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*** Split into a thread of it's own - sN ***

I'm not quite sure where to post this, as the contents of my post are not about the particular topic being discussed here. However, because some of the previous threads have been locked I didn't know where else to put it. So, feel free to move this post if there is a better topic for it. I just wanted to add this because I think it needs to be said.

In this case it has been decided to reject any person who simply posts, based on sometimes only a crumb of support that person may give (for example, a Happy Birthday post). Compare that to the amount of value, perhaps not yet recognized, one is eliminating from their life via this decision. I personally consider that a mistake in measurment.

I will sooner grow another arm before I would succomb to this type of ultimatum over a personal feud. It is not because I agree with the other side but it is because it was the virtue of independence that draw me to Objectivistm in a first place (although not the only reason).

I agree wholeheartedly with Sophia. I find the way in which many of the discussions in this conflict were carried out disappointing in the extreme. Many times I remember reading things that I would not hope to find on any rational venue of discussion, let alone a forum (or blog) devoted to Objectivism.

I do think that the accusations made against Betsy's forum are unjust, but even that is wholly beside the point here. It does not matter which individuals started with inappropriate posts and remarks; that is utterly irrelevant. Out of sheer respect for the reasoning mind and the idea of rational discussions you should keep certain standards in mind; standards which have been violated many times in the last months. I do not have the time or the inclination to dig through the many thousands of comments made in that time and start pointing fingers. Whether your posts have been made in a manner that is respectful and devoid of personal remarks is something every person can determine for themselves.

I just cannot understand why it is not possible for people who disagree about an issue, such as who to vote for, to simply discuss their respective positions rationally, and focus on the arguments presented instead of any other irrelevancies. It is impossible to imagine that I were to reply to someone's article in an academic journal by saying that they were intellectually dishonest (for example). That would never get published, and rightly so. It is utterly irrelevant. If their ideas are truly unsupported by reality then it should not be hard to point out where you disagree, but out of the respect each one of us has for the human mind that is all we should focus on.

Posts made in a public place such as this should be held to different standards than the things you say to your friends in your living room. If your intellectual opponent violates certain rules by making inappropriate remarks, then do not lower yourself to their level by returning them in kind.

This whole affair has been going on for far too long, in my not so humble opinion. I do not think it can be easily resolved, but the way in which it is conducted needs to change. I know there are many people who have always remained civil and respectful, even when they disagreed vehemently with their opponent. I think that is something every one of us should strive for.

Please, read through the comments you have made in the past and consider whether you would find them acceptable if they were directed at you. I'd say that that is a good standard to keep.

Edited by softwareNerd
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Out of sheer respect for the reasoning mind and the idea of rational discussions you should keep certain standards in mind; standards which have been violated many times in the last months.

...

Whether your posts have been made in a manner that is respectful and devoid of personal remarks is something every person can determine for themselves.

...

If their ideas are truly unsupported by reality then it should not be hard to point out where you disagree, but out of the respect each one of us has for the human mind that is all we should focus on.

...

I know there are many people who have always remained civil and respectful, even when they disagreed vehemently with their opponent. I think that is something every one of us should strive for.

I was wondering whether I agreed with you, or disagreed with you, and then something hit me. As the above extracts indicate with conspicuous underlining, your position seems to depend non-trivially on "respect". Interestingly, I've been thinking about the question of "respect" for some years (we almost have an official departmental policy regarding "respect"), and while I don't think it's an anti-concept like "greed", it is a problematic concept. My conclusion is that "respect" identifies two different albeit related ideas. There is the lower level of respect -- being minimally respectful, civil, not rude, eschewing vulgarity or insults. Then there is the higher level of respect -- the actual admiration version, being praiseworthy and meritorious. Of course you would not be vulgar at a person who you hold in esteem; the question is, how about the middle territory? For example, I do not hold Paris Hilton to be praiseworthy and meritorious, but were I to meet her, I would not call her a low-down filthy classless skank hoe and a disgrace to the human race (I know it seems like I just did).

