Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Can politeness be reconciled w/ justice in O'ism?

Rate this topic


Recommended Posts

The virtue of Rationality means ...  that one must never seek or grant the unearned and undeserved, neither in matter nor in spirit (which is the virtue of Justice).

Objectivists have said that Justice requires that one be intolerant of evil and of error.

Yet Politeness, which is commonly considered to be a virtue, demands that one not call unnecessary attention to the faults of others.

So my question is -- can Politeness be reconciled with Justice? Is there a polite way to dispense justice? Or must Objectivists be impolite?

Link to post
Share on other sites
Yet Politeness, which is commonly considered to be a virtue, demands that one not call unnecessary attention to the faults of others.

So my question is -- can Politeness be reconciled with Justice?  Is there a polite way to dispense justice?  Or must Objectivists be impolite?

Politeness actually holds that you cannot even think negative thoughts about others. In that respect, Objectivism is inconsistent with Politeness (capitalized in order to distinguish it from ordinary politeness). However, most advocates of Politeness are unwilling to admit the overt mind-control nature of their philosophy, so we could just reject most actual believers in Politeness as abberant Radical Politeness activists, and not give any consideration to Politeness. Then turning to the restricted question of whether Objectivism requires unnecessarily calling attention to the faults of others, the answer is clearly "no". When it is necessary, you should do it, but when it is not necessary, you do not need to do it. In that case, the virtue of politeness (not Politeness, which is a vice) would lead you to not draw attention to a person's flaws. Perhaps you are thinking that in man's natural state, we should be verbally assailing each other unless some person has earned a respite from the verbal assaults -- if that were the case, then granting a person indifference would be granting the unearned. But constantly attacking others is not part of man's nature, so not attacking a person for a flaw is not doling out the unearned.
Link to post
Share on other sites
Politeness actually holds that you cannot even think negative thoughts about others. In that respect, Objectivism is inconsistent with Politeness (capitalized in order to distinguish it from ordinary politeness)...

Interesting question. I'm not sure it is good to distinguish between Politeness and politeness. There are many non-Objectivist meanings of justice, and it seems that the only reason to declare any meaning as "Justice" is one's personal values. That said, there are different connotations for virtues and vices, and it may be best to be specific about what you mean, jrs.

Politeness could be considered as a virtue (if it's well defined,) but it wouldn't be one of the fundamental virtues. It'd probably be hierarchically equivalent to the virtue of Smiling at Strangers. Both can facilitate one's life in certain contexts, but those contexts are extremely narrow, whereas the fundamental virtues (of which justice is one) apply almost everywhere.

Actually, I think your definition (or use) of politeness ("demands that one not call unnecessary attention to the faults of others") seems accurate, though it obviously lives or dies based on what is "unnecessary."

But to answer the questions.

1) The way to reconcile opposing virtue is (for Objectivists) to remember that a virtue is only a virtue in its capacity to be beneficial to a man's life. If only one is beneficial in a situation, only that one is a virtue in that particular scenario. If both are exclusive, yet both beneficial to man's life, I suppose you'd choose the one that were of greater value to life in that situation.

2) There is a polite way of dispensing justice.

3) Must Objectivists be impolite? Certainly not! That sounds like making rudeness a virtue. However, politeness would be an exceedingly slight virtue in most contexts for an Objectivist, so politeness can be superseded by a load of other virtues. It's pretty far down on the totem pole.

Link to post
Share on other sites
I'm not sure it is good to distinguish between Politeness and politeness.
When people misuse the word, you have to do something to distinguish between "politeness" properly interpreted and what you might term "the miscreant perversion of the concept politeness which holds that morality is subjective and therefore it is bad to judge the actions of others". I just thought it was useful to use the shorter expression, that jrs already introduced.
Link to post
Share on other sites
Objectivists have said that Justice requires that one be intolerant of evil [...].

Speaking for myself, as a long-term student of Objectivism, I would say: Yes, and act on that intolerance in a manner appropriate to the context. Further, as I have learned from Ayn Rand and Dr. Peikoff, I would say that rewarding the good is far more important than punishing the bad. I gain benefits from the good; but the bad merely offers some threat to the benefits.

