koshersalaami

koshersalaami
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October 01
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Male, Jewish, in my extremely early sixties, married with kids (well, at this point I guess that should be "kid"). Thanks to Lezlie for avatar artwork - sort of a translation of my screen name. "Salaam" is peace in Arabic, hence the peace sign. (No, my name doesn't mean "hunk of meat" and yes, the pun is intentional.)

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Salon.com
JULY 2, 2012 12:46PM

A Dozen Rules For Intellectual Integrity

Rate: 26 Flag

Different things piss off different people on OS. I know what gets to me, but what gets to me isn’t usually the same set of things that seems to get to others. What gets to me most is when I see what I view as violations of intellectual integrity, so I’m thinking that maybe I should explore that topic. I have my own ideas but they are of course subject to change; after all, being subject to change is part of having intellectual integrity. These are the rules I can come up with at the moment. They aren’t preconceived. I have very little idea of what I’m about to write. I’ll find out as I do. I’ll enumerate, which I do habitually, just because it helps my ADHD-addled brain keep track of things. I’ll edit as I go and afterward.

I am not saying that I never violate any of these. I am saying that I’m wrong when I do.

1. The goal, ultimately, is to be right, which is to say to get your position as close to the truth (or to its ramifications) as you can. Not to look right, to be right. In other words, if you find yourself wrong, you’re in the wrong place. Move. Even if it’s embarrassing. Take your lumps, admit you were wrong, and proceed immediately to where you’ve figured out you belong.

2. If part of a position is wrong, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the whole position is wrong. I may be a liberal, but that doesn’t mean I think that conservatives are wrong about everything. That gets determined point by point, not globally. Be careful about babies and bathwater.

3. Figure out what the position actually consists of before evaluating it. If “most people” who have views similar to mine also hold positions I haven’t actually presented, it doesn’t follow that I also hold those positions, so I am not obligated to defend them.

4. Base your views on your standards and not on the object to which those standards are being applied. There are times when your enemy meets your standard and your friend does not. Attacking your enemy is fine, but not on the basis of a standard which he/she is meeting. Defending your friend is fine, but that doesn’t mean you have to agree with your friend all the time. If your friend violates your standards at someone else’s expense, a comment may be in order – what friendship buys in this case may be a comment made in private rather than in public. On a macro level rather than an interpersonal level, a public admission that the party you favor is doing something wrong (or the party you don’t is doing something right) may be indicated. Generally speaking, I advise it, if for no other reason than that such an admission will enhance your reputation for intellectual integrity which, under the circumstances, you’ll deserve.

5. Answer the question. Don’t avoid it. Don’t approximate it and hope your audience won’t notice. Answer it. Really answer it. Preferably all of it. If there is something invalid about the question, explain why. If that invalid aspect makes the question unanswerable, explain why. Running from a question can be an indicator of intellectual cowardice.

6. Discrediting a source does not discredit that source’s argument. Discrediting a source’s facts can, but that’s different than discrediting the source itself. Even child-molesting axe murderers can be right about some things. Logic stands on its own. People who get a fact wrong don’t necessarily get all their facts wrong, so there is a difference between discrediting a source’s fact and discrediting all of that source’s facts. (If a source is found to make up facts on a regular basis, the argument doesn’t necessarily get discredited automatically but the burden of proof can shift.) Opinions and facts can sometimes be confused; separating the two is very important when determining the veracity of a source. Trying to discredit an argument by discrediting its source is another indicator of intellectual cowardice. Notice a theme here?

7. Discrediting a source’s friends or associates does not come close to discrediting that source’s argument. In other words, Guilt By Association is nothing but a cheap, ultimately cowardly tactic.

8. Conjecture about a source’s motivation does not discredit that source’s argument. There’s a fairly low probability of your being psychic. If that’s what your argument depends on, face it: your position sucks.

9. There is no such thing as Logic By Association. In other words, the fact that I harbor any given views does not mean you know why I harbor them, and I am not responsible for your assumptions on this topic – you are, nor am I responsible for the logic used by my allies. I am strictly responsible for my own. Logic By Association comes pretty close to conjecture about a source’s motivation.

10. Phony outrage is the antithesis of integrity. If you’re angry about something, make the case about that. Phony outrage is mainly a distraction. (And what does deliberate distraction indicate?) Can you name a single person in the United States whose primary objection to President Obama is that they think he was born in Kenya? As in: “Aside from that, even if I disagree with him, it’s not like I hate the guy”? Enough with the distractions and get to your real issue.

