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The Proper Means of Communication

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DonAthos
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How ought we talk to one another?

This is a question that I believe sometimes gets short shrift, not only among Objectivists but in the wider world. When someone has a good idea, or the right answer to a question, how does he best communicate that idea/answer to other people?

Perhaps some would contend that it does not matter. That it is enough to be right, and if there is to be any communication of a right idea at all it is wholly the recipient's responsibility to understand, so no further thought needs be given to the method of delivery. But I disagree that this is true in all situations -- the ability to communicate one's ideas to others in an effective manner is sometimes important. For instance, if you were in the backseat of a car, and you saw an upcoming obstacle that the driver did not yet see, you would want to communicate this information effectively; "being right" will not itself save you from impact.

Recently, in another thread, a forum member raised the question as to whether or not satire is the best means of addressing irrational points of view -- or whether making reasonable arguments are superior. I think that this is a question worth discussing. In this forum (as in life), I have had to contend with people who are insulting, and I have sometimes engaged in that sort of behavior myself, usually to my own regret. When, if ever, is it proper to resort to insults? When insulted, should one respond in kind? Is there any good to be gained in so doing, or are there better alternatives available?

I'd like to explore these sorts of questions. Speaking personally, how we answer them matters to me. I am often quick to take offense, and quick to anger (and to respond in anger), and so it has led me to reflect on my own approach to discussion and disagreement. I know that I still have much yet to improve. But I also think that, beyond my personal context, there's potential for a greater application of the answers to these questions. I believe that I have observed many discussions on this forum which have soured, which perhaps could have been more fruitful for all involved -- I think that this could be a more productive and enjoyable community, through greater attention paid to how we discuss ideas, even (especially) when we disagree. I also believe that Objectivists could potentially do a better job in communicating our ideas to reasonable people who are not yet Objectivists, and that we could work more quickly and easily to achieve the kind of society we'd like to create, if we're willing to pay greater attention to our means of communication.

A quote which has resonated with me recently is "tact is the art of making a point without making an enemy."

Ironically with respect to this quote, I'm unsure of the means by which I can raise this topic, or discuss it in detail, tactfully. But I would like to try.

Any thoughts on this general subject, or answers to the two specific questions I've initially raised (when is satire appropriate? when are insults appropriate?) are welcome. Otherwise, I'm happy to have carved out a small area to discuss these kinds of topics when they occur to me, and others should feel free to make use of it as well.

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Tact and diplomacy. :)

 

"I also believe that Objectivists could potentially do a better job in communicating our ideas to reasonable people who are not yet Objectivists, and that we could work more quickly and easily to achieve the kind of society we'd like to create, if we're willing to pay greater attention to our means of communication."

 

Objectivists that would like to see Capitalism embraced are looking for efficacious ways to communicate it to others to peek their interest. Learning to anticipating objections and hone philosophic detective skills take time and effort. The low pay is only offset by the expectation of future return on the investment, both in the social sphere - and what one gains in individual growth from the process.

 

Ridicule is exploiting the fallacy of argument by laughter. Sam Harris uses it in this 3.75 minute clip and even has his protagonist laughing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=HcM1rEsiOs4

Note, he does not use it directly on the idea being discussed. He builds a quick analogy that conveys a strong parallel.

 

Insults are . . . well . . . insulting. If they must be used, then try to make it clear that it is the idea is being insulted.

I don't think there is any call for attacking the individual such as:

A quote which has resonated with me recently is "tact is the art of making a point without making an enemy."

Ironically with respect to this quote, I'm unsure of the means by which I can raise this topic, or discuss it in detail, tactfully. But I would like to try.

You're a nincompoop for bringing this up.

 

Attack the idea instead:

A quote which has resonated with me recently is "tact is the art of making a point without making an enemy."

Ironically with respect to this quote, I'm unsure of the means by which I can raise this topic, or discuss it in detail, tactfully. But I would like to try.

How can you raise such an asinine topic? People already know how to communicate. It is self-evident from all of the threads here. Edited by dream_weaver
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Academic research turns out to endorse tact and diplomacy, too.

A long time ago, one of my professor's taught a model of organizational change that went like this: unfreeze -- change -- freeze.

 

The idea was that in some situations, people are vested in the status quo, even if it is just from inertia. So, before one speaks of change, one has to show them what is wrong with the status quo, sometimes making them uncomfortable with the status quo. Then, one offers the alternative, showing them the advantages, and giving them practice in the new ways. Finally, one reinforces and rewards adherence to the new way. 

