Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Oh I'm sorry this is abuse.

Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling writes:

Sir Karl Popper, a very successful philosopher, once explained his success in the following words...

"This success of my endeavours was due, I believe, to a rule of method: that we should always try to clarify and to strengthen our opponent's position as much as possible before criticising him, if we wish our criticism to be worthwhile"

This sounds pretty obvious, I well remember David Braddon Mitchell saying much the same thing almost as an aside in the first few weeks of Stage 1 Metaphysics, but as Michael Cloud says "obvious means overlooked", and in philosophy overlooking this simple maxim is entirely to your detriment. More than any other discipline, philosophy is about arguments. Sometimes putting forward novel ones of your own, but more often than not examining the arguments of others. If you don't examine other people's arguments correctly you will simply be marked down, no matter how innocently. It's no different from transposing a number in maths.



The thing about philosophy is that it is a sort of universal acid, it seeps through everything. The skills one learns in philosophy, of analysis, of spotting logical fallacies, of skillful argumentation, can be used pretty much anywhere there is a need for analysis, argumentation, or the spotting of logical fallacies. Simply put, if giving your opponent the best shot at being right is good enough for a debate in philosophy, then it is good enough for politics, economics, history, physics, biology, anything.

Unfortunately, The Blogosphere and Karl Popper's quote are alien to each other.

Take the recent furore over txt speak in exams. In both of the previous links not only the bloggers, but many commenters simply got stuck in to NCEA without any attempt to analyse just what the decision entailed, and if there was a strongest argument that could be put forward for allowing text speak to be used (incidentally something I did try to do, as did Hewligan)

Now, go back to the Popper quote, and read it again. What is the most important word?

It is the last one he uses.

worthwhile

If you do not give your opponent at least the courtesy of a decent showing, then your criticism is not worthwhile, and you are wasting your time. Why? Because those you are arguing against will simply say "that's not my argument" and ignore you. You have wasted your time.

Let's take a look at another example of this happening in practice, and since I have already criticised a right winger and a libertarian we'll look a left winger now, namely the blog of Jordan Carter. Around a month ago now, Jordan complained
that his views were not taken seriously, that he was seen as simply a mouthpiece for the Labour Party and so on.

Jordan thought the reason for this was because the views he put forward were the same as those of the Labour Party, or because he doesn't comment on certain things, but to my mind both of those are irrelevant. Even if Jordan only comments on certain things, and if the things he comments come from a (well argued) Labour Party line, he would deserve to be taken seriously. Jordan's problem is that he simply does not give his opponets any weight. As is evidenced by this post where he labels the National Party as being dedicated to reshaping New Zealand's society and economy in a direction of less fairness, less opportunity and more inequality and poverty.

This is not the stuff of worthwhile criticism. No matter what you think of the National Party, the best case to be made for them is not that of a bunch of people sitting around thinking of ways to wreck New Zealand.

It might be said that I am missing the point. Jordan might not give a shit what people think of him, and he might be using his blog as a bit of catharsis, letting raw emotion and raw opinion off his chest, and saving more refined analysis for other forums. That is fair enough - but given the post he did complaining that people didn't take him seriously I don't think my criticism has been misplaced. If you are not interested in your criticism's "being worthwhile", then Popper's maxim doesn't apply to you - no big deal.

I should also point out that I'm not just having a go at Jordan, although I might have focussed on him here, I could have picked anywhere from Sir Humphries, Tony Milne, or Martyn Bradbury (especially) to prove my point, amongst many others.

So how about a group effort to get The Blogosphere creating a little more light and a little less heat, and take some time to give your opponents a fair go. And here is the inevitable Monty Python reference for those who have made it through to the end.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ppK6sxz6epk&mode=related&search=

23 comments:

phats said...

I'm going to have to disagree with you there.

I think Popper's point would be stronger if he used a different word such as meaningful rather than 'worthwhile'. Perhaps 'meaningful' isn't very good either. .. I shall try to elucidate.

