Re: The art of conversation (was: Risk vs. Payoff)

From: Neal Blaikie (
Date: Fri May 11 2001 - 12:30:08 MDT

Francois-Rene Rideau wrote:

> Next, I could argue that the term "practical" is misleading, too,
> and has a long tradition of being used in fallacies.

I can't disagree with that. However, I was using the word "practical" in a
conversational way. It, too, has a commonly understood meaning that has nothing
to do with what you or I think.

> Its only relevant
> meaning, relative to empirical rationalism (as opposed e.g. to
> contructivism or irrationalism), is so tautologically good that it doesn't
> need mentioning, except in debates about rationality.

Well, sure. But again, I was only being conversational, using common language. I
wasn't really interested in its relevance to empirical rationalism. This is
something you've tacked on.

> Now that you made some clarifications, I think that your message
> could have been phrased in a meaningful, positively informative way;
> but you chose to make "oversimplications" (as you put it,
> which is also an oversimplification of the process
> that led to your statements having an obvious fallacious interpretation):
> you chose to resort to forms of expression
> that are loaded with meanings opposed to what you think
> (as compared to what you later explained you meant or didn't mean),
> and to use common language in areas where it specifically fails.

It was my decision to construct my post in the way I did. I had no interest
beyond that. My goal was to respond in a converstational manner to something
someone else had said, to agree by making my own perspective known. I'm sure it
could have been "phrased in a meaningful, positively informative way," but that
was not my goal.

> I think putting conciseness before correction is just wrong,
> All the more since your post wasn't concise.

I wasn't trying to be concise. I was being conversational. This assumes that if
someone is interested in hearing (or reading) what I have to say, they can. If
not, they can use the delete key. I wasn't interested in converting or
enlightening anyone--I was just putting in my 2 cents.

> I'll grant you that there is one metrics according to which
> your means of expression might have looked like a win:

I'm definitely not interesting in a "win." How boring and archaic.

> it might originally have took you less time to think about
> and write your message in this incorrect form
> than it would have in its correct form.

In conversation there is no correct or incorrect form. Conversation is
self-expression. If I were engaged in a debate or were writing a scientific
paper, this might apply, but not in this case. Of course, one person's "correct"
may not be another's. This seems highly subjective and is uninteresting to me.

> But as you can see, this time you thought you won,

Since I never claimed to have "won" anything, and since I have now stated that I
have no interest in winning, your statement is nonsensical. If this is the
perspective you operate from, fine. Please don't attempt to apply it to me. It's
a waste of everyone's time.

> was first lost by other people trying to decode what you say
> or being misled by it (loss multiplied by the number of readers),
> and then by yourself clarifying your position.

Since you're the only person who has complained, this argument is specious.
Again, if you don't like my post, please delete it. I do it all the time.

> Either in a specifically altruistic point of view, or in a specifically
> egoistic point of view, in all practicality, your choice was thus wrong.

My choice was my choice. Right and wrong don't enter into it. This is ludicrous.

> >> So you think you're intelligent? prove it! I don't believe you, so far.
> > In intelligent discussion
> This looks like one, after all. Thanks for it.

You're welcome, I suppose. To me this has now become a waste of time and is
boring. It appears our needs are different, as well as our styles.

> > (as opposed to unprovoked attacks),
> I don't think the attack was unprovoked.

Any reasonable person would likely disagree with you.

> And I don't think that attacks, even unprovoked,
> oppose intelligent discussions.

I think that attacking is a useless and unproductive way to discuss anything, and
reveals an immaturity on the part of the attacker. I can speak from personal
experience on this one.

> > [...] this response would be referred to as ad hominem.
> It was undeniably ad hominem, but note that it was not argumentum.
> Thank you a lot for taking up the challenge
> and making your post level higher.
> *Now*, I believe you.

Well, goody for you. I'm glad I have finally risen to your high level. (This is
sarcasm, which is a form of hostility.)

> > It's a weak strategy, is uncalled for in this case,
> > and totally destroys your credibility.
> I apparently participated in a working overall,
> I don't think it was uncalled for,
> and it's a risk I'm taking (though maybe lightly so).

Whatever. It's your life.

> > Perhaps in the future you might consider taking a deep breath before
> > responding.
> Thanks for reminding me. I'll try.
> I'll return the argument to you:
> I should take time to be less aggressive in my replies,
> you should take time to be more precise in yours.

An interesting proposal, but unworthy of consideration. Aggression and
lack-of-precision are not equitable. Aggression is destructive (entropic) and
harmful, while lack-of-precision (at least in this case) is, at worst, ignorable.
So, please, feel free to ignore it.

> > There's a difference between "responsible for" (in charge of,
> > which is what I meant) and "responsible to" (an obligation).
> I've never seen the term "responsible to", so I'm not sure what you mean.
> Can you expand?

I'm responsible to my boss (have to do what he says, have to show up at
prescribed times, must perform work), to the government (don't like this one, but
must pay taxes, must obey laws, etc.), to my family (I like this one, but must
help provide for, must spend time with). These are all obligations of various
types, which could be shirked if I chose to (with varying consequences). I'm not
really an expert on this, so you may want to explore this on your own. I'm simply
speaking from personal experience.

> Maybe you're trying to talk about intelligent handling of responsibility.
> Which, in the context of justifying intelligent choice about the future,
> is but a hidden tautology (which is, of course, true).

Okay. Sure. Whatever. (Yawn.)

> Then to use your terms, I invite you to be "responsible for" your posts
> and not just "responsible to" them. (Doesn't sound right.)

You have it reversed. I am "responsible for" what I post here because it is
something I am in charge of. No one else is doing it for me, and my posts won't
appear here unless I do them. Maybe this is colloquial use of the word that is
unfamiliar to you. Since it is part of my conversational vocabulary, and since
I'm not a linguist, I really don't know. (Can anyone help with this?) Since I
have no obligation to post here, the "responsible to" term doesn't apply. If
you're suggesting that I am somehow obligated to construct my responses in such a
way that is agreeable to you or anyone else, then I will have to disagree with
you. Again, this is what the delete key is for. Since I'm not interested in
converting or convincing you or anyone else of anything I say, then this is
doubly obvious. If you don't like it, don't read it.

> >>> I don't see how it could be anything but
> >>> "natural" for us to do so.
> >> Remove your quotes, and consider how "do so" is generic in your sentence.
> >> Then you'll have reached the tautology. Now, move on.
> > This makes no sense to me. Again, I think you're arguing against
> > something that isn't there.
> Not all arguing is "against". Don't let my questioning your own personal
> intelligence let you polarize the debate in terms of "for" or "against".
> I was putting your argument in perspective, and showing how
> the specifics to which you apply them are irrelevant to its purpose,
> thus factorizing your argument.

Hmmm. Okay.

> > [I] was using [this phrase] in a conversational manner.
> > I wasn't trying to make any particular point.
> Exactly what I'm reproaching you: noise.

Again, this is what the delete key is for.

Neal Blaikie

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