 

I've seen some pretty good salespeople follow an analogous -- though slightly more simultaneous -- approach when making their sales pitch. 

 

I think the chances are that different approaches work best with different people. If someone is open to ideas, and is thinking actively, and does not have too much pseudo self-esteem vested in his stance, a straight-forward approach may work best. For some people, one might have to be extra tactful, letting them find their way to the idea. I've also seen situations where starting off with a small fight with someone who has a chip on his shoulder, but being willing to immediately give ground when the other person shows his more human side, works just fine.

Edited by softwareNerd
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The Objective Communication course available on ARI uses an Objectivist theme to discuss communication, addressing written and oral presentation from an objective, rather than a declared Objectivist's perspective.

 

Prior to that, I found How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie a popular mainstay and insightful work.

 

I've notice a number of poster's here that can recap a thread well, isolating and summarizing the main points. Some threads are like a "mind map", all sorts of tangential issues proliferating in every direction, with additional complexity added when two or more groups of people go off developing those multiple tangents. Recapping does wonders for reorganizing the material(s) covered in a clearer, more concise way.

Edited by dream_weaver
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Tact might be a useful tool for achieving goals in your interactions with other people, and I agree that different methods work for different people. I don't think there's a magic formula of communicating that conveys respect automatically, and more and more I find it unuseful to pigeonhole certain mannerisms, personalities, characteristics, etc. as necessarily rude or necessarily polite.

What I do find universal, though, is mutual respect, or the lack thereof. If I come to understand a base level of respect in another person, I can adapt to more or less any personality -- brash, timid, analytic, gloomy, whatever. All I really care about is respect, which I try (and don't always succeed) to return or to offer, at first.

But that's me, and being OK with a bunch of different communication styles doesn't seem all that common in other people. I have tried to alter the way I communicate to make it easier for a specific person to understand what I'm saying. But, I'm starting to think it doesn't matter much either way. It's not too long until I'll probably just put myself out there using the "reasonable man" standard to judge my effectiveness.

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Lots of thought's on this with no time to give much effort into a post.

 

My own primary obstacle for discourse with others is intellectual honesty- sincerity. If the person I'm discoursing with is inarticulate, ignorant, brash, or even using ridicule with argument, but is sincere and not evasive, it will bring them a lot further with me personally. I hate sock puppet trolls and their cowardly intellectual cousins. I see it being used to suck knowledge from intellectual opponents in order to turn around and attempt to deploy that 2nd hand knowledge as a "lesson" to the teacher repeatedly. Fortunately these parasites leave snail trails in their posts and lack the identification skills only a first hander can posses....

 

I do NOT think that one should ignore the tone that others bring to discourse though. A rational egoist is not a duty bound cultural warrior. Galt refused to "save the world" on their terms....Consider how many times Ms. Rand refused to answer a question if the questioner asked disrespectfully.

 

I'd say one "ought" to judge the character of the discourse partner (after enough has been shown) and let that determine the type of response one gives accordingly. If someone is an evasive parasite then they should be made an example of as a tool for persuading others.(if cultural activism is your goal) No pearls to swine, as it were.....

 

This has the effect of highlighting how many parasites their are and can be frustrating.

 

Most altruistic parasites will never have the constitution to listen to their ideas and actions being called what they are and be able to evaluate the argument intellectually. This is why Ms. Rand evoked such a vitriolic response from those who choices made them too insecure to listen to the reasons behind the judgments.... Weakness snowballs on itself.

 

I admit that these kinds will listen to someone who avoids direct identification and adopts a circumspect method. Likewise an ignorant emotionalist most often will attack one who is trying to patiently breakthrough the emotional veil. This usually requires someone willing to suffer injustice to "break through". But when does "tact" become avoidance of moral judgment or the pursuit of non value? That is a difficult question.

Edited by Plasmatic
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Learning to anticipating objections and hone philosophic detective skills take time and effort.

Yes, I agree. I think that effective communication is a skill, and potentially worth developing for those who choose to spend their time discussing and debating ideas. I think it is at least worth while to think about the practical difference between potential approaches; to recognize that your choice of approach might affect how the content of your communication is received.

 

Ridicule is exploiting the fallacy of argument by laughter. Sam Harris uses it in this 3.75 minute clip and even has his protagonist laughing.