I disagree because (I believe) that arguments can be intended for different purposes. 'Worthwhile' indicates, to me, that the purpose was achieved.
Classically, arguments may be used as 'an intellectual process to establish a proposition' (thanks Monty) :p Of course, politically and socially, everyone seems less interested in establishing a proposition and more interested in persuading a person to ones own point of view, or instead ridiculing someone with a point of view other than your own.
You are of course free to use different words to describe these different activities, for example, 'rhetoric' for the persuasive activity and 'criticism' for the malicious ridiculing of ones opponent (sometimes but not always via attacking their argument).

However, regardless of whether you lump those activities into the single word 'argument' or choose to treat them under different headings, (1 Argument 2 Rhetoric 3 Criticism) you haven't established that most -or even a small amount- of the dialog on the internet falls into the first category.
I propose that a significant portion of internet dialog falls into the second and third categories.

For example, I have been known to impersonate a Christian (hell, I am one) and make an extremely poor argument for an issue such as intelligent design, then watch the reaction. If you haven't tried trolling before, it's a lot of fun. My purpose in such cases is not to establish an argument one way or the other, but to be entertained, by let others fall over themselves with their inability to distinguish good arguments from bad ones.
It is not that I consider myself a great reasoner or even a good one, I simply experience some form of nihilistic catharsis from the activity.
Also I learn more about what makes people choose poor arguments over good ones.

Lastly; I think I will leave with an open question...
Originally I was opposed to the Iraq war, but was converted by someone (Zum on addict.net.nz back when Josh used to write there) who consistently and tirelessly backed up his arguments. He argued that the invasion of Iraq 2003 was in the long run far better for all parties involved than either leaving Saddam in power, or supporting an internal revolution. Neither of us liked the WMD argument, but he supported the invasion for other reasons.
While I don't like the way the invasion played out, I still think it was the right thing to do on a cost-benefit basis. Now, the invation was conducted on a false pretext regarding WMD.
Suppose you were in power and knew that the invasion was almost certainly necessary to avert catastrophic bloodshed in the Middle East. Now suppose you could only convince your public to support the invasion using scare tactics / rhetoric, rather than firm, emotionless reasoning and argument, would you employ such tactics?

Hewligan said...

If you can't convince people of the rightness of the invasion, the question is: "Why can't you convince them?"

You can't claim that you have some unassailable argument for invasion that is beyond criticism, as you are being criticised. So, the rightness of your position is not a matter of certainty, it is one of opinion.

Which does not mean it's wrong. But, since neither side can prove their position absolutely, a decision has to be made based on the likely outcome.

The likely outcome can only be assessed based on facts and logic, not rhetoric.

So, no, I wouldn't.

And that's also why there are so few of the political blogs that I will read. Most of them are little more than advertising for the particular party they happen to be aligned with. And much like most amateur marketing efforts, fairly weak and uninteresting advertising at that.

I'd be much happier if these people would get some opinions of their own; present and defend them - instead of simply promoting the opinions of others.

But, hey, I'm pretty sure that's just me.

HORansome said...

Hewligan, you old fashioned fool. Everyone's a schill for some party politic these days. I'm just waiting for a bigger enough checque to come through so I, too, can throw my metaphysical hat into the figuarative ring.

In re Phats: how, pray tell, does Popper's argument become stronger if we make the antecedent of the condition 'our criticism to be meaningful?' Popper argues thusly:

P1. If my criticisms are to be worthwhile, then I should always try to clarify and strengthen my opponent's position as much as possible [whilst keeping to their intent].
[P2. I want my criticisms to be worthwhile]
Therefore,
C. I should always try to clarify and strengthen my opponent's position as much as possible [whilst keeping to their intent].

