Summarizing Objections To My Stance Against Epithets, Incivility, And Quickly Personalized Arguments

 

A week ago I wrote a post that both laid down to explicit rules for commenters at Camels With Hammers and made more general arguments about the more general wrongness of using epithets and incivil language, and of personalizing intellectual disputes before giving one’s interlocutors room and benefit of the doubt to be reasoned with and correct themselves.

In response I have received a lot of very thought provoking and clarifying feedback. I have realized many points needed to be made explicit or clearer and that many philosophical issues need to be addressed in future posts. I also have learned from some of the criticism about certain nuances and qualifications that I need to add to my positions.

Now, since there were a large number of issues that arose, it is difficult for me to address them all in one post. So I am writing eight posts, each of which will address a major objection that I have received. Five of the posts are already significantly drafted. I ask that you please be patient as I roll these posts out over the next few days or week, and that in each case you address the narrow topic of that post, rather than get ahead of the discussion or evade the points made in the specific post at hand.

Below, in the spirit of charitable attempts to understand one’s opponents before criticizing, to the best of my ability I have summarized the eight major general objections that my coming posts will respond to. Please be patient as I try not to overwhelm readers with 8,000 words of writing in one day. I will get to each of these strong objections one by one. Also note that I do not fully disagree with everything in every objection. I agree with many of the concerns in the objections. I only disagree that epithets, incivility, and uncharitable interpretations of each other’s words and motives are the ways to meet the needs that the objectors are worried about.

Objection 1: My policy against the use of epithets is legalistic. It censors words when the real problem is not particular words but dishonest arguments. Dishonest trolls will be able to game the rules by not using insult words but nonetheless goading sincere debaters into lashing out harshly such that they unfairly get banned.

My reply: On Dealing With Trolling, Banning, and Uncomfortable Disagreements

Objection 2: My policy underestimates the value of passion in debates and in political fights, and it is calling for unrealistic Vulcanism. Worse, it is unfair because some subjects that may come up for debate are not merely academic. They affect people’s lives. Those affected are entitled to their emotions. I am a privileged white male heterosexual cisgendered neurotypical American college professor with a PhD and no physical disabilities. I have never been sexually or physically assaulted, meaningfully impoverished, physically debilitated, or substantively marginalized based on either my immutable characteristics or my morally approvable, healthy, and/or necessary life choices. It may be easy for me and others similarly situated in any of the above respects related to any topic under discussion to treat topics with philosophical detachment but this is an unfair demand to make of those for whom the results of a given debate are not merely academic but vitally consequential.

My reply: I Am Not Against Emotions. I Am Against Insulting Epithets.

Objection 3: We live in a truly fucked up, unjust world in which members of numerous marginalized groups have to cater to the whims and feelings of an unfair majority that in turn abuses them. Even in what purport to be “fair” environments, inevitably the power structures in which “free” debate occurs favors those with the prejudices taken to be “common sense” and the experiences of members of privileged classes. Members of marginalized groups already struggle to find their voice and articulate their experience. It is too onerous to demand that they tiptoe around the feelings of the members of groups that oppress them even on putatively progressive blogs that explicitly aim to be friendly to them. They need safe spaces. They also need room to be around people of shared values and understanding so that they can (a) vent, (b) do the constructive work of socially and emotionally supporting each other, (c) reason together about new issues without having to justify all their core beliefs, values, or basic humanity all the time, (d) worry about the feelings of those who cause them so much psychic misery in the real world, (e) coordinate political action and social institutions, and (f) avoid their tormenters’ presences.

Finally, since members of marginalized groups have so much more at stake they are at an inherent disadvantage in discourses that privilege dispassionate debate that requires them to suppress their morally justifiable rage while the passive and comfortable beneficiaries of systemic injustice are all the more capable of dispassionate debate precisely because of their unjust advantages. It is a perverse irony when those with stronger emotional reactions due to greater injustice that they suffer are penalized for their “incivility” of lashing out at those who are only more polite because they are more comfortable and have less to lose, precisely because the unjust scenarios under discussion afford them disproportionate advantages.

My reply: We Need Both Safe Spaces AND Philosophically Open Ones

Objection 4: It is pointless to debate with religious people and non-progressives since they never change their minds anyway. So why bother being nice to them or creating a hospitable environment for them?

My reply: Debate is Not Pointless

Objection 5: Words like “stupid” are not as bad as slurs against groups and so it is offensive and a counter-productive false equivalence to lump them in with slurs. It underestimates the extent of the harm caused by the slurs to lump them in with words nearly everyone uses and can tolerate, like “stupid”. Slurs do not just hurt people’s feelings but are part of literally violent and literally destructive social and political and religious systems. Slurs also target and abuse entire groups of people and not just the individuals taunted with them in any specific case. Some slurs also cruelly and irrationally turn immutable traits or morally good choices into the standards for badness itself. “Stupid” does not do any of this, so it should not be put in the same category with those other words.

My reply: Stop Calling People Stupid.

Objection 6: Epithets like “asshole” and “douchebag” are important words for social policing. Moral and social norms are inculcated into people by social approval and social disapproval. These words are harsh in a good way in that when used against someone whose behavior is reprehensible they signal to that person that there will be a social cost for their behavior. It is especially important for members of marginalized groups to have recourse to such words as a form of non-violent verbal and cultural self-defense.

As members of these groups are subject to all sorts of unjust social policing in the forms of slurs and the imposition of damaging norms upon them, they need recourse to strongly condemnatory language that helps them establish their own, juster, ways of feeling as normative instead. Fucked up cultural norms put tremendous amounts of unfair pressure on people. Those most affected by unfair pressure need to use equal pressure to push back.

The creators, active perpetuators, and passive beneficiaries of unjust norms all have the luxury of treating their behaviors and ideas and institutions as dispassionate matters. Members of marginalized groups need to have the right to shock and offend the complacent privileged classes with language that defiantly unsettles them and warns them that if they do not start taking the marginalized groups’ basic humanity and basic needs seriously they will start being the ones who suffer great social costs.

This is sort of an opening salvo through a language assault that effectively says “You cannot go on, privileged person, thinking that other people’s basic rights and dignity are just an academic matter while they are having harmful consequences. We are going to make this personal for you too so that you will be emotionally forced, through new social norms we are creating and policing with, to stop participating (however actively or passively) in the coercion of the marginalized and to start respecting them.”

My reply: Marginalized People Don’t Need To Be Insulting To Be Empowered

Objection 7: Politeness is not respect but dishonesty. My entire call for civility is an abdication of the concern for truth that elevates concern for feelings far too high. Harsh honest words are more respectful than ones censored for the sake of politeness. Those who tell you you are stupid or an asshole pay you the respect of straightforwardness. We do not all respect each other, so we should not act like it.

Objection 8: Some people simply do not deserve respect. The consequences of their actions are too dangerous. They genuinely are too evil or too stupid to be treated otherwise as a courtesy.

———

So those are 8 challenges that I think make a lot of excellent points, but which nonetheless fall short of convincing me that epithets, incivility, and uncharitably personalized debates are worth tolerating morally. I will explain why, point by point, over the course of 8 posts.

In the meantime, Your Thoughts?

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • MroyalT

    None of them are convincing to you? I mean, I have a problem with some of them – I feel that 4, 7 and 8 miss the mark, even if they have some truth to them – but the others.. the others are pretty much spot on.

    Here is what I notice though… rational conversations are a farce. People are not persuaded with pure rational thoughts and ideas, or pure presentations of evidence devoid of any feeling. People are persuaded by emotions, and our language is a persuasive force moreso than any rational argument. While it is important that we conch our ideas in rational arguments, it is also important that we seek to move others with emotive force. Sometimes that force comes hand in hand with harsh words.

    I think, and correct me if I am wrong, that there is a lot of evidence for this when it comes to neurology and psychology – that reason alone is never enough. Even those like yourself, a professor of philosophy, which arguably makes you the most agile when it comes to reason, are not really persuaded by reason alone. Everything you write is colored by your perspectives and experience, and you are also persuaded more often than not by emotions rather than “pure reason.”

    You have your way of doing things, and I am eager to here your reasons – your perspective to why you do what you do. However, I have reasons for why I do what I do as well. I am happy to hear someone voice my reasons – without me having to say a word (this is my first post here!), and I am also happy to hear yours. Not because I wish to be persuaded.. but because I think that different perspectives are often necessary.

    I think that in the end, you might fail to be persuaded and persuade others.. not because one of the arguments are flawed in reasoning, but because the rhetoric used does not suite the individual perspective at hand. For instance, if I talk about racism, or sexism, or homophobia, or just genuine social issues… I can’t help but get angry. I have learned to dial it back, but that came with time – that did not come out of any rational objection. That came in the time where I got a proper handle on my feelings… and I won’t try to force anyone to handle it anymore than they are ready. It is easy for people not effected by social issues to claim civility.. but that claim, what I find is not really a claim free of bias.. it is colored by their apathy, and their disconnect to the issue – and perhaps, perhaps we should not try to persuade others to be as apathetic as we are. It may not be for the better.

    Anyway, I will read your thoughts as they come in.

    • Contrarian

      People are persuaded by emotions …

      People should aspire to be better.

    • http://strangesally.wordpress.com/ SallyStrange: Elite Femi-Fascist Genius

      People should aspire to do better than being persuaded by emotion? Why? What is wrong with emotion? Emotion is what allows us to recognize that widespread starvation is morally disgusting, that gay-bashing is wrong, etc., etc. There is no empirical, rational justification for desiring the cessation of suffering and the increase of well-being for human beings, and for all beings in general.

      Please, make the case against emotion. I am curious to hear what you have to say.

    • J. J. Ramsey

      SallyStrange: Elite Femi-Fascist Genius:

      Emotion is what allows us to recognize that … gay-bashing is wrong

      You don’t think that gay-bashing is motivated by emotion?

      You have it precisely backwards. It’s reason that lets us realize that gay sex and gay relationships, even if they squick us out on a gut level, do us no harm and therefore are morally neutral in and of themselves. It’s the gay-bashers and homophobes who let their emotions move them from the feeling, “This is squicky,” to the conclusion, “This is morally disgusting.”

      Emotion is a great motivator but a double-edged sword, capable of spurring evil as well as good.

  • eric

    Taken together, #3 and #6 seem to fail the reciprocity test. What I mean is, the combination of these two lines of reasoning seems to call for a safe place (3) from which one group can use insults (6) while not being subjected to them (3f).

    Aside the ethical problems (which I think are significant), the practical problems with such a combo policy make it a nonstarter. Except in a few cases, Dan doesn’t have access to his poster’s age, race, sex, orientation etc. Nor can he vet the information users might volunteer. It would be practically impossible for him to set up such a space.

    Basically, I don’t think Dan’s critics can argue for a safe space and freedom to insult at the same time; those concepts are going to collide.

    • MroyalT

      The rules of the game change when you have a group that is marginalized by society. Now, at first glance this may seem “unfair” by certain standards.. but it is no more unfair than say.. recognizing that racial epithets like “cracker” and the “n-word” have a drastically different power structure, making one more dangerous than the other. To say that both are equally bad betrays the real power structure in place and that… is really unfair.

      The idea of creating a safe place for the systematically oppressed is recognizing that they are systematically oppressed, and as such the rules of the game change. We may have to switch our behaviors ever so slightly to accommodate the power structure society wields already. Behaviors that most of the time lack that recognition and more often than not lead to micro aggression – which are already so prevalent in society as it.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      I am not against emotions, only epithets. I think that objection is a strawman of my position.

    • eric

      MRoyal, how do you propose Dan set up this space? Should he demand all posters submit a CV to ascertain whether they are in the safe-cannot-be-insulted category or privileged-insult-away category? Should we then all be made – by Dan – to adopt aliases that show which group we belong to? Isn’t that cure worse than the disease?

      For the record, I do have an ethical problem with a non-reciprocal system. But that wasn’t the focus of my post; it was that such a system is impractical. Your response didn’t address the impracticality problem at all.

    • MroyalT

      @ eric

      I am short on time!

      Dan can set up this place as he sees fit and he should set it up as he sees fit!

      The idea is that if he sets it up in the wrong fashion, and the end result is it makes this comment section an unsafe place for minorities to gather like myself.. then guess what? We will choose to leave! Right now, I feel safe here, so I comment. If I cease to feel safe, then I won’t comment.