11. Solid arguments are ultimately strengthened by dealing openly with their weaknesses, even your own arguments. Allowing those weaknesses to be discussed sets a standard for allowing the weaknesses of all arguments to be discussed rather than hidden, which will yield a more valid solution. If you have the stronger position, this is a standard you want. If you have the weaker position, see point 1 above.

12. If you’re going to tear the crap out of a position, be prepared to defend an alternative. If you aren’t, we can all assume that the position out of which you’re tearing the crap is the best available position in spite of what you’re doing to it. The alternative doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact, the alternative doesn’t even have to be good – it just has to be an improvement over that out of which you’re tearing the crap. (Given that grammatical construction, maybe I was German in another life.) Playing offense all the time is easy. Refusing to play defense ever is, well, to alter my vocabulary so as not to harp on one phrase, chickensh*t.


I may end up editing this list at some point. If one of you makes a great case for another point or against one of these, I have no objection to changing this list. Talk me into it.

------------------------------

July 9:

Margaret Feike talked me into it. After reading her objections and adding them to others I've gotten, I've come to the conclusion that I've presented the list from a less than optimal viewpoint. The implication here is that people should follow this list of rules. I didn't go around with this list; I made up the list as I wrote the post (which I say at the outset), so there's no way I could have been following this list consciously as a list. So, I'm probably going to rewrite this, though as a new post because there's too much to change. Working title:

A Dozen Ways People Screw Up Their Arguments

and rephrase them to fit that format. I'm not changing any of them; I'm good with the whole list up until now, in spite of the disagreements I've gotten.

 

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This is as good an articulation of my sense of this as i hav ever seen written down. Bravo, Kosh!

r.
I always stand up for what I believe in. If others believe in things I will be aware and digest their opinions. What I do not like is the no leeway between opinions because no one is really right as there are many factors that should be discussed first. sad to say 'that's not the way it hangs' in today's world.
HUGGGG
Very nice. I wonder if this will carry any water with the repeat offenders. My pet peeve is when a poster does a cut and paste of information that only gives partial information, but presents it as a factual representation of an issue. An OS blogger did a bunch of cut and paste comments about the WI recall election after Scott Walker won the recall and noted the amount of money raised by Walker vs. his opponent, Barrett. Only she lumped the opponent's money raised from the Unions in with the private donors, and neglected to do the same with Walker, failing to count the huge sums from the likes of the Republican Governor's Association, Americans for Prosperity, and many others that
oops
many others that rolled in from out of state for Walker. It makes me nuts.
Thanks for this!
r./
Kosh, this is beautifully reasoned - and I'm not just saying that because I always agree with you.

I want to read this again, more thoroughly but at this point I'm pretty sure I'm going to disagree with #12. Where I end up, for now, is that it is possible to determine that a position is unacceptable before arriving at a better position. This would matter especially if time is an element and a position has to be accepted or rejected before coming up with an alternative.

Think how peaceful and constructive things would be - especially political things - if even most of us could follow some of these.
Great post. Good for real life as well as the internet. I think it can all be boiled down to: Use the front part of your brain!
Thank you.

Linda,
There isn't always an obvious right answer or a single right answer. However, I think we're obligated to find the best one we can or at least to distinguish between those which are more and less valid and why.

Nerd cred,
Yes, some things are obviously wrong but, when that's true, you can usually come up with a better hypothetical or group of them pretty quickly. Choosing one isn't important but making it clear that they exist is. "American democracy isn't working ." Ok, so you envision replacing it with, for example... My point is that condemnation isn't enough.

I understand and appreciate that y'all support me on most of these. I'm just answering objections as best I can, and I understand that your cases may be added to on the next comment.
I'm not very enthusiastic about #12. When you remove a cancer it's not necessary to put something in its place.
You understand that by posting these rules, and clearly defining them, you will never be a candidate for "The Apprentice". I think just reading them out loud in front of Mr. Trump would result in violent termination. On the other hand, sticking closely to them will mean poor ratings on the news channels. I mean, occasionally I watch stuff on PBS- no one is fighting, and they follow the rules of polite discourse and intellectual integrity. I might learn something, but I will also learn that there is no Celebrity Deathmatch gonna happen watching these shows, and that means, no ad revenue. :) It's alla 'bout da clicks, yeah?
There are many writers on OS who can't take criticism or debate. They act like children when challenged. Furthermore, they don't correct their facts in non-fiction pieces, when their facts are shown to be wrong. I think this is a big problem.
Good luck with that here, although possibly that is merely the nature of reality.
As a philosophy major in college, I was always taught that if your opponent's argument can be improved, improve it and then argue against the improved version. Don't argue against a weaker version of an argument if you know that a stronger version exists.

