Contra Tu Quoque, Or, Avoiding The Fourth Response


Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of Ordinary Times. Relapsed Lawyer, admitted to practice law (under his real name) in California and Oregon. On Twitter, to his frequent regret, at @burtlikko. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.

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76 Responses

  1. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    So, posting the comment, “This site sucks because you guys are dicks” would not count?Report

    • Avatar Jonathan in reply to Rufus F. says:

      P [You guys are dicks]. Therefore Q [This site sucks].Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Jonathan says:

        Okay, so we’re good.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Jonathan says:

        No, ~P, therefore, ~Q.

        Put another way, stop being a bunch of dicks. Otherwise, this site’s going to start sucking.Report

        • Avatar Jonathan in reply to Burt Likko says:

          Proponent, you’re a [racist/imbecile/traitor/equivalent of Hitler/etc.] because you offered your proposition and I claim to have suffered personal injury as a result of your statement. Why do you irrationally hate ~P so very much? Because you have said this, I now loathe you with the same deep, firey, and abiding hatred which I had previously reserved exclusively for unrepentant pedophiles, the Dallas Cowboys, and the Twilight movies. Furthermore, unless you not only immediately delete your offensive statements but also forthwith issue an unconditional retraction and apology, I shall punish you, proponent, by [calling you more names/urging others not to read anything you write/launching a crusade to disprove every word you write even if it’s a claim that kittens are warm and fuzzy/filing a frivolous lawsuit against you/etc.].Report

  2. Avatar Barry says:

    Burt: “An argument is a productive disagreement between disputants who will offer evidence and logic to support their respective positions. One disputant, the proponent, offers a proposition of some sort and attempts to defend it; the other disputant, the respondent, attempts to disprove the proposition. The proponent bears the burden of proof of the proposition.”

    Tim Kowal was presenting garbage; please don’t dress it up to the level of an argument.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Barry says:

      Oh look, it’s Response #4. That was quick.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Barry says:

      It was not garbage. It was not correct, but that doesn’t mean it was garbage. IMO, Tim raised issues worthy of thoughtful response.

      And you know what? In the midst of all the Body Snatcher-like pointing and screaming to which I take exception here, there actually were some thoughtful comments offered. Like this one and several of the responses to it. And this one, which tackled one of Tim’s points head on. And this restatement and assessment of Tim’s argument by a commenter whose street cred in these parts as “neither a bigot nor an intellectual slouch” ought to go unquestioned. And finally, there’s this post by Ordinary Gentleman E.D. Kain, which is deeply and thoughtfully critical of Tim’s argument. I applaud E.D.’s post not because I agree with everything in it (FTR, I mostly agree with E.D. but for a few quibbles not weighty enough to merit inclusion here), or because I feel a need to suck up to him (I already have front-page posting privileges to exercise whenever I want them; what more could I posibly want?) but rather I applaud the post because it engages the intellectual and cultural issue that was been raised (rather decisively, IMO).

      Calling Tim’s underlying post “garbage” is more tu quoque, which is exactly why I wrote this post. If you care to offer an explanation as to why I am wrong, as to why Tim’s post was “garbage,” then you and I would be engaged in an actual argument ourselves.

      I’m pretty skeptical of the idea that any particular subject matter, or any particular viewpoint about a subjet matter, is so out of bounds that it is unworthy of debate. I might agree with the idea that a proposition is so obviously wrong that it is not worthy of substantial debate. But that it should not be raised at all? The consequences of that attitude are the creation of an ideological echo chamber and the encouragement of mental laziness. It’s good to have one’s assumptions and beliefs challenged by someone else who thinks differently than you do. We all need intellectual sparring partners.Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Burt Likko says:

        If I have a belief that is totally wrong and misguided (like 99.9% or all humans) explaining to me why it is totally wrong and misguided might change my mind- my experience is that it probably will after a few days time, and I might never tell you it did! But, telling me, “You suck! Screw you!” Or just patiently explaining, “Your ideas are crap!” will likely not force me to reconsider them, unless you’re my wife or other close companion.Report

        • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Rufus F. says:

          You’re correct, Rufus F. but you don’t go far enough.