      The idea is that Dan may not realize this, but his policy as it stands may end up alienating minorities out of his sphere. This is not good. If he wants diversity, then he needs to listen – and I have to say he is doing a damn good job at listening. I like this guy, and probably will always read his posts.. but my point of view, if I feel this is not a safe place, will not be vocalized here. This happens to a lot of minorities, and that has the added negative effect of diminishing the diversity present. We are making him aware of this.

      He can do what he chooses, but that has an effect. I do not have a solution, but that does not mean I can not point out a problem with his solution.

      I like this place, I like you people… but that is only because I feel safe. In fact, Dan knows this.. this is why he attempted to implement a policy that makes everyone feel safe – to increase the amount of perspectives he gets in comments. It is a valiant effort to be applauded.. but it has come under some criticism with good reason. Talking this out is a good way to handle it – and he is doing remarkably well, thankfully. If he did not respond well, I, as a person of color, would not even post here. Period.

      With that… I am late!! God this place is addictive!!!

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      With that… I am late!! God this place is addictive!!!

      Thank you, so far I enjoy your contributions so I will be quite happy if you stay addicted and will do my best to make you feel welcome.

  • Contrarian

    Those affected are entitled to their emotions. I am a privileged white male heterosexual cisgendered neurotypical American college professor with a PhD and no physical disabilities. I have never been sexually or physically assaulted, meaningfully impoverished, physically debilitated, or substantively marginalized based on either my immutable characteristics or my morally approvable, healthy, and/or necessary life choices. It may be easy for me and others similarly situated in any of the above respects related to any topic under discussion to treat topics with philosophical detachment but this is an unfair demand to make of those for whom the results of a given debate are not merely academic but vitally consequential.

    This is my favorite. It is a subtle ad hominem. The race, class, gender, etc. of a person making a moral argument is irrelevant to the validity of the argument. Why would a person point out Dan’s privilege, since it is a red herring to his moral argument? The implication is that his privilege invalidates his argument, so it is an ad hominem attack.

    (Mention of a person’s class/race/gender/status is appropriate in deconstructing why the person made an argument, but is not appropriate in examining the validity of the argument.)

    I (provocatively) wonder — people with privilege, by definition, have much to lose from the outcome of social debates about race, gender, etc. Should the same logic apply to them, since they have “skin in the game”?

    • MroyalT

      Calling out privilege is not an invalidation of anyone’s arguments or experience. What it is, is it places their perspectives in the proper social context – a context that many seem to miss or many seem to just want to dismiss. A privileged experience does not invalidate, it just puts it in perspective – sometimes that added color is sorely needed. It does not get enough play.

      I think the idea that calling out privilege is some kind of implication of racism.. is.. I don’t know, off the mark. Now, I don’t know if you were saying that, and hopefully you were not, but it sounded like it. If this is not what you were saying, some subtle claim of reverse racism… than apologies. However, I see these claims a lot and let me just address this, even if this is not what you were saying.

      There is this general idea in the ethos… that when a ethnic minority says “you are only saying this because of your privilege” than they are saying “this is cause you are white”… When we put it that way, this really does seem like reverse forms of bigotry. Many seem to respond with “why does my skin color matter at all?’ or whatnot… The answer is, and there is ample evidence for this, that skin color does matter. What your skin color is, will dictate the kind of experience you are likely to get in today’s society. This will influence your perspective.

      Unfortunately many white people have a drastically different experience than people of color. Notably, they are not going to experience systematic racism. What that means is that, if we talk about systematic racism, than the perspectives will show up in contrast with one another. It is important to recognize why this contrast is evident, and that is because, as the post said.. we live in a crazy fcked up world that treats people differently, and we need to recognize that. It is not only the people of color that are trapped by this, it is also the privileged – they to are done a disservice by a society that grants them favor after favor after favor. I guess, that I am trying to say is.. we do feel differently, we do get impassioned more.. probably because we feel it more. It is not so easy to claim civility when you are the one under fire – and calling out privilege is a way to make others understand this aspect. (This also relates to all other forms of privilege)

      Anyway, I have no clouded up this thread with my commentary!!! Sorry for that, I will bid you all a good day.

  • Pteryxx

    To answer those objections, you’d better get the objections themselves right first. For instance, problems with 7 and 8:

    Objection 7: Politeness is not respect but dishonesty. My entire call for civility is an abdication of the concern for truth that elevates concern for feelings far too high.

    No, politeness CAN SOMETIMES be dishonesty. Even folks with tempers generally don’t randomly insult each other for no reason. I think your call for civility gives undue weight to feelings over truth, not that that’s your ENTIRE reason for doing so; and I’d bet most objectors will concur.

    Objection 8: Some people simply do not deserve respect. The consequences of their actions are too dangerous. They genuinely are too evil or too stupid to be treated otherwise as a courtesy.

    Some people can’t be trusted BECAUSE the consequences of their actions are too dangerous. That doesn’t necessarily mean the person is evil or stupid at all, or that such a determination is even relevant or necessary in responding to whatever hurtful thing they’ve done. See unconscious sexism, etc.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      That doesn’t necessarily mean the person is evil or stupid at all, or that such a determination is even relevant or necessary in responding to whatever hurtful thing they’ve done. See unconscious sexism, etc.

      Well, that’s my point. You shouldn’t call people evil or stupid for this and other reasons. You should focus on criticizing behaviors and ideas and attitudes and not trying to essentialize them as evil and stupid.

    • http://strangesally.wordpress.com/ SallyStrange: Elite Femi-Fascist Genius

      I generally don’t call people evil or stupid. I point out that their actions contribute, whether deliberately or not, to evil. I point out that their arguments are founded on inherently stupid premises.

      Frequently the distinction is lost on them.

      I regard this as their problem, not mine.

      It seems that you want to make it my problem.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      I generally don’t call people evil or stupid. I point out that their actions contribute, whether deliberately or not, to evil. I point out that their arguments are founded on inherently stupid premises.

      Frequently the distinction is lost on them.

      I regard this as their problem, not mine.

      It seems that you want to make it my problem.

      Inherently stupid? No, that’s a loaded word and it is your problem if you use a loaded word. Plenty of wrong ideas can be held without stupidity because of any of a number of correctable misunderstandings. If you focus on why an idea is wrong without the insulting connotation that holding it is only possible if you’re stupid, you have far greater hopes of persuading people.

    • http://strangesally.wordpress.com/ SallyStrange: Elite Femi-Fascist Genius

      I’m curious as to why you focused on the stupid part of my comment and ignored the evil part.

      Seems like both are loaded terms.

      So it’s a loaded term. So what? If I’m not calling YOU stupid, but am pointing out that your PREMISE is stupid, and you take that personally, well, color me skeptical that choosing a different term–”ignorant,” “wrong,” “erronious” or whatever–is going to get a drastically different result. You’re already reacting as if I’m attacking your person rather than your ideas–which is a stupid thing to do.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      I’m curious as to why you focused on the stupid part of my comment and ignored the evil part.

      Seems like both are loaded terms.

      They are, I just took the one you made a specific example about and talked about that.

      So it’s a loaded term. So what? If I’m not calling YOU stupid, but am pointing out that your PREMISE is stupid, and you take that personally, well, color me skeptical that choosing a different term–”ignorant,” “wrong,” “erronious” or whatever–is going to get a drastically different result. You’re already reacting as if I’m attacking your person rather than your ideas–which is a stupid thing to do.

      Words like “erroneous” and “wrong” only make oversensitive people feel personally attacked. Anyone can be erroneous or wrong. But “stupid” implies the root cause is in the person presenting the proposition–that it’s beneath being entertained by a rational person. Then the fault is not oversensitivity, it’s your fault.

    • http://strangesally.wordpress.com/ SallyStrange: Elite Femi-Fascist Genius

      Okay, so if I point out that your premise is “$tup!d,” (<–wondering how sensitive your filters are) and you take it personally, then it's my fault that you took it personally? How is someone else's failure to distinguish between their ideas and their person my fault in any way?

      But if I point out that your premise is "erroneous," and you take it personally, and I then call you "oversensitive," then I'm in the clear?

      How is accusing a person of being oversensitive any better than characterizing their premise as s****d? That IS a personal attack. One that belittles and demeans the person themself, rather than their ideas.

      Man, you are going down and down this rabbit hole…

    • http://strangesally.wordpress.com/ SallyStrange: Elite Femi-Fascist Genius

      For example, I do think that white supremacy is an idea that is beneath being entertained by rational people. Yet many people entertain this idea.

      What now?

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Sally, I think if all you said was an idea was erroneous and not “stupid” and then someone comes back by saying, “you have personally attacked me”, you can say. “No that is not a personal attack. You are not your ideas. I criticized your idea as in error. That does not imply you’re stupid or anything. It just says that you, like everyone else are prone to errors. Surely you know that everyone makes intellectual mistakes. So, there is no reason to be offended.

      Now, please, if you think I have mischaracterized the quality of your idea by calling it erroneous, by all means correct me. Otherwise, please concede the point. But please do not accuse me of a personal attack when I have merely tried to call a true/false question as I see it.

      So, what’s your argument in defense of the idea I called erroneous.”

      That’s pretty civil, right? That does not escalate conflict with the other person. You could rationally call them oversensitive but why? That personalizes it with them. It tells them what they are instead of distancing it from their person. Make it about the action and the idea and they have room to disown their mistaken action and idea. Make a character charge and now you’re likely setting off their defense mechanisms.

      Just keep things impersonal if possible.

      As for white supremacy–it is seriously irrational. So just call it seriously irrational.

    • http://strangesally.wordpress.com/ SallyStrange: Elite Femi-Fascist Genius

      As for white supremacy–it is seriously irrational. So just call it seriously irrational.

      I’ll just stick with the good old anglo-saxon 2-syllable word instead of a Latinate 7-syllable two-word phrase that means exactly the same thing, thanks.

      See, here’s the thing: if you’re trying to make the case that using my 2-syllable word rather than a 7-syllable two-word phrase increases the chances of my interlocutor stomping off in a huff, I have no argument with you there. The thing is, I often don’t really care about persuading a white supremacist, because I know the odds of that actually happening are minimal to begin with. There are, however, two other positive outcomes that are far more probable: first, that the white supremacist understands that there is a high social cost to pay for expressing his bigotry, and second, that a third-party observer witnesses the interaction and concludes that white supremacy is indeed “seriously irrational.” If you want to claim that using shorter but more forceful words decreases my chances of influencing the opinions of lurkers, well, go ahead, but you haven’t made that case yet.

      However, none of this is touching on the fact that you claim that, similar to epithets that use the intrinsic characteristics of entire groups, such as gender, race, or sexual orientation, s****d causes serious negative “splash damage” to a group of oppressed people.

      There’s solid research backing up the empirical negative effects of racist, homophobic, and sexist language.

      I haven’t seen you provide any similar research with regards to insulting language that involves lack of intelligence.

      Which is why, as I said elsewhere, your arguments do not convince, regardless of the tone you use to convey them.

  • Josh, Official SpokesGay

    People should aspire to be better.

    That sort of glib dismissal is pointless. You’re really positing that people aspire to be something other than human.

    • Contrarian

      Exactly. We are not rational. We should do our best to be rational.

  • Josh, Official SpokesGay

    You should focus on criticizing behaviors and ideas and attitudes and not trying to essentialize them as evil and stupid.

    Dan, I think, quite literally, that you may be unable to understand how cloistered you are as an academic. It’s clear that you do not grok, even a little bit, how utterly unworkable, unrealistic, and occasionally directly counterproductive your broad pronouncements are in any place other than a classroom. If you want your blog to run by certain rules of discourse, that is your right. But do not mistake your preferred tone for “therefore more productive in the real world than my coarser opponents.”

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      But do not mistake your preferred tone for “therefore more productive in the real world than my coarser opponents.”

      First of all, I’m not “cloistered”, I live and debate in the real world too, you know, and I have a pretty good idea about how to persuade real live people of things. It could be possible that instead of using my status as an academic as a disqualifier and an ad hominem attack that instead people could reason about what is wrong with my ideas and try to prove to me that I am wrong. It could also serve people well to reason that someone like me who argues professionally for a living day and night might actually know a thing or two about both reason and persuasion.

    • eric

      It’s clear that you do not grok, even a little bit, how utterly unworkable, unrealistic, and occasionally directly counterproductive your broad pronouncements are in any place other than a classroom.

      Josh, you’re just plain wrong. Dan’s limits are really no different from standard behavior in most workplaces all over the world. Its the standard on most talk shows, on both TV and radio (maybe Fox excepted). Its mostly standard when non-adults are present. Its the standard when you go into a restaurant or store. Its the standard for written non-fiction of pretty much all stripes, from academic journals down to trade paperbacks to newspapers.