The problem that I see is that, as decent and civilized people, while we generally are attached to showing respect, a conflict arises if you do not respect a person because you negatively evaluate their philosophy or actions (thus you do not find them praiseworthy). In other words, rudeness can arise if you conclude that the negation of respect -- disprespect -- is rudeness. Since I cannot respect Paris Hilton or Barbara Brandon, in the sense "hold in high esteem", what should I do?

My conclusion is that lack of respect can often be good, and rudeness is rarely if ever good. Unfortunately, people too often think that since rudeness indicates a lack of respect, and rudeness is bad, then lack of respect is bad, and thus we should respect one another, just as we should mindlessly and non-judgmentally love one another. Unearned respect is as evil as unearned love. The problem is, lack of love doesn't as quickly lead to clearly bad behavior as lack of respect seems to. So if we do not automatically respect people who are wrong, should we be rude to them? I don't think so, but you can see how conflating the two notions of respect can result is serious cognitive dissonance.

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So if we do not automatically respect people who are wrong, should we be rude to them? I don't think so, but you can see how conflating the two notions of respect can result is serious cognitive dissonance.
If you do not mind, I would like to know why you choose to remain polite toward a person for whom you definitely have no respect. My personal reason amounts to: it puts me in a bad mood to act rudely, and any shred of civility left in either party, the other person or myself, is often eliminated once the exchange takes a rude (or ruder) turn. (I still would like to know your own reason.)
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My personal reason amounts to: it puts me in a bad mood to act rudely, and any shred of civility left in either party, the other person or myself, is often eliminated once the exchange takes a rude (or ruder) turn.
I haven't analyzed this fact in detail. There are many people who are merely competent but not praiseworthy, and incivility is an extreme form of condemnation. So basic justice dictates that you not give extreme condemnation to simply ordinary people. That is, despite the decades of public school training to the contrary, I don't think we are all winners. Some people are winners and are excellent, and they deserve admiration, just as love is selective. To claim that we are all excellent just for being alive is to demean the concept of excellence. While I'm willing to give the negative evaluation if it's justified, I don't want the evaluation to be misunderstood. For example, I don't want to condemn a B student as being an utterly vile waste of carbon even if their performance was not meritorious and praiseworthy (this is given the prevaling standard, sigh, that B is "average" performance).

I think the question that ought to be asked is, under what circumstances is it actually okay to be rude to a person, that is, when should you use your strongest possible form of moral condemnation. My immediate reaction is that that should happen only when you are dealing with an actually evil person who threatens others. Otherwise, shunning ought to be sufficient. I will think about this some more, though.

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I was talking about respect in the second sense. Obviously, it would be wrong to demand admiration for whoever you happen to be debating. I do think that if you choose to engage in communication of some sort with a person you should show them some basic level of respect. It is generally enough, in my opinion, to just stick to giving arguments for your position and arguments against their position, and refrain from personal remarks that do not pertain either negatively or positively to your argument.

If you truly despise someone enough to not want to show them this basic level of civility, then I think you should just refrain from interacting with them altogether. If you do think it is important to pronounce moral judgement on a person, it is entirely possible to do so in a way which sticks to the facts and which cannot be construed as a personal attack. Even then, it is not necessary to use personal remarks. It would be sufficient to state that you no longer wish to interact with them (or in a worse case, that you consider them to be morally reprehensible) for X, Y and Z reasons.

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I think the question that ought to be asked is, under what circumstances is it actually okay to be rude to a person, that is, when should you use your strongest possible form of moral condemnation. My immediate reaction is that that should happen only when you are dealing with an actually evil person who threatens others. Otherwise, shunning ought to be sufficient. I will think about this some more, though.

You present some interesting ideas. How would these extend to passing interactions with individuals advocating horrendous ideas?

For example, consider a college student walking around on campus and is offered a small pocket bible by a seemingly friendly church representative. What is an appropriate response?

Does the reply "No, thank you." offer too much unearned respect? Should one just attempt to avoid eye contact with the person and continue walking? Should one respond with a cold glare? Stopping to reply "You disgust me." seems unwarranted.

Similarly, what is an appropriate response to a beggar politely asking for change?

In both scenarios, I am imagining individuals who might approach you but will not try to block your path.