I enjoyed that and found it charming. It may not be the primary goal for many debates, but I far prefer it when I and my "opponent" walk away both having enjoyed the experience. I think that polite conversation stands a better chance at also being pleasant conversation. It might also stand a better chance at being effective conversation, if one's goals in engaging in conversation include persuasion.

 

Insults are . . . well . . . insulting. If they must be used, then try to make it clear that it is the idea is being insulted.

I don't think there is any call for attacking the individual such as: You're a nincompoop for bringing this up.

 

Attack the idea instead:

How can you raise such an asinine topic? People already know how to communicate. It is self-evident from all of the threads here.

I believe that there are even better alternatives potentially available. For your last paragraph, I would personally strike "how can you raise such an asinine topic"; it adds some vitriol certainly, but I don't know what else it accomplishes. That kind of thing makes me feel defensive and might inspire me to respond with venom, such as by saying something like:

"It certainly might appear asinine to someone who doesn't know very much about communication."

In my experience, these kinds of flames tend to feed on one another; I would expect the conversation to degenerate further from there. And you'll notice that my response is directed towards you rather than the topic. So now we're talking about me (how can I do such a thing as raise this topic) and you (your knowledge about communication) and your evaluation of my choice in presenting my argument, when instead we could be talking about the ideas themselves. IMO, not ideal.

Furthermore, I've seen it argued before that "attacking ideas," in the manner you've suggested, is acceptable over "attacking people," because you're not technically talking about the person himself. I don't know that I agree. When I see the word "asinine" used in relation to what I've said, I'm apt to take it as applying to me in some fashion, if attenuated. For after all, what kind of person would raise an asinine topic in the first place...?

I think that the constructions "you are an idiot" or "what an idiotic thing to say" or "only an idiot would say such a thing" all serve to insult, but again, I don't know what good they do.

For myself, I'd rather just be shown the errors in my arguments, rather than anyone's evaluation of those same arguments (which don't seem to have any value without support anyways). Perhaps both can be done? Perhaps. But I believe I've found an informal correlation between those who resort to such tactics and those who cannot make a compelling case for their arguments otherwise.

 

What I do find universal, though, is mutual respect, or the lack thereof. If I come to understand a base level of respect in another person, I can adapt to more or less any personality -- brash, timid, analytic, gloomy, whatever. All I really care about is respect, which I try (and don't always succeed) to return or to offer, at first.

When that base level of respect is missing, I don't know that there is much to be hoped for or accomplished in discussion. Or at least, I don't see any point in participating personally. Time's too short and there's too much to get done.

 

My own primary obstacle for discourse with others is intellectual honesty- sincerity.

The same goes for this -- intellectual honesty. I believe that you and JASKN have identified two keys for productive discussion: respect and sincerity. (Frankly, given these two things in a discussion on both sides, I don't expect there to be many insults.)

I'd like to explore this topic further. How do we assess someone's intellectual honesty or sincerity? How do we identify evasion versus an honest mistake? And when someone is being evasive in a discussion... is there some good way of helping bring that to their attention? Or is it an insurmountable obstacle?

Relatedly, if someone is accused of being evasive, how should they process that accusation/respond? Due to the nature of evasion, I don't know how well-equipped most people are to identify it within their own thoughts, should it exist. If a person is doing his best to approach a topic sincerely, yet is accused of being evasive, is that a cue to walk away from the discussion? Or is there a better response available?

 

I do NOT think that one should ignore the tone that others bring to discourse though. A rational egoist is not a duty bound cultural warrior.

Agreed.

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A conversation or a debate should be constructive. It should be goal oriented to reach a conclusion. More often than not I find that people (even objectivist) make an opinion and then debate with their minds closed to contradictions of their opinion. Further they are caught up in Backfire effect -  

 

"The Backfire effect occurs when, in face of contradictory evidence, established belief do not change but actually get stronger. "

 

For any conversation  or any debate to be conclusive, one must uphold Honesty. Personally I have never been good at conversations, especially with people who are not Honest. The objective of a conversation should be that "the best and the most rational points win" and not personal victory or defeat or insult or derogation....

 

EDIT - Also a conversation wherein parties "Agree to Disagree", is nothing but waste of time. Contradictions do not Exist !

Edited by Anuj
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Check out some of these fallacies. I put these forward in order to both avoid indulging in such fallacies and spotting it when somebody uses it. These help in 'tact' also. 