      This is not to say that you can’t rudely insult people in those situations or settings. Of course you can. I’ll even defend your right to do so. And it happens – people do. But this IS to say that people engage in highly workable, realistic, productive conversations without needing the stuff Dan wants to ban. To say that its unworkable outside of a classroom is to miss or ignore all of places it works – which is probably most of one’s waking interactions with non-family people outside of the internet.

      The internet’s wild west culture of commenting has never been the standard, its a historically recent exception to the standard. Surely you must see that?

    • smhll

      But this IS to say that people engage in highly workable, realistic, productive conversations without needing the stuff Dan wants to ban.

      Rhetorically I want to ask, do these productive conversations produce social justice?

    • eric

      I don’t recall MLK needing to hurl personal insults in public to accomplish quite a bit of social justice. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were exceptions, but I feel pretty safe in saying that, as a general rule, he didn’t use them to accomplish his purposes.

  • http://strangesally.wordpress.com/ SallyStrange: Elite Femi-Fascist Genius

    Contrarian, if your ideal is really that humans should aspire to be something other than human… well, I don’t know what to say to you. Invest in some cryogenics and freeze yourself for a million years? Then you’ll experience some non-human life, whether as a consequence of evolution or extinction.

    But for the here and now, you need to establish why it is that you regard emotion as the polar opposite of rationality. Hint: it’s not.

  • Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Exactly. We are not rational. We should do our best to be rational.

    That is literally nonsense. It is not possible to be something other than human. Why does your formulation, “we should do our best to be rational,” assume “therefore we should not acknowledge that it’s impossible not to take emotion into account when working toward goals.” Do you see what’s wrong with that?

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      That is not literally nonsense. He is using the word “rational” in two senses. One is descriptive and the other normative. We are not, descriptively speaking, “rational” in the fully realized normative sense of the word, but we should aim to adhere to the norms of reason and be more rational. Just because we are not presently adhering well enough to the norms does not mean we should stop aspiring to do so.

      But, for the record, I refuse the dichotomy between emotions and reason. I have written a lot about their mutual dependency. The objection that my stance against, incivility, epithets, and avoidable personal attacks is somehow anti-emotion is a total strawman. I will explain that when I get to answering that objection.

  • Josh, Official SpokesGay

    It could be possible that instead of using my status as an academic as a disqualifier and an ad hominem attack

    You’re not going to claim I engaged in an ad hominem fallacy are you?

    Lots of people have been engaging you, Dan. Lots of people have been trying to persuade you. You know this.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Lots of people have been engaging you, Dan. Lots of people have been trying to persuade you. You know this.

      Of course I know this, I have acknowledged it by summarizing their arguments above. But that does not mean that some, like you, do not resort to ad hominem and make this about me and not about what might be missing from my arguments. You are doing this in your first direct engagement with me. Right away you are trying to invalidate my perspective with the false charge that it is “cloistered” rather than provide counter-arguments and evidence.

      Please address arguments and ideas and not people.

  • Josh, Official SpokesGay

    That is not literally nonsense. He is using the word “rational” in two senses. One is descriptive and the other normative. We are not, descriptively speaking, “rational” in the fully realized normative sense of the word, but we should aim to adhere to the norms of reason and be more rational. Just because we are not presently adhering well enough to the norms does not mean we should stop aspiring to do so.

    I realize that you don’t fancy me or my style, but I am not a dimwitted fool. I do not need you to parse obvious concepts for me. Perhaps you’d like to read me a little more charitably. You might find that I had a good reason—waaaaaay up in the thread, but it’s there—to call out the odd implications of contrarian’s strange and terse comment.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      I realize that you don’t fancy me or my style, but I am not a dimwitted fool.

      I did not call you a dimwitted fool, I countered your charge that what he said was literal nonsense. That was an uncharitable reading that assumed the most meaningless interpretation of what he said, rather than dealt with the substantively true point he was making. You were reducing him to someone who speaks nonsense. My clarification of what he meant was not treating you like a fool, it was rebutting your false charge that he spoke nonsense.

      I do not need you to parse obvious concepts for me.

      Then do not overstate the falseness of what someone said such that the concepts need to be clarified for any confused into thinking they are nonsensical.

      Perhaps you’d like to read me a little more charitably. You might find that I had a good reason—waaaaaay up in the thread, but it’s there—to call out the odd implications of contrarian’s strange and terse comment.

      I do not see how I am being uncharitable but you can show me where your reason for “calling out” Contrarian is and how it validates calling “literal nonsense” what was a perfectly understandable play on words with a clear meaning.

      Contrarian is arguing in overly broad terms against emotions, but that does not mean what he said was nonsense.

  • Josh, Official SpokesGay

    It could also serve people well to reason that someone like me who argues professionally for a living day and night might actually know a thing or two about both reason and persuasion.

    Undoubtedly you do. Yet there are some audiences with whom your approach is exceedingly unpersuasive. I should think the volume of criticisms you’re addressing above would make that clear.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Undoubtedly you do. Yet there are some audiences with whom your approach is exceedingly unpersuasive.

      I doubt if I started flinging epithets at them, treating them without civility, or attacking them personally as individuals that I would become suddenly exceedingly persuasive to them.

      I should think the volume of criticisms you’re addressing above would make that clear.

      No, the volume of criticism I am addressing above is because there are lots of positions people are bringing to bear on a 1,500 word post. I have not even begun to try to persuade a great many people about a great many points. Many of my counter arguments are presently only in old, hardly read posts or in the comments section of the previous post. And even in that comments section, people backed off or modified points after I explained and clarified my views at different points.

      Persuasion is not a matter of writing one blog post and expecting the whole world to fall down and agree with you and for there to be no dialectical pushback.

      But, even for all that, I have already gotten a few people coming to me saying I really changed their mind on this or that. Or I have noticed some lines of argument not getting counter-challenges but topics changing, etc.

      We’ll see how it all plays out. I’ll see if I can persuade people without epithets, incivility, or personal attacks. And if I can’t, well, I guess I will have to lose with principles rather than become the kind of abusive irrationalist I have dedicated my life to opposing in order to win.

    • http://strangesally.wordpress.com/ SallyStrange: Elite Femi-Fascist Genius

      I doubt if I started flinging epithets at them, treating them without civility, or attacking them personally as individuals that I would become suddenly exceedingly persuasive to them.

      Indeed it wouldn’t, because it’s the content, not the tone, that makes your arguments fail.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Indeed it wouldn’t, because it’s the content, not the tone, that makes your arguments fail.

      If people can demonstrate that, that’s great. I look forward to learning.

  • Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Dan, no, you don’t get to redefine the ad hominem fallacy. Had I argued “Dan Fincke is a white guy, therefore anything he says on the topic of used cars is wrong,” I would have engaged in the fallacy.

    But I did not. I posited that your experience as an academic and a teacher was blinding you to another perspective. I may be factually wrong about that, but it is not a fallacious, ad hominem approach.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Yes, you made the charge with no proof. Instead of a counter argument, you just posit that I am blinded. That’s not a charitable, rational, or persuasive form of argument.

  • MroyalT

    One last thought! (I could not help it!)

    I just re-read this post of yours. I have to say, wow, amazing. You did your best to present arguments you disagree with in the strongest fashion possible. That shows a remarkable level of clarity – as if you see why they can be persuasive.

    I don’t read much philosophy, but one of my favorite philosophers is J. L. Mackie, and his book “The Miracle of Theism.” Within that book, Mackie goes out of his way, and I am positive you know this, to give the best most persuasive forms of the argument in favor of theism imaginable. He make you see the arguments strengths and emphasizes their persuasive force. Then he goes through the bad objections to the argument, to show how good the argument is. In the end, he mounts the best objection and puts the arguments to shame – showing all its flaws.

    When I read the way you phrased the arguments you disagree with.. I was reminded by Mackie’s writing style. Where he put his best effort to show the strongest form of the argument – because he knew he was going to topple it anyway. If this is what you are planning to do.. than well… I very much look forward to it. Please do not disappoint, especially because I agree with most of the arguments you just laid out.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Thank you, MroyalT. My whole point is to try to bring these discussions to the kind of level of charitableness one finds in the work you cited. I have no interest in ignoring or disrespecting the concerns of those who disagree with me. I want to understand their experiences and their arguments and address them as fairly as possible. I hope I do not disappoint with the coming posts now.

    • MroyalT

      @ Daniel Fincke.. I keep trying to get out, but I keep getting pulled in! Ok, after this I have to go to work, so hopefully this will be my last say until I hear you clarify your objections in the next blog post.

      I hope you can give everyone a run for their money – not because I think you will win, but because I think you will lose! (On some points) Yet, if you can present something more reasonable than what many have already seen, it might plant a seed for something special. (your arguments on a call for civility are probably well placed – but the ones where you discuss the dynamics of privilege seems to be misplaced, even if you summarized them very well)

      I recently quickly skimmed that other post you had, and the comments section where you were criticized, as well as this comment section. From what I see, most of the objections come in the form of pointing out your privilege. I agree with a substantial part of them as well – but I am also awaiting clarification that you indicated that you had, that might make us all back off a bit.

      With that said, here is something that particularly urks me… I read the exchange between you and crommunist, and you and other posters. Your response seemed to be that they are too quick to judge… I am not so sure. Yet that is besides the point, what I found off is that you wanted them to present an argument to you that proved your perspective was privileged and therefore you lacked an understanding of what their criticisms are.

      That is just.. just not going to happen. Social issues are way more complicated than that. You can’t always put up a clear cut reasonable argument for your position, and this is in part due to the fact that each position is inherently a fuzzy one that is not as well defined as we would like it to be. As such, sometimes there is no smash down argument to dish out. Instead there are smaller ones of different variations. (Which I will attempt now)

      What the others are pointing out to you.. is that your actions seem to match a pattern of a micro aggression. A pattern that many minorities are intimately familiar with. The problem with this is that the nature of such a micro aggression is notoriously hard to prove. If someone asks for smash down proof of an individual micro aggression, than that is a direct indication that they don’t quite understand what a micro aggression is. Now, I am not saying you have done this, but you fit a pattern that indicates you may fall into this kind of trap. This is not good.

      I am going to be late for work because of this post.. but I feel I have to press this as I am also a minority too that feels frustrated when met with subtle forms of behavior that you may in fact fall into.

      Let me start with the question.. How do you prove a micro aggression? The answer is you don’t, and you can’t – at least not to the extent that we would like.

      A quick example is this: Say that a man and a woman are applying for a police officer position. The man has better education qualifications, but the woman has more experience. When applying for the job, the man gets it. When questioning to why the employer gave it to the man rather than the woman. The employer says that it is because the man had more education. Now, the woman suspects sexism – but can we prove it? Nope. No matter what argument you give, there is always a possibility that it was not sexism. Micro aggression are just like this.

      Yet although we can not prove them on a case by case basis… what we can do is accumulate a statistical pattern that gives rise to an inductive argument that indicates that sexism may have been in place.

      For example, say we went to the same PD, accept we said that this time the woman had more education, and the man had more experience. The police department again hires the man. When questioned to why they did, they tell us that it is because the man had more experience.

      This seems really odd! In one case the man was hired because he had a better education, in the other case the man was hired despite having less education. Could this be sexism? Maybe.

      Then what we do is we say, barrage that same police force with applications of men and women, switching which one has more experience or more education with each trial. After multiple trials, we have a strong trend. We see a statistically significant average where the police force hires the man more than the woman that can not be accounted for by a difference in qualifications…. What we see here is proof systematic discrimination. We have proof of it, but we can never go into each individual case and prove that each case was actual sexism… they will always be fuzzy. What we can do though, is that next time the force seeks job applicants and hires a man instead of a woman, we can use an inductive argument to say that this is probably due to sexism – if the way they got hired fits a similar pattern. That is literally the best we can do. (Also there was a study on this done – hidden gender bias – but I do not have the time to get it, plus I forgot the source! So let us just pretend this is a hypothetical)

      The point here is that in modern times…. we can not exactly pin down when hidden biases are in place. The fact of the matter is, that it is the nature of this hidden bias that predicts it being unable to be pinned down. Privilege works just like that, it is a hidden bias, that can not be pinned down on any distinct occasion. The only way to “prove it” is to gather a statistical accumulation of data on your person and actions… and see if you react differently in certain situation to a significant degree. Baring that, we, and you, are never really going to know when your privilege presents itself – not to any degree of certainty. We can guess to a good degree, and we can be quite good in our guesses, but we can’t be as sure as we like.