Nice list, by the way. Thanks for posting.
You could almost re-title this "A Guide to Rational Speaking".
Thus far, I don't see any comments from those who have trouble following most of these rational and well-described rules. Although I do read some of those same people (keep your friends close, your....) I seldom engage them in any discussion, precisely because they cannot or will not follow the rules of civil discourse.

I don't think your #12 can be taken as literally as it is written. Those in a debate need to be smart enough and sensitive enough when to simply point out the flaws in the other side's argument, and when to substitute an alternative. But saying "that won't work you leftist moron; you are just like all the other sheeple on OS, blah, blah, blah..." is simply not good enough.

Lezlie
A quote from the TV story....Dallas.
Once you've lost your integrity, everything else is a piece of cake....
Kosh, these rules, are so needed, and useful to all, I think that what one thinks, sometimes is not based in reality, but in his/hers knowledges, informations, believings, needs, egos, and when such the case, well, no objectivity is near.. I try to be objective, concerning my self. Since, it is my first blog, I have made mistakes, from university I had learned, that quotation, naming the author and link, is all I have to do, but being in OS, I have learned so many I did not know, regarding how I can ''quote'' ones work, and how I can ''agree to disagree'', which is a must do, cause we all have our differences .

For me living is learning, and as one wise said, there are so many opinions, as many the humans. Common sense and respect, has been working to me . But arguing, just for arguing, never been my thing.

Thank you for the insight, I needed this work. Rated!!
I notice that most of the objections are to #12. I might need a better way to put it, though one doesn't come easily to mind. I could use suggestions. I am unwilling to omit it altogether because I believe strongly that attacking is too easy and can be done with too little realism. Any existing reality has faults. Finding them is only useful if a realistic alternative exists. Without one, you run the risk of the classic Third World habit of replacing the corrupt with even worse zealots. Finding fault is useless without context.

I'm traveling today. I posted this previously written draft in a Popeye's near Hagerstown, MD at lunchtime. I've answered at rest stops. Right now I'm typing slowly on my IPhone at a picnic table at a rest stop on westbound I70 between Columbus and Dayton, OH.
#13....b4 u type.....imagine ur face-to-face.......
It is not necessary to invent a cure to indicate a disease. Number 12 is beyond idiotic. Follow your own rules when you are wrong, accept it.
None of those rules take in account the herd effect. When a mass of people simply repeat what each other says without really having a clue about the subject at hand. They do this because it's "fun" or "creative" or "gives a sense of community". They DON'T do it because the know what they are talking about. And, BTW, I know this because I have faced the heard before and asked them. The response has been a uniform "no, but that makes no difference because you're wrong".

Your rules also fail to take into account the effect of actions and arguments that occur behind the scenes. Often a person will refer to "insider" or "non-public" information and will base their stance on that. When you add the propensity of a lot of people around here to enjoy leading a nice lynch mob and others who enjoy playing the happy public face of a Machiavellian backstabber then your rules of logical debate go out the window.

Sometimes, after all is stomped upon or poisoned, all you have left is your own passion and the knowledge that you are righteously right but can't find the strength to prove it any longer. At those times are you saying just give up and let the bastards win?

Sorry, dude. Can't do that. Sometimes you just have to keep swings as you go down under the crush of the herd.
Jan,
I'm not sure how to frame it, but it has to be framed somehow. To use your analogy, operating on cancer can kill the patient faster.

I can't think of an example where I know something's awful and absolutely no off the cuff alternative comes to mind, even if the alternative is "not X." I have, however, seen people on OS attack positions without thinking about viable alternatives. A while ago, I wrote a post called something like The Second Question. The first question is What does X cost? The second is What does Not X cost? No second question, no viable analysis.

That's why 12 stands, though I'm open to expressing the concept differently. Suggest something.
BRAVO!!!! And glad to not see myself in this text. now about tr ig
Missed 2.
Steel Breeze, I'm fine in print.

Amy,
You can't follow these if you're part of a herd.
If you're part of a herd, you're not worth talking to on OS. Why bother? It costs nothing to ignore someone here. Stabbed? Only if you're sensitive to metaphorical knives. Personally, not so much.