Popper is arguing that the best thing for him to do (and Mr. Olthwaite wisely advises us to emulate Popper) is extend the Principle of Charity to other people (especially since we, presumably, would want others to do the same for us). I think you have misconstrued Popper here; Popper is not talking about the aims of his arguments but rather the treatment of his interlocuters. Sure, you might want to put forward a bad version of an argument to get a response, but in that situation you aren't actually engaging in argument but rather you are engaging in an act of provocation (the definition and place of rhetoric is a treacherous subject best left to another time). Indeed, I could argue that what you are doing in this circumstance isn't really anything that a philosopher would consider argumentation theory but rather amateur psychology. That isn't, in itself, necessarily a bad thing but don't confuse testing responses for finding out what or why people believe in a given proposition; its a fairly well supported theory in Psychology that if you engage people in low-level argumentation that they respond in kind; crap in equals crap out.

Josh said...

Or, in one sentence: "Don't use Straw Man arguments".

Personally, I consider argumentation and rhetoric to be two different things -- as different as faith and reason. The purpose of rhetoric is to convince people that you're right; the purpose of argumentation is to find out if you're right. In an "argument" of rhetoric, there's a winner and a loser; in a "real" argument, everyone's a winner -- being proved wrong is just as good as being proved right, because the object is to arrive at proof.

HORansome said...

Popper isn't referring to Straw Man arguments, though. In a Straw Man you argue against a mischaracterisation, whilst Popper is describing his process of refining an argument into its best possible form (ala the Principle of Charity).

phats said...

Hewligan:

I used to be an idealist who believed that -given an issue- if you tried hard enough to present your arguments, people would make the effort to examine those arguments and then reevaluate their position on that issue. But (and Josh might back me up on this) many -if not most- people are much too lazy or too busy to do this very often. They vote with their emotions or their genitals as much as anything. Me too, sometimes.
Please bear in mind: I am not condoning this! I am not arguing that sophistry is a good thing. I am arguing that it occurs, frequently.
In our captitalist society, there is a large incentive for advertisers to employ the most effective means of persuasion available.
You may have noticed that you are presented with all sorts of bullshit reasons why you should buy this or that commodity; almost none of these reasons is in the form of a cogent argument. Why? Because cogent arguments aren't necessarily effective. Even well presented ones often require too much effort on the part of the listener, in either time or attention- compared to alternative persuasive methods.

In my Iraq example, I intended that you have already decided that invasion of Iraq is the best logical response; but you find it difficult to convince your citizens. I could have said "you have *already decided* that encouraging people to get more exercise is the best rational response to an increase in obesity and diabetes". Now should you visit Phil dept for more rational arguments for the conclusion, or should you go to marketing and get an effective campaign? In this case, you might even be negligent to pursue the more truthful approach, if it meant saving less lives.
------
HORansome:

I may have miscommunicated here:
I understand and accept the principle of Charity as an essential tool of my Critical Thinker's Toolkit, when analyzing an argument :)
However, I disputed that many blog entries have a purpose that involves analyzing arguments.

What I attempted (and failed) to do by introducing the word 'meaningful' instead of worthwhile, I will do explicitly here. Apologies the use of the word 'meaningful' wasn't a good choice.
I had meant to suggest 'meaningful' to mean "useful when analyzing an argument", and 'worthwhile' to mean "useful in achieving your purpose regardless of what that purpose is"..
I wanted to make the argument stronger my making the conclusion and premises less bold - reducing the application to only "when we are analyzing an argument":

P1. When analyzing an argument, if I want my criticism to be worthwhile then I should always try to clarify and strengthen my opponent's position as much as possible [whilst keeping to their intent].
[P2. When analyzing an argument, I want my criticisms to be worthwhile]
Therefore,
C. When analyzing an argument, I should always try to clarify and strengthen my opponent's position as much as possible [whilst keeping to their intent].