Edited by DarkWaters
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Marginally related to the thread, but: whether you smile or frown, always take the bible. One little bible trashed is one little church donation trashed.

While I was an undergraduate, I wanted to see how many pocket bibles I could collect if I kept on walking near the areas where they were being dispensed. I collected about eight between the three volunteers before I was politely asked if I already received one before. They were eventually used to ignite a camp fire.

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Maarten -

While these disputes are indeed tiring, especially for those who do not wish to actively take part, they can often be more that simply "disagreeing about an issue." One person may have, perhaps, deeply insulted the values another holds dear. They may seriously disagree about what is fundamental to Objectivism. They may simply be evading reality and then denying it.

Now, this sort of conflict certainly could happen between two academics in an intellectual dispute, and you are correct, it would not be published, or the insults would be vague or veiled. However internet forums necessarily do not and should not rise to the same standards in publication as academic peer review where a submission has to be approved by 3 reviewers and and editor or two - otherwise there would be little published. Academic publications are not necessarily about an objective exchange of ideas as such.

"If their ideas are truly unsupported by reality then it should not be hard to point out where you disagree, but out of the respect each one of us has for the human mind that is all we should focus on."

This is a very telling statement about your motives and values, Maarten, and that should be applauded. If everyone used these standards and had a commitment to accepting the facts of reality, this would not be a problem. Neither would we need law enforcement of any kind. Unfortunately, even among Objectivists, evasion, arrogance, or simply the desire to be right can often get in the way. (this happens much more easily on the internet than it does in person. It's much easier to be rude to someone online than it is in person). This is common in any intellectual movement (and common on forums in general, which is why I barely participate anymore). But I have to say - overall, in my 3 years experiencing Objectivism, I have been pretty pleased with the way Objectivists behave, but expecting perfection is unrealistic.

"If ideas are unsupported by reality, it is not hard to point out where you disagree."

No, it's not - the problem is in getting other people to see the facts, or to stay calm while trying to get them to see facts when you know they don't want to see them - OR the problem is quite complex because highly abstract concepts may be involved that may noot immediately be obvious to another. Such would the purpose of a persuasive book - such as Atlas Shrugged.

"This whole affair has been going on for far too long, in my not so humble opinion. I do not think it can be easily resolved"

There are two issues here. Either evasion has taken place, or full knowledge is not available to a person on a given issue. THis is true both for those involved in the argument and those standers-by evaluating it. I would argue that for most of those not involved in this imbroglio, standing by wishing these discussion threads were not taking place, it is the latter.

While I am new to O'ism, I do have older O'ists friends who have been O'ists for decades - and they tell me that these things have been going on for as long as people can remember. When you hold ideas to be fundamentally important, it's understandable that conflicts inevitably arise and lead to a loss of respect for others on the part of certain parties. Furthermore, when a particular party (both, in this case) feel they have been wronged, it is natural for them to want others to know the full level of intellectual corruption on the part of the other party. And what that happens, and you truly don't respect someone, issues like this arise. Ultimately, it has tobe the moderators who decide what to do with recalcitrant parties.

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If you do think it is important to pronounce moral judgement on a person, it is entirely possible to do so in a way which sticks to the facts and which cannot be construed as a personal attack. Even then, it is not necessary to use personal remarks. It would be sufficient to state that you no longer wish to interact with them (or in a worse case, that you consider them to be morally reprehensible) for X, Y and Z reasons.
I hesitate to ask, for an obvious historical reasons, but what do you mean by a "personal attack"? Speaking purely hypothetically, if you say that a person is intellectually dishonest, that to me passes the sniff test for being a personal attack. What that actually refers to is a moral judgment, your conclusion that the person deliberately evades or even lies to the public about a particular argument, for instance they know that the argument is contradictory but they give it anyway. If a person falsifies laboratory results and you know that this is so, it would be a personal attack to denounce Smith as a fraud, but that's what he is.

I don't actually think the problem is personal attacks per se, I think it is unjust or dishonest attacks. Saying "Smith's research is fraudulent" could be correct, but you better be prepared to demonstrate this very convincingly. Saying "In my judgment, Smith's research is fraudulent" makes this an irrefutable claim, since it's a report of subjective feeling and not an assertion of objective fact.