It would be difficult for one person here to change someone's opinion about me whom I respect. If I don't respect them, they don't count to me. I have that luxury on OS because there's nothing financial, occupational, or familial involved.

So do you.
Great post. I feel that much of what we put here is -- yours truly included -- ax sharpening, vitriol spewing, ego pumping crap. But, we know that the cardinal sin is to be, let God strike down the next offender, singing off key ... soak in the brine of boredom. People inhale amusement. Each of us are heavy consumers, if not addicts ... You are always on your mark, setting high standards. Let us try to not run out of bounds or blur the fumble, caused by the grounds -- our hand slipping off a slick premise.
R >>>>>>>
especially faulty logic
Grand advice, Kosh; well said, my friend. R
I'm terribly sorry but pointing out the faults of a situation has nothing whatever to do with a remedy for those faults. The first indicates a problem. Not being able to solve the problem indicates either the problem cannot be solved or the participants in the discussion have neither the means nor the imagination to provide a solution. Whether or not a solution can be provided, the problem remains and exposing it is a pertinent and worthwhile effort.
I think a copy of this should be in every freshman Congressional representative's Welcome Kit. None of it applies to me, of course, because I operate under my own rules as determined by the board of governors of my own internal logic. R
Gerald,
Won't happen. Their needs aren't about logic.

Jan,
Of course exposing faults is a worthwhile effort. "Don't do that" doesn't need an alternative, because "don't do that" IS an alternative. However, "scrap the existing system" does.
Seer,
No, it's not just you.
It's me.

Glad you get it.
Thank you
You're missing my point entirely. To reveal the problems of a system indicates where thought can be applied to solving the problems. The indication of a problem is the first step towards solving it. Unless that first step is taken the problem will remain unresolved. This is where people like Apisa stumble into helpless idiocy.

No, I do not know how to fight off the Republican presidential candidate without swallowing the obvious traitorous Obama but I do know something must be done to radically reverse the current direction the nation is going. I don't know how this can be done but Obama is total disaster with a candy coating and that is completely nauseating. Knowing something must be done is vital and necessary whether or not I have a solution. Otherwise the country is lost to the financial gangsters, the venomous corporate complex and the whoring legislators and the military monsters that are out to brutalize and destroy the world. Not having a solution does not exempt one from grasping the problem and seeking a solution.
Perhaps the problem in this interchange is in the misconception of the nature of the site. It is proclaimed as an exhibition of writing skills but it is obviously more, and less, a melange of fractured erudition, howls of personal and social pain, gestures of delight and reaching out for understanding and compassion and minor exultations of special skills. It is not a debating society seeking winning points and domination of all knowledge. It is a seeking to know and a knowing to seek and exposition of light into dark corners. There is no winning here, nor losing and there should be no censoring of cries of pain and disappointment or any of the various forms of love we can extend in such a limited and fragile medium. We give what we can and take what we might find useful.
If only your rules of integrity governed politics. OS is a good place to start. The only reservations I have are over points 8 and 9. Not a disagreement, only a reservation, and because I am not able to think through why I cannot say. Many arguments are first informed by intuition for me, and then upon close examination of my own motivations and testing the logic of my intuition I am able to support my intuition with argument or come to realize that I have no case, thus initiating greater self awareness and change. This process requires honesty, integrity, and intelligence and a shortage in any one quality compromises my ability. Some people have wisdom, a deep knowing of what creates happiness and what creates suffering, in the long run. But do not have the skills in logic to make the case. My husband gave me this example to demonstrate the limitation of logic; you can take a ruler and place it atop of the ocean's water to show it is flat. It would then seem perfectly logical to project that the world is flat. But now we happen to know it is spherical. Does this speak to short view vs long view? Koshersalami, I'm mixing up stuff here and apologize for the jumble. I wish I was as coherent as you are despite your ADHD-addled brai
Koshersalami, OS glitches won't allow long comment. Great points with
Shoot, OS vanished that long comment from me before I could edit - apologies for the lack of coherence - was somewhat relieved OS took it away but then it appeared - oh well. I'm just going to give up now. In complete agreement with every other point - I would love to live up to them.
Totally respect you for saying "I am not saying that I never violate any of these. I am saying that I’m wrong when I do."
Jan,
Now that response was damned interesting. Hat's off to you for it.