Yet Politeness, which is commonly considered to be a virtue, demands that one not call unnecessary attention to the faults of others.
Considered by whom? If you mean non-Objectivists, then the context is changing here. Further, as others here have pointed out, "unnecessary" also helps set the context. What would be the gain of gratuitously pointing out the faults of others? What would be the motive -- altruism?

So my question is -- can Politeness be reconciled with Justice?  Is there a polite way to dispense justice?  Or must Objectivists be impolite?

To the first: Yes, because there is no conflict between being just and being polite in a particular circumstance considered within the context of all that you know (which includes your whole life).

To the second: Yes, there are polite ways to dispense justice. For example, in Atlas Shrugged, Dagny Taggart dispensed justice to the guard outside the torture chamber. She was never rude.

The third question has already been answered: Of course justice does not require rudeness. There is no conflict between them. Anyone who says there is has the burden of proof to show that there is.

Link to post
Share on other sites

For me, what is missing from the discussion is a definition of key terms, especially these two:

Politeness: As I use this term, it names a certain idea, the idea that a man does and should follow rules of etiquette in interacting with others. A polite man is one who follows rules of etiquette. (Etiquettes, like moralities, may be objective or not.)

Etiquette: As I use this term, it means the art of applying principles and rules for social interaction with the purpose of facilitating trade among individuals in society. (Etiquette is also a science in that someone must think up the principles and rules, although often the rules, if not the principles, arise in the form of custom, which may or may not be objective.)

What is an example of a rule of etiquette? Here is one: Keep quiet while a professor is delivering his lecture; it would be rude to whisper to one's classmates, for example. This facilitates trade by giving the lecturer a chance to do his job.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Or must Objectivists be impolite?

Looking back on it, I now see that this could be read as implying that Objectivists are less polite than other people. That was not what I meant. If anything, they tend to be more polite than many groups of people are.

...  Politeness (capitalized in order to distinguish it from ordinary politeness).

I am sorry if I was not clear. I did not mean the Politeness Movement of David Hume or any other philosophical movement. I had no idea that any such thing existed until I read your message. I was referring to ordinary good manners.

The reason I capitalized "Politeness" was that I was comparing it to "Justice" which was capitalized by Ayn Rand.

Politeness actually holds that you cannot even think negative thoughts about others.
Whatever may be true of those philosophical movements, ordinary politeness certainly DOES NOT require that one censor one's own thoughts.

Actually, I think your definition (or use) of politeness ("demands that one not call unnecessary attention to the faults of others") seems accurate, though it obviously lives or dies based on what is "unnecessary."

That was not a definition of "politeness". Here is one:

politeness (n) civility; the act of showing regard for others.

http://wordnet.princeton.edu/perl/webwn?s=politeness

The purpose of politeness, as I see it, is to make and keep friends and avoid making enemies. This is a value as long as the friends are worth having, i.e. as long as they are decent and productive people.

Considered by whom? If you mean non-Objectivists, then the context is changing here.

I am not aware that Ayn Rand or any of her main disciples ever addressed the issue of politeness. So I defaulted back to the common (i.e. non-Objectivist) opinion that it is a virtue.

Of course justice does not require rudeness. There is no conflict between them. Anyone who says there is has the burden of proof to show that there is.
It appears that I asked the wrong question. What I really want is help with delimiting the boundary of what is necessary in the way of confronting the faults of others. What principle or principles apply?

A polite man is one who follows rules of etiquette.

.....

...  with the purpose of facilitating trade among individuals in society.

Good point.

Link to post
Share on other sites
What I really want is help with delimiting the boundary of what is necessary in the way of confronting the faults of others.  What principle or principles apply?
The principle is simple but abstract -- do what is necessary to accomplish your goal. Speaking somewhat harshly to a person may be necessary in order to get their attention if they are oblivious. If you are addressing a person who can take a hint, it may suffice to say something oblique like "That isn't really yours, is it?, and it would not be necessary to denounce the person as an immoral thief. You simply have to select between actions in terms of their (computable) consequences, and whether that yields a net positive or negative outcome for you.
Link to post
Share on other sites
That was not a definition of "politeness".  Here is one:

politeness (n) civility; the act of showing regard for others. [...]

The purpose of politeness, as I see it, is to make and keep friends and avoid making enemies.  This is a value as long as the friends are worth having, i.e. as long as they are decent and productive people.

First, jrs, thank you for bringing the subject up. Etiquette deserves attention, especially in a free society. (In a command-society, etiquette is irrelevant.)

