Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Downplaying my own beliefs: refereeing philosophical arguments

Hunter presented another complaint against the shrill tone of our times last year that I recently found. While normally sympathetic to such arguments and largely agreeing with him, I’d like for a moment to pose some counterquestions:
Do we really imagine that the common person has been debating the full ramifications of policy at some golden age in our past? That farmer-philosophers roamed the countryside in search of better rhetoric?

People have been giving knee-jerk arguments, attacking the messenger instead of the message, sloganeering, and otherwise reducing life to sound bites for as long as we’ve had political discourse. Even outside of politics, scientists have fallen back on this mode of argument so regularly that “Science progresses one funeral at a time.”

Hunter claims that “thick” political discourse is “now less available to us.” I would argue it’s more available than ever, just not what you’ll find on a 24 hour news channel. Thoughtful people tend to find each other and it is easier now than ever before not only to gather with those who agree with you, but to find thoughtful people who disagree with you. It may have taken me some sifting to find people who regularly disagree with me whose reasoning I can appreciate, it has not been a difficult search by any stretch.

Below the fold are some comics about refereeing philosophical discussions and logical proofs.

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