 

Ayn Rand's Argument from intimidation

ad hominem

Ignoratio elenchi

Backfire effect

Evasion

 

There are lots of other fallacies mentioned in this site also - Fallcies

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Good communication is powerful. That's all there is to it. As long as your message has power (meaning that it grabs people's attention and delivers the message in unanbiguous terms), that is the "proper" means of communicating something. The more provocative the words, the more attention you get, the more definitive and unambiguous, the less likely it is that it is misunderstood.

A great example is Nietzche's simple statement "Gott ist tot.", or Ayn Rand's uncompromizing, unconditional embrace of reason and egoism. An easily accessible message, and there's no mistaking or evading what's being communicated. Perfect.

Another excellent example is a picture of Mohammad having sex with a pig. Doesn't even matter who's on top (though I'm partial to the pig, personally), either way it grabs your attention and communicates the message "Islam has no place here" flawlessly. It's basically the same message Nietzshe sent out to Christian philosophers, but adapted to the level of understanding of a different target audience.

Edited by Nicky
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I personally feel there are three more important aspect of communication 1) sticking to the topic of discussion 2) maintaining a civilized standard that is facilitating to an intellectual discussion and 3) Being objective.

 

Another excellent example is a picture of Mohammad having sex with a pig. Doesn't even matter who's on top (though I'm partial to the pig, personally), either way it grabs your attention and communicates the message "Islam has no place here" flawlessly. It's basically the same message Nietzshe sent out to Christian philosophers, but adapted to the level of understanding of a different target audience.

 

Nicky, your post..

  1. [Removed]. 
  2. Is Uncivilized - " Doesn't even matter who's on top (though I'm partial to the pig, personally) "
  3. Is not Objective - Can you prove how  your sexually depraved cartoon flawlessly communicates "Islam has no place here" ?

Please clarify if otherwise. 

 

EDIT - Removed point.1, as DonAthos did mention that he would like to discuss about such cartoons. 

Edited by Anuj
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Is your objection that Nicky talked about insulting Islam? I think the cartoon example follows from the broader point of Nicky's post: no matter how you communicate, be it a cartoon or a written explanation, good communication "grabs people's attention and delivers the message in unanbiguous terms."

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Is your objection that Nicky talked about insulting Islam? I think the cartoon example follows from the broader point of Nicky's post: no matter how you communicate, be it a cartoon or a written explanation, good communication "grabs people's attention and delivers the message in unanbiguous terms."

 

I have removed point 1 from my previous post #12 as I was incorrect. No I don't care about Islam. None whatsoever. But yes my objections is - Nicky's post is uncivilized and not objective.

 

Uncivilized - Preference whether pig is on top ? Really ! Do we care about that  ?

 

Not Objective -  Man-with-Animal sex? A humiliation to the concept of "Man and the best that he can be" and perhaps to the concept of "Sex" as well. It is in unambiguous terms? See I just derived different meaning even when I don't support Islam or any other religion. Will this enlighten Muslims or provoke them? What is your objective here ? Okay. Which is more unambiguous. His man-with-animal-sex-no-matter-who-ever-is-on-top poster or a poster that just plainly says "ISLAM HAS NO PLACE HERE"  ? How do prove that his sexually depraved cartoon flawlessly communicates "Islam has no place here" ?

Edited by Anuj
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Most high-school English writing classes will say that the way to make an "argument" (by which they also mean advertisements etc.) is not to use logos and ethos alone. Pathos is important too. There's also kairos, which might mean one shuts up until the time is right. 

 

A lot of people think some of Rand's essays overly emotive and sometimes insulting of opponents (whether they are altruists or feminists or whatever). And, I think they have a point. Rand's tone and style was right for a certain audience, but not for others.

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"If the fur is not flying, you ain't doing nothing" ~ Mel Gibson

 

I followed that sentiment too closely in THE FORUM, and was ejected for "inciting a riot".  There's a lot to be said for speaking provocatively, but both parties get wet in a pissing match, and neither comes off smelling too good.

 

I prefer playing the role of the dissident/heretic in this forum, or the 10th man in life in general, or Statler or Waldorf from the Muppet Show.  It follows from discovering early on that I learn more by trying to understand the contrary position, the strengths and weaknesses, than listening in agreement or defending what others are comfortable with.  I couldn't help but enjoy being described by CriticalThinker2000 recently as "an Objectivism sympathizer".  That was certainly more generous and nearer the mark, than I've recieved from others.  I consider myself more of an Eddie Willers Objectivist.