      Here is the rub though, the people who have the most experience with certain patterns – notably the ones effected by it the most – are also going to be much more efficient at spotting when those patterns are present. The idea is that you should not ask someone to present an exact argument to prove you are privileged.. it is an unfair task and it betrays the concept of privilege as it stands. In fact, all the can respond with is an inductive argument.. highlighting a pattern that you seem to fit. In fact, that is what all of them did in the other thread – to which you did not respond well to.

      Crommunist said “check your privileged” and he is damn right about that. However, that does not mean anyone seeks to invalidate you or not hear what you have to say – I look forward to it. However, it just means that you are in danger of fitting a particular pattern and you need to reconsider it seriously. With that said, I look forward to your next posts.. and I hope this post was not incoherent, but I am really short on time – I got 15 minutes to get work. I will just say, that there is a lot more meat to what I am saying here, but I do not have the time to detail it – I hope it came out clear.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      MRoyalT, I have never disputed the concept of privilege and have said nothing inconsistent with understanding that plausible deniability case by case is lost when aggregate statistics show up. My point is that I have a statistically rather large body of statements you can comb through to determine if I am fundamentally motivated by bias or not.

      And you have to recognize that even though there are macro trends that does not mean that any given micro instance is a legitimate discrimination. It’s a terrible bind we are in where there is plausible deniability case by case so you cannot tell the judgments from damaging premises from the ones that were objectively legitimate. But that does not mean that those who “just see” the privilege are not also going to be subject to confirmation biases themselves in the meantime.

      It would be far better that people focus on the substance of arguments rather than “just seeing” the vices of their interlocutors. In the case of the police department, you put in systemic checks that just kick in when appropriate. (For example, sometimes university departments that have, left to their own devices only seem to have found men candidates qualified will get a mandate to specifically find a qualified woman in a particular instance. When those micro-aggressions have added up to a statistically provable pattern, then it’s fine to put in those checks.)

  • Josh, Official SpokesGay

    make this about me and not about what might be missing from my arguments.

    That’s because it IS about you. It’s about your disposition as a teacher and an academic removed from the direct consequences of the experiences your critics have been telling you about. That’s why, I’m claiming, you don’t take on board what your critics are saying. Why is this surprising to you?

    Stephanie Zvan wrote an entire blog post about this the other day. You cannot genuinely claim to be unaware of why people are talking about you and your experience.

    Right away you are trying to invalidate my perspective with the false charge that it is “cloistered” rather than provide counter-arguments and evidence.

    Dan, I don’t have to rehash all the good arguments your commenters have left alleging you have blindspots. You’re well aware of them. Charging that an opponents arguments are colored and off-base because of the inexperience of the opponent is not out of bounds, irrational, or unusual. Seriously-that’s baffling to me.

    Was I trying to “invalidate your perspective” in the way Natalie Reed was trying to “silence” you? That’s commonly known as objection and disagreement.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      That’s because it IS about you. It’s about your disposition as a teacher and an academic removed from the direct consequences of the experiences your critics have been telling you about. That’s why, I’m claiming, you don’t take on board what your critics are saying. Why is this surprising to you?

      Because it is wholly false that I “don’t take on board what my critics are saying.” I do so all the time. If you read that previous post’s comments section you will see me acknowledging and incorporating or saying I already understood numerous points. That’s different from agreeing with everything they say. I am allowed the right to my own thoughts and reasoning process without being told that because I do not acquiesce to every charge and agree with every counterargument, I must be wrong.

      Stephanie Zvan wrote an entire blog post about this the other day. You cannot genuinely claim to be unaware of why people are talking about you and your experience.

      And what I am saying is that what my experience is in the abstract does not invalidate my right to opinions. If you would like to level specific charges at specific points I made, then do so. If you think my wrongness on occasion x, y, or z is due to privilege, do me the courtesy of seeing if I am actually persuadable before assuming that privilege blinds me to attempts to persuade.

      Dan, I don’t have to rehash all the good arguments your commenters have left alleging you have blindspots. You’re well aware of them. Charging that an opponents arguments are colored and off-base because of the inexperience of the opponent is not out of bounds, irrational, or unusual. Seriously-that’s baffling to me.

      Was I trying to “invalidate your perspective” in the way Natalie Reed was trying to “silence” you? That’s commonly known as objection and disagreement.

      I am not going to rehash disputes from other threads, I have responded to other people and their specific remarks there.

      If all you want to do is come in and say “You’re privileged, so that’s why you’re wrong, and the other commenters just prove it so I don’t have to make any specific arguments”, then you’re not being charitable or rational with me. You have supposedly read my replies to those other people. If you still think those replies are wrong, show me where they are wrong. That’s it. Unsubstantiated personal attacks about privilege are not going to move the debate forward. Especially when they pick up on other threads instead of addressing what is right in front of us.

      So, either start making rational arguments about the wrongness of my positions and about how a specific truth I may not have access to because of who I am would improve my thinking, or stop posting here. Personal attacks are not sufficient. I am not on trial here. I should not personally be the issue here. I resent you making me the issue straight off. It’s hostile indeed.

      Either you come here to discuss the merits of ideas and arguments and institutions and general attitudes and general behaviors first and foremost or stop trying to post here.

      For immediately picking a personal fight with me without using substantive evidence and arguments about why my thinking is specifically wrong or why anything I said in the post above was unfair, I am now putting your comments into moderation.

    • smhll

      And what I am saying is that what my experience is in the abstract does not invalidate my right to opinions.

      I think Josh is disputing your opinion, not your right to have an opinion.

      However, I admit it is a form of pre-judging to imply sweepingly that all academics have no grasp of real world consequences. I’m not sure that the recent criticism here went that far. I think the argument here looks at a couple of things that you said and sees consistency with the stereotype. A few parts of a few posts don’t represent an entire person.

      Q: Is it invalidating to use the word “privilege” when two people don’t perceive an issue in the same way?

      Indirect answer: While I agree that it would be wrong for a person of color to say that a white person has absolutley no understanding of being a POC, I also think that it is essentially correct to generalize that people of color know more about being people of color than white people do. (I’ll give a temporary pass to Sociologists.)

  • Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Why am I in moderation again?

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      There are just trigger words that send people into moderation so that I can make sure no one is insulting anyone, etc. It’s nothing personal unless you have received a warning from me and you haven’t.

  • Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Yes, you made the charge with no proof. Instead of a counter argument, you just posit that I am blinded. That’s not a charitable, rational, or persuasive form of argument.

    What proof would you like? How would you expect me to demonstrate it (privilege blindness is not a controversial thing Dan, it’s not “weird” or an extraordinary claim)? Shall I ask you to submit answers to a sociological questionnaire? Precisely what method of inquiry would suffice to demonstrate that suggesting your position in life blinds you to some things is not just a flight of fancy?

    I don’t think anything would. I think for you it’s un-possible.

    Why? I have boatloads of privilege by dint of being a white cis guy and I’d had my ass handed to me many times for saying blinkered, stupid things. That’s part of being human. Why do you believe you’re different? It’s stunningly arrogant.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Yes, you made the charge with no proof. Instead of a counter argument, you just posit that I am blinded. That’s not a charitable, rational, or persuasive form of argument.

      What proof would you like? How would you expect me to demonstrate it (privilege blindness is not a controversial thing Dan, it’s not “weird” or an extraordinary claim)? Shall I ask you to submit answers to a sociological questionnaire? Precisely what method of inquiry would suffice to demonstrate that suggesting your position in life blinds you to some things is not just a flight of fancy?

      I don’t think anything would. I think for you it’s un-possible.

      Why? I have boatloads of privilege by dint of being a white cis guy and I’d had my ass handed to me many times for saying blinkered, stupid things. That’s part of being human. Why do you believe you’re different? It’s stunningly arrogant.

      Josh, if the specific manner in which my being a college professor was blinding me was so obvious that you could hand my ass to me then demonstrate it. Otherwise, you’re just making a lazy inference that the only reason I could disagree is insensitivity. I am not arrogant enough to say that I have never been blinded by privilege. Of course I have. I have learned a ton accordingly. One of the things I have learned is how to generally avoid talking about things I shouldn’t presume to know about because of problems caused by my limits of experience.

      But, in this case, you are not providing any substantive evidence for the charge. So why should I just accept it? Just because some people, including I, have privilege in general I should just dismiss what I think and accept disagreement uncritically? That’s unreasonable.

      If in a specific case it can be shown to me that I am wrong, using appeals to reason and experience, then I will say I am wrong or I will start modifying my positions at least to account for the new information. I have done so countless times in my life. In those cases maybe the explanation of why I was wrong will be because I was blinded by some privilege. That’s fine. But the proving I’m wrong part–that needs specific evidence and specific arguments, not blanket dismissals like you came in here offering me. Some of those arguments may make appeals to experiences I need to learn about second hand since I don’t have them myself (due to privilege). That’s great. Explain your experience and I will incorporate it into my thinking. I’ve been doing so all week. Hence the thread-starting post.

      But if you cannot actually prove your point that I am not listening to this or that argument simply because of my privilege, stop making the blanket charge that I am just too cloistered to understand things.

  • baal

    I look forward to the series. I (and others) have nibbled at trying to get across the same general idea you’re going for and (appearently) failed.

    I might say more when #3 comes up but “fair” is getting close to “fear” (4-letter F words?) in my list of abominations to never rely on.

  • Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Dan. There is nothing complicated about this:

    Your many writings defending the idea that “insults” (defined to your taste) are per se harmful to the discourse is something that people with privilege say. It’s very hard to be the actual target of oppression (gay, trans, race-based, whatever) and still believe that. It’s a reasonable supposition to look at you, your race, your age, your sex, and your credentials and say, “I bet that’s why he doesn’t get it.” Really, that’s so utterly uncontroversial it’s almost like asking me to prove water slakes thirst.

    And you know what? Even if your position on this matter has nothing to do with Who Dan Fincke Is, you’d still be wrong. Substantively wrong. Not on everything in this conversation—believe it or not I don’t advocate Insults Above All!!—but in your stubborn insistence on fetishizing one mode of discourse. You would still be wrong to elevate that mode above what I consider to be obligations of justice to targets of discrimination.

  • http://www.improbablejoe.blogspot.com Improbable Joe

    On a very fundamental level, you’re having a different conversation than your critics, so very different that the rules are different as well.

    Proof? You’re planning on writing a total of 10 posts minimum to discuss the use of language you disapprove of. Clearly, your priorities are different from the priorities of most other people. Which is fine in your space and with your time, but you still seem to think your rules make sense for everyone else. On that score, you’re wrong and badly so.

    • eric

      Dan’s writing responses to his readers from a thread that got 200+ replies. Its, AFAIK, far and away the biggest CwH thread, ever.

      It seems a little unfair to (a) imply that responding to his readers is a bad thing, and (b) say Dan’s priorities are out of whack from those of his readers because he gives an extremely in-depth reply to the longest thread he’s ever had.

      Let’s put it another way: he got 200+ comments on his commenting policy. What do you think he should do – not address the main ones, or address them?

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Dan’s writing responses to his readers from a thread that got 200+ replies. Its, AFAIK, far and away the biggest CwH thread, ever.

      There have been a lot with more views and many with a lot of comments but it’s probably up there among the most commented upon.

    • http://www.improbablejoe.blogspot.com Improbable Joe

      Eric, you’re slightly confusing my intent in using the words “different priorities.” My main criticism is when Dan tries to move his personal preference into a larger sphere. He’s welcome and doesn’t need anyone’s permission to conduct academic-style philosophical discussions on issues that interest him, with whatever set of ground-rules suit his goals and temperament. When he branches out into “general wrongness” I come to a conclusion best described as “when your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.” I don’t discount his preferences or skill set, but I also value my own, and those of other people who are different from me. We can hit this problem from more than one angle, with more than one set of tools.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Eric, you’re slightly confusing my intent in using the words “different priorities.” My main criticism is when Dan tries to move his personal preference into a larger sphere. He’s welcome and doesn’t need anyone’s permission to conduct academic-style philosophical discussions on issues that interest him, with whatever set of ground-rules suit his goals and temperament. When he branches out into “general wrongness” I come to a conclusion best described as “when your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.” I don’t discount his preferences or skill set, but I also value my own, and those of other people who are different from me. We can hit this problem from more than one angle, with more than one set of tools.

      I just think some of the tools some people propose are more counter-productive than they do and sometimes outright immoral. This is an ethics blog. It’s perfectly appropriate that I talk about that. I have for a long time. There’s plenty of time to move on to other topics from here. But this is a fertile topic that good debate needs to happen about.