The other side of the coin is that I suspect most people prefer that there be no moral judging going on. A moral judgment is a statement about a person's choices, and not a metaphysically given state of affairs. If we're talking about a negative evaluation and not praise, I don't see how you could even state the facts, without that being a "personal attack" of some kind. Can you cook up some examples of hypothetical factual situations where there is a substantial difference between a "personal attack" and a matter-of-fact moral evaluation? I'm skeptical that such a difference exists: my conclusion is that really what people object to is public moral evaluations.

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I don't actually think the problem is personal attacks per se, I think it is unjust or dishonest attacks. Saying "Smith's research is fraudulent" could be correct, but you better be prepared to demonstrate this very convincingly. Saying "In my judgment, Smith's research is fraudulent" makes this an irrefutable claim, since it's a report of subjective feeling and not an assertion of objective fact.

The other side of the coin is that I suspect most people prefer that there be no moral judging going on. A moral judgment is a statement about a person's choices, and not a metaphysically given state of affairs. If we're talking about a negative evaluation and not praise, I don't see how you could even state the facts, without that being a "personal attack" of some kind. Can you cook up some examples of hypothetical factual situations where there is a substantial difference between a "personal attack" and a matter-of-fact moral evaluation? I'm skeptical that such a difference exists: my conclusion is that really what people object to is public moral evaluations.

Well, I do not have a problem with pronouncing moral judgement on someone. I do however think that certain ways in which you can do this are not appropriate for a public setting, although they may be appropriate elsewhere when you discuss these matters privately. And, as you say, you should be prepared to back up these statements very convincingly. I think your characterization of personal attacks is accurate.

I do not think it would be proper to start dissecting particular comments made in order to point out what I consider to be appropriate and what not. However, if you were to agree with the general idea I am presenting it should not be very easy to apply it yourself in the future.

Edited by Maarten
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For example, consider a college student walking around on campus and is offered a small pocket bible by a seemingly friendly church representative. What is an appropriate response?
My experience with all of their ilk, bible-passers and pamphlet-people, is that it suffices to ignore them and keep walking. Usually they don't approach you directly enough that you have to conspiciously turn your head and say "Get away, spawn of Satan". This is not so with petition-peddlers and grocery-store-front-beggars, who I find to be the second most obnoxious people (after the actual beggars). On occasion it happens that I turn the corner and there is a bible-boy, and he does in fact stretch out his hand with one of those green coupon books or whatever it is they are handing out, so I say "No thanks". I don't respect them (in the original sense of respect), but you can't tell anything about my respect or lack thereof from the fact that I decline their offer.
Similarly, what is an appropriate response to a beggar politely asking for change?
IMO, a polite beggar sits on the sidewalk with his cup and lets people decide whether to support his habit, so actually approaching a person is not "polite" (maybe beggars in the south are different, I dunno). A number of them are actually psychotic and dangerous, and when you are being threatened, questions of politeness are lower on the list of things to worry about. I usually ignore them, without the need to actually yell at them, except for the occasional aggressive crazy person. The intersection-crazies are the worst.
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I do not think it would be proper to start dissecting particular comments made in order to point out what I consider to be appropriate and what not. However, if you were to agree with the general idea I am presenting it should not be very easy to apply it yourself in the future.
I think it would be proper to look at invented examples simply so that we can concretize the issue. The reason is that I really do not know what you would consider proper vs. improper in some context, especially if we were to consider plausible examples. I would prefer that they have no resemblance to anything that has transpired in the past week, however.

The "imagine how you would feel" criterion seems reasonable (depending on what it's a criterion for, I suppose), but in reality I don't think it is. For instance, applied to a case of suspected academic fraud, it would not prevent me from vociferously denouncing the criminal as purely evil, since I cannot imagine being on the receiving end. I cannot imagine being verbally assailed for making an unjust attack on a person's character, because all of my attacks are perfectly justified. The "imagine yourself in scenario X" strategy can be valid for judging knowledge assumptions like "should he have known; would I have known in that curcumstance". But if you at least start with the premise that a man should only act morally and should not act immorally (duh) and that it is right to perform moral evaluations, then I don't see how I could conclude "I shouldn't say it that way, because if I were that immoral, I wouldn't want to be condemned in that way". I can't grant the premise of the hypothetical, that I am that immoral.

