Re: PSYCHOLOGY: Healing Pathological Belief System Addiction

Eric Watt Forste (
Fri, 17 Jan 1997 18:13:25 -0800

Lee Daniel Crocker writes:
>To be precise, let's put the meme this way: "Words which honestly
>express ideas of a speaker may provoke unpleasant emotional reactions
>in some listeners, and it is therefore advisable to not express those
>ideas." The delimma of psychological causality does complicate matters,
>but the nature of the bad meme is clear: the meme says shut up because
>you might cause offense.

Before I thought you were overstating your case, now it seems to
me that you are constructing strawmen. The argument you present
above bears little resemblance to the argument that drew my objection.
I have no sympathy with the idea you present in the paragraph above,
and I enthusiastically join you in condemning it.

Originally, you picked out two sentences for criticism: "You
shouldn't offend people" and "People can be hurt by words". The
second sentence is demonstrably true (I have deliberately hurt far
too many people with the cruelty of my tongue to believe otherwise).
The first sentence, being a moral injunction, yields its truth-value
less easily. But neither of these statements that you originally
singled out for criticism say "shut up because you might cause
offence". To me, they say rather, "phrase your criticism in a way
that shows some awareness of and sensitivity to the emotional
predispositions of your audience".

Now, this last, it seems to me, is perfectly good advice that should
be taken by any good selfish egoist, because criticisms so phrased
will be far more effective in communicating something to your
audience, and possibly even in correcting some bad beliefs or
behavior on the part of your audience. I don't see the ideas you
choose to attack as silencing devices; instead I see them as
exhortations to use effective rhetoric rather than ineffective

Again, I think I have the gist of what you are saying. Ideas very
closely related to the ones you originally chose to criticize *have*
been used to silence people (another example of using words and
ideas to hurt). But we have to be careful when we want to accuse
other people of using sneaky means to silence their opponents; we
have to make sure that our arguments are exactly right, and we have
to avoid overstating our case, or we get nowhere.

Eric Watt Forste ++ ++