Monday, March 23 2009

The Rules of Discourse

I have the annoying tendency to try to break down things into hard-and-fast rules.  Once I know the rules, I can theoretically find the loopholes, gaps, and tricks that allow me to gain an advantage.  Alas, this doesn't always work in the real world.

Two exceptional blogs, which shall remain nameless, have reduced themselves into a mindless feud over a series of ultimately minor debates which all come down to the question of which rules actually apply.

On the one hand, allowing observers to define what you say to suit themselves is a recipe to have the perpetually offended shut down conversation.  If you can define what I said, then there's no way I can debate you, because you can always define away my statements into meaninglessness or into something that can be used against me.

On the other hand, allowing people to exclusively define what they say means that there is no way to hold people to a position.  If I can redefine my position after I've stated it by claiming that your interpretation of my words is wrong and I really said something completely different.  As long as I can juggle words, I can be all things to all people.

Strictly applying either rule breaks the ability to have debate.  The world is full of undefinable gray areas.

More importantly, the more effort we devote to battling our allies, the harder it gets to fight our enemies.

[Rant Mode Off]

Posted by: Civilis at 08: 35 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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