          If a disputant has a totally wrong and misguided belief, telling him “You suck! Your ideas are crap! Screw you!” is most predictably going to elicit a response of “Nuh-uh!” and make her dig in her emotional heels to defend her totally wrong and misguided belief, further entrenching her in her erroneous thinking instead of guiding her back to something resembling common sense.Report

      • Avatar Barry in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Burt Likko April 13, 2011 at 1:32 pm

        ” It was not garbage. It was not correct, but that doesn’t mean it was garbage. IMO, Tim raised issues worthy of thoughtful response. ”

        It was garbage; endlessly debunked garbage, which, birtherism, just results in the asserter raising their standards.

        I refuse to believe that you can’t see the same d*mn arguments which have been used to justify bigotry for centuries, if not millenia, remain the same d*mn arguments, no matter how one fills in the blanks differently.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Barry says:

          “They need better public relations!” is an argument that has been used to justify bigotry for centuries?Report

        • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Barry says:

          This is response number four again. Simply repeating response number four does not add any logical weight to it.

          It’s become clear that you lack the ability to explain why you think Tim’s post was “garbage,” either directly in response to my challenge or even by reference to some explanation that might be found elsewhere.Report

  3. Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

    Disputing the minor premise, as in — Proponent, you are wrong to say “P.” In fact, ~P. Therefore, Q is invalid and indeed, we may safely infer ~Q.

    If ~P, then this particular inference of Q is invalid. Q could still be true, so we can’t safely infer ~Q.

    Says the proponent:

    If Socrates drank arsenic, Socrates is dead.
    Socrates drank arsenic, therefore Socrates is dead.

    Says the respondent:

    Socrates didn’t drink arsenic, therefore Socrates is not dead.

    Of course, Socrates didn’t drink arsenic. He drank hemlock, and he is quite dead after all.Report

  4. Avatar Koz says:

    This is a great post. There’s only a couple things I’d add to it.

    1. The rules don’t change when the subject questions of good faith are the substance under discussion, which is often the case here or any possibly contentious exchange.

    2. The agreement response is more valuable than you’re supposing. Most of the time, the inherent structure of a conversation is that we’re going to take the things we agree on and clarify or resolve the things we don’t. For that, we need to figure out exactly what we agree on, which is often times the most difficult part of the conversation. The agreement response creates the foundation to move the discussion forward.Report

  5. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    Things to remember:

    *People can, in good faith, and with well-reasoned logic, propose things that you find absolutely abhorrent. They can suggest that abortion shouldn’t be restricted, for example, or that two persons of the same sex should be allowed to form binding social compacts.

    It is important to suppress one’s emotional response when discussing such propositions. And it may well be that, barring that emotional response, you can’t come up with an acceptable rebuttal of that proposition.

    And that’s okay. It’s all right to say “I don’t consider this particular proposition to be acceptable to me.” But be aware of when your response is emotional and when it isn’t–and, if you have to make a decision based on it, be prepared for your decision to have unappealing consequences.

    *That said: If someone says “okay, I can’t argue this with you any further”…accept that. Don’t continually be coming back to that concession as a form of mockery, or as an attempt to browbeat the person into agreeing with you on other things. Basically, don’t do a sack dance.Report

  6. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    An argument is a productive disagreement between disputants who will offer evidence and logic to support their respective positions.

    No, it isn’t.Report

  7. Avatar Gorgias3808 says:

    Where does this leave the following argument?

    “You say, ‘If P then Q.’ But the logical leap from P to Q is incorrect, and what’s more, rests on some bigoted and hateful premises. I’m disappointed that the site would publish an argument that takes its bigotry for granted.”

    In brief, are we no longer allowed to call a spade a spade?Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Gorgias3808 says:

      If the logical leap from P to Q is incorrect, then your response should be to refute the major premise:

      Pro: Muslims eat roasted babies. Salim is a Muslim, therefore, he too eats roasted babies.
      Res: But it is not correct that Muslims eat roasted babies. Islam abhors cannibalism as an atrocity. You can’t draw that conclusion about Salim based on his religion. If Salim is a Muslim and he truly does eat babies, then he is deviating from the teachings of his religion, not following them.