    • eric

      He’s welcome and doesn’t need anyone’s permission to conduct academic-style philosophical discussions on issues that interest him, with whatever set of ground-rules suit his goals and temperament. When he branches out into “general wrongness” I come to a conclusion best described as “when your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.”

      Ah, okay I can see that: there’s his proposed commenting policy, and then there’s his “why I’m implementing it” explanation. You have a problem with the latter but not the former. You support his right to implement the commenting policy of his choice, though you disagree with his reasoning for it. IMO that is a lot less tendentious than your OP. It didn’t come across that way.

      We can hit this problem from more than one angle, with more than one set of tools.

      I’m in full agreement. If Dan was proposing an FtB-wide policy, I’d be against it. Since he’s not, I’m not. I support the ‘raucous bar’ of sites like PZs. I support the ‘high-end wine bar’ sites of your Richard Carriers. I support Dan’s right to try and upscale his bar, which is somewhere in that spectrum. The variety of low-to-high brow bars in FtB is a good thing. Its your ‘more than one angle.’ If all the pages were high-brow or all low-brow, it’d be a lot less interesting. But if you agree with that, shouldn’t you be with me in saying: let Dan set the tone for his bar to whatever ‘formality’ he wants?

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      I’m in full agreement. If Dan was proposing an FtB-wide policy, I’d be against it. Since he’s not, I’m not. I support the ‘raucous bar’ of sites like PZs. I support the ‘high-end wine bar’ sites of your Richard Carriers. I support Dan’s right to try and upscale his bar, which is somewhere in that spectrum. The variety of low-to-high brow bars in FtB is a good thing.

      To an extent I am arguing for more than just the rules on my blog. I am arguing that the use of epithets, for example, is generally morally wrong and that generally discourse built on personal attacks and epithets is irredeemably self-poisoning.

      That’s not to say I have any desire to force changes on other blogs or that I think they are all bad or anything like that. I also recognize that there are functions that certain other kinds of environment can serve that my blog won’t and I will try to address that in future posts with a bit more specificity. I think too many issues are typically lumped together in these debates and I’m trying to clarify them.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      On a very fundamental level, you’re having a different conversation than your critics, so very different that the rules are different as well.

      Proof? You’re planning on writing a total of 10 posts minimum to discuss the use of language you disapprove of. Clearly, your priorities are different from the priorities of most other people. Which is fine in your space and with your time, but you still seem to think your rules make sense for everyone else. On that score, you’re wrong and badly so.

      My priorities are to advocate for rationalism and to do philosophy. That’s what this blog has always been about. Disputes about language and about healthy discourse communities are quite germane to my critics or they would not have raised all the topics I will be addressing through their objections. They are concerned about language and so am I, and for good reasons. Language structures our social reality. It’s unavoidable in any legitimate discussion of moral issues, social justice issues, and just discourse context issues.

    • eric

      Dan:

      To an extent I am arguing for more than just the rules on my blog. I am arguing that the use of epithets, for example, is generally morally wrong and that generally discourse built on personal attacks and epithets is irredeemably self-poisoning.

      You’ve stopped short of saying its so immoral that other people must be prevented from doing it by force (of law, arms, etc.). If its evil, its the sort of evil which you seem to see as less evil than broad involuntary measures to prevent it. This is not my exact position (I have less moral problem with it), but pragmatically/operationally we end up at the same social system: my blog, my rules.

  • mythbri

    I think that Objections 1, 2 and 3 are extremely valid.

    Objection 1 smacks of a similar tactic used by bullies to provoke their victims into lashing out, thus inviting negative consequences that the bullies do not share. This tactic can be used, and used effectively because the world is not a level playing field. People have strengths and weaknesses as well as varying life experiences and challenges. Intellectual dishonesty can easily come under the guise of polite academic discourse. Preference for one tone over another does not remove stealth-trolling.

    Objection 2 is particularly poignant because there are a lot of things that are discussed in an academic matter that directly affect real people’s lives. People whose lives are NOT affected by these discussions, whatever the outcome, have the privilege of walking away and considering it to be an intellectual exercise of subjective value. People whose lives ARE affected by these discussions are by nature greatly invested in the outcome.

    Objection 3 very practically describes the reality of these kinds of discussions for members of under-privileged groups. In some cases, your experiences are denied. In some cases, your very humanity is denied. In both cases, your rights, to varying degrees, are denied. Your attributes are used as evidence against you, based on “common” perceptions that are based on the life experience of a privileged majority.

    In short, the choice of words will not determine the level of discourse, only its tone. People who have an investment in intellectual dishonesty will remain so, regardless of the rules. People who are on the defensive, or who at a societal disadvantage in the subject matter at hand, will gain nothing from having to police their tone in the face of opposition.

  • Mattir

    Why does the no-insults rules of discussion remind me so strongly of something thought up by Alain de Botton? Hmmmmm….

    • http://www.improbablejoe.blogspot.com Improbable Joe

      Because they are both philosophers?

    • eric

      It reminds me of how I talk to people in my day job. And the local cafe person. And my neighbors. Funny, I don’t see the need to insult my next door neighbor as a critically important component of communicating with him.

      Dan’s proposed limits will not stifle my ability to communicate. They don’t scare me, and they don’t upset me. Because I recognize that I already moderate my speech based on context. I bet you do too.

  • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com Quine

    Dr. Fincke, as you can see from the comments, above, you have stepped into the mire of Privilege-Gate. I would be glad to see you do a good philosophical treatment of the concepts wrapped up in “privilege” such that a rational discussion of said components and meanings can proceed. I sincerely wished you luck when you started this, last week, and still do; I suspect you see why.

  • Makoto

    To be fair, I haven’t read all the comments at this point – just posting to say in general I like your approach, it seems fair, and I’m very much looking forward to this series and the responses to it. Criticizing it here, without the promised posts, is a bit premature, I think.

  • PatrickG

    First, let me say that I find this discussion very interesting, and I look forward to your future posts on this. I completely support your right to determine the tone of your fiefdom here. That said…

    [I've] made more general arguments about the more general wrongness of using epithets and incivil language, and of personalizing intellectual disputes before giving one’s interlocutors room and benefit of the doubt to be reasoned with and correct themselves.

    At risk of overly simplifying the discussion, you’ve advanced a hypothesis that a more elevated tone without slurs or personal attacks will result in:

    1. a higher quality of discourse, and
    2. a better ‘success rate’ in rational positions being propagated throughout the population of listeners.*

    Your positions are very well thought out, and a great deal of logic and careful thinking have gone into them. Outcome 1, at least, seems to be fairly well substantiated, at least in the narrow confines of productive, rational conversation between people of similar rational capability.

    However, many people have countered your hypothesis with real-world examples and other hypotheses that to me seem better borne out at this point. This is compelling to me.

    They have empirical evidence to support their contentions. At this point, I can’t find compelling evidence* that your position will actually result in Outcome 2.

    Until your propositions have been tested empirically, I find this discussion to be at best an interesting exercise, and not one that can really be extrapolated to a world outside this blog (and other forums of like mind). Not yet, at least. It will be very interesting to see!

    TL;DR: Until your proposed approach produces measurable results, it is highly premature to suggest that this hypothesized strategy will result in more desirable outcomes than other strategies. Thus, it is premature to censure those other strategies, or call them less effective.

    Warmest regards,
    PatrickG

    * This isn’t phrased very well, but from your earlier posts I construe your position to be not simply of elevating discourse for it’s own sake, but rather as a strategy in advancing rational positions. If I am unclear/appear to misunderstand your position, please feel free to ask for clarification/correct me if you so desire.

  • http://messychaosofreality.tumblr.com/ MCOR

    Objection 1: I presume trolling is banned? In any case, I don’t see how insulting trolls would make them stop. I thought that was what they wanted?

    Objection 2: You are still allowed to get angry at things, just not make it personal. If you feel you can’t control yourself (which I think less privileged people are capable of doing) then don’t write anything. Wait a while, walk around, and then channel your emotion into a reasoned and impassioned refutation. Or don’t, whatever.

    Objection 3: I’d venture (tentatively) that a blog can still be friendly to less privileged people while at the same time holding them to the minimum rules of the discussion. Again, they are perfectly entitled to express their rage, but not if they do that by insults or abuse.

    However, I think this objection does have a somewhat good point. Would it be possible to have a more lenient banning policy for people clearly emotionally invested in a topic? Maybe they could be sent suggestions for rewriting?

    Objection 4: Why be nice to anybody who doesn’t share our opinions? And so what if they don’t change their minds is it still right to insult someone being polite to use (all else being equal)?

    Objection 5: I’m not really convinced by the Dan’s arguments against stupid as a terrible insult, but I don’t think it’s relevant. He’s against insults, not some insults. If the mere presence of any one disrupts a conversation, why does the severity matter?

    Objection 6: This is interesting. Perhaps in some cases insults can be effectively used. However, I’m not convinced that they are the only way. Again, people can use forceful language. I believe “bigot” is explicitly allowed? Also, there will be some leeway in extreme cases? I also fear that letting the “privilege-busting insult” become commonplace would rob it of its power.

    Objection 7: I think someone can be honest without being abusive. And who says that there is only one way to express the truth?

    Objection 8: I think lots of people don’t deserve respect! However, this doesn’t mean that a civilised discussion is impossible. It happens all the time in courts, in workplaces, in politics. Why not here?

    All in all I like this commenting policy, but I can see where there are some legitimate issues.

    On the other hand though, people some perfectly capable of bringing up these issues without insults. I’m not sure if this is a paradox or not.

    • http://messychaosofreality.tumblr.com/ MCOR

      Argh. In the last line:

      *people seem perfectly capable etc

  • http://florilegia.wordpress.com Ibis3, member of the Oppressed Sisterhood fanclub

    I am allowed the right to my own thoughts and reasoning process without being told that because I do not acquiesce to every charge and agree with every counterargument, I must be wrong.

    Hmm. But isn’t it strange that you do not acquiesce to any charge or agree in any respect with any counterargument?

    I mean, frankly, it’s your space and you can make whatever rules for it that you feel comfortable with, so that’s not at issue.

    But listing out these objections (which certainly have some substance) and then to turn around and, instead of considering them and acknowledging them, decide to spend a (presumably long) post on each defending your established, prior position…well, that seems more insulting than every “a$$h0le” or “d0ucheb4g” unleashed in anger.

    You’re turning human oppression into an academic exercise, just like the hyper-sceptics who wail about the dearth of scientific studies on sexual harassment at The Amazing Meeting, or the forced birthers who want to debate about the ethics of aborting an 8 month 3 week old foetus. It’s disgusting (it’s okay to call an idea or behaviour disgusting is it?). These are the types of vacuous “arguments” often indulged in by the privileged, and that’s why people are speculating that this is, indeed, what you are and why you’re doing what you’re doing.

    • John Morales

      Ibis3, I here juxtapose two quotations and make an observation and state an opinion.

      The quotations:

      Below, in the spirit of charitable attempts to understand one’s opponents before criticizing, to the best of my ability I have summarized the eight major general objections that my coming posts will respond to. Please be patient as I try not to overwhelm readers with 8,000 words of writing in one day. I will get to each of these strong objections one by one. Also note that I do not fully disagree with everything in every objection. I agree with many of the concerns in the objections. I only disagree that epithets, incivility, and uncharitable interpretations of each other’s words and motives are the ways to meet the needs that the objectors are worried about.

      But listing out these objections (which certainly have some substance) and then to turn around and, instead of considering them and acknowledging them, decide to spend a (presumably long) post on each defending your established, prior position…well, that seems more insulting than every “a$$h0le” or “d0ucheb4g” unleashed in anger.

      The observation:

      You have written “instead of considering them and acknowledging them”, but clearly he has acknowledged them (rather well, IMO) and equally clearly stated he will consider each in depth.

      (The next post actually does so for the first of the eight, which adds credibility to his claim that he will consider them in depth)

      The opinion:

      I think you are (possibly inadvertently) misrepresenting what he’s written, and furthermore that he is being more charitable at attempting to understand those concerns than you are at understanding his.

    • Josh R.