 

I've tried to tone it down a bit, because I think it's hard to get through to (and get sincere feedback from) someone who's really angry at you.  So I poke and prod and tickle in an effort to learn something useful, which I believe is what life is all about.  I also appreciate getting thumped when I deserve it.  If it's any consolation to you folks here, no one sits too closely to me in the pews on those occasions when I choose to attend there either.

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Anuj, our opposite reactions to Nicky's post is an example of one of the points so far in this thread: tact is for a particular audience. As to the beastiality insult, did you come away with the understanding that "Islam has no place here"? If so, then Nicky met his standard of good communication. Given this forum's audience, I'm not sure what other meaning could have been derived. Most people here understand the evil of modern Islam more than most. I doubt many reading his post would think also, "And Nicky has no respect for man at his best, nor for sex at its best." It was clearly an insult about Islam alone.

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A conversation or a debate should be constructive. It should be goal oriented to reach a conclusion.

I'd put a proviso here. While I agree that a conversation should be constructive, I don't think that the only acceptable conclusion to a debate is one side or the other changing his mind.

In my experience, new ideas often take time to process, validate, and to come to understand all of the implications. So instead of waiting for someone to agree with me, and holding that as the only possible "happy ending," I endeavor to express myself as fully as possible. If I believe I've done this to the best of my ability, I'm typically satisfied with my participation.

 

More often than not I find that people (even objectivist) make an opinion and then debate with their minds closed to contradictions of their opinion.

This is an interesting point -- one that I believe could be elaborated on, and one that might inspire some heated opposition.

Earlier I'd said that I considered "respect" to be a key for productive discussion. Well, how is that respect communicated? I believe that one of the ways it is communicated is by taking the other person seriously, at least temporarily, in trying to understand their point of view. I think it requires a person to set aside some measure of his own certainty, in order to give a fresh reading to the presented evidence and lines of reasoning.

Otherwise, I've found that people can come across as derisive, or condescending, in (implicitly or explicitly) communicating that the opposition could not conceivably be correct. In arguments where I'm on the receiving end of such an attitude, that communicates to me that my evidence and reasoning will not be given a fair examination. It makes me feel as though I'm not being respected as a partner in discussion, and it disinclines me from putting in the thought and the work that a productive discussion requires.

 

EDIT - Also a conversation wherein parties "Agree to Disagree", is nothing but waste of time. Contradictions do not Exist !

Well, contradictions don't exist, but as for the rest we might have to agree to disagree, for now. ;)

 

Good communication is powerful. That's all there is to it. As long as your message has power (meaning that it grabs people's attention and delivers the message in unanbiguous terms), that is the "proper" means of communicating something. The more provocative the words, the more attention you get, the more definitive and unambiguous, the less likely it is that it is misunderstood.

I think that there's a lot to be said for power, and for grabbing attention. Sometimes I'll write what I consider to be a thoughtful post, directly addressing someone's core contention, only to see it ignored in favor of something more incendiary, but lighter in terms of content, or off target. This is something I have to work on. (Sometimes I think to myself, "If I'd called you an asshole, would you at least respond to that?")

But I don't agree that provocation helps one avoid being misunderstood. At least, I don't think it's true of me when I'm provoked; I think that when I feel anger, it makes it much more difficult for me to think clearly. And I believe I've observed some good conversations get utterly derailed over "provocative words," so I don't think that my experience in being provoked in this manner is unique.

 

A great example is Nietzche's simple statement "Gott ist tot.", or Ayn Rand's uncompromizing, unconditional embrace of reason and egoism. An easily accessible message, and there's no mistaking or evading what's being communicated. Perfect.

I wish that there was no mistaking or evading Rand's messages!

 

Another excellent example is a picture of Mohammad having sex with a pig. Doesn't even matter who's on top (though I'm partial to the pig, personally), either way it grabs your attention and communicates the message "Islam has no place here" flawlessly. It's basically the same message Nietzshe sent out to Christian philosophers, but adapted to the level of understanding of a different target audience.

I don't know. What I mean to say is, I think that you're right -- the target audience matters. For instance, I can imagine some Muslim youth who might be reached by something which appeals to his reason, yet is utterly turned off by such a cartoon, thinking that the author must not have anything truly insightful to say.

To put this another way, if Ayn Rand hadn't written Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, The Virtue of Selfishness, ITOE, etc., but instead had illustrated cartoons of Plato, Marx and Kant in an orgy with whatever barnyard animals you'd suppose, I don't think we'd be here discussing this; I don't think this forum would exist.