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For example, consider a college student walking around on campus and is offered a small pocket bible by a seemingly friendly church representative. What is an appropriate response?

Does the reply "No, thank you." offer too much unearned respect? Should one just attempt to avoid eye contact with the person and continue walking? Should one respond with a cold glare? Stopping to reply "You disgust me." seems unwarranted.

What about making eye contact and stating politely but flatly: "absolutely not"? Your words, your eye contact, your tone all indicate that you are not about to exchange blows, but neither are you about to exchange words. One need only respond to the immediate question - and one need not stop to consider the person behind it. Roark, when Toohey asked what Roark thought of him, responded to the effect of: "I don't."

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I do think that the accusations made against Betsy's forum are unjust, but even that is wholly beside the point here. It does not matter which individuals started with inappropriate posts and remarks; that is utterly irrelevant.

It is not irrelevant who struck the first blow. And it is not irrelevant who made which remarks. We do not live in a world where all disrespectful posts are equal, and therefore we should either ban them all or tolerate everything. You need to judge for yourself who is in the right and who is in the wrong.

Also, I think some people are too focused on specific words and tones that are disrespectful, when you could be focusing on which arguments and conclusions are worthy of disrespectful words and tones.

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I don't actually think the problem is personal attacks per se, I think it is unjust or dishonest attacks.

To some extend yes.

Almost every statement you will make about another's idea is a reflection on them.

The other side of the coin is that I suspect most people prefer that there be no moral judging going on.

I would like to state for the record that I am not one of them.

What I have observed however is a shocking to me quickness of assuming vices in others often without having sufficient factual evidence, at least that is how it looks to me, since not sufficient evidence is provided as a support for the statements being made.

Another thing is the style and degree. It maybe justified to be critical; I may agree with the charge, but the degree of response should reflect the degree of the offence.

Although posts on internet forums are not equal in standard to academic or scientific publications - they are public statements.

It is not irrelevant who struck the first blow. And it is not irrelevant who made which remarks. We do not live in a world where all disrespectful posts are equal, and therefore we should either ban them all or tolerate everything. You need to judge for yourself who is in the right and who is in the wrong.

It is my opinion that if you respond in kind with the same unjust remarks - it does become irrelevant. At that point I personally do not care who started it first.

But I am willing to listen to your argument.

Edited by ~Sophia~
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It is my opinion that if you respond in kind with the same unjust remarks - it does become irrelevant. At that point I personally do not care who started it first.

This is like saying that it is irrelevant who starts a fistfight. If John hits me in the face first, and I respond in kind, then are we both unjust, and is it irrelevant who started the fight?

If initiation of force is relevant in fistfights, shouldn't initiation of disrespect be relevant in dialogues?

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This is like saying that it is irrelevant who starts a fistfight. If John hits me in the face first, and I respond in kind, then are we both unjust, and is it irrelevant who started the fight?

In a physical assault, if you do not respond to defend yourself, you will be hurt or potentially killed. In a forum discussion, if someone insults you, whether you get "hurt" or not depends any number of factors. One need not respond in kind to hostile words over the internet to come out of the discussion on top or unscathed. One can respond to an "assault with words" without also having to resort to the same tactics as the attacker. And particularly on a moderated forum, the "attack" can be mitigated by the moderators without you ever being put in "danger". There is a system in place to address these grievances which is far more readily available than the police would be in trying to protect someone from an assault. A forum can succeed in keeping civility in its community far more readily than the police can in the real world. In a forum, the rules can always be enforced in every instance as long as you have a moderator or admin. The real world can not offer such assurance against physical assaults. One need not participate in any particular forum should they find the rules insufficiently enforced. One has no choice but to participate in the real world (assuming one wants to remain alive).