(I believe I have applied the principle of charity on my own argument in P2. by making it less bold- it would still work as the original P2)

The reason I wanted to make the conclusion less bold is because I felt that sometimes (or perhaps often, in blogs) we do not seem to want to analyze and evaluate the argument, we just want to embarrass the person who made it, or we want to persuade people that the argument's conclusion is false (even regardless of the actual truth value of the conclusion)

---
Josh:
"Don't use Straw man arguments"
I dispute that. I would suggest
"When deciding what conclusions to accept or reject yourself, don't use straw man arguments".
"When engaging in argument proper with someone, don't use straw man arguments".
"When just trying to convince someone else to your position, employ the most effective means of persuasion, including straw man arguments if they are effective."

I absolutely agree with your distinction between argument and rhetoric. My earlier point was that people engage in rhetoric to a significant extent. (Whether they should do so or not is another matter..)

Hewligan said...

It's a nice piece of rhetoric to call me an idealist and then suggest that you used to feel similarly but are now wiser. Of course, just like lying about weapons of mass destruction, once the fact that you are using a shallow piece of cheap pychological trickery to make your argument is pointed out, everything else you say is weakened by association.

Which is the point. Both democracy and capitalism are systems in which large numbers of people are expected to make decisions based on the available information. The lower the quality of that information, the lower the quality of the decisions.

That is why there are consequences for lying. In some cases they are legal - slander, libel, fraud - but more usually they are social consequences. You are considered untrustworthy.

For the lie to have been worth it, you not only have to be certain you are right - and certainty is usually one of the biggest giveaways that you are wrong - but the decision you are attempting to influence with your lie has to be more important than all of those you could have influenced in future if you had not so damaged your reputation.

After all, ultimately, if we have sufficient faith in you, me or George Bush to always make the right decision, well then we should just stop messing about and make that person some sort of philosopher king. Then there's no need to lie.

If, on the other hand, we notice that sort of system has not really worked out well in the past, and we want a system where everyone has an opportunity to participate in the decision making process, then they need good information. On average, better decisions are made that way.

If you run around spreading bad information, not only do you endanger your own credibility, but you weaken the decision making process and increase the chances of a bad decision being made, no matter how noble your intentions.

That's not idealism. It's an acceptance that everyone is wrong some of the time. It's an acceptance that of all the myriad systems of running a country that have been tried, this is the one that works the best.

Josh said...

Just for fun, here's a bit of Aristotle:

“Rhetoric is useful because the true and the just are naturally superior to their opposites, so that, if decisions are improperly made, they must owe their defeat to their own advocates; which is reprehensible. Further, in dealing with certain persons, even if we possessed the most accurate scientific knowledge, we should not find it easy to persuade them by the employment of such knowledge. For scientific discourse is concerned with instruction, but in the case of such persons instruction is impossible.”

He seems to be agreeing with you, Phats - some people won't listen to reason, so you'll have to use rhetoric to convince them. The problem with that sort of thinking, as Hewligan says, is that you'd better be damn sure you are actually right first.

On another note, a quick survey of Ye Blogosphere will show that rhetoric generally fails to convince others - all it does is get emotions heated and polarises discussions even further. Thinking back on those old addict.net discussions, while I respected the detail of Zum's arguments (even though I generally didn't agree with them), what really put me off was his rhetoric - he could get very sanctimonious when he was trying to convince us that it was morally bankrupt to not support the removal of Hussein.

phats said...