Second, I would suggest that the dictionary usage (not a formal definition) is flawed. For example, if I show my high regard for my closest friend by giving her a gift that has special meaning to her and to me, I am not primarily being "polite" but loving or affectionate.

Third, I disagree that the essential purpose of politeness is to make and keep friends or even to avoid making (new) enemies. Making and keeping friends, and avoiding making new enemies (because of rudeness), are likely to be particular consequences, but not the fundamental consequence, and therefore not the fundamental purpose. Instead, the fundamental purpose of etiquette (and its application, politeness) is very general: to facilitate trade with other individuals in society. That includes all kinds of trade: economic, informational, and spiritual (as in friendship), for example.

To limit the purpose of etiquette (and therefore politeness) to one narrow consequence -- that is, one form of trade -- would be to fall into the error of the frozen abstraction. (For anyone interested in this error, see: "Frozen Abstraction, Fallacy of," The Ayn Rand Lexicon.)

Link to post
Share on other sites

If you begin politely, assuming an error in knowledge and a grasp of reality, you can always escalate later as the evidence becomes more convincing. It's much more difficult to de-escalate.

In the case of confronting evil, it makes sense to be polite if your knowledge is not so complete that you can't accurately condemn someone as intentionally evil.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Second, I would suggest that the dictionary usage (not a formal definition) is flawed. For example, if I show my high regard for my closest friend by giving her a gift that has special meaning to her and to me, I am not primarily being "polite" but loving or affectionate.

Yes. Politeness deals more with a minimum standard of behavior, such as making sure that you have refreshments and a clean functional bathroom when you invite your friends over.

Instead, the fundamental purpose of etiquette (and its application, politeness) is very general: to facilitate trade with other individuals in society. That includes all kinds of trade: economic, informational, and spiritual (as in friendship), for example.
How would you apply etiquette to two (or more) people trying to reason together about an abstract issue? Assume that both of them desire to reach a conclusion which they can both accept as justified and true. However, they do not initially agree on what is the logical way to proceed. This is a problem which arises often in this forum.

If you begin politely, assuming an error in knowledge and a grasp of reality, you can always escalate later as the evidence becomes more convincing. It's much more difficult to de-escalate.

Yes. This is the sort of principle for which I was looking.

Link to post
Share on other sites
 

Politeness deals more with a minimum standard of behavior, such as making sure that you have refreshments and a clean functional bathroom when you invite your friends over.

Yes, behavior -- in society. A man living alone on an island needs no etiquette. Using your example, the guideline from etiquette would be: If you invite people to your house (or office), make sure you have the facilities for them to stay as long as you want them to stay in order to achieve your purpose in trading with them.

In other words, the principle is to facilitate others in doing what you want them to do as part of the trade. An example of a rule of etiquette, as distinct from a principle (which is a broad abstraction), would be: Place a water glass on the right side of the dinner setting for predictable and easy access (assuming right-handed people). Such a rule (if I have remembered it correctly!) facilitates trade (conversation) at the dinner table by reducing the number of minor issues that require attention from the individuals who are eating while they converse.

How would you apply etiquette to two (or more) people trying to reason together about an abstract issue?  Assume that both of them desire to reach a conclusion which they can both accept as justified and true.  However, they do not initially agree on what is the logical way to proceed.  This is a problem which arises often in this forum.

You are right to focus, as an example, on the etiquette of discourse (talking in society). Discourse is, I believe, the most important form of trade in society. It ranges from the affectionate talk between lovers to the formal speaking between a prosecuting attorney and a hostile witness, in a courtroom set up for a murder trial.

I am not sure I have understood your example. Following is my elaboration of it. You have asked specifically about a discussion (not debate) between two or more individuals who want to solve a common problem, a problem which neither has been able to solve individually. So far, I understand you, I hope.

But you say they want to reach one conclusion to which they all agree. Why would they want that? Do you have some special situation in mind that would require unanimity? I am also unsure what you mean by "justified and true." Isn't that redundant?

Setting aside those puzzles, I would say that the proper etiquette for discussions you can control is to have a preliminary discussion about the discussion. (Keep in mind that a discussion, unlike a debate, is a verbal interaction in which two or more individuals are seeking a solution to a common problem.) They would agree (one hopes) on some procedure for addressing the problem -- and that would include a specification of what constitutes a proof.