      That’s not good enough for you? You have to go the extra step and say “…and you’re a bigot for suggesting what you did”? Then you have to go the extra step beyond that an say “…and the website where twelve other people post is guilty of bigotry by association with you?” What does that add to the discussion?Report

      • Avatar sidereal in reply to Burt Likko says:

        It makes you feel better because you can go to sleep thinking “I fought racism today”.Report

      • Avatar Gorgias3808 in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Since an argument that is wrong in a bigoted manner is more reprehensible than an argument that is only wrong, since proving such a charge conclusively is more likely to make someone cease being bigoted, and since bigoted premises are, or at least ought to be, outside the bounds of respectable opinion, no, it’s not sufficient to just prove them incorrect.

        The question of whether something is bigoted or not is an important one. I don’t see why it should be left outside the bounds of proper debate.Report

        • Because the use of “bigoted” begs the question, sir. Bigoted arguments are by definition invalid, no?

          “Reprehensible,” too, since that’s a subjective term.Report

          • Avatar Gorgias3808 in reply to tom van dyke says:

            By definition invalid, yes, but there are criteria that we can use to determine whether something is bigoted or not. An argument that assumes the converse of a proposition from the proposition itself as one of its steps is also by definition invalid. The argument is incorrect, and we have a criteria for determining why it’s incorrect.Report

        • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Gorgias3808 says:

          If you insist on adding that label to a discussion, can I at least persuade you that merely calling an argument bigoted, no matter how accurate that label might be, fails to actually refute the proposition? Compare:

          Pro: Muslims eat roasted babies. Salim is a Muslim, therefore, he too eats roasted babies.
          Res: You’re a racist!


          Pro: Muslims eat roasted babies. Salim is a Muslim, therefore, he too eats roasted babies.
          Res: Muslims don’t eat babies, and you’re a racist for saying that!

          Can you please do at least that much? (Even then, what people will hear is “You’re a racist” and not “Muslims don’t eat babies,” but at least your own statements will contain something that logically advances the argument.)Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Gorgias3808 says:

      And, can you call a spade a spade? Yes, but you should be careful.

      This is a spade.

      So is this.

      And this.

      You can call those things spades.

      There is fourth meaning, however, which you probably ought to avoid, despite the fact that it was a generally accepted use of the English language at one time.Report

  8. Avatar sidereal says:

    The proportion of “argumentation” that occurs on the Internet or in any other arena even vaguely relating to politics that could be considered or even aspires to be formal argumentation is so ridiculously small that it’s basically a rounding error.

    Political commentary (and the counter-commentary that exists in comments) is a combination of people enjoying the sound of their own voice, tribal identification, worldview reinforcement, ego stroking, proxy combat, and entertainment.

    It would be an interesting exercise to set up a comment thread in which there’s an enforced rule that all comments have to at least attempt to be informally logical, but I doubt it would get any use after the novelty wore off.Report

    • Avatar Murali in reply to sidereal says:

      Hell, why not for the heck of it impose rules requiring at least some kind of logical structure?

      Ask people to number their premises and state from which premise other conlusions, sub premises follow. It would make the comment flow a lot slower, but we may get a rather higher quality of comment.

      Here is a rough exampleReport

  9. Avatar RTod says:

    I for one like the principle of charity. But stepping aside from that very principle for one moment, I’m not sure that lots of folks that choose to hang on the inter-tubes don’t post specifically TO go off the emotional handle on other folks.

    Wrong or right, I’ve chosen to do other stuff than come back to the League recently, and that’s kind of sad for me. I still love the contributors posts, but watching people bang each other over the head over and over without ever getting anywhere gets old.Report

  10. Avatar Johanna says:

    It is funny how on this blog there appears periods of relative peace which then leads to a few off-color comments – folks taking offense – wailing and gnashing of teeth – all culminating into yet another general post to attempt to calm things down. Does anyone else see the cycle here?

    I just think that level-headed discourse is impossible to maintain in an arena where anonymity reigns supreme, and even if the poster uses his or her real name, he or she is not likely to have any personal dealings with other posters on a personal level. It is a venue where we do not suffer any social ramifications for poor behavior. What would be the true motivation to always play nice? Maybe for the regulars here, but there are always interlopers, party crashers, and trolls. Open the doors and they will come. In theory it sounds good to make ground rules for proper arguing etiquette but I just don’t see it happening. I rarely comment unless I am in a surly mood. The calls for civility make me giggle especially when I have seen ungentlemanly behavior by the majority of posters here at one time or another. Maybe you’ll see some better behavior for a bit but without banning or enforcement I see another post like this a few months from now.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Johanna says:

      I’ve been on plenty of real-name-only forums, and they’re exactly as contentious and fractious as anything anonymous.