Hewligan:

I was not accusing you of being an idealist- I usually try to refrain from using any labels on my peers during proper arguments, because such categorizations are almost always irrelevant: arguments should (obviously) stand or fail on their own merits, regardless of any category the arguer fits into. If you read my text again, you might interpret it in a way that I am not labeling you as an idealist.
Of course, when I am intentionally Being and Enormous Cock, I fling labels out pretty quick. :)
I anticipated and accepted that their could be any number of reasons (unrelated to idealism) that you might choose to adopt your position.
Actually I was anticipating possible ethical reasons (which is why I used the obesity example)

Therefore I hope you will absolve me of the perceived crime of "using a shallow piece of cheap pychological trickery to make [my] argument"

Further - I think you're being too hard on my arguments: I am advocating the use of effective persuasive techniques (rhetoric) in circumstances where the listener is either too busy or too lazy to evaluate a fully logical argument, and your desire is to persuade them to your point of view.
I then presented two friendly cases (hypothetical Iraq, obesity) where 'the desire to persuade them to your own point of view' had what I felt was strong ethical support:
I am *not* advocating widespread and wanton dishonesty. I am simply trying to make the case that in some circumstances, admittedly an extremely small set of them, where lying and/or employing persuasive arguments instead of perhaps more solid ones is the rational choice.

Suppose I had a daughter and we were destitute and starving; I wouldn't make a case for Altruism being a desirable character trait; I would employ emotionally persuasive techniques and hold up my starving daughter in front of people walking past and say "Won't anyone help my daughter?"
In the same way that I would steal bread to feed my family but not for accumulation of excess wealth, I would also employ underhanded reasoning tactics to persuade people to my point of view in certain scenarios, and I would consider myself rational in doing so.

I thought that -as Eric is making the original argument, about always (I interpret this as "without exception") try to clarify and strengthen our opponent's position as much as possible before criticising [his position]" and as I have responded with counterexamples where I feel you should not try to clarify and strengthen your opponent's position before criticising it,
I think someone should attack my counterexamples.
Hewligan I appreciate that you have done so to some extent - however if there ever exist circumstances where it is "worth it" to employ lying etc, and such rhetorical techniques, does this make Popper's argument invalid?

-----
Josh - I was arguing that there exists a category "(3) Criticism" where the blog text was intended simply to offend; are you certain that it is the rhetorical techniques "(2) Rhetoric" that were incendiary on "ye Blogosphere" rather than (or perhaps in addition to) the critical / trolling / petty-point-scoring category (3) material?

And very nice quote btw.

HORansome said...

Phats.

You seem to be misunderstanding the debate here (which is ironic, since you started it). We (Eric, Josh, Hewligan and myself) are taking Popper's line that the best attitude towards other people's arguments is charitiable reconstruction. You misconstrued Popper and started going on about how you would use rhetoric to get points across. Fine. If that is what you would like to do then so be it. It does not refute Popper et al, however. The best attitude for engaging in an argument is always going to be dealing with the best possible version of your opponent's viewpoint.

The question you want to grapple with is whether we should use 'quick and dirty' tricks when we are unable to set out an argument properly. This is a question in the field of Ethics, and, notably, the examples you choose are the kinds of examples that appeal to an intuition that sometimes it seems appropriate to break ethical guidelines (normally we would not steal food EXCEPT when a life is at stake). Whilst these are interesting examples that test our intutions they can have the adverse effect of making it look as if you are using emotive reasoning to prove a point rather than dealing with the minuiate of your theory.

Which, in this case, I suspect you are guilty as charged.

I am a trained public speaker (as well as itinerant argumentation theory lecturer). I'm well aware of the use of rhetoric because I was, at one stage, being trained as a speech writer (and speech writing tends to work almost solely on rhetorical grounds). I have an implicit mistrust of rhetoric; if someone uses it on me I get very annoyed and I think less of the person. In most cases people will have the same reaction and thus it is, actually, in our own interests to argue properly. When we seemed pressed for time, et al, we can always use an analogy (which, when decompressed properly, can be reconstructed as a fuller argument proper).

As for your comments about trolling earlier in the comments... Well, I've been guilty of that in the past, but, as I also stated earlier in the comments, such behaviour has no guarantee of getting you closer to how or why people think. Often all it gets you is a mischaracterisation of their view.

phats said...

HORansome:

"You seem to be misunderstanding the debate here"
I respectfully disagree. Yes, I chose to spend significant time tackling justifications for rhetoric; because I did not wish to leave Hewligan's accusations unanswered. To do otherwise would be bad form.

