Secondly, I say something like this: “I’m sure you’ve heard the expression ‘everyone is entitled to their opinion.’ Perhaps you’ve even said it yourself, maybe to head off an argument or bring one to a close. Well, as soon as you walk into this room, it’s no longer true. You are not entitled to your opinion. You are only entitled to what you can argue for.”
~ Patrick Stokes from, https://theconversation.com/no-youre-not-entitled-to-your-opinion-9978
Stokes is a professor, and I rarely find myself in a teaching context. When I hear someone express an opinion, I make an assessment of their argument. Did they actually give a coherent argument? Did they give a sketch of one? Do they seem the sort of person who could give an argument in support of their opinion? To be clear, I’m not judging the person, but rather I’m trying to judge the ideas espoused.
Surprising to me, it’s become clear it’s often not obvious when something is a fact versus an opinion.
On the flip side, I try to signal my level confidence in my opinions. I’m trying to banish the phrase, “I think…” because it carries no meaning. Instead I try to say, “It seems obvious to me that…”, “I read somewhere that…”, “So-and-so told me that…”, or “It happened to me that…”
You’ve probably heard this scenario before. It originally comes from Derek Parfit’s 1984 book Reasons and Persons, where he actually answers the question. (Though you may not like the answer.) To answer it, he has to go though a set of even weirder scenarios. Here’s most of them, edited aggressively.~ “Dynomight” from, https://dynomight.net/no-self/
This article turns a number of complicated thought experiments into a disorienting dash through a hall of mirrors. I’ve not read Parfit’s book, but I’ve encountered these sorts of thought experiments before. On one hand I’m drawn to thinking about them because I feel I should be able to have some foundational, (although not necessarily simple,) principles that I can use to answer them. Which is a working definition of, “I want to be rational.” Until I start really digging into the experiments and things get really complicated. Why, it’s as if being a limited-in-resources mind forced to interact with in an intractably complex world, may not be something with a clear, correct, let alone singular, solution.
Do conversations have known best practices? How much do they improve the odds of landing on the truth?
~ “Dynomight” from, https://dynomight.net/2020/09/29/doing-discourse-better-stuff-i-wish-i-knew/
I hate this terrific article. It’s completely stuffed with great ideas and great questions… and exactly zero answers. It starts talking about the particular type of conversation where two people acting benevolently are trying to find the truth about something under discussion. (Here I snicker at all of humanity, and myself, because we’ve been having conversations for like a gazillion years and we don’t yet know how to do it well.) It then narrows down to discussing just online conversations. Said narrowing feels like a great idea because there are a lot of online conversations and it feels like something we should be able to be good at. (Again here, snickering is warranted.) Anyway, at least some people are trying. Maybe, just maybe this is the epoch we get it sorted out?
You don’t know if your idea is any good the moment it’s created. Neither does anyone else. The most you can hope for is a strong gut feeling that it is. And trusting your feelings is not as easy as the optimists say it is. There’s a reason why feelings scare us—because what they tell us and what the rest of the world tells us are often two different things.~ Hugh MacLeod
This quote, I think, also alludes to the problem of people “not getting” new ideas. It turns out that the same problem exists for old ideas to which people have grown unaccoustomed through lack of use.
Online discussion in forums is not a new idea. It’s a time-tested idea; They can be a space to focus interaction. There are ground rules. There’s a border defining what’s inside and what’s outside. Those inside have skin in the game. There is accountability.
The challenge is for each of us to resume engaging in reasoned discourse with others. That can be done in many places, not just in online forums. But in general, we’ve lost it in, (something like,) the last ten years when the current incarnation of the social networks rose and ate our attention.
Arguments […] can have a great deal of force for us even if, perhaps especially if, we recoil from [the] actual positions. The better the reasoning, the more [the] work requires us—if we’re going to be honest—to pick out the step where we disagree, and to see what consequences that has for the rest of our thought.
~ Stephen E. Sachs from, https://reason.com/volokh/2021/09/30/why-listen-to-abhorrent-speech/
I do think about this sort of thing.
In my day-to-day life, I rarely encounter something abhorrent. That’s partly because of my privileged position in life, but it’s mostly because I don’t try to overreach. I don’t try to watch “everything” or keep up with “everything” and I very emphatically do not try to have an opinion on everything. But I do, sometimes, encounter things that, while not abhorrent, rise to the level of odious. Which then makes me think, “do I want to have an argument?”
Increasingly, approaching “always” these days, I don’t feel I have the energy for a good argument. That’s not a good sign.
Read that title in the Petulant Voice. (There are the 1st-person, 2nd-person, Narrator, Author, etc. voices; I’ve always thought failure to formally recognize Petulant Voice was a major literary oversight.)
Reasoned skepticism and disagreement are essential to progress and democracy. The problem is that most of what’s happening isn’t reasoned skepticism. It’s the adult equivalent of a two-year-old throwing a tantrum.
~ Shane Parrish from, https://fs.blog/2019/02/distrust-intellectual-authority/
As in this article, the majority of what I’ve read—in the 32 years I’ve been reading stuff on the Internet—has been about the skeptic in the skepticism/disagreement relationships. But the responsibility is actually with the side claiming authority.
Because that’s the moral high road. (The high road is always less crowded.) If one wants to hold oneself out as an authority, then one is responsible for reaching down and helping others up. (Also, is “Tortured” a recognized voice?) One is not responsible for the skeptics whose attention you do not have. But one is responsible for those whose attention you do have; Those skeptics see you. There’s your chance to do good work.