META: Let's be clear about the ad hominem rule

From: Max More (
Date: Tue Dec 11 2001 - 03:28:02 MST

Lee Daniel Crocker:
> >I am disappointed that a organization like ExI, which ostensibly values
> >rational thought, has chosen to follow a zero-intelligence policy on
> >anything.

Are we reading the same set of List Rules? I don't see any mention of "Zero
Tolerance in the List Rules. I see this:

"PERSONAL ATTACKS: We do not allow personal attacks or libelous statements.
Those violating this rule may be removed from the List without notice.

If someone attacks your character, insults you, or otherwise violates the
above rule, do NOT retaliate in like manner. Instead, send us a complaint
(to and take the matter off-list."

(I now notice that the phrasing needs modifying. The intention was not to
rule out ALL personal attacks, but those attacks by one list member on
another. I really am not going to get terribly upset with anyone who wants
to call Bin Laden a hairy stupid goat.)

It seems to me clear from the above that malicious use of ad hominem will
be met with a warning followed by suspension. If many people do it at about
the same time, all being inflamed by some topic, then we might just put a
temporary moratorium on a particular discussion, as we did once before. I
don't see anything about abandoning human judgment here. That is a straw
man argument. Perhaps E. Shaun said something that suggested strict zero
tolerance, but that is not in the List Rules.

*Of course* rules need to have some minimal subjective judgment applied.
The ad hominem rule can be applied without much analysis in most cases. It
is stated simply because the possible exceptions can be dealt with as they
arise. For instance, if two friends playfully insult each other in a way
clearly not intended to cause offense, it would be stupid to automatically
enforce the rule.

As one or two have noted, no one here is a full-time paid list arbiter. The
rules are a quick-and-dirty means of encouraging a semblance of civility on
the List. If a list rule is violated, the presumption will be that
something wrong has been done. But if the apparent violator can show that
the seeming violation was really not offensive, and so is not covered by
the motivation behind the rule, then I for one am not going to mindlessly
impose it. But the burden of proof will be on the apparently violator.



Max More, Ph.D. or
Strategic Philosopher
President, Extropy Institute. <>

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