      Indeed, anonymity is better, I think, because it encourages people to engage the substance of the statement, rather than bringing in a bunch of backstory and external thought associated with the identity in question.Report

  11. Avatar Freeman says:

    You forgot the fifth response: “I’m not allowed to continue arguing until you’ve paid”.Report

  12. Avatar Aziz Ishak says:

    Great, a post lecturing people on how they should respond to another post that might offend them. All supposedly in the name of intellectual discourse. Look, freedom of speech means you get to say what you want. But it also means other people get to call you idiot, or racist, or bigot. Deal with it.

    Honestly, I think most people in America really do believe that the worst thing in America is to be called a racist or a bigot. Much worse than, ohh, I don’t know, being a victim of racism or bigotry. All that intellectual hefts and arguments being marshalled to protect people from ever being called a bigot or a racist.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Aziz Ishak says:

      How should people instead respond to posts that might offend them?Report

    • Mr. Ishak, you seem to be saying your victims ought to get used to being called racists and bigots.

      Since playing this particular card is mostly the province of those on your side of the aisle, you seem to have dealt you and yours a pass in advance.

      Well done, sir.

      As for your odd juxtaposition of those [falsely] accused of racism and those who are actual victims of it, it is said by some wise men that is is better to suffer harm than inflict it.

      Inflict away, sir, then, if you must. But wise men also say one’s victims don’t have to be happy about it.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Aziz Ishak says:

      Burt isn’t trying to chip away at your freedom of speech. He is suggesting ways that, by his lights, you might put it to good use.

      Compare: Practicing Christianity is not an attack on religious freedom. It is just one way of exercising religious freedom.

      I’d love it if from time to time everyone just stepped back, read this essay quietly to themselves, and realized that politics makes people a little bit crazy. It does.

      Whether the induced craziness comes from evolutionary psychology, as the author asserts, or from the deep vested interests we all have in the project, I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. Politics remains the mind killer. Useful work in politics generally doesn’t consist of expounding a comprehensive worldview and condemning all those who don’t agree. It consists of trying to be a little less wrong about it, here and there, as often as we can.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Aziz Ishak says:

      Productive argument imposes duties on both sides of a dispute.

      My original post was a call for people to listen to the substance of what someone else offers in an argument, and to fashion their responses to address that substance. It was a reaction to people not reading arguments from a position of charity or with an eye to understanding what was actually being offered, and responding to what they incorrectly felt was being argued with vacuous invective.

      The other extreme is hinted at by Aziz Ishak‘s comment, which is that “I should be able to say whatever I want, however I want it, and it is your duty to sift through my inarticulate mess of a proposition and interpret me in the best and most persuasive possible light.” That isn’t as far as Aziz actually goes in his statement, but it’s where the road he’s going down ends.

      This is not correct, either. The proponent seeking to accomplish something must clearly articulate what is being proposed. Successful persuasion of others requires translation of one’s raw ideas into expressions which the target audience will find persuasive. This is not censorship or even self-censorship. It’s advocacy. Of course, if you don’t care about being persuasive, then feel free to disregard the manner in which you express yourself. But otherwise, have a care for not only saying what is right, but also for how you say it.

      Aziz Ishak‘s actual statement is that being called a racist or a bigot just plain isn’t so bad. He’s right from a logical perspective, but as we’ve seen over the past two days, logic is not the only level upon which people operate. There is a very high degree of moral opprobrium attached with attitudes of racism and bigotry in our culture. For the most part, our (relatively recent) cultural condemnation of bigotry has been a good thing.

      So I think it’s appropriate that, for instance, Tim defend himself against claims that he is a bigot, or more precisely, that his post advocated bigoted ideas. That’s a nasty rock to have thrown at you and not responding in some way to it can create the impression that you willingly accept the moral opprobrium associated with racism. (If you want to see what real anti-Muslim bigotry looks like, take a look at some comments offered in response to one of my recent posts.)