      @Ibis3 and @John Morales (But now as i prepare to submit this comment I notice it ends up being mostly directed at Ibis3)

      In my opinion *cough*DunningKruger*cough* (-edit- just to be clear that cough was in regards to my arrogance in assuming that I understand what everybody is thinking better than they do and not an implication about anybody other than myself) you two are talking right past each other. I’ve been seeing this often with numerous commenters up to and including Daniel with regards to many of the topics being discussed on the, now three, articles regarding this matter.
      John, you presented a few quotations. I will repeat them here with some added emphasis.
      First from Daniel’s original post:

      Below, in the spirit of charitable attempts to understand one’s opponents before criticizing, to the best of my ability I have summarized the eight major general objections that my coming posts will respond to. Please be patient as I try not to overwhelm readers with 8,000 words of writing in one day. I will get to each of these strong objections one by one. Also note that I do not fully disagree with everything in every objection. I agree with many of the concerns in the objections. I only disagree that epithets, incivility, and uncharitable interpretations of each other’s words and motives are the ways to meet the needs that the objectors are worried about.

      I’m actually going to use a different quote from Ibis3, that she (I think she is the correct pronoun. I’m not really accustomed to gender neutral pronouns. Sorry if this offends. It’s not malicious, merely lazy, and yes I realize that lazy is just as bad, if not worse, than malicious in certain contexts and I will alter my behavior if such alteration is desired) gave in response to your response. (again, the emphasis is mine.)

      The problem is, he apparently understands what the objections are (on a superficial level) but these objections aren’t sufficient to change his entrenched position. Fine, but WTF is the point of his justifying himself? Don’t you see how repugnant and insulting that is? It’s telling people that his own opinion on a purely abstract plane means more to him than the real suffering of others.
      Oh, and by acknowledging, I mean conceding that the objections levelled are valid (at least to a large measure) and that it’s not morally sound to fight against or nitpick over them from his privileged position. He’s not doing that.

      Two points I’d like to make.
      First, Daniel has explicitly stated in multiple blog posts and in multiple responses to multiple commenters that he is fully aware of his privileged position in society (it’s right there in Objection 2) and that he not only understands how this position of privilege might effect his views, opinions, and understanding of the discussion at hand, but that he also uses this understanding of his own privilege to shape his opinions and responses. (Daniel, please correct me if I’m wrong, but this is the vibe that I’m getting) And, Ibis3, before you say “But his description of his privilege is part of one of his objections that he’s going to be refuting later on” let me just repeat that Daniel “[does] not fully disagree with everything in every objection. [He agrees] with many of the concerns in the objections.
      Secondly, acknowledging and agreeing are two seperate things. I appreciate your clarification as to what you meant by acknowledgement but you’ve mashed two assertions together in that definition.
      1.) That the objections are valid.
      2.) That it is immoral (not morally sound) to subject these objections to an academic dissection. I assume that is because real people in the real world are being hurt by denial of these objections.
      To the first assertion, I do think that one can accept the validity of an argument without totally agreeing with it. There can be two (or more) valid positions in any given discussion. I believe that the common phrase is “rational people can disagree.”
      To the second assertion, I’ll reiterate that I don’t think that Daniel is dismissing these objections entirely. (see above) Also, (and this may be is almost certainly due to my position of privilege) I don’t understand why these discussions are bad in this context. I fully agree that there are some who would use this type of discussion to marginalize legitimate objections, but the whole point of this entire discussion is that Daniel wants to make this blog into a place where those individuals who want to do that will not be welcome. He has stated that he is preparing to put a great amount of effort into moderating the comments here so that these discussions can be safe for those commenters who don’t enjoy a privileged position in society.

      One last thing. Kinda nitpicky I know but here it is anyway. Your statement:

      …it’s not morally sound to fight against or nitpick over them from his privileged position.

      Sounds a lot like: Privileged people don’t get to discuss these fine distinctions. Only marginalized people can discuss the things that effect them.
      To be fair, I don’t think that that is what you are trying to say. I read it more like: “I’m upset that privilege is clouding this discussion, and people should stop discussing these topics in the way that they are.”
      Now that brings me to a question for you, Ibis3. I think that these topics are valid topics for discussion. How can I contribute to this discussion, from my emotionally detatched, privileged, academic, point of view in a way that you won’t find dismissive, or upsetting, or offensive? I don’t mean to beg the question, so if what I’m asking just isn’t possible please just say as much and offer a way that I can contribute to this conversation. If I have to discard my detatchment I’ll try to find a way to do so but I’d prefer to find a way to do that that has me attacking arguments instead of the people making them.
      Sorry about all of the parenthetical equivalence but I’m really trying to state my position as clearly as possible and it feels like this discussion is so mired in semantics that if I don’t explicitly state all of my disclaimers and caveats that the focus of the discussion will be on my grammar more than my message.

  • http://strangesally.wordpress.com/ SallyStrange: Elite Femi-Fascist Genius

    To be clear: you are perfectly welcome to institute whatever commenting policy you wish, and if I comment on your blog I’ll have no trouble abiding by it. It’s just that the argument in #5 is a strong one, and if you are going to continue to claim that you can lump generalized insults in with identity slurs, I and many others will continue to point out that, empirically speaking, you are wrong. Unless you have some studies backing up your claim that these insults do similar damage to marginalized people that identity slurs do.

    In other words, do whatever you want, but be aware that this argument, which you have used to justify your actions, is wrong.

    Cheers.

    • Michael

      if you are going to continue to claim that you can lump generalized insults in with identity slurs, I and many others will continue to point out that, empirically speaking, you are wrong.

      I don’t see that Daniel is doing this. He is just saying that all these things qualify as insults and he doesn’t want them on his blog. He isn’t saying that they are all equally insulting. At least that’s how I read this reply and similar comments on that page.

      Michael

    • ixchel, the jaguar goddess of midwifery and war ॐ

      There is no doubt that he is lumping them together, since he did in fact lump them together: ‘“stupid”, “moron”, “asshole”, “jerk”, “douchebag”, “idiot”, “motherfucker”, “dick”, “cunt”, “nigger”, “Feminazi”, “shitbag”, “mental midget”, “twat”, “fuckwad”, “retard”, “homo”, “fag”, “tranny”, “bitch”, “nutcase”, “crazy”’.

      And he claimed that group insults were “no worse qualitatively” than individual insults.

      This is incorrect and immoral. Again, if he hadn’t lumped them together — if in the OP he had separated the two categories and said slurs about oppressed groups are worse but both will be grounds for comment moderation or banning — then I would not have any complaint about that.

  • Pen

    It says a lot about Dan’s policy that the calibre of comments on this post is awe-inspiring. I’ve only glanced through them so far but they seem to actually be worth the effort. For now, I’m still in awe at MRoyalT who got in first and spiked his own argument by letting us know exactly how s/he? feels about things without strong language. Surely I’m not the only one with whom that carries more weight?

  • ixchel, the jaguar goddess of midwifery and war ॐ

    Objection 5: Words like “stupid” are not as bad as slurs against groups and so it is offensive and a counter-productive false equivalence to lump them in with slurs. It underestimates the extent of the harm caused by the slurs to lump them in with words nearly everyone uses and can tolerate, like “stupid”. Slurs do not just hurt people’s feelings but are part of literally violent and literally destructive social and political and religious systems. Slurs also target and abuse entire groups of people and not just the individuals taunted with them in any specific case. Some slurs also cruelly and irrationally turn immutable traits or morally good choices into the standards for badness itself. “Stupid” does not do any of this, so it should not be put in the same category with those other words.

    So those are 8 challenges that I think make a lot of excellent points, but which nonetheless fall short of convincing me that epithets, incivility, and uncharitably personalized debates are worth tolerating morally. I will explain why, point by point, over the course of 8 posts.

    Your contradictory bullshit is helpfully emphasized. It’s disappointing but entirely unsurprising that you persist in distorting the former as though it meant the latter.

  • http://www.improbablejoe.blogspot.com Improbable Joe

    I’m going to say again, Dan: your priorities are different from those of the people who are criticizing your approach as a general rule. Do you not understand that building a 20,000+ word pillow fort to defend your comment policy does nothing to advance any sort of real-life goals, and simply serves to highlight the appearance that you don’t particularly care in any meaningful way about real-life issues and the people they affect?

    • John Morales

      I don’t think your argument by assertion is meritorious, and in particular your claim that Dan doesn’t care about real-life issues on the basis that he is doing a shitload of work to try to justify both his basis for wanting to make this place a place where nobody need fear insults and personal attacks and to address criticism of such seems rather perverse to me.

      I suggest that if you have one or more objections which aren’t covered by the list in the OP, then you would do well to state them if you wish to potentially change his mind; if not, then you have every opportunity to challenge his critique of each as he posts such and show him wrong.

    • http://florilegia.wordpress.com Ibis3, member of the Oppressed Sisterhood fanclub

      @ John

      The problem is, he apparently understands what the objections are (on a superficial level) but these objections aren’t sufficient to change his entrenched position. Fine, but WTF is the point of his justifying himself? Don’t you see how repugnant and insulting that is? It’s telling people that his own opinion on a purely abstract plane means more to him than the real suffering of others.

      Oh, and by acknowledging, I mean conceding that the objections levelled are valid (at least to a large measure) and that it’s not morally sound to fight against or nitpick over them from his privileged position. He’s not doing that.

    • http://florilegia.wordpress.com Ibis3, member of the Oppressed Sisterhood fanclub

      @ John

      I suggest that if you have one or more objections which aren’t covered by the list in the OP, then you would do well to state them if you wish to potentially change his mind; if not, then you have every opportunity to challenge his critique of each as he posts such and show him wrong.

      Oh, and I’m not about to play the game of debating these things as an academic exercise either. That’s my whole point. Dan has declared that he’s not going to change his mind. That’s a given. He’s prepared to write about not changing his mind to the length of a novella. So what is the point of this? It’s mental masturbation without regard to the real harm being done to other people. It’s… well… it’s hoggling.

    • John Morales

      Ibis3, if you really think that you have charitably considered Dan’s position and are now honestly representing it, then I can see how you feel frustrated.

      I don’t wish to debate you contrary to your desire, but I hope you will you at least consider the fact that you have so far managed to make multiple comments under his new regime.

      (Quite expressive comments, even!)

  • http://www.improbablejoe.blogspot.com Improbable Joe

    Ibis3 said everything I was going to say, which makes life easier for me. Dan has his filters on, and he’s building a fort to defend his filters. The problem is that purely abstract philosophy doesn’t get us vary far without some real world action. If I see that someone is starving, I’ll feed them whatever food is handy… say a triple bacon cheeseburger and fries, and Dan would rather discuss optimum dietary intake for a person of their age and weight and general health, after a series of tests of their blood pressure and cholesterol. He may be absolutely right about the long term negative affects of eating triple bacon cheeseburgers, but he’s ignoring the suffering person in front of him.

    • Josh R.

      @Improbable Joe

      I really don’t think that is a fair characterization. (I left a much longer reply to Ibis3 above which has a more complete response.)

      I applaud your call to action but this is the internet. You can’t hand a cheesburger to a child by pressing it to your computer screen and hitting the ‘submit’ button. I don’t understand your argument. In the context of your statement this entire discussion is pointless and we should all just shut off our computers and go work for the good of humanity in the real world. That’s great and all but it is a little ironic when stated here in a blog comment.

      I don’t know Daniel personally but I get the impression that he’s the type of person that, when encountered by a starving child, would give that child food instead of saying to that child “wait here while I go tell the internet all about how terrible it is that you’re hungry.”

      I’m assuming that you feel the same way about “the real world Daniel.” I don’t think that you were trying to imply that he’d let a child starve. I just don’t quite grasp how your analogy translates to the online world. Every blog doesn’t need to be a call to action. There is a place in the world, and the internet, for philosophical discussion. (perhaps even entire blogs/webpages dedicated to it) There is also a place for activism. The two aren’t mutually exclusive. Practice with no theory is almost as bad as theory with no practice. Can’t we have discussions about what actions are appropriate to take?

      Philosophy and activism aren’t mutually exclusive. (again I know that that’s probably not the view you’re espousing. I am not trying to strawman you here but that’s the vibe that I’m getting from your comments.)

    • http://www.improbablejoe.blogspot.com Improbable Joe

      You’re right, it isn’t exactly fair… it is more like Dan sees a starving person and starts sourcing free-range poultry and organic veggies: he IS moving in a positive direction, but in a way that ignores the immediacy of the situation for the people most affected by it.

    • John Morales

      Improbable Joe, I note you also seem to be managing to make multiple comments without incurring warnings for them, much less bannination.

      (You’re not starving)

  • Jennifer

    I support Dan’s efforts here. I also find much (not all) of the opposition to his policy condescending and insulting.