My reply is that "intellectual integrity" isn't an issue when it comes to cries of pain and disappointment. I'm not offering a formula for every kind of response and especially not for every kind of post. However, one of the subsets of posts we encounter here is involved with more traditional argumentation and this list applies here.

It's also, at least for me, NOT a question of scoring debating points. Persuasion, yes, but scoring points, no. If it were, my list would be about strategy, but it's not. If anything, quite the opposite: it's really about what strategems I deem ethically off-limits. Acknowledge the weaknesses in your own arguments? Refusing to discredit your opponent? This is about keeping analysis clean, NOT winning. My first point is: If you're wrong, change, even if it embarrasses you. If anything, this list is very specifically about insisting that we should not make winning our priority.
Jan and Maria,
There are comments I missed while typing the last one. So, I have two points to address:

Jan,
I'm not looking to muzzle criticism of anything. If anything, i'm trying to muzzle vitriol. I share a problem with you at the moment: the current American administration has proven pretty bad in very worrysome ways, but the alternative is worse, and I'm not sure what the best course of action would be. I have no problem criticizing Obama at length but, while I do, I acknowledge that I'm not sure what direction would be effective. That, however, is different from "you can't vote for him regardless of the consequences." To me, the consequences matter. I may hate how I'm stuck, but it would be dishonest of me to pretend not to be stuck, to say "I'm so frustrated I'm willing to do Anything to change this." Political history is full of people who do this with disastrous results, who learn that the alternatives are far worse than anything they could have imagined. That to me is irresponsible, so I will say in my own rules that such a course of action is not OK. That's why #12.

Maria,
Regarding 8 and 9,
The point behind them is to say that "you probably say this just because you really want that" is beside the point. When I was involved in some arguments about criticism of Israel, another blogger noticed that I came to OS pretty close to the time that an Israeli who virulently defended his country did and that my arrival was "suspicious" in its timing. We didn't know each other, and I really, really didn't appreciate the attempt to discredit what I had to say by speculation as to my motivation. If something's wrong with my argument, answer my argument; if you're taking another tack, it's because you had trouble answering my argument and were looking for a way to defuse it while not having to face it. I didn't think there was a lot of integrity in that approach.

Motivation can be relevant in addressing someone's concerns, but it's a cheap way to try to discredit an argument, and that's my point.
Koshersalami, thanks for clarifying - in the light of your explanation I completely agree with you.
Thank you for putting together this thoughtful roadmap for sensible debate.
I think you made a rational case that everyone should have learnt by now. Think for yourself and if you don't know what you're talking about, shut the hell up.
Maria,
Thanks for answering.

Scanner,
Yes, it does come down to that. All I'd really add is I'd like the benefit of the doubt that I think for myself and that, because I expect that, I'll extend it to whomever I'm talking to.
Jaime,
Thank you and I hope so.
If everybody who didn't know what they were talking about knew that they didn't know what they were talking about and would shut the hell up, it would be very quiet around here.
It would be quiet in a lot of places. Comparatively speaking, extremely quiet here.
Kosher

Sorry I didn't comment earlier God gave me firewood for next winter by dropping a huge tree in my back yard. Not exactly sure what to make of that, but had to supervise cutting and stacking ( Finally accepted that I'm too "old" to do the physical stuff myself)

Anyway
My problem with the rules of logical debate is that I am not primarily a "Logic" thinker. Like Temple Grandin, I "think in Pictures" I visualize problems, the closest analogy is a 3-d computer model, with cutaways and sections, and any other required "information" incorporated in the. visualization. Everybody does visualization to a certain extent, but only a small percentage of people I've met can do what I do, and most of them don't understand how they are doing it.

Recognition and the reacquisition and legitimizing of "Analog Analysis" is what my "ART of Reason" is about.

To me, Logic is a good and important "Checksum" of the validity of what I decide, but it isn't the actual decision making process.

This is why I have such fun with puns and resonances in conveying an idea. The "words" involved in expressing my thoughts are not the thoughts themselves, but decoration added later for effect.

This is a primary source of misunderstanding between the "lawyer" and "warrior" types. I am always aware of the shaping of "logical" argument that is concurrent with my visualization, so I am usually close to being able to "Put it into words". The vast majority of my "tribe" ( visualizers ) don't have any idea that that is what they are doing, they believe that they are "Thinking" - in the sense of "working Logic", but actually they are just "coming to a decision" by "analog analysis', and could no more translate it into "logic" than could a cat do algebra.

