

Online One Above All

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Re: THE ETHICS OF DEBATING
« Reply #9 on: July 06, 2015, 02:05:50 PM »
2. “All opinions are not equal. Some are a very great deal more robust, sophisticated and well supported in logic and argument than others.” (Douglas Adams)

I'd like to expand on this point, from my perspective.
Even if all opinions were equal, the only way to discuss them would then be to act as if they weren't. Otherwise... Well, here's how a world where everyone believed all opinions were equal would look like:
Person A: This old, CRT TV has a better image than that 100'' plasma TV.
Person B: This 100'' plasma TV has a better image than that old, CRT TV.
Person A: I disagree with your opinion, but it's just as valid as mine.

Person A is objectively and unequivocally wrong. However, because "all opinions are equal", person B can't correct any misconceptions person A might have. Even if A's opinion is based on false information (which it definitely is; either that or A is an idiot), they can maintain that opinion. Even if A's opinion is based on nothing at all, A's uninformed and wrong opinion is still equal to B's well-informed, rational, and correct opinion... At least in an imaginary world where all opinions are equal.
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Offline Hamsaka

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Re: THE ETHICS OF DEBATING
« Reply #10 on: July 06, 2015, 03:13:51 PM »
Quote from: DesuMaiden
You need to respect the person you are talking to even if they have radically different beliefs from you...

Bullshit.

-Nam

It's definitely a choice a person is entitled to make.  Respect, like trust, is earned.  I grant a very basic respect, on 'first contact', and mostly manage to stay with it barring something outrageous.  I do not grant trust without evidence of trustworthiness that I determine, for myself.

How I'd rephrase DesuMaiden's quote to reflect my own is to say *I* choose to grant basic human respect to other people regardless of their ideas that conflict with mine.

In other words, I don't give myself permission to kill people who disagree with me, or support that in any way.  Most of the time, I don't give myself permission to call people names either, unless they really deserve it (again, I get to determine that).


Offline Nam

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Re: THE ETHICS OF DEBATING
« Reply #11 on: July 06, 2015, 03:19:34 PM »
Give yourself permission? Are you a child? Say what you mean. Fuck everyone else's opinion of you based on it.

-Nam
Quote from: David Garrett Arnold
there are oceans of words aged in prayer,
against geometric lines, and cloudbeaten skies;
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Offline Hamsaka

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Re: THE ETHICS OF DEBATING
« Reply #12 on: July 07, 2015, 01:08:20 PM »
Give yourself permission? Are you a child? Say what you mean. Fuck everyone else's opinion of you based on it.

-Nam

It's a turn of phrase.  In plain speak, I tell myself NO, DON'T CALL THAT PERSON A POMPOUS ASS!  DON'T DO IT!!

Being a nurse, I've had to get good at this.  I can't begin to describe the self control it takes, sometimes.  For me, it just works better, I like myself more.  Your mileage may vary.

Offline jdawg70

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Re: THE ETHICS OF DEBATING
« Reply #13 on: July 07, 2015, 02:12:08 PM »
In fact, the only way you can convince someone with a different belief to believe in what you are believing is to be nice and rational when talking with them.

This assumes that convincing is the goal.

What if the goal is to put ideas on the table, including your own, and determine the relative merits and/or truth-value of those ideas?

It just sounds like your idea of "negotiation and not debating" is exactly "debating."
"When we landed on the moon, that was the point where god should have come up and said 'hello'. Because if you invent some creatures, put them on the blue one and they make it to the grey one, you f**king turn up and say 'well done'."

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Offline nogodsforme

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Re: THE ETHICS OF DEBATING
« Reply #14 on: July 07, 2015, 04:25:14 PM »
I'm willing to give anyone, by default, a minor but usable amount of respect when I first encounter them. Its up to them to help me maintain and/or build on that respect, or dissolve it instantly, or whatever.

I give everyone the benefit of the doubt until they choose to erase it for me.

I resemble this remark.

And it takes a looooooong time for me to completely lose patience with someone, no matter how many idiotic things they say. I am a professor. I get paid to hear people say idiotic things and to try to convince them otherwise.  Remember how long I danced the logical limbo with Lukvance? I think I really lost it all over skeptic once. Maybe twice. But that was in reaction to a direct attack on my integrity, not just the usual stupidity.