      It’s also the case that one person throwing that rock tends to end the discussion. It’s not hard to find instances of people who simply shut down and stop listening when they perceive racism. I can point to examples in this very discussion thread of people who simply will not listen to something that they perceive to be bigoted. Logically there is no reason to categorically terminate an argument because a disputant has offered a major premise that addresses issues of race, religion, national identity, and so on, the logical response to such a thing is to refute that premise. As we have seen, it’s seductively easy for people to respond emotionally rather than logically to arguments that touch on these sensitive areas.

      If you call me a “racist”, you are using an appeal to emotion not to win the argument but rather to end it. So, I should strive to articulate myself in a fashion that does not render me vulnerable to accusations of racism, and you should not use a hair-trigger accusation of racism to avoid substantively responding to my argument. If we are to have a productive argument, both duties apply.

      So say what you choose to say. I hope, though, that you will choose the path of productive argumentation instead of either the path of hysterical emotion or the path of provocative callousness.Report

      • Avatar Gorgias3808 in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Your post implies that bigotry or racism is a description without logical content, and only results in an emotional response. But racism and bigotry are properties of real attitudes. It is possible to persuade someone, for a given definition of bigotry, that their stance is bigoted. Further, it is possible to be bigoted without realizing it, and most people of good faith will cease being bigoted when they are convinced that their former attitude is in fact hateful.

        Start with these assumptions: 1.) your interlocutor actually really dislikes racism and bigotry. If they sincerely believed that their position was bigoted, they would abandon it.

        2.) You and your interlocutor can come to some common ground on what the manifestation of bigotry actually is. One more versed in social justice language might be persuaded by arguments that their position is subtly colored by their privilege, and once they abandon their privilege they’ll agree with their opponent.. Those of a different ethical persuasion can still be won over by analogies to instances where everyone agrees bigotry is present.

        Under these assumptions, persuasion is quite possible, albeit difficult. Well, that goes for just about every type of persuasion. I think someone who is legitimately concerned that they act as an ally to those denied power in our culture will not shut down at the first cry of “bigotry!” I know that I’ve been educated a lot by people who weren’t willing to give my privilege a pass, and I’m a better person for it. The most recent example would be earlier in this very thread, where you correctly brought to my attention the racist background a word like “spade” has.Report

      • Avatar Aziz Ishak in reply to Burt Likko says:

        “I hope, though, that you will choose the path of productive argumentation instead of either the path of hysterical emotion or the path of provocative callousness.”

        I plead guilty. It is quite hard for me after all to avoid the “path of hysterical emotion or the path of provocative callousness” when it is an issue that is actually personal and relevant to me, being a Muslim in the US, albeit barely a practising one. Maybe when the issue is something that is relevant to you personally, you might understand how I feel and be more charitable towards my hysterical emotion and provocative callousness. I apologize for polluting this learned thread with my hysteria and callousness. It is just so rude to be emotionally or personally involved with an issue, isn’t it? It’s much better to argue logically at all times, and put your personal feelings aside.Report

        • Avatar RTod in reply to Aziz Ishak says:

          Hey Aziz –

          I hear you, and I think even if I did agree with Tim’s post (instead of disagreeing as much as I do) your reaction would seem understandable, under the circumstances. That being said, let me try taking a stab at what I think Burt is trying to say, since however he’s saying it seems to be pushing buttons:

          What Burt is suggesting, I think, is that trying to engage the Tim’s of the world is a far better strategy to make him see the error of his ways. Perhaps a long shot, but stranger things have certainly happened. And while I think it’s justifiable to be angry about Tim’s post, I really think that his view is probably sadly common. And the only way I know of to combat that is swallowing the bile we might feel rising, and engaging enough folks in a way that make them seriously consider they might be wrong.

          Anyway, you might well think me a jerk for saying any of this, but i thought maybe explaining it this way might – if not convince you Burt might be right, let you know that I don’t think he’s trying to be a dick to you.Report

      • Avatar Aziz Ishak in reply to Burt Likko says:

        “I should be able to say whatever I want, however I want it, and it is your duty to sift through my inarticulate mess of a proposition and interpret me in the best and most persuasive possible light.”