    I have been struggling to explain why for a day (plus working mom of a tiny tot, hence I’m late), but Improbable Joe’s comment provided a possible analogy:

    McDonalds, Inc. (etc., etc.) say: “we’re feeding economically disadvantaged POC at prices that are affordable for them in the real world today. Yes, those foods will further disadvantage them relative to the nutritionally privileged. Yes, we may have helped create the uneven playing field in which they have become nutritionally disadvantaged in the first place. But we are feeding these folks real calories in the real world that they are desperate for as a result of our historic policies, and meanwhile you privileged people advocating for better food policies, you’re doing NOTHING to feed these disadvantaged people. In fact, you’re trying to take away their choices, i.e. their safe places.”

    I’m fed up with hearing this sort of argument.

    Dan’s not trying, as far as I can tell, to take away intellectual freedom. Nor has he decided _irreversably_ that he will not change his mind. I think he’s made a huge effort to understand the opposition arguments, and he has acknowledged the _initial_ appeal of these points of opposition. I trust that in his upcoming posts he’ll explain at further length why they are ultimately unconvincing to him.

    As for me, I think that no one – no one – needs to use slurs like “stupid” or “asshole,” or needs to personalize arguments, in order to engage in productive conversations. To suggest that I (as a POC) need to “vent” by using these words seems to imply that I shouldn’t be expected to be more articulate and thoughtful than that. I think that’s insulting and I reject that. TFL

    • http://strangesally.wordpress.com/ SallyStrange: Elite Femi-Fascist Genius

      As for me, I think that no one – no one – needs to use slurs like “stupid” or “asshole,” or needs to personalize arguments, in order to engage in productive conversations. To suggest that I (as a POC) need to “vent” by using these words seems to imply that I shouldn’t be expected to be more articulate and thoughtful than that. I think that’s insulting and I reject that. TFL

      I can see where you’d get this impression, but my understanding is different. The point of contention is that Dan claimed that “asshole” and “stupid” have similar effects as “cunt” or “nigger” or “faggot,” which is simply not true.

      Now I’m being told that that’s not what he’s claiming, so I claim only to be confused by this wall of words.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      I can see where you’d get this impression, but my understanding is different. The point of contention is that Dan claimed that “asshole” and “stupid” have similar effects as “cunt” or “nigger” or “faggot,” which is simply not true.

      Now I’m being told that that’s not what he’s claiming, so I claim only to be confused by this wall of words.

      “Stupid” is a bullying word that hurts a lot of people. Lots of people drop out of school or feel worthless to someone they love because of this word. Usually it hurts people in different ways than the other words you list but nonetheless sometimes its effects are similar. It is also an ableist term by which those who feel intellectually superior denigrate people of lesser education. Anyone who pays attention to the feelings and experiences of under-educated people when they are around people with post-secondary degrees should understand that they are sensitized to the knowledge gap. They put themselves down, they react quickly to perceived implications that they are inferior even when they are hardly intended, etc.

      “Asshole” is abusive in different ways still.

      My point in putting all these words together is to stress their similarity–they are all abusive, demeaning, othering, uncharitable, hostile, counter-productive to achieving comity, and bullying in their basic character. Their particular mechanisms for hurting vary quite a bit, as do their consequences. But they are all minimally abusive and hateful and so all prima facie immoral.

    • http://strangesally.wordpress.com/ SallyStrange: Elite Femi-Fascist Genius

      Lumping identity slurs which are frequently deployed in the process of dicrimination and violent oppression in with ordinary, though hurtful insults, is immoral because it minimizes and obscures the damage done by the former.

      I wish you’d stop.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Lumping identity slurs which are frequently deployed in the process of dicrimination and violent oppression in with ordinary, though hurtful insults, is immoral because it minimizes and obscures the damage done by the former.

      I wish you’d stop.

      Dear Muslima…

    • woo_monster

      Lumping identity slurs which are frequently deployed in the process of dicrimination and violent oppression in with ordinary, though hurtful insults, is immoral because it minimizes and obscures the damage done by the former.

      I wish you’d stop.

      Dear Muslima…

      I really don’t see how you can read Sally’s comment as a “Dear Muslima” type argument. As far as I can tell, SallyStrange is not (in this comment) saying that the minor harm of personal insults shouldn’t be addressed/ talked about because there are more harmful kinds of insults. Here, she is only saying that personal insults shouldn’t be lumped together with impersonal slurs against whole groups of people. They are not equivalent. That is not a “Dear Muslima”.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Here, she is only saying that personal insults shouldn’t be lumped together with impersonal slurs against whole groups of people. They are not equivalent.

      I had just gone through and acknowledged that they’re not identical and drawn lots of distinctions.

    • woo_monster

      I had just gone through and acknowledged that they’re not identical and drawn lots of distinctions.

      The fact that you have addressed SallyStrange’s criticism has no bearing on the fact that she is not making a “Dear Muslima” complaint when she objects to “lumping”.

      I have seen you explicitly say personal insults are not identical to group-slurs. I have also seen what looks an awful lot like lumping all insults into the same category nonetheless. Your post initially lumps all the examples of insults together. Ixchell at #27.2 points this out. Furthermore your comment in that original thread,

      Stupid is a serious word that torments more people than tranny does.

      gives off the impression that they are comparable (actually, it seems to imply “stupid” is worse.

      I accept that you don’t think personal insults are equivalent to slurs against groups of people, because you have said as much and I don’t assume you are lying. But, some of your comments do seem to be lumping them together.

      This point is not a “Dear Muslima”

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      have seen you explicitly say personal insults are not identical to group-slurs. I have also seen what looks an awful lot like lumping all insults into the same category nonetheless. Your post initially lumps all the examples of insults together. Ixchell at #27.2 points this out. Furthermore your comment in that original thread,

      Stupid is a serious word that torments more people than tranny does.

      gives off the impression that they are comparable (actually, it seems to imply “stupid” is worse.

      Just to be unequivocally clear: I in no way whatsoever meant to minimize the harm of the word “tranny” with that claim.

      What is going on here is that there are two different morally relevant criteria for assessing actions at play here. One is intrinsic wrongness. On that level I am asking the following question: “Are these actions intrinsically abusive or not?” That’s it. On that important level, I think we need to say all abusive actions are prima facie wrong, period. By prima facie I just mean to leave room that in some exception cases there may be allowances but they are rare and should not be normalized. Like it is prima facie wrong for a citizen to try to kill another citizen. But there are extreme cases of self-defense justification which are exceptions that don’t invalidate the general moral wrongness of killing.

      Then there is the level of consideration of consequences. Now, in the thread in question it was being argued that “stupid” was not at all in the league of slurs because it only affects the target. I was explicitly asked to treat the issue at hand in consequentialist terms.

      Now, my only point with the ill-chosen phrase and comparison “Stupid is a serious word that torments more people than tranny does” was that by the simple criteria of numbers of affected people, if “tranny” is hurtful then surely “stupid” is too. That was not to say either that “stupid” is an overall worse word than “tranny”. It was also not even to say that the net harms done by the word “stupid” are greater than those done by the word “tranny”. The effects of the “tranny” on transgendered people, for example, may be cumulatively worse overall than the combined effects of the word “stupid”. I don’t know and it’s not important either way because ultimately the criteria that matters here is not just a calculation of total harm consequences in the aggregate population. The effect on any given transgendered person of “tranny” is likely worse than the effect of the word “stupid” on any given person called “stupid”.

      And this matters the most to me since I care about the maximal thriving of the maximal number of people and not just a net total of harms and pains. If an entire segment is more severely damaged in their flourishing by one word (or sets of factors including that word) then it is a greater threat in a certain sense than another harmful word that is hurting more total individuals but in a less overall damaging way. In fact, a lot of arguments for minority rights, protections, dignity, etc. are distinctly not consequentialist in the crudest sense since minorities are, by definition, smaller in number and so the negative effects on them may not win out in a crude calculation of total pleasures and pains. An enslaved 1% minority might have their increased misery counterbalanced in a total accounting of pleasures and pains by a net increase in pleasures of the majority. But that is not an argument for slavery, it’s against a simplistic form of consequentialism that does not treat each individual as significant enough.

      So, to take the numeric observation that I made in a too casual and offhand and misleading way, and infer from it a conclusion about the relative harms of the two words is to infer an implied conclusion that I had no intention of making and never explicitly argued for. I never made some case against the seriousness of the word “tranny”. It was included in my original list of offensive words and I reaffirmed its awfulness shortly later in the thread. It is wrong on the level of sheer abusiveness, period. It is wrong on the level of the severity of the consequences per marginalized transgendered person.

      I just was telling someone who wanted to use a consequentialist argument against treating the word “stupid” as serious that the word minimally met his or her criteria of being relevant beyond just a single individual. As part of that point I was saying you cannot treat the sheer numbers of people affected by the word “stupid” as an irrelevancy to the extent that you are being a consequentialist.

      But I never argued for a conclusion that “stupid” tormented any individual person called it more than “tranny” tormented any individual called that. I also never argued that the word “stupid” had worse effects on the whole community of lesser educated or intellectually talented people than the word “tranny” had on the entire community of trans people. And I never argued for the conclusion that the word “tranny” was not serious or as serious because of some comparison to other words.

      My only point was that to the extent that quantities of people affected is a valid consideration, “stupid” is a word to take seriously like other words that affect many people. It is, as I kept reiterating, harmful like other ableist terms, even if it is not harmful in other ways or in other exact magnitudes per person.

    • Jennifer

      To clarify, I was referring to the objection (as I understand it) that marginalized individuals need spaces where they can safely express the anger and passion that their experiences produce. Since Dan’s not prohibiting anger and passion, the implication is that marginalized people sometimes need to use insults and it’s insensitive to ask them to modify their manner of expression. That reminds me of McDonalds saying that poor POC need inexpensive food options and I’m being insensitive and talking from privilege by insisting that the company stop marketing cheap and ultimately harmful food to POC.

    • woo_monster

      Other comments of your’s that implied an equivalency:

      No, ixchel, insulting groups is no worse than insulting individuals.

      And, when discussing calling someone calling the user of a slur an “asshole”,

      You cannot stoop to their level.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Other comments of your’s that implied an equivalency:

      No, ixchel, insulting groups is no worse than insulting individuals.

      And, when discussing calling someone calling the user of a slur an “asshole”,

      You cannot stoop to their level.

      In one respect, the relevant one to how to think about treating other human beings, they are equivalent: they are all abusive terms, whether aimed at abusing one person or many.

      Are they all equivalent in terms of consequentialist total net harms? No. But, again, consequentialist calculations that focus only on net harms are flawed. They are not the only or ultimate standard of wrongness here.

      My concern is with overall maximal thriving of individuals. But I am indirect consequentialist. I don’t think we should think like bean counter consequentialists and decide that if a specific action has a net positive effect that all the formal harms done to people to get it don’t matter. In many cases it is good to have formal rules against formal abuses even if they don’t yield a net total of harm. I think we should treat some things as intrinsically wrong for the way they on net and usually lead to the harm to the total. This kind of thinking is how minorities are protected from majoritarian forms of consequentialism and how we can have firm rules in general and not constantly be recklessly abandoning principles for shortsighted short term calculations of consequences that are in the long run more harmful. I am indirect consequentialist. The ultimate good is the maximal thriving of each and as many as possible. But to get it, we have to often think like non-consequentialists. That’s what I am doing when I say just don’t abuse people and don’t try to make consequentialist arguments about how it’s okay for you to abuse but for others not to.

  • http://florilegia.wordpress.com Ibis3, member of the Oppressed Sisterhood fanclub

    @Josh R.

    I’m actually going to use a different quote from Ibis3, that she (I think she is the correct pronoun. I’m not really accustomed to gender neutral pronouns.

    “She” is appropriate in my case. (Aside: as for gender neutral pronouns, the one I prefer is “they” since that’s what we already use in speech and it has a good pedigree going back to Shakespeare at least.)

    1.) That the objections are valid.

    To the first assertion, I do think that one can accept the validity of an argument without totally agreeing with it. There can be two (or more) valid positions in any given discussion. I believe that the common phrase is “rational people can disagree.”

    This was qualified. We don’t have to agree that all the objections are valid or valid to the same degree. But there is enough validity in them that we should *treat* them as such. If many women report being hassled and sexually harassed when they walk down a street in Belgium, the response shouldn’t be “well let us men have a convention to debate for three days about why exactly the concerns of this group of women don’t really matter because in the end we should keep the status quo because to do anything else might adversely affect the platonic principle of freedom of speech”. Do we really have to figure out exactly what proportion of women made such reports and how serious they were to acknowledge that there is an actual problem affecting real people that should be addressed? And that no matter what principles shape your defence of allowing the situation to remain, it’s still going to be insulting to those people who have been harassed?