Which is not to say that these cartoons have no place, no audience. But they don't do very well for me, I guess, as arguments. I'm open to someone else's thoughtful critique of Objectivism, but they can keep their imaginative illustrations of Rand and company to themselves.

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Uncivilized - Preference whether pig is on top ? Really ! Do we care about that  ?

As much as I'm refreshed by someone finding some innocent little pig sex cartoon tabu, there really is no connection between breaching tabus and civilization. Maybe you mean un-civil?

Anyways, if you're gonna hang out on the Internet, you best get used to people saying things you wouldn't hear about in your mom and dad's living room during a Sunday afternoon gettogether.

And you are doing a bang up job of providing an example of ineffective communication. Don't worry about my posts. Worry about your own. Worrying about how I say things is just bickering, not communication.

Not Objective -  Man-with-Animal sex? A humiliation to the concept of "Man and the best that he can be" and perhaps to the concept of "Sex" as well. It is in unambiguous terms? See I just derived different meaning

I doubt you honestly believe the intention behind those cartoons (or my post) was to make an esthetic statement concerning zoophilia (not that there would be anything wrong with that). Edited by Nicky
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I doubt you honestly believe the intention behind those cartoons was to make an esthetic statement concerning zoophilia.

And you are doing a bang up job of providing an example of ineffective communication. Don't worry about my posts. Worry about your own. Worrying about how I say things is just bickering, not communication.

 

Nope. Honestly, I am not arguing about a trivial matter. This is prevalent. Why do you want to make sex a tool for humiliation ? Is it the right tool for humiliation ? Is there a need ? This gives grounds for people to think sex is immoral. 

 

Anyways, if you're gonna hang out on the Internet, you best get used to people saying things you wouldn't hear about in your mom and dad's living room during a Sunday afternoon gettogether.

 

Yeah.. Well.. Even if a million different Internet users do something wrong, it does not make it right.

Edited by Anuj
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But I don't agree that provocation helps one avoid being misunderstood. At least, I don't think it's true of me when I'm provoked; I think that when I feel anger, it makes it much more difficult for me to think clearly. And I believe I've observed some good conversations get utterly derailed over "provocative words," so I don't think that my experience in being provoked in this manner is unique.

Ultimately when all is said and done, do you think angered, unclear thinking is the fault of the provoked or the provoker?

I find it very easy to provoke people, but I am not as easily provoked myself. This is something I keep in mind these days when interacting with people. When I do get angry, I might be justified if the other person's intent was disrespectful. But, I think it's my job to think clearly for myself no matter how some other schmuck decides to behave. I think the longterm aim should be to just dismiss provokers who have disrespectful intent, rather than waste one moment of your life in an unnecessary negative state because of what someone else said to you.

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I'll drag some epistemology and metaphysics in here for fun.

 

As for epistemology, recall that all knowledge is contextual, and the "context" of any given bit of knowledge ultimately connects to its purpose (and there's a whole hierarchy of purposes, etc.).

 

Often (most of the time?) the disagreement among arguers is about them being in two different contexts. There are different ultimate goals between the parties.

 

Recently a comedian described the resultant situation as, "Two excellent tennis players making brilliant shots against their opponent--on two different tennis courts".

 

One very common problem among objectivists is that they forget that the stories in Ayn Rand's books were fiction and that they were necessarily a stark, simplified view of a world (as all fiction must be). Ayn Rand did not convey they incredible complexity of the real world we live in. She wrote about the "good guys" and the "bad guys" to be used as signposts for helping us understand the real world.

 

But the real world is complicated--when your goal is to solve problems in it.

 

But that's not everybody's goal. Some people's goal is to reinforce what they read in Ayn Rand's fiction books, or in some cases their goal is just to win the argument they happen to be in, apropos of nothing else.

 

My goal is a relatively safe and lower-taxed world in which I can carry out my life. I observe the world we currently, really live in, and advocate for the actions which will further my goal.

 

In the real world we know there are a billion Muslims, for instance. Needlessly pissing them off will not further my goal. Neither will needlessly pissing off religious people of all stripes, for that matter, will not further my goal. Rather, it will detract from it.

 

I also know that a lot of people--no matter what their religious beliefs--share my goal. Also, I know from a rather complex life I've lead (for instance, I haven't been a book author cooped up in an apartment all my life) that people are not "Aquinus's Angel"--that they don't automatically apply the logical implications of their basic premises.