I love and respect logic and words, but while it is an interesting idea that a mouse might might prevent a cat from eating him by a process of logical debate, it's a rare cat that will stop to engage in such "nonsense"

That said, people on OS would do well to heed your rules, they (me too) see the utility and beauty of logical debate , or they wouldn't be here
This is a good list. I hope more people will follow it. R
HR,
In politics, you're right - the cat just eats the mouse and doesn't worry about logic.

Here, however, it's another matter entirely. Here we have choices, often choices that are unacknowledged. There are many who I've noticed suffer under the delusion that they can be virtually eaten here. They can't be. If someone gives them a hard time, they have options, such as giving them a hard time back, ignoring them completely, deleting their comments, etc. They seem to be afraid, not only of a person giving them a hard time but, more particularly, of a group giving them a hard time. Whenever that happens, they internally inflate the number of group members. There can be ten people reading their post, three of whom are giving them a hard time (or even two), and they'll be under the impression that the whole group has turned on them.

Nope. Not only that, they don't understand that this is uniquely an environment with a low population of sheep. Non-sheep don't follow someone turning on you; they are far more likely to lose respect for the aggressor, whom they view as rude and unreasonable. If someone likes you, they aren't that easy to turn. If someone respects you, same deal. So, if some ass starts attacking you, whose friendship or support are you in danger of losing? The answer is: No one whose friendship and support you have any reason to care about.

If you want to lose the respect of people you care about, stoop to your attacker's level. Then you're both like that and the crowd won't play favorites, instead wishing you'd grow up and stop slapfighting already. You don't win here by insulting your opponent - you win here by refusing to.

There's a secret to fighting without crossing the line: Attack the argument, not the person making it. Getting personal is what makes this audience lose patience. (It's also what, interpersonally, contributes to making enemies.)

How do you keep your arguments out of the personal? That's what parts of this post are about. Don't be afraid of losing the argument. I don't mean the fight, which is different; I mean the argument. Restrict your case to those aspects of the argument you disagree with, meaning restrict your collateral damage. Don't speculate about motivation - that's largely an insult, saying "I don't trust you to be straight with me." Don't engage in phony outrage, feigning anger when you don't even mean it. Don't attack someone's friends. Don't act like it's OK to attack someone because of who they are instead of because of what they said this time.

This post not only attempts to steer you clear of the personal, it also attempts to help you notice when the opposition gets personal, to help you point it out to them so they can stop, and to help you point it out to your audience so they notice that your opponent is getting personal while you aren't. This is an unusual environment in that the high ground gets you respect here, so help people notice who has the high ground. If your opponent follows you onto the high ground, OS improves. If not, you win the PR battle.
Dances with Cats,
Thank you. I was typing when you commented.

HRdR,
Sure I'm closer to being a lawyer than a warrior but look closely. This is a battlefield I understand. Of course, I guess you could say that a lawyer is a warrior on a different kind of battlefield, though with you the definition has less to do with the type of battlefield and more to do with the ethos of combat. This post is all about the ethos of OS combat: How to maintain integrity and How to decide what causes are worth the battle. Not such an easy distinction here.
I like this. I don't often think about trying to be right. I do always think about trying to get at the truth. But this is part of the slipperiness of fiction and fact, and the fuzziness of the blog, the personal voice, grassroots journalism, and creative non-fiction. I have been thinking about trying some more non-fictional objective posts...I will have to use this list as a guide.
Helvetica,
I will be thrilled if this post is of practical use.
I'm not especially adept at logical rhetoric, and was heartened to see Maria's and Rudolphus's comments, which addressed my self-perception as one whose initial response to stimuli tends to be limbic, intuitive, fueled in the id. Reason comes later - if necessary - usually too late for the debate format. This is why I ordinarily try to avoid debates, because without the delay to think about what I'm feeling I tend to respond from the id, as well, with visible anger or other emotions that can obscure or distract from rational discourse. Along the way, coming to understand this topsy turvy approach of mine and gradually coming to accept it objectively, without moral implications, I've reached a suspicion that more of us than it might seem respond similarly. The greatest breakthrough for me was being diagnosed with ADD about 10 years ago. This explained a lot, with its most immediate effect that of lifting a self-perceived onus of mental inferiority from me. I grew up fearing I was borderline "feeble-minded," derived from one of my dad's constant warnings. Anyway, freed from the restraints of that dread, I began to explore the "new" me, learning how my mind works and how best to make use of its idiosyncrasies.