        I fail to see what proposition I have offered. I offered an opinion. I impose no duty on the audience to interpret “my inarticulate mess of a proposition and interpret me in the best and most persuasive possible light”. You are free to interpret my comments in the worst possible light.

        “Aziz Ishak‘s actual statement is that being called a racist or a bigot just plain isn’t so bad.”

        That is not my statement. My statement is that it is certainly not as bad as being an actual victim of racism or bigotry. But you wouldn’t know that from the media or blogs, where it seems that more energy is being spent in refuting accusation of racism and bigotry and combating it. But of course, you are free not to abide by the rules set out in your long lecture to us and interpret my comment in the worst possible light. Why should you have to adhere to the rules you are patiently lecturing us about, right?Report

      • Avatar Aziz Ishak in reply to Burt Likko says:

        “For the most part, our (relatively recent) cultural condemnation of bigotry has been a good thing.”

        For the most part? In what part or way has it been bad? Excuse me, I apologize, I mean in what part or way has cultural condemnation of bigotry not been a good thing? I wouldn’t want to be accused of putting words in your mouth, in addition to all the other sins against acceptable method or arguments that I have committed.Report

        • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Aziz Ishak says:

          I won’t be taking this bait, thank you very much.Report

          • Avatar Aziz Ishak in reply to Burt Likko says:

            You are free to ignore all my responses and questions, but there is one question I really, really would be grateful if you would deign to answer.

            As someone who is obviously an expert in logic and arguments, as evidenced by this highly intellectual post (complete with Latin, no less! Take that, ignorant suckers!), do you really believe that arguing that (being accused of racism and bigotry is not as bad as being a victim of racism and bigotry) is the same as arguing that (being accused of racism and bigotry is not all that bad)?Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Aziz Ishak says:

              You’ve made your proposition rather complex, but ultimately it can be reduced like an algebra problem, to two inequalities. Let’s parse and attempt to falsify via Popper.

              Here’s the first inequality: Accused < Victim. It's a begged question. If Accused may be shown to be a bigot or racist, in the USA or Europe, he might be fired for cause from his job. If a Victim of racism or bigotry has a good lawyer or EEOC rep, he becomes an Accuser. You must make your case clearer in this partial equation, for I smell a rat down that hole.

              Your second question is equally specious: Accused has no cause for complaint. Accused by definition has cause for complaint for a complaint has been lodged against him.

              The worst part of this equation resolved to the charge of putting words in Burt Likko’s mouth.

              If you wish to discuss Islam in America, I’ve been working with Muslim refugees both in refugee camps overseas and resettling them here in the USA. I will tell you plainly, Muslims like you are part of the problem. You have been continuously erecting straw men for the last few days. I sympathize with the plight of Muslims in the USA, and more, for I my sympathy translates into action, backed by my own money and time.

              I look forward to further discussion on this topic.Report

              • Avatar Aziz Ishak in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Since Muslims like me are part of the problem, I don’t understand why you would wish to have any further discussion with me. Maybe your time would be better spent with the good Muslims who are not the problem, Muslims who are obviously grateful and indebted to you for your money and hard work and wouldn’t dream of saying anything that might offend you. FYI, just because people don’t say things in front of your face don’t necessarily mean they are not thinking it. It’s just that some people have the privilege of not caring what other people think of them and can say what they want, while others lack that privilege and have to keep silent. The privilege is usually unearned (family money in my case), but there it is.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Aziz Ishak says:

          Sometimes you have two bigotries that are mutually incompatible.

          Pick to fight against the one bigotry and the automatic assumption is that you’re okay with the other.

          “You’re only fighting for free speech for Mohammed Political Cartoons because you’re still upset that Piss Christ got federal funding!”

          That sort of thing.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

            Or, of course, the argument over physical requirements to be a firefighter.