So the rule of etiquette would be: To avoid unnecessary conflicts later, agree first to a procedure for addressing the problem and to standards of proof (among other issues).

Always remember, however, that individuals entering an open discussion -- such as the one here, the one you started -- may have individual purposes in addition to or even contrary to the purposes of the other individuals involved. The assumption is that everyone has something to gain from the trade, even if it is only practice in articulating ideas not fully automatized yet.

A current example of a problem in discussion, from this forum, is a troll whose purpose is to undermine Objectivism, while trying to hide his own identity (for example, by refusing to reveal his own philosophy despite repeated questions about it from other forum members). The way to handle such behavior is to have (1) rules banning arbitrary and evasive behavior; and (2) moderators who enforce the rules, by penalizing or, better yet, by excluding trolls.

So, if you are looking for an example of the etiquette of discussion, then look at ObjectivismOnline.net. It does have Forum Rules and moderators, and they do enforce those rules when sufficient evidence has accumulated -- and when someone brings it to their attention.

If I have misunderstood you in anyway, please bring the point up. This, by the way, is common procedure in a discussion between honest individuals: One person says something, another person tries to make sure he understands, back and forth, until the issues are clear -- and then they can try to solve the problem(s).

Edited by BurgessLau
Link to post
Share on other sites
In other words, the principle is to facilitate others in doing what you want them to do as part of the trade.

But if the trade you want is that she should marry you, then this would go beyond politeness to expressing love (as in your counter-example).

What do you think of this revised definition?:

politeness (n) an action which tends to maintain the willingness of another person to engage in a friendly or business relationship with the actor.

You have asked specifically about a discussion (not debate) between two or more individuals who want to solve a common problem, a problem which neither has been able to solve individually.
Actually, the train of thought which led me to create this thread was prompted by the debate in which I recently participated with AisA. (I cannot discuss the details of that debate here since that would lead me into a violation of the rules of this forum.) But I was wondering whether I did too much to confront him or too little or some of each. And I felt that he may have gone too far in confronting me, but I was not positive. So I wanted a standard to check our actions against.

I felt that both of us were sincere, not merely trying to score debating points or being a devil's advocate or trolling. So I think that my description applies to that debate as it would to a discussion -- "Assume that both of them desire to reach a conclusion which they can both accept as justified and true. However, they do not initially agree on what is the logical way to proceed.".

So this is not necessarily a "problem which neither has been able to solve individually". Rather the problem could be to determine who is wrong and correct his thinking.

...  I would say that the proper etiquette for discussions you can control is to have a preliminary discussion about the discussion.

.....

They would agree (one hopes) on some procedure for addressing the problem -- and that would include a specification of what constitutes a proof.

But in this forum, the usual situation is: someone expresses his opinion; another person comments on it; and we find ourselves thrust willy nilly into the heat of argument. We need a way to get from there to an understanding on how to proceed; and then to a conclusion.

A current example of a problem in discussion, from this forum, is a troll whose purpose is to undermine Objectivism, while trying to hide his own identity (for example, by refusing to reveal his own philosophy despite repeated questions about it from other forum members). The way to handle such behavior is to have (1) rules banning arbitrary and evasive behavior; and (2) moderators who enforce the rules, by penalizing or, better yet, by excluding trolls.

You-all do exclude trolls fairly efficiently. So I am restricting this to the case that neither party is a troll.

Link to post
Share on other sites

To jrs: The title question of your thread is whether it is possible to be both polite and just. That question has been answered: Yes, it is possible to be both just and polite. Do you agree that the question has been answered?

But if the trade you want is that she should marry you, [...]

I am confused by your example. A trade is an exchange. The purpose of etiquette is to facilitate -- make possible, make easy -- the trade if the two trading partners actually agree to make the trade. Being polite won't (or shouldn't) convince someone to marry you. Your character (not your etiquette) should be an argument in favor of persuading her to marry you. (Actually, personally, I would say that anyone who needs to be persuaded to marry isn't suitable to begin with, but that is another issue.)

then this would go beyond politeness to expressing love (as in your counter-example).
I do not know what you mean by "go beyond." In your example, could not you be both polite to your beloved one and loving too? I don't see what the problem is.