    2.) That it is immoral (not morally sound) to subject these objections to an academic dissection. I assume that is because real people in the real world are being hurt by denial of these objections.

    Yes.

    To the second assertion, I’ll reiterate that I don’t think that Daniel is dismissing these objections entirely. (see above)

    That’s why he’s being characterised as privileged and not an a$$h0le. Though someone who has been shown their privilege and refuses to concede definitely crosses into a$$h0le territory at some point.

    the whole point of this entire discussion is that Daniel wants to make this blog into a place where those individuals who want to do that will not be welcome.

    No. It’s not. And I’ll show you why below.

    He has stated that he is preparing to put a great amount of effort into moderating the comments here so that these discussions can be safe for those commenters who don’t enjoy a privileged position in society.

    If he had said “I understand these objections and acknowledge that they are largely valid. I will do everything in my power to prevent my insult-free comment zone from giving undue advantage to the privileged over the marginalised. Please let me know if you encounter any problems with my moderation style.” that would have been doing what he could to make the blog a safe space. Contrast this with his actual response: “I agree a little bit with some of these objections, but I don’t really give a f**k about your concerns and I’m going to write several thousands of words telling you why.”

    One last thing. Kinda nitpicky I know but here it is anyway.

    Not nitpicky. Right on point.

    Your statement:

    …it’s not morally sound to fight against or nitpick over them from his privileged position.

    Sounds a lot like: Privileged people don’t get to discuss these fine distinctions. Only marginalized people can discuss the things that effect them.
    To be fair, I don’t think that that is what you are trying to say. I read it more like: “I’m upset that privilege is clouding this discussion, and people should stop discussing these topics in the way that they are.”
    Now that brings me to a question for you, Ibis3. I think that these topics are valid topics for discussion. How can I contribute to this discussion, from my emotionally detatched, privileged, academic, point of view in a way that you won’t find dismissive, or upsetting, or offensive? I don’t mean to beg the question, so if what I’m asking just isn’t possible please just say as much and offer a way that I can contribute to this conversation. If I have to discard my detatchment I’ll try to find a way to do so but I’d prefer to find a way to do that that has me attacking arguments instead of the people making them.

    The way you contribute is to do exactly this. You ask the people who are on the brunt end what would be the best approach. Then you don’t ignore or dismiss what they tell you. Usually, you’ll find there is a consensus opinion, barring that a majority opinion. Rarely, there will be an issue that is truly contentious. In such cases, go ahead and voice your opinion (preferably once it’s been requested), but understand that your opinion has less weight than that of the marginalised group/s in general, and of those who are directly effected more specifically. Also keep in mind that opining or pontificating or debating minutiae derails a discussion about positive things that can be done to actually make things better for people.

    There are many times that I don’t necessarily agree with, say, everything Ian Cromwell says on the issue of racism, or everything Natalie Reed says about trans issues. But I do agree with most of it, and what difference do the minor issues where we differ really matter? They matter far *more* to them than to privileged old me. So I keep my mouth shut. I give them the benefit of the doubt, I keep listening, and I work with them toward the day that racism and transphobia are at least relegated to the fringe of society instead of pervading it.

    Ask yourself: is it more important for me to be right and for everyone to agree with me, or is it more important that people get justice? To me, it seems like Dan’s answer is option number 1.

    • http://messychaosofreality.tumblr.com MCOR

      This was qualified. We don’t have to agree that all the objections are valid or valid to the same degree. But there is enough validity in them that we should *treat* them as such.

      And Dan is doing so by writing eight(!) essays going into detail about why or why not he disagrees. He is treating these objections with respect, as far as I can see.

      If many women report being hassled and sexually harassed when they walk down a street in Belgium, the response shouldn’t be “well let us men have a convention to debate for three days about why exactly the concerns of this group of women don’t really matter because in the end we should keep the status quo because to do anything else might adversely affect the platonic principle of freedom of speech”. Do we really have to figure out exactly what proportion of women made such reports and how serious they were to acknowledge that there is an actual problem affecting real people that should be addressed? And that no matter what principles shape your defence of allowing the situation to remain, it’s still going to be insulting to those people who have been harassed?

      I would argue that knee-jerk reactions could ultimately just make things worse. What’s wrong with carefully going over a policy to try and make sure it’s as good as possible? I mean, in your analogy, people still don’t know the best way to tackle harassment.

      Obviously, if a particular street is a trouble spot, immediately sending in extra police is a good idea. But what about dealing with harassment in general? People would understandably object to turning all of Belgium into a police state, and that even doing so might not deal with the problem. It’s a complex social problem that will not be solved by a competition to see who is the most emotional. I don’t think calling people misogynistic if they want to be careful very useful.

      I don’t think that your concerns don’t matter, just that they are largely unfounded. The quality of an objection is not determined by the emotions attached to it.

      (Jeez, this is the internet! This is where people call each other Nazis based on which television shows they watch!)

      Also, I think that letting women be wrong just because they are women is quite patronising and insulting.

      That’s why he’s being characterised as privileged and not an a$$h0le. Though someone who has been shown their privilege and refuses to concede definitely crosses into a$$h0le territory at some point.

      Someone who is privileged is not necessarily wrong. He can acknowledge his privilege while at the same time being entirely correct. The two are not incompatible.

      He has stated that he is preparing to put a great amount of effort into moderating the comments here so that these discussions can be safe for those commenters who don’t enjoy a privileged position in society.

      If he had said “I understand these objections and acknowledge that they are largely valid. I will do everything in my power to prevent my insult-free comment zone from giving undue advantage to the privileged over the marginalised. Please let me know if you encounter any problems with my moderation style.” that would have been doing what he could to make the blog a safe space. Contrast this with his actual response: “I agree a little bit with some of these objections, but I don’t really give a f**k about your concerns and I’m going to write several thousands of words telling you why.”

      But he is doing the former! He is writing eight essays carefully going over each objection. He obviously does care about his commenters He has said so. You appear to be mischaracterising everything that’s going on! Where did he say that he doesn’t give a “f**k”?

      The way you contribute is to do exactly this. You ask the people who are on the brunt end what would be the best approach. Then you don’t ignore or dismiss what they tell you. Usually, you’ll find there is a consensus opinion, barring that a majority opinion. Rarely, there will be an issue that is truly contentious. In such cases, go ahead and voice your opinion (preferably once it’s been requested), but understand that your opinion has less weight than that of the marginalised group/s in general, and of those who are directly effected more specifically. Also keep in mind that opining or pontificating or debating minutiae derails a discussion about positive things that can be done to actually make things better for people.

      No. Someone’s privileged status offers an explanation for the quality of their argument, it does not decide the quality of their argument. The latter is ad hominem.

      Again, just because someone is privileged, it does not mean they are wrong.

      There are many times that I don’t necessarily agree with, say, everything Ian Cromwell says on the issue of racism, or everything Natalie Reed says about trans issues. But I do agree with most of it, and what difference do the minor issues where we differ really matter? They matter far *more* to them than to privileged old me. So I keep my mouth shut. I give them the benefit of the doubt, I keep listening, and I work with them toward the day that racism and transphobia are at least relegated to the fringe of society instead of pervading it.

      Ask yourself: is it more important for me to be right and for everyone to agree with me, or is it more important that people get justice? To me, it seems like Dan’s answer is option number 1.

      I think it is important to try to be right. And I think that justice is important. And I think that the best way to get justice is to try to be right. I don’t think there is anything wrong with intellectual rigour. Particularly when discussing contentious topics.

      Also, I think one of the best ways to learn is via dialogue. If privileged people are supposed to shut up just because other people care more, you remove incredible opportunities to let them learn.

      As I see it, Dan is going out of his way to acknowledge and consider the raised objections. He is trying to make sure the rules are applied as fairly as possible. You appear to be making a giant ad hominem attack that he must be wrong because he is privileged.

      At least wait until he has explained his thoughts on every objection before rejecting them out of hand.

  • http://florilegia.wordpress.com Ibis3, member of the Oppressed Sisterhood fanclub

    And….I’m stuck in moderation.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      And….I’m stuck in moderation.

      Not all your posts are set up to be moderated, you haven’t broken any rules. Moderation just happens when there are trigger words.

  • woo_monster

    We can call a bigot a bigot, but we may not call an asshole an asshole?

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      If you are referring to literal assholes you may call them such. I will explain why you shouldn’t call people “assholes” some more when I get to the objection for that.

    • woo_monster

      If you are referring to literal assholes you may call them such.

      Thanks for the condescension. Yes, I was referring to literal assholes (/sarcastic).

      I will explain why you shouldn’t call people “assholes” some more when I get to the objection for that.

      Alright, you tease, I shall wait for your explanation for why it is bad to call jerks who are intentionally causing harm “assholes”.

    • Smhlle

      Calling them “harmers” sounds pretty ineffective. Does “cruel” fly?

      I think my main objection is that it is very possible to be cruel without using direct insults.

  • http://strangesally.wordpress.com/ SallyStrange: Elite Femi-Fascist Genius
    Lumping identity slurs which are frequently deployed in the process of dicrimination and violent oppression in with ordinary, though hurtful insults, is immoral because it minimizes and obscures the damage done by the former.

    I wish you’d stop.

    Dear Muslima…

    Now that is insulting. Was it deliberate or do you just misunderstand my point?

    See? I can play by your rules. But you, playing within your own rules, are violating your own policy. I am extremely angry that you misread my comment that way. You seem to have the intellectual tools to be able to understand the difference between saying “X is worse than Y so don’t worry about X” and “X is worse than Y so please don’t lump X and Y together because you are obscuring the true extent of the damage caused by X. By all means, talk about Y to your heart’s content, but don’t make the morally wrong error of pretending they belong in the same category, because they don’t.”

    So why didn’t you understand that? Did you choose to misread my comment in order to cast it in a more negative light than it should be read? That is an egregious violation of your own policy.

    And this is why I am skeptical of your rules as well as the reasoning behind them.

    • http://strangesally.wordpress.com/ SallyStrange: Elite Femi-Fascist Genius

      Sorry, correction: ““X is worse than Y so don’t worry about X” should read “X is worse than Y so don’t worry about Y.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Sally, I have been hearing plenty of “X is worse than Y so don’t worry about Y.”

      And no, I have not violated my own policy. I have not personally attacked you in the slightest or harassed you. I drew an analogy. You have not violated the policy when you have, as far as I can tell, misread me. And even if you are right and I have misread you, I have not violated the policy. Neither of us are under any obligation to be mind readers. We are under obligations not to personalize disputes. I have not personalized this dispute (and I will not).

  • http://strangesally.wordpress.com/ SallyStrange: Elite Femi-Fascist Genius

    I had just gone through and acknowledged that they’re not identical and drawn lots of distinctions.

    Your distinctions are extremely unclear so far. And this is having the effect of obscuring and minimizing the damage done by the class of insults we refer to as identity slurs, which is immoral.

    If you want to keep on with this (bad, in my opinion) argument, you’re going to have to do a MUCH better job of delineating those distinctions, and ease off on emphasizing the similarities. The supposed similarity between slurs and insults is a tool frequently deployed by bigots, i.e.:

    Person A: “That woman was wearing a short skirt and makeup and went skinnydipping. Clearly it wasn’t rape because she was sending off mixed signals. She was asking for it.

    Person B: “My god, that’s a terrible thing to say. What a sexist jerk you are!”

    Person A: “Ahah! You called me a jerk! That’s hurtful and horrible. You are JUST AS BAD as I am!”

    Now, I know that you are INTENDING not to allow this sort of thing to go on. But your insistence that “jerk” should be put in the same general category as “slut” gives aid and comfort to all the person B’s out there. Whether you intend it to or not.

    At least in my perception.

    You are of course free to dismiss my perception.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      At least in my perception.

      You are of course free to dismiss my perception.

      Your perception bears little resemblance to what I am saying.

  • http://atheiststoday.com/ Skeeve

    There are still people arguing with you on how YOU will run your blog?

    smh

    I’ll check back when you have actual blogs up again.

    • John Morales

      People have criticised Dan’s stated bases for how he runs his blog and its expected efficacy, and he is responding to that criticism.

      It’s somewhat self-referential, but unlike you, I don’t think that this series doesn’t constitute substantive content — rather, the contrary.

      I’ll check back when you have actual blogs up again.

      How will you know that’s the case without checking back? :)

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      There are still people arguing with you on how YOU will run your blog?

      Not that much anymore actually. Mostly we are just having a meta discussion about what are the best ways to create inclusive environments for people traditionally marginalized.


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