Dear Fellow Bloggers:
For the love of whatever deity or spiritual or universal force you hold in regard (or, for the agnostics and athiests among us, for the love of Reason), please either learn how to argue, or stop pretending you’re doing it.
I’m not talking about “taking up a contrary position” or “having an opinion and expressing it”. I’m talking about argument. Logic. You know, that thing that we don’t teach anymore in the US educational system. You need to understand what fallacies are. You don’t have to get into semantic diagrams, and you don’t have to study logic so much that you find yourself discussing the fine points of various logical systems with other people. I don’t ask quite that much.
What I ask is that you understand that 99.99% of what passes for “political talking points” in this country (for both The Left and The Right) is in fact not argument at all. Political talking points are generally fallacies of one sort or another. If you want to spout fallacies, it works great in rhetoric (just google a guy named Cicero for some wonderful examples).
Do not claim that you’re arguing with me because you are not arguing.
I’m engaging in argument (which is actually an established process that predates the English language). You’re engaging in rhetoric. It is impossible for us to come to any sort of agreement, because we’re not following the same set of rules. The rules of argument are intended to produce an advancement in thought leading two parties closer to an acceptable cooperative truth, the rules of rhetoric are intended to make people look bad or sway people to your opinion. It’s a skill in and of itself, and I don’t mind when people actually do it in the proper context. What I mind is when they engage in rhetoric and claim that they’re arguing.
I understand that occasionally I will brush up against people who have fundamental beliefs that are incompatible with mine. Usually I get along with people like this in spite of our differences, because on the whole people are fairly decent. However, it is not going to be constructive for us to discuss topics upon which we have differing opinions unless you are willing to sit down with me and engage in the process of argument.
By doing so, we can find out why our opinions are different. We can learn what fundamental beliefs we each have, and which ones of them are in conflict. It will enable us to better understand each other as human beings. Occasionally it will lead one of us to discover that we are basing our opinion upon a fundamental belief that perhaps we don’t find ourselves very comfortable acknowledging, or (much to our surprise) inconsistent with one of our other fundamental beliefs. We can grow as intellectual beings. This is what puts us apart from the other animals that inhabit this ball of dirt. This is all good stuff, right?
On the other hand, if you’re just going to spout rhetoric and not admit that you have beliefs that are fundamental, or you refuse to acknowledge that you don’t actually have anything resembling a cogent argument to present, please go find a soapbox to stand on rather than pollute the Internet with your drivel. There is enough of it, already!
Your fellow blogger and human,