There certainly isn't any conflict between being polite and being loving, as there is no conflict between being polite and being just with, for example, someone who is dishonest. If I am at a dinner party, if I suddenly realize that the host is being dishonest, and if I conclude that my presence is a sanction on his dishonesty, I can politely excuse myself -- perhaps with a small bow (with or without an explanation) to his other (presumably honest) guests -- and leave. In that situation, one can be both polite and just.

What do you think of this revised definition?:

politeness (n) an action which tends to maintain the willingness of another person to engage in a friendly or business relationship with the actor.

I would reject it as a definition of politeness. Your definition could just as well describe the noun forms of "obsequious" and "ingratiating," which are not the same as politeness (which is an application of etiquette, which in turn has nothing to do with anyone's attitude of friendliness or otherwise).

To focus on attitudes ("willingness" and "friendliness") is to focus on nonessentials. In The Fountainhead, Toohey and Roark were polite to each other, but neither was friendly and one, Roark, had no willingness to engage in any further relationship with the other. Neither was rude to the other.

In the context of the philosophy of Objectivism, which is the philosophy that sets the context for everything in this forum, being polite (applying etiquette) is an act of selfishness designed to facilitate trade with others. Note that "facilitate" does not mean "make happen" -- but allow to happen. In other words, if two potential traders are polite, their politeness eliminates some potential irrelevant barriers to trade -- such as those that might arise when one person is treated rudely by another. In such a situation, one of rudeness, the two parties never get to the main point, of trading. They, or at least one of them, would be focused on the rudeness and the implied snub or other form of personal attack, for example.

Edited by BurgessLau
Link to post
Share on other sites

Further, jrs, in your last post you describe a debate (not a discussion) with AisA. You wonder if you "did too much to confront him or too little or some of each." I do not fully understand what you mean by "confront." Would you explain and give an example?

So I think that my description applies to that debate as it would to a discussion -- "Assume that both of them desire to reach a conclusion which they can both accept as justified and true. However, they do not initially agree on what is the logical way to proceed."

The essential distinguishing characteristic of a debate, in the genus of verbal interchanges, is that the two sides are trying to win some prize based on their expertise in the subject (and their competence in delivery). Usually that prize is the agreement of their audience. (Of course, debaters can have other, private purposes, such as honing public-speaking skills or making their names known to potential employers.)

So, given that rough definition of debate, I do not see how you can maintain that you and AisA were trying to find a mutually agreeable solution. Was it a debate or was it a discussion? Or did you deliberately or inadvertently try to mix the two modes?

My experience is that it can be productive to have a mini-debate within a discussion, but not the other way around. However, I have not thought that through any further than to observe the results.

So this is not necessarily a "problem which neither has been able to solve individually".  Rather the problem could be to determine who is wrong and correct his thinking.
My blunt -- but I hope still polite -- suggestion is this: If you are not an expert in the subject you are debating about, then don't debate -- discuss instead. Or, if your knowledge of the subject is considerably less than the other person, then ask him questions, to learn from him, even if what you learn is only what his position is (objective or not).

But in this forum, the usual situation is:  someone expresses his opinion; another person comments on it; and we find ourselves thrust willy nilly into the heat of argument.

No, when the heat arises, it is never "willy nilly," because either of you can stop at any point, in a variety of ways. That is even assuming that the "heat" is important. But is it? What difference does it make whether there is "heat," as long as you are achieving your selfish purpose?

We need a way to get from there to an understanding on how to proceed; and then to a conclusion.

One approach is to use the formalities of the debate forum. You and the other person can set your own rules, and even specify that it be a discussion rather than a strict debate.

As a final note, I would add that I am confused about whether you were having a discussion or a debate. If you are having a discussion there is no reason why "heat" should arise, assuming the participants are being polite. If you are having a debate, heat may naturally arise. So what? What confuses me is that you say you confronted AisA -- but immediately above you say you are trying to reach a mutually agreeable conclusion, which is a function of a discussion.

So, which did you want -- a debate or a discussion? In other words, what was your selfish purpose when you began interacting with AisA in that thread?

Edited by BurgessLau
Link to post
Share on other sites
Is there a polite way to be just?

Do you agree that the question has been answered?

Yes. It is possible to be polite and just at the same time.

But as I indicated later, what I should have asked was: How far is it necessary to go to confront the faults of others? What principle or principles apply?