Comes now my theory of why so many "normal" participants in arguments seem so often to be at loggerheads no matter how brilliantly the arguments might appear. I'm out on a limb here, guessing. I wonder if more people - maybe everybody - reacts intuitively at first. Rationalizing comes next. Even scientists hypothesize and then experiment. The best ones are supposed to keep their experiments pure from the taint of their theories. It's probably easier to catch those scientists who don't than debaters who cheat because their rationalizing skills are so adept they can weave magic with their words.

I have an inherent distrust of logic, feeling, as I do with statistics, that they are mere tools. Expert craftsmen can use these tools to their advantage for good or ill. Thus, even when following a debate by highly skilled participants, I follow intuitively, keenly tuned to pick up signs of values or aspects of personality or character that might slip thru under the radar.

A sense of fairness, kindness and moral courage go a long way in persuading me to a point of view I might not otherwise have accepted or seen. A little gentle humor never hurts, either.
CM,
OK. I understand that. I came up with this backward - it's not that I followed these consciously, it's that I started thinking about what I was already doing and came up with this list. So I, too, started this intuitively.

I should also point out that I have a case of ADHD (diagnosed in my 40's) that could choke a horse.
To paraphrase The Redhead, "If you're in the right, the arguments marshal themselves". You don't need ad hominen attacks, distortions or anything else to make your point.

And I agree: If you're wrong, say so.
Coming from a alternative place here, one which I won't continue to debate because I believe in alternative reasons and ideas, and the goal of being right is not one I want to foster. I want to be more flexible to another's reality and listen more to where they are coming from then thinking of how I can get them over to my thinking while they are talking. That is what I get from these, especially the first one.
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Rita,
I think you've misconstrued what I'm saying. This post is not about persuasion; actually, if anything, it's about which techniques of persuasion are illegitimate. Read the first point again carefully, please. It says that being right is more important than looking right and that if you're wrong, change, even if it's embarrassing. It also says nothing about there being a single right answer to anything. This is not a post advocating rigidity.
Good lessons/reminders all. If I may be permitted a rationalization ...

Owing to the press of time and space -- especially the space between my ears -- I sometimes/often? resort to generalizations, and that is always a dangerous practice, tho it is sometimes necessary to make a larger point.

In my latest post Nuts, for instance, I allege that racism -- among other things -- has rendered the Right nuts. Because of the time/space continum, I expect readers to give me a certain amount of latitude and assume that I don't mean every individual on the Right is nuts.

If I point out, as I did, that thanks to the defection of the Dixiecrats and the embrace of the Southern Strategy, racism has been at the heart of Republican politics since the 60's, that doesn't mean I'm accusing any individual on the Right of being a racist.

It does mean that if you are on the Right, you might want to reconsider who and what you align yourself with -- and why.
That racism has rendered the Right nuts doesn't mean that everyone on the Right is either racist or nuts. There are multiple reasons to be Rightist just as there are multiple reasons to be Leftist, a point I make regularly. For example, there are business reasons to be Leftist (very compelling ones as far as I'm concerned), and you wouldn't think so from the rhetoric on either side.
I've read this several times and I've wanted to comment but haven't been able to formulate a response; reading others' comments has been helpful though.

Intellectual integrity really boils down to one simple concept: honesty. And one rule: do the right thing. Lists of rules and regualtions are necessary for certain pursuits like sports and debates. But when you're talking about writing - and I'm assuming your concept of intellectual integrity applies across the board, not just to opinion or informative pieces - you're in the realm of creativity. Things aren't so cut and dried.

You can't force writers to "write by the rules" any more than you can force a painter to stick to a certain style. And most readers end up having an emotional response to what they read, not strictly an objective one.

I'm not saying coming up with a list of 12 rules has no value but you've essentially written an opinion piece with the intent to persuade - and what consititutes intellectual integrity to you may not fly for someone else. For example, I feel the way Rita does about #1.

I think what's far more critical to good writing than a set of rules is having the right intentions when you start out and not straying.
Margaret,
Of course it comes down to being honest and doing the right thing. I don't have a list of rules I follow. In fact, you may have pointed out the most valuable thing I've heard here. If this were my current post and I thought I'd get enough people to answer this, I'd pose the following question:

Would it be better if I restructured this negatively, as:
"A Dozen Ways People Screw Up Their Arguments"?

That's really a whole lot closer to how I wrote it, now that I think about it.