The urgency/necessity to defend oneself is not equally present in both cases as other options are available in that later case.

Thus, the parallel does not hold.

Edited by RationalBiker
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In a physical assault, if you do not respond to defend yourself, you will be hurt or potentially killed. In a forum discussion, if someone insults you, whether you get "hurt" or not depends any number of factors. One need not respond in kind to hostile words over the internet to come out of the discussion on top or unscathed. One can respond to an "assault with words" without also having to resort to the same tactics as the attacker.

This does not address my point, which was: the initiation of disrespect is relevant in morally evaluating the parties involved in a hostile conversation. I was not attempting to draw a metaphysical parallel, but a moral one. Sophia's claim is that it does not matter who started the mudslinging. I say it does, just like it matters who starts a fistfight.

Consider the following exchange:

JOHN: I don't believe in God.

BILL: That's an idiotic thing to say. Anyone with half a brain believes in God.

JOHN: I think you're idiotic, and you have half a brain.

In this case we have two people who insulted each other using the same words. Yet it should be clear that Bill is in the wrong and John is morally blameless. You might not have responded in the same manner as John. But John is defending himself in the best way he knows, and he didn't start it. If you want to stop such exchanges from happening on your forum, I suggest doing something about people like Bill and standing up for people like John.

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He didn't start it, but is that the best way he knows to respond?

In my example, yes. That is the best way he knows to respond. But even if he had the wit of Voltaire and could craft an intellectual reply worth framing on your wall, that would not alter my view on the initiation of disrespect. The initiator is still the problem.

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I was not attempting to draw a metaphysical parallel, but a moral one.

As was I. The moral evaluation depends on that which is metaphysically possible or the context involved.

My assumption is that you are familiar with Objectivist ethics, and that retaliatory force should not be left to the whims of the individual. If we use your example of the initiation of physical assault as justification to respond with physical assault, and it parallels any other form of the initiation of force (in this case disrespect), it would seem that the logical conclusion to your claim is that the victim can in any case respond with retaliatory force and be morally justified. Thus, if a burglar breaks into my house, and I come home at some point well after he's gone, I should be able to take this into my own hands rather than turn it over to the "proper authorities".

If this is not what you intend, please illustrate the distinction. If it is, how do you reconcile that with Objectivist ethics?

JOHN: I think you're idiotic, and you have half a brain.

In what way has John defended himself? In what way has John deflected or diminished the charge that he's "a half-brained idiot"?

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On this, we agree. Would you respect John for his response?

I would not consider it to be an effective response, but I would probably respect the fact that he responded in defense of himself.

Some additional points:

1. I'm not saying that every response to an insult is going to be appropriate. If someone calls me an idiot, I shouldn't write a 500-word rant about the offender's mother.

2. I'm also not saying that it's okay to pounce on people for the smallest perceived insult. You should pick your battles carefully.

3. Furthermore, I'm not saying that disrespect only comes in the form of insulting words and tones. Disrespect can also be shown by regularly evading the arguments of one's opponents, totally misrepresenting the arguments of one's opponents, etc.

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My assumption is that you are familiar with Objectivist ethics, and that retaliatory force should not be left to the whims of the individual ...

Objectivist ethics does not say that "retaliatory force should not be left to the whims of the individual." The right to retaliation is an individual's right, and it is this right which he delegates to the government in a peaceful society.

If you are robbed, then you appeal to the government to retaliate for you. If you are disrespected on this forum, you can appeal to the moderators for retaliation. If the government or the moderators can't or won't retaliate for you, then you can always try to retaliate yourself and accept the consequences of your actions.

In what way has John defended himself? In what way has John deflected or diminished the charge that he's "a half-brained idiot"?

He defended himself by responding in kind. Granted, it's not much of a defense; it's not very clever or logic-oriented. But it's the best defense he can muster against an arbitrary insult. I don't expect him to identify the fallacy involved (though that would have been better), or write pages and pages explaining how he is not an idiot, or provide photos showing that he does in fact have a complete brain. But I think he should have the right to retaliate in kind, even if all it does is serve as a weak counter-punch.

Edited by MisterSwig
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