I feel that I do not yet have a full answer to this revised question.

In other words, the principle is to facilitate others in doing what you want them to do as part of the trade.

But if the trade you want is that she should marry you, then this would go beyond politeness to expressing love (as in your counter-example).

The purpose of etiquette is to facilitate -- make possible, make easy -- the trade if the two trading partners actually agree to make the trade.

Sorry, I misinterpreted "facilitate others in doing" to mean "induce others to do".

I do not know what you mean by "go beyond."
I meant that being loving includes being polite AND MORE.

To focus on attitudes ("willingness" and "friendliness") is to focus on nonessentials.

.....

...  being polite (applying etiquette) is an act of selfishness designed to facilitate trade with others.

.....

In other words, if two potential traders are polite, their politeness eliminates some potential irrelevant barriers to trade ...

I would agree that politeness facilitates trade by eliminating minor barriers. But I think that maintaining one's reputation and thus the good will of others is part of it.

Link to post
Share on other sites
I do not fully understand what you mean by "confront." Would you explain and give an example?

By "confront", I mean to break away from the normal flow of argument and bring attention to an error or supposed error of the other person. This may be coupled with a threat to break off communication or to report the offense or alleged offense to the authorities.

For example, consider your confrontation of LauricAcid in Post #47 of the "Perfecting Logic" thread in the "Metaphysics and Epistemology" subforum:

In post 24, you acknowledged my question -- and avoided answering it.

.....

Keeping in mind that my previous, open-ended questions might have been too difficult, I will ask a simpler question, a closed-ended one, that is, one requiring only a "yes" or "no" answer.

.....

This forum's purpose is to promote trade among Objectivists, so, if you are not an Objectivist, you could set context for your voluminous comments by describing your philosophy, at least in its basic principles.

You pointed out what you considered his misdeeds. You insulted him by implying that he was unable to answer your earlier questions. You implied that he might not be welcome in this forum, if his philosophy is too much at variance from Objectivism.

And of course, what I just said could be interpreted as confronting you.

...  I do not see how you can maintain that you and AisA were trying to find a mutually agreeable solution. Was it a debate or was it a discussion? Or did you deliberately or inadvertently try to mix the two modes?

At the time, I did not think about the distinction, except that I felt that it was more important than usual to avoid making mistakes and keep the argument going. I felt that nimble had given up too easily.

I cannot speak for AisA, but I would be quite willing to change my position publicly, if I discovered that my position was wrong. It is no fun maintaining a position that is so widely despised.

What confuses me is that you say you confronted AisA -- but immediately above you say you are trying to reach a mutually agreeable conclusion, which is a function of a discussion.

If one party is doing something which the other party feels is making it difficult or impossible to reach their shared goal, it may be necessary to confront him as a means of getting back on track to reaching that goal.

E.g. if your business associate is acting impolitely, say yanking documents out of your hands before you have had a chance to read them, then it may be necessary to confront him in order to get him to treat you politely so that you can get on with business.

Link to post
Share on other sites

We are entering the fragmentation stage of an online discussion/debate, the stage in which the quotations and subsequent responses become (1) shorter and shorter, and (2) less integrated. I think of it as the stage in which a meteor enters a planetary atmosphere and breaks up into pieces, each still heading toward impact but no longer in a coherent mass.

So, at some point, perhaps you and I can step back and try to summarize with at least provisional conclusions. In the meantime, here are my responses to a few points you have made in the last two posts.

How far is it necessary to go to confront the faults of others?  What principle or principles apply? [...] I feel that I do not yet have a full answer to this revised question.

My initial answer would be that the basic principle involved, of course, is: "Act in your long-term, selfish interests." I do not know what principle to suggest that would be narrower and thus, perhaps, a more useful guide -- which perhaps is what you are looking for.

My return question then would be: Do debaters and discussers need a narrower principle to guide them? I am not sure, but I suspect not. If I have a clear hierarchy of values, I would think the principle of acting in one's long-term, selfish interests would be enough.

I would agree that politeness facilitates trade by eliminating minor barriers.  But I think that maintaining one's reputation and thus the good will of others is part of it.

