I’m supposed to be grading papers, but instead I’m blogging this. I use the term blogging very loosely, because a website that never gets read can’t really be accurately called a blog. But sometimes writing here helps me get my thoughts together and–as long as I back up regularly (!!!)–this might be a nifty adjunct to my nonexistent journal.
Anyway, I argue about politics on Facebook. This has had predictable (but mild) consequences until now: a few people blocked me, a few others quietly ignore anything I say that’s even faintly politically colored, etc. This Fall, however, in the leadup to the 2012 Presidential elections, it got ugly. I try not to post truly nasty things. I don’t post that Fox News watchers are idiots, or that Republicans are fascists or what-have-you… even though I occasionally get these kinds of sentiments from a few of my FB friends, directed at anyone deemed insufficiently conservative. In discussions, I try to be fair, but I also don’t tend to let things go by that make no sense. I try to make my focus more on the process and quality of thinking than on the endpoints of the issues themselves. This has lost me some friends–at least three, by current count. Continue reading
I recently reconnected with a high school friend. As can be expected, we have become very different people from our 17-year-old selves in the past few decades, and we immediately began arguing on Facebook. After a few arguments, it became painfully clear that this was an exercise in frustration. Although I worry this will damage our relationship (which I value despite his rhetorical style), I felt the need to post the following reply to the latest of half a dozen or more of his arguments that exhibited evasion and classical rhetorical errors. It sounds pretty uppity of me–and maybe it is–but I want this recorded because I went to the trouble (a couple of hours, at least) of working some things out for myself about how I think and how I think thinking should–and should not–should be done, at this point in my life. I also think it will be useful to smack my ego down in the future to see what an insufferable twerp I can be on FB.
@XXXXXXX, this is the way many of our discussions on FB have gone, as far as I can tell:
1. You sometimes make assertions about the way things are, about the way they should be, etc.
2. I sometimes challenge those assertions.
3. You defend your assertions by stating things that sound like principles.
4. I question those principles by extending them outside the narrow domains in which you applied them.
5. You tell me my extension is invalid for a variety of reasons, often abandoning your defense of what I originally thought was a principle.
Principles, by nature, tend to apply beyond narrow domains. They don’t apply to every domain, but their limits need to be clearly spelled out and make sense. Those limits, as important parts of the principle, need to be subject to rationality- or reality-testing. Increasingly, however, I have become frustrated talking to you about political things because it seems that what you present as principles really aren’t, for you.