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Vilification...is it necessary?

Posted by minesayn 4 years, 10 months ago to Philosophy
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I love the discussions here, but is it possible to have civil discussions without all the name-calling and vilification? I personally think it is, but... To me, it is like the grammar and spelling issue. Once there is name-calling, opinions (while possibly valid) tend to be discounted. Just wondering if I am the only one who wants civil discussions on issues.


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  • Posted by $ jdg 4 years, 10 months ago
    I have no problem with being civil to people on the other side who are equally civil. But those who characterize climate skeptics as anti-science, Glenn Beck as crazy, Trump as a Nazi, or Milo Y. as a white supremacist disqualify themselves immediately.

    One of the major reasons the left have been so successful in public discourse is that their opponents give them the benefit of doubt but they do not return the favor. The time for handing our opponents needless advantages is past.
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    • Posted by $ MikeMarotta 4 years, 10 months ago
      What do you think of a police officer in court lying under oath? The common excuse is, "If he's gonna lie [the accused], then I gotta lie." The real problem, though, is what lying under oath does to the officer. It degrades his integrity, his own view of himself.

      Even if your opponent "deserves" a rude reply, the real consequences are to yourself.

      If someone else is uncivil, that is their problem, not yours.

      Moreover, the real debates are not across party lines, but within them. If some millennial nihilist blogger calls President Trump a Nazi, that does not carry much weight within the Republican leadership. OTOH, if it were here in the Gulch that we began pointing out that the President's nationalist-socialist policies of market protectionism, border walls, and fear of aliens is known from history to lead to total disaster, that might be understood.
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      • Posted by $ jdg 4 years, 10 months ago
        Lying in court is not even slightly comparable to uncivil discourse. It is an act with real external consequences, a method of causing force to be used on someone. An insult has no consequences except feelings.
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    • Posted by 4 years, 10 months ago
      I would agree that there are some characterizations (as you so correctly pointed out, jdg) that are made by the left than are abhorrent, but the right does the same thing. You only have to look through this thread and others to see some of the choice names and descriptions that are frequently used.
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  • Posted by $ blarman 4 years, 10 months ago
    What you are referring to is the avoidance of the ad hominem fallacy as a debate tactic. I for one would love to see fewer fall into this trap noting that I am not immune. But there is also the categorization of people, belief sets, etc. which tread a very fine line between being ad hominem and being accurate adjectives. In most cases, talking about principles instead of people makes it very easy to focus on the critical aspects of a conversation rather than making things personal. One can focus on what is true rather than who is right.

    But I will also echo what CBJ said that we do have some control over how we react to such name calling. A wise man once said “He who takes offense when no offense is intended is a fool, and he who takes offense when offense is intended is a greater fool.”
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  • Posted by $ MikeMarotta 4 years, 10 months ago
    The human invention of moral condemnation has roots no more than 10,000 years deep. It took the invention of special language and internal reflection for that to be possible. Friezes from Ur show men being beaten for not paying their taxes. Our modern view of that must be contrasted with the fact the action and its meaning would have been incomprehensible to the first humans.

    And it was a long, slow process. But it became so ingrained that even the gentle Quakers and Amish have their shunning for transgressions that are merely deviations from custom, not the actual harming of a person or the cause of material loss. "She is not simple", a moral condemnation among them, would be a backhanded compliment here in the Gulch.

    But, as Jerome Tucille pointed out It Usually Begins with Ayn Rand. The anthology The Virtue of Selfishness included an essay from The Objectivist Newsletter, "How to Live a Rational Life in an Irrational World." The answer: never fail to pass moral judgement. That essay did close with the warning that you do not need to actually announce your verdict to the guilty. It is often socially inappropriate to do so, but, at least in your own mind, you must be clear on the issues.

    That said, Ayn Rand and her inner circle did promote a nice, poetic vocabulary of condemnation. It enabled followers to craft epithets such as "range-of-the-moment context-dropping Kantian social metaphysician."

    On the other hand, facts are real. Someone who advocates placing others above self as an abstract principle actually has their hand in your pocket -- and ultimately around your throat.

    I say that quite consciously. Many of us here and in "Objectivish" circles are in protective services: police, military, courts. The harsh reality is that protecting others often requires the ultimate price. That said, however, we are not kamikaze. In fact, those in protective services are specially trained so that what seems like derring-do to the outsiders is actually practiced routine. On the other hand, nothing about fire fighting is routine, and when fire fighters are lost, it is usually in teams. As individualists here, the very concept of teamwork may be alien to many.

    Moreover, in this forum in particular, but also online in general, we tend to write short statements. I am easily one of the most verbose here, but I write for a living, and this is all an exercise for me before going out to my day job. Even so, we all tend to risk being misunderstood because we write ad hoc. And writing does not carry the emotive meanings of face-to-face interactions. It is why we often invite each other out for a beer to discuss something. That usually never happens, as we live far apart, but the intention is that we recognize the limitations of writing.

