The ideas here are no different than in two posts ago so, if you don't have time, ignore this post. I'm just keeping my word.
Different things piss off different people on OS. I know what gets to me, but what gets to me isn’t usually the same set of things that seems to get to others. What gets to me most is when I see what I view as violations of intellectual integrity, so I’m thinking that maybe I should explore that topic. I have my own ideas but they are of course subject to change; after all, being subject to change is part of having intellectual integrity. These are observations about how people argue without integrity. They aren’t preconceived. I came up with them as I wrote the other post.
I am not saying that I never do any of these. I am saying that I’m wrong when I do.
Don't be taken in by people using these.
1. Their priority is to look right, not be right. If your priority is to be right and you find you’re wrong, you change positions and admit your error, even if it’s embarrassing. If your priority is to look right, then being wrong, even in your own eyes, can be OK.
2. They assume that if part of a position is wrong, the whole thing must be wrong. Not everyone is wrong about everything. What’s right gets determined point by point.
3. They condemn positions before bothering to figure out what those positions actually consist of. There may be others who share some views with me but I’m not responsible for their views, only my own, so don’t assume I hold views I haven’t expressed.
4. They base their views less on their own standards than on the object to which those standards are being applied. In other words, they attack their enemies because they’re their enemies, not because those enemies are wrong in any given instance. . On a macro level rather than an interpersonal level, a public admission that the party you favor is doing something wrong (or the party you don’t is doing something right) may be indicated. Generally speaking, I advise it, if for no other reason than that such an admission will enhance your reputation for intellectual integrity which, under the circumstances, you’ll deserve.
5. They don’t answer the question. They avoid it, they approximate and hope their audience won’t notice, they use the question as an excuse for talking points rather than actually answering it. If you want to argue with integrity, answer it. Really answer it. Preferably all of it. If there is something invalid about the question, explain why. If that invalid aspect makes the question unanswerable, explain why. Running from a question can be an indicator of intellectual cowardice.
6. They discredit a source, hoping that that will discredit that source’s argument. It doesn’t. Even child-molesting axe murderers can be right about some things. Logic stands on its own. People who get a fact wrong don’t necessarily get all their facts wrong, so there is a difference between discrediting a source’s fact and discrediting all of that source’s facts. (If a source is found to make up facts on a regular basis, the argument doesn’t necessarily get discredited automatically but the burden of proof can shift.) Opinions and facts can sometimes be confused; separating the two is very important when determining the veracity of a source. Trying to discredit an argument by discrediting its source is another indicator of intellectual cowardice. Notice a theme here?
7. They discredit a source’s friends or associates, hoping that will discredit that source’s argument. Nope. Note even close. Guilt By Association is nothing but a cheap, ultimately cowardly tactic.
8. They speculate about a source’s motivation, hoping that will discredit that source’s argument. There’s a fairly low probability of their being psychic. If that’s what their argument depends on, face it: their position sucks..
9. They engage in Logic By Association. The fact that I harbor any given views does not mean you know why I harbor them, and I am not responsible for your assumptions on this topic – you are, nor am I responsible for the logic used by my allies. I am strictly responsible for my own. Logic By Association comes pretty close to conjecture about a source’s motivation.
10. They display phony outrage, which is the antithesis of integrity. If you’re angry about something, make the case about that. Phony outrage is mainly a distraction. (And what does deliberate distraction indicate?) Can you name a single person in the United States whose primary objection to President Obama is that they think he was born in Kenya? As in: “Aside from that, even if I disagree with him, it’s not like I hate the guy”? Enough with the distractions and get to your real issue.
11. They hide the weaknesses in their arguments because they’re more concerned with winning than with finding truth.
12. They tear the crap out of a position without being prepared to defend an alternative. Attacking a position is easy; very few positions are perfect. However, it’s sometimes a useless exercise because imperfect solutions are frequently the best available. Expecting perfection from an opponent’s position when you’re not willing to expect it from your own is ultimately hypocritical.
These apply to real issue arguments, not elections. Elections are different because integrity usually doesn’t work, though it can once in a while. One of the main reasons integrity doesn’t work in elections is that people are less like to support a candidate for an issue stand than they are to oppose a candidate for one. If a candidate is fine on five issues but wrong on a hot button issue, where are you focusing? So, the best way to win elections is to stay as ambiguous as possible because the number of actual stands you take increases the number of enemies you’re likely to make. Integrity is preferable if you can handle it but understand that those attacking you aren’t likely to have much. That’s one reason I’m not sure I could run for office – I’d get too frustrated by the process.
On OS, on the other hand, integrity is a good idea.