But, I don't think I was idle when it comes to the original issue:
My response to your first post was -I believe- on topic and directly related to your points. I have already indicated that I feel I have an understanding of the Principle of Charity, and I already understand and accept the logical (ethical as well) reasons for its use when analyzing an argument. This may be what you are arguing for, in which case I don't understand your objective as all parties involved (including me) appear to already accept this conclusion.

BUT, I don't feel the above principle of Charity applies in general (ie when not analyzing an argument), for reasons described in my previous posts.

Accordingly, I submitted a modified version of Popper's argument for peer review, with a somewhat less bold conclusion. This is not misconstruing Popper, this is proposing a similar argument for comparison.

If you feel that I misconstrued Popper in a specific way (for example if you felt the modification "When analyzing an argument" clause was already implied in his quote), then I wish you would say so directly.

Also, I find it difficult to see how you think I could be misconstruing Popper when I agree with *your* deconstruction of his argument in standard form.

"The question you want to grapple with is whether we should use 'quick and dirty' tricks when we are unable to set out an argument properly"
This is incorrect. I was using scenarios where the listener is not in a position to analyze an argument that is set out properly. Regardless, the question of "whether underhanded persuasive techniques should ever be used" was never central to my oft repeated overall point that Charity is useful when analyzing an argument but not always in other circumstances.

I actually resent your accusations of attempting to persuade anyone on this blog using underhanded persuasive tactics. Sure, I used an image of a starving female child; the question is whether I did so in order to spur responses and meaningful debate, or whether I did it to 'score points'. Given Josh's qualifications, Brother Morthos' occupation, the subject matter of Eric's original post, and the general nature of the readers of this site (yourself included) it is QUITE obvious that such attempts would probably fail to 'score points'. I feel that you do me a disservice by ascribing to malice what could be ascribed to laziness:
You will recall that I was manufacturing examples involving strong ethical support. Basically the first 10 things I think of that provide strong ethical support also involve unwanted emotional baggage.

Lastly, I think *you* are being uncharitable to me, by attacking my use of examples that have emotive elements, instead of proposing an alternative less emotive example that is more acceptable to us both so that the argument can progress.

HORansome said...

The reason why I claim you misconstrue this debate is simple. The basis of Mr. Olthwaite's article is that the position of most esteem for any arguer in the world is that of analysing the best version of an opponent's argument. Your contribution to the debate is, when most charitably reconstructed, is that it can be appropriate to use rhetoric on opponents given certain circumstances. Your point is unrelated to Popper. We can hold Popper's view to be true whilst accepting of dismissing yours (and we have all spent many words dismissing yours).

Popper is concerned with what is the best attitude to take towards dealing with opponents. You have said nothing in this debate to challenge that and have, in fact, gone off in some other direction. Because you keep dealing with irrelevant material we have, basically, not engaged in it as it is not salient to Mr. Olthwaite's proposition. Thus, I hereby conclude this messy comments strand.

Agreed Brother Morthos?

The Hand of Morthos said...

Agreed, Mr. Ransome. Very much agreed.

phats said...

I enjoy that your 'most charitabl[e]' reconstruction of my argument pretends that a single, non-fundamental thread of my argument is in fact my conclusion, and then summirarily dismisses all my posts. Please elucidate to me just how this differs from the Straw Man arguments we all despise.

Part of Charity is about reconstructing the arguer's intent. My intent was to submit offer a less bold version of Popper's argument, and my reasons for favouring it over the original. You have instead said my intent was to argue that "it can be appropriate to use rhetoric on opponents given certain circumstances".

I admit to feeling a little frustrated here.

Josh said...

I think he's right, Herr Ransome - the idea that "it can be appropriate to use rhetoric on opponents given certain circumstances" was the part of Phats' original comment that Hewligan and I took issue with, but it wasn't the full extent of that comment.