            Is it discriminatory to say that a firefighter has to demonstrate that he can carry a 200-pound sack of potatoes down a ladder? Sexist?Report

  13. Avatar Superluminar says:

    Very late to this thread, but as a philosophy graduate can I say Thank You! Wish more places could have this discussion, the blogosphere may well be better off for it…Report

  14. Avatar Aziz Ishak says:

    And isn’t the canard that people are being too emotional or hysterical when responding to what they perceive as an attack on them quite an old one? If I feel that I am being attacked unfairly, I don’t feel that it is my duty and obligation to respond in a logical and unemotional manner so as not to pollute the “tone” of the argument. I know for some people (most of the posters in this blog, probably) the “tone” and “civility” of the argument is the most important thing in the world, but that is not true of everybody. Sometimes tone and civility are overrated, used to legitimize arguments that are reprehensible. But we are not supposed to call an argument or the person making an argument this or that, because of civility, or because “that’s not the way to persuade other people.”

    Truly, I don’t really care about persuading other people about the legitimacy of myself or other Muslims as Americans. Maybe that makes me a bad minority who is unwilling to do the hard work of grovelling for acceptance from the majority. So be it.Report

  15. Avatar Aziz Ishak says:

    “It was a reaction to people not reading arguments from a position of charity or with an eye to understanding what was actually being offered, and responding to what they incorrectly felt was being argued with vacuous invective.”

    And who is the judge who determines what is “incorrectly felt”? You, Mr Likko? Who determines what is “vacuous invective”? You again, Mr Likko? I suppose “hysterical” and “emotional” people with personal stake over the argument would not be the best judge. We wouldn’t be “objective” enough, you see. Better to leave it in the hands of others who can look down from their tower of objectivity and logical argumentation methods etc etc.

    I have not actually called Mr Kowal a bigot or his arguments bigoted. It’s of no interest to me whatsoever whether he is a bigot or not. It’s irrelevant to the quality of his argument. Even if he is the greatest Muslim-lover in the world, that does not make his arguments less nonsense and condescending.

    I was responding to all the bruhaha that erupted over some people (a very small number of people, if I recall) calling the argument bigoted. You would think that a war has been declared. This must not do! Heavens, calling someone a bigot? How low can you go? The injustice must not stand!

    Lastly, I am not an expert in logic or argumentation methods, as you have clearly demonstrated that you are here, but I think that arguing that (P is not as bad as Q) is not the equivalent to arguing that (P is not that bad at all). My Intro to Philosophy Class was a long time ago, alas, but I think someone with more recent experience with the class can probably back me up on this. If I am mistaken, I apologize.Report

    • Avatar Aziz Ishak in reply to Aziz Ishak says:

      Unless you are arguing that in light of society’s very recent displeasure and condemnation of bigotry and racism, being accused of bigotry and racism actually might be in some ways as bad as being a victim of bigotry and racism.Report

    • Avatar Aziz Ishak in reply to Aziz Ishak says:

      Unless you are arguing that in light of our society’s very recent displeasure at and condemnation of bigotry and racism, being accused of bigotry and racism might in some ways be as bad as being a victim of bigotry and racism? But of course, it would be very bad form of me to interpret your arguments in the worst possible light. I’m sure that is not what you mean at all.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Aziz Ishak says:

      I’m not sure where all this anger is coming from in your many posts, Aziz. If I misunderstood or misstated your position above, it was not my intent to do that and if that was the result, and you have my apology for that. [EDIT] Sorry, That wasn’t strong enough. I did misunderstand and misstate your position. Arguing that being accused of bigotry is not all that bad is not the same thing as arguing that being accused of bigotry is not as bad as being the victim of bigotry. You have my apology for that.

      While I think this thread is mostly played out and I for one am ready to move on to other things, I’m nevertheless interested in what you have to say and I hope you will consider my responses to your various points productively.

      I do not think that “tone” is the most important thing in an argument. I say that substance is the most important thing. I do maintain that it is not productive to merely react emotionally to an argument you dislike. One ought to bring something substantive to the table if one chooses to respond to something with which one disagrees. If disputes are to bring us closer to the truth, they must engage on their merits.

      One need not insult one’s interlocutor in order to firmly and clearly argue against that person’s contentions. An insult is typically counterproductive to the discussion’s productivity and its persuasive power. There is a difference between “groveling for acceptance” and “refraining from insult.” One need not downplay or soft-pedal one’s argument while providing substance to it — indeed, an argument with evidentiary and logical substance is the most powerful kind that can be offered.Report