Sunday, December 02, 2007


Steve P was polite enough to apologize for highjacking a thread in the comments section.  No problem and apologies are unnecessary.  The comments section, in my opinion, is for the readers to hash things out.  If I have something to say, I have the luxury of the blog.

That said, it got me thinking.  Read the comments for yourself, but I know Kai and have met Steve (and read some of his stuff).  Both are intelligent and insightful.  I count Kai, FWIW, as a dear friend and a role model.  When she speaks, I listen.  Attentively.

In this discussion, from the outside, it was easy to see where both were discussing not quite the same thing.  Both right, both insightful... but both disagreeing.  Kai saw the source of the disconnect first...
Okay- I'm acting like the director at a fencing match, repeating back moves.  Irrelevant.  This is what it made me think:

I like debate and generally won't put any rules on it, especially between my friends, but I have my own rules, and this is how and why I debate.

There are debates/arguments either to find the truth or to prove who is better at arguing.  These are not the same thing and nearly mutually exclusive.  I only play the second in fun and with friends who know what I am doing- and as part of the exercise am willing to switch sides.

When you are looking for truth, seek the common ground.  I actually pegged this working with schizophrenics.  If you argue about which parts of the world you see differently, both sides entrench and they get nowhere.  Start with what you can both see and move out gradually from there, when things start to diverge in small ways it is easier to see paths of logic and compare sources.

Don't get competitive.  The need to win can turn debate, which should be (IMO) a search for truth into a contest.  People cheat in a contest.  The reason I despise Socrates and admire Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus is that Socrates was using debate to make his drunk friends look stupid and the stoics were trying to teach people to live.

Listen.  If you follow any debate, watch for the point where the competitive one 'stays on message'- not dealing with what the other actually said, but answering only his own interpretation.  This is a subtle form of the "straw man", arguing against what you wished they had said instead of what they did say.  Listen.


Steve Perry said...

True enough. What Kai and I should have done up front is agree on what constitutes a bad boy. I believe that being rebellious and not part of the herd is different from being criminal, especially violent.

Mea culpa. One of the first rules of formal debate.

Of course, this setting is pretty informal. And the comment about sour grapes, while not ad hominem per se, was maybe a little ... arch.

I've met Kai, too, and I took it in fun.

Some women are attracted to really bad men, and I can understand the reasons, at least theoretically. Although women who become pen pals with murderers in stir always have struck me as really needy, given other options, a man willing to kill another has a certain brutal power, and power is often attractive. I've seen some ugly dudes with beautiful women, and the guys being well-connected or rich -- money being a kind of power -- has to be part of the attraction, at least initially.

But to use a well-known example, Charles Manson would be a bad boy at the far end of the spectrum. And maybe Charlie Sheen's character on Two and a Half Men would be on the less-bad side.

The Moody Minstrel said...

Rory, I won't bother asking you your opinion of Isaac Newton!

Kai Jones said...

Meta is one of my favorite things, Steve. Add "long" to the list of terms we might have defined before disagreeing.

I'm glad you took the "sour grapes" in fun, it was certainly meant teasingly. I spent a long time hanging out on a Usenet group where self-proclaimed NiceGuys complained about women's attraction to unworthy men (and the perverse failure of these women to go out with the NiceGuy).

I don't know the specifics of the attraction, but I propose that there is some need these women have that is met by these relationships. It may be the need to confirm their low self-esteem.

Steve Perry said...

I was a rebel as a young man, but never thought of myself as a bad-ass. And since I have been happily married to my high-school sweetheart for more than forty years, my grapes could not be any sweeter ...

Good guys don't finish last ...