 

In other words, most religious people I know are more or less "rational" about most things, as most people are.

 

Hence when you attack their religion as such (and out of a clearly defined, detailed context), they honestly don't even know what you are talking about. They just think you are an asshole.

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One very common problem among objectivists is that they forget that the stories in Ayn Rand's books were fiction and that they were necessarily a stark, simplified view of a world (as all fiction must be). Ayn Rand did not convey they incredible complexity of the real world we live in. She wrote about the "good guys" and the "bad guys" to be used as signposts for helping us understand the real world.

 

But the real world is complicated--when your goal is to solve problems in it.

 

But that's not everybody's goal. Some people's goal is to reinforce what they read in Ayn Rand's fiction books, or in some cases their goal is just to win the argument they happen to be in, apropos of nothing else.

 

My goal is a relatively safe and lower-taxed world in which I can carry out my life. I observe the world we currently, really live in, and advocate for the actions which will further my goal.

 

In the real world we know there are a billion Muslims, for instance. Needlessly pissing them off will not further my goal. Neither will needlessly pissing off religious people of all stripes, for that matter, will not further my goal. Rather, it will detract from it.

 

I also know that a lot of people--no matter what their religious beliefs--share my goal. Also, I know from a rather complex life I've lead (for instance, I haven't been a book author cooped up in an apartment all my life) that people are not "Aquinus's Angel"--that they don't automatically apply the logical implications of their basic premises.

 

In other words, most religious people I know are more or less "rational" about most things, as most people are.

 

Hence when you attack their religion as such (and out of a clearly defined, detailed context), they honestly don't even know what you are talking about. They just think you are an asshole.

 

 

"There can be no compromise between a property owner and a burglar; offering the burglar a single teaspoon of one’s silverware would not be a compromise, but a total surrender—the recognition of his right to one’s property." -Ayn Rand

 

What would she say about compromise on the issue of speech? If Charlie Hedbo decides not to print something because they are threatened, who has won? The notion that the world is too complex for the simplistic principles illustrated in Ayn Rand's fiction is a thinly veiled excuse to compromise on basic moral principles.

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Earlier I'd said that I considered "respect" to be a key for productive discussion. Well, how is that respect communicated? I believe that one of the ways it is communicated is by taking the other person seriously, at least temporarily, in trying to understand their point of view. I think it requires a person to set aside some measure of his own certainty, in order to give a fresh reading to the presented evidence and lines of reasoning.

Otherwise, I've found that people can come across as derisive, or condescending, in (implicitly or explicitly) communicating that the opposition could not conceivably be correct. In arguments where I'm on the receiving end of such an attitude, that communicates to me that my evidence and reasoning will not be given a fair examination. It makes me feel as though I'm not being respected as a partner in discussion, and it disinclines me from putting in the thought and the work that a productive discussion requires.

 

 

This reminds me of strangers from Ethics of Emergencies.

 

"What then, should one properly grant to strangers? The generalized respect and good will which one should grant to a human being in the name of the potential value he represents - until and unless he forfeits it. Since men are born tabula rasa, morally, a rational man regards strangers as innocent until proven guilty, and grants them that initial good will in the name of their human potential. After that, he judges them according to the moral character they have actualized."

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"There can be no compromise between a property owner and a burglar; offering the burglar a single teaspoon of one’s silverware would not be a compromise, but a total surrender—the recognition of his right to one’s property." -Ayn Rand

 

What would she say about compromise on the issue of speech? If Charlie Hedbo decides not to print something because they are threatened, who has won? The notion that the world is too complex for the simplistic principles illustrated in Ayn Rand's fiction is a thinly veiled excuse to compromise on basic moral principles.

 

Um, in this case, the terrorists won. Hebdo is dead.

 

It's not that the world is too complex for the principles in Ayn Rand's books, it's that the world is not specifically Ayn Rand's books. You cannot describe, in the necessary detail to live, even the tiniest corner of our civilization in 1000 pages.

 

In other news, if a burglar demanded a silver teaspoon of mine lest he kill me, then he's getting the stupid teaspoon. I can buy another silverware set. In reality I do not, for instance, keep extremely expensive things in my home lest my home's security be reduced and the risk of violence to our persons be increased. Its a trade-off I make--and it's not the end of the world.

 

I live in the real world, not in an Ayn Rand novel.

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