Soooo, yeah. If you want your ideas to be respected, try to present ideas that are worthy of it.
Extraordinary claims of the bible don't even have ordinary evidence.

Kids aren't paying attention most of the time in science classes so it seems silly to get worked up over ID being taught in schools.

Offline JeffPT

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Re: THE ETHICS OF DEBATING
« Reply #15 on: July 07, 2015, 05:05:57 PM »
The same applies to the interpretation of religious texts. Given that it is impossible for anyone to write a perfectly rationally argued document without a segment that, out of context, can appear to be totally absurd and lend itself to sensationalization, politicians and charlatans hunt for these segments. So do some, but not all journalists.
If God exists, he could write a perfectly rationally argued document though, couldn't he?  At the very least, he could inspire people to write perfectly rationally argued lines of text.  He'd have that capacity to do that, would he not? 

Given that it IS impossible for anyONE (human that is) to write a perfectly rationally argued document, and given that there isn't a single perfectly rationally argued line or set of lines in the entire bible, it's reasonable to think that it was all written by men (not inspired by God), who all have the capacity to be completely wrong about anything and everything, including the existence of God, Jesus and the rest of the nonsense. 

BTW, your argument here seems to be hinting toward the idea that we tend to take things out of context when it comes to the religious texts which does an injustice to the authors by attacking what they said as opposed to what they meant.  2 big problems here.  1, They've been dead for 2000 years; we (including you) have no idea what they ACTUALLY meant.  2, You can't just assume that what YOU think they meant is what they ACTUALLY meant.  Given that they wrote during a completely different time period, with different cultures and lifestyles and belief systems, your modern interpretation as to what they meant just might be as offensive to them as ours. 


Whenever events that are purported to occur in our best interest are as numerous as the events that will just as soon kill us, then intent is hard, if not impossible to assert. NDT

Offline junebug72

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Re: THE ETHICS OF DEBATING
« Reply #16 on: July 11, 2015, 07:50:55 AM »
Insults and ad hominem styles are not supporting the posit claim that god's are not needed for good moral behavior.  When an atheist calls names it is falsifying that claim.

When a theist does it they are also proving god gives them no more moral guidance than an atheist.

Except for the perceptions in our minds we are all the same.  We all bleed red.  We all have our proverbial cross to carry.  We all love our family and friends.  We all hate suffering, I hope.
when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change

Offline Nam

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Re: THE ETHICS OF DEBATING
« Reply #17 on: July 11, 2015, 08:42:49 PM »
Give yourself permission? Are you a child? Say what you mean. Fuck everyone else's opinion of you based on it.

-Nam

It's a turn of phrase.  In plain speak, I tell myself NO, DON'T CALL THAT PERSON A POMPOUS ASS!  DON'T DO IT!!

Being a nurse, I've had to get good at this.  I can't begin to describe the self control it takes, sometimes.  For me, it just works better, I like myself more.  Your mileage may vary.

Customer service is different: you are being paid to be kind. If I wasn't being paid, a lot of the customers I had to deal with would have seen what an asshole really is.

-Nam
Quote from: David Garrett Arnold
there are oceans of words aged in prayer,
against geometric lines, and cloudbeaten skies;
credulous allure—slowly captivated in hearts fair—
trees and flowers bloomed in grace upon one's eyes.

Offline Jag

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Re: THE ETHICS OF DEBATING
« Reply #18 on: July 20, 2015, 07:27:20 AM »
THE ETHICS OF DEBATING by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (extracted from a recent post)
 
You can attack what a person *said* or what the person *meant*.

It's generally best to write in such a way that the difference is insignificant. When questioned about meaning, address the question and provide clarity.

It's also useful to limit one's assumptions about one's audience, particularly when their knowledge of any given topic is not known to the person "speaking".

Debating is a two-way exchange. This is the internet. If you are seeking ethical debate, look to your own behavior first, because you have no control over the behavior of others.
“Be skeptical. But when you get proof, accept proof.” –Michael Specter