    I also offer an upside to moral outrage, especially in forums such as this. We tend to share common values. When someone expresses an opinion that we perceive as outside that norm, we are taken aback. "If you believe what I do, how can you believe that other claim?" I think that the problem there is ultimately internal. Their deviation causes you to question your own beliefs. Before that can happen though, cognitive dissonance closes off those pathways, and the internal questioning never happens. Just for example, some of my best friends have been communists.
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    • Posted by 4 years, 10 months ago
      Thanks Mike for weighing in...and all without vilification and name-calling. This is the kind of civil discourse that I think Objectivists can participate in.
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    • Posted by $ CBJ 4 years, 10 months ago
      Modern experiments indicate that a form of moral condemnation, arising from perceived unfairness, likely predates humans. This article cites an example:

      http://www.livescience.com/2044-monke...

      “The latest findings suggest that a sense of fairness is deeply ingrained in human evolutionary history rather than the idea that it's a more cultural response, and thus, learned from other humans.”
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      • Posted by $ MikeMarotta 4 years, 10 months ago
        I understand the animal sense of "fairness." It seems to operate strongly in mammals. On my desktop, I have a before-and-after of a dog who was cheated. His master was playing catch, throwing the ball, throwing the ball, throwing the ball... Then one time the human pretends to throw. The dog races off, hunts all over, gives up, comes back, and sees the ball. He glowers. He knows that he was tricked. We have cats, now just one, but over the years, up to four. They know favoritism when it happens.

        But that is not moral condemnation.

        A moral being is of necessity a volitional being, a self-aware entity. The matter is not well-explored, but I believe that humans could not be moral before the invention of writing, certainly not before the development of conceptual language.

        Conceptual language may not be unique to humans, but it is distinct from mere animal calls. I grant that ravens have a "language" of 30 calls, and in three "dialects" -- or so I have read. It is acceptable. But that is not the same thing as we are doing here.

        Without conceptual language, moral condemnation is impossible.
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      • Posted by $ AJAshinoff 4 years, 10 months ago
        Just curious, and I'm not trying to argue, how can moral condemnation predate humans? I would think morality, unfairness, and culture all human constructs. It could be argued that caged monkeys are just mimicking their captors.
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        • Posted by $ CBJ 4 years, 10 months ago
          Mimicking their captors in what way? The captors are not acting out fairness scenarios for the monkeys to imitate. They are setting up fairness scenarios among the monkeys to see how the monkeys react. The monkeys are not necessarily grasping fairness as a concept, but their behavior shows that they experience unfairness emotionally within a social context.
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          • Posted by $ AJAshinoff 4 years, 10 months ago
            Often times we don't even notice what we project. A lab tech could be approached by a guy, the other makes an expression of jealousy or distaste. One person could bring another food but not the other person in the group causing a facial expression or a body expression that the monkeys can pick upon. I do think jealousy and even vilification is part of nature, perhaps not necessarily exclusively human.
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      • Posted by 4 years, 10 months ago
        Thanks CBJ for the link as well as weighing in. So, are you also suggesting that because the sense of fairness that is ingrained also adds to name-calling and a lack of civil discourse?
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        • Posted by $ CBJ 4 years, 10 months ago
          A sense of unfairness can lead to a response that is either civil or uncivil. It's totally up to the responder to choose.
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          • Posted by 4 years, 10 months ago
            True, but sometimes I notice that particularly provocative, incendiary words are used. Example: I saw the use of Hitlery and Shillery as Hillary Clinton substitutions. Libtard is another I have seen frequently.
            Is it really necessary to do this (and no, I am not saying that you personally have done this, CBJ)?

            I must admit whether I agree or disagree with the person's opinion, once I see this kind of rhetoric and incivility, I tend to dismiss the person. Am I the only one who feels that way?
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            • Posted by $ MikeMarotta 4 years, 10 months ago
              I agree. Making fun of someone's name is a crude form of invective. The left complained about "Ronald Ray-gun, the fascist gun in the West." But immediately after the 2008 election, writers on Objectivist blogs began calling the President "B.O." I was disappointed to see that.

              Here, I just ignore the writers who used "Hitlery" and "Shillary." It was easy to do because their comments were vacuous. Name-calling was the limit of their ability to engage.
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  • Posted by DrZarkov99 4 years, 10 months ago
    I always liked the challenge of creative, intellectual insult. It's interesting to see if the target "gets it," as in realizing they've just been insulted. I was first fired upon in this manner by a professor who declared that a concept was "too immense for your dormant intellect." Of course I got it right away, but was entertained by his inventive invective.
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  • Posted by Eyecu2 4 years, 10 months ago
    While I would greatly appreciate civil discussions. Most, not all, but most people are unable to remain civil, when there beliefs or even opinions are called into question. I would argue that the more strongly held an opinion the less likely that one will remain civil in the face of adversity.
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