This deserves discussion, to unpack it. For example, I would ask myself: "one's reputation" -- among which people? The good ones, who have a lot to trade, or the bad ones, who have little or nothing to trade? Likewise, is the "good will" of bad people important? I don't think so. So, my reformulation would be: Maintaining a (justified) reputation among good people for certain characteristics (knowledge, honesty, et al) increases my opportunities for trading with like-minded individuals who have something worth trading.

Confrontation, as you later insightfully characterize it, would, if objective, support such a reputation and would therefore be in one's self-interest.

Link to post
Share on other sites
By "confront", I mean to break away from the normal flow of argument and bring attention to an error or supposed error of the other person.

This insight you are offering is very helpful to me. Following is my elaboration, for my purposes (and your correction, if my interpretation is not what you meant): In the context of a discussion or debate (and perhaps elsewhere in society), a confrontation is a redirection of attention from a common subject to the persons involved, that is, to their behavior in the particular common project.

One person might, in such a situation, confront another for any of a variety of reasons, such as (but not limited to): bringing an injustice to light, drawing attention to a violation of etiquette, or gathering information leading to a judgment of the person confronted or a revision of the rules of etiquette.

In short, a confrontation is a switch of attention from content to manner.

This may be coupled with a threat to break off communication or to report the offense or alleged offense to the authorities.
In situations where there are "authorities," this threat might arise. I do not, however, see this as being an essential distinguishing characteristic of confrontation. Some confrontations might occur where there are no authorities at all, for example, two strangers at a bus stop discussing politics. If one of them behaves abusively -- for example, by saying that the other's ideas are garbage flowing between his ears -- then the abused might confront him, without appealing to authorities. Of course, the abused has other options -- for example, simply shut down communications with the abuser. That happens a lot in threads even in this forum. Sometimes good people simply stop participating in the thread, as no longer worth their time.

For example, consider your confrontation of LauricAcid in Post #47 of the "Perfecting Logic" thread in the "Metaphysics and Epistemology" subforum:

You pointed out what you considered his misdeeds.  You insulted him by implying that he was unable to answer your earlier questions.  You implied that he might not be welcome in this forum, if his philosophy is too much at variance from Objectivism.

This is an apt example. I did confront him -- while continuing to pursue the information I wanted in order to make sense of his flood of statements. But, as an aside, why do you think that an alleged implication of being unable to answer would be an insult?

And of course, what I just said could be interpreted as confronting you.
I see you offering it as an example. Did you intend it be more?

It is no fun maintaining a position that is so widely despised.

I can fully agree with that, based on experience. Such experiences have increased my admiration for Ayn Rand.

Edited by BurgessLau
Link to post
Share on other sites
For example, consider your confrontation of LauricAcid in Post #47 of the "Perfecting Logic" thread in the "Metaphysics and Epistemology" subforum:

You pointed out what you considered his misdeeds.  You insulted him by implying that he was unable to answer your earlier questions.  You implied that he might not be welcome in this forum, if his philosophy is too much at variance from Objectivism.

If I have understood you correctly, the subject of this thread is now: In principle, when should one confront another person about his behavior while the two of you are participating in a common project?

1. To provide another example for discussion of what principle might apply, would you say that LauricAcid's behavior in "Perfecting Logic" was uniformly proper and therefore did not deserve confrontation? If you think some of his comments deserve confrontation, would you give examples?

2. Do you believe that asking another debater/discusser to identify the philosophical principles which condition his beliefs on narrower subjects is an example of confrontation -- that is, a switch in focus from content to manner -- or is it still a focus on content?

Link to post
Share on other sites

I see real politeness as the application of justice to the realm of impersonal relations. It consists of respecting a fellow human being's independence (in both action and thought) and rights.

Some people make the mistake of confusing respect for a person's intellectual independence with not judging - but of course those are completely different in nature.

Link to post
Share on other sites

AwakeAndFree, what is "real politeness"? As opposed to what? To etiquette applied for the sake of purposeless convention -- that is, convention for its own sake?

Also, I do not understand what you mean by saying that being polite is applying justice to the realm of impersonal relations.

First, justice is the virtue of "judging a man's character and/or actions exclusively on the basis of all the factual evidence available, and of evaluating it by means of an objective moral criterion[.]" (Ayn Rand, Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, 2nd edition, p. 51.) So, how does being polite to a stranger at a dinner party apply justice?

Second, what do you mean by "impersonal relations"? Aren't all social relations personal?

Edited by BurgessLau
Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...