Except that's not quite it either, because I'm not talking about logical fallacies here, I'm talking about failures of honesty and failures of intellectual courage, not honest mistakes.

Maybe: "A Dozen Ways People Argue Dishonestly"

I still think Rita is misreading the first rule. I'm not saying:
There's one right answer and only one
or
If you're not right, you should be embarrassed or ashamed.
I'm saying:
Screw Looking right. You shouldn't feel embarrassed about getting it wrong, but you should feel embarrassed about figuring out you've gotten it wrong and staying wrong anyway, particularly for appearances.
I say: If you've blown it and you figure that out, change. Even if it's humiliating, change.
Honesty demands that.

I'll PM you on this, because this is a question I'd like answered.
I think your title "A Dozen Ways People Screw Up Their Arguments" hits the mark. You're talking about a specific type of writing here and this immediately gets the attention of the target audience you want - although you certainly don't need any help with that on OS! But I assume this isn't just meant for OS writers.

I think Rita is coming from the same place I am - we don't write the same type of things you do so we're applying your rules differently. And maybe that affects the way we read as well. Also, as I said in my earlier comment, there's an emotional component on the part of the reader, even to the most factual piece. Most people aren't reading with a checklist in mind either. That's why I have a hard time with a prescribed set of rules. I'm looking for something that rings true initially, then if it interests me enough I go back for a closer look.
I can't speak for everyone, but I'd guess that's what most people do. And with the staggering amount of information available now, I assume readers don't have the time or the inclination to go over something with a fine-tooth comb.

I agree with most everythiing you're saying here; there's no argument. But it's also what's important to you - not everyone comes at a piece applying these same standards and also, just because a piece of writing doesn't nail every single one of these criteria doesn't mean it's not good.
Margaret,
Of course you don't have to nail every criterion to write well. That's not the point. My very next post I break some of them; in fact, that's my title - which isn't to say that my next post is well-written, but is to say that I acknowledge what you just said.

Now I've got to figure out how to redo this. I might have to repost it in a few days, reconfigured.
"Objection" is a bit harsh; "perspective" is what I was going for. Now I'll read your latest.
"Objection" is a bit harsh; "perspective" is what I was going for. Now I'll read your latest.
OK.
Perspective.

I've still got a problem. Now I don't like the new working title, because this really isn't about normal analytical errors, it's about illegitimate tactics. Maybe more like

A Dozen Underhanded Arguing Tactics, Don't Be Fooled
You could reduce this list to 1 item and cover most.
Being right on the facts used to construct a persuasive argument is the most important element, but just because something is a fact doesn't mean it's a relevant fact, nor does it satisfy a valid argument standard if it's exclusive of a wider field of relevant facts. The problem many encounter is extending their argument beyond what they know because their opponent introduced a relevant fact they hadn't considered or more powerful logical construction.

If you stay on point, on the facts that apply and draw logical inferences from those, you'll not need a list of argumentative pitfalls.

That all reduces to the quantity and quality of your knowledge, and being actively concerned about that describes integrity. As arguments -- as opposed to discussions -- are more competitive, it also involves skill and, in some cases, talent.

The funny thing about political arguments is even the most fanatical advocate of individualism and the reality of unequal outcomes wants their arguments taken as serious and equal to any. Absent the obvious evidence they aren't, they want an out -- some device that obviates their inability to maintain their position. In my experience, the forlorn fanatic usually compounds their expressions of ignorance until you acknowledge they are idiots. At that point they claim ad hominem attack and declare victory. That in spite of the itemized deconstruction you have performed, and that they have already, by insisting their positions are valid and yours aren't, have as much as called you stupid.

Your "don't knock down a position without offering an alternative" is a form of an out device. One needn't offer an alternative in order to perform a valid trashing of somebody's position. It may be an issue you haven't thought much about, but that doesn't preclude poking holes in a untenable argument.

As far as lefty's reduction to "use the front part of your brain," that applies to gathering knowledge and synthesizing a logical argument. However, it doesn't always apply to your argument because once you have arrived at a conclusion, and especially after you've argued the same point repeatedly, that knowledge and reaction comes from the "set knowledge," smaller "lizard brain."

Some responses are like walking, breathing or driving a car and, along with the droll task of rote argument comes aggressive argumentation. This is where you take joy in eviscerating an opponent and jump-roping with the entrails of their pitiful argument. I never take that as an automatic response, but as