I took that Popper quote to be talking about argumentation only (not rhetoric or criticism or whatever else two people presenting opposing viewpoints might be). Eric's mistake was to then start talking about the Internet, where argumentation is somewhat thin on the ground...

While it would be possible to generalise Popper's statement to cover more than just argumentation (which I gather was Phats' original intention - am I right there?) and that would make for better advice in the real world, I think Ransome and I prefer to confine ourselves to the rarified abstraction of "real" arguing, which is why we're all talking at cross purposes here, I suspect.

Eric Olthwaite said...

To me, the crux of Pooper's statement is

"if we wish our criticism to be worthwhile"

If you do not wish your criticism to be worthwhile, and are engaging in trolling or (pure) rhetoric, then the principle of charity needn't apply to you.

If you are engaging in worthwhile criticism (I disagree with phats in that this means you acheived your purpose in whatever sense) then one of the best tools you can use is the Principle of Charity. It won't gaurantee success, but it will give you the best chance of it.

Sure, anyone can think of cases where you don't have to apply the Principle of Charity, like if someone held a gun to your head, but just as you chastised Hewligan for being too hard on your arguments, I think you are being too hard on Popper.

But, thank you Phats for giving it a go, and to Hewligan, Horansome, Morthos, and Josh for fighting the good fight. I might return to this topic in another post with regard to justifications for the Iraq War, the difference between Straw Men and the Principle of Charity, and something Hewligan asked of Horansome somewhere else - why Objectivists are bad people (Hewligan himself gives the answer, he just doesn't know it yet).

Hewligan said...

I have many answers to the question "Why are objectivists bad people," but I'm not a philosopher, and would quite like to hear the answer from that point of view.

So if any of you want to take it on it would be appreciated :)

HORansome said...

If it will shut you up; your interpretation of Popper, Phats, was pants. Not just pants, but arse-flavoured pants.

HORansome said...

Also, the only reason why people have been focussing on what you consider the side-issue of your comment is that the side-issue of your comment is the only part of what you have said that has any substance to it.

phats said...

Josh:
"I took that Popper quote to be talking about argumentation only"

I took that angle to be one possible interpretation of it, but it was far from certain so I felt it needed to be made more explicit, which is how I got roped into all of this :)

----
Eric:

"To me, the crux of Pooper's statement is:
'if we wish our criticism to be
worthwhile'
If you do not wish your criticism to be worthwhile, and are engaging in trolling or (pure) rhetoric, then the principle of charity needn't apply to you."

You seem to use the word 'worthwhile' to indicate something useful in an argument, and not necessarily for purposes of rhetoric or trolling.
In which case my response is:
Fantastic. I completely and unreservedly agree with you Eric, and what you said above is exactly the point that I was trying (and apparently failing) to make. I also now wish to marry you.

---
HORansome:
I didn't realize quite how many feathers I would ruffle when I put on my pants. Perhaps I was perceived as assaulting a principle that is one of the most precious bastions of critical thinking; when I only wished to more clearly define its boundaries.
I seem to have upset a few people along the way, which I was not expecting, because I was not aiming to troll and further I'm quite comfortable with the attitude I have taken to this argument; yet I sense that perhaps you feel I have not acted in good faith?
If you have a problem with my conduct, name it.
I am unlikely to improve otherwise.
This board is of course not the place for that conversation but feel free to send me some horrible criticism - psho 010 at ec dot auckland dot ac dot nz
(Apologies for the syntax, I'm not a fan of spam)

phats said...

Oh and Brother Morthos please don't hunt me down and destroy me now that I am traceable.

Hewligan said...

Phats said:

I didn't realize quite how many feathers I would ruffle when I put on my pants.

Ooh, you shouldn't have mentioned pants. Ransome gets very excitable when the subject of pants comes up...

HORansome said...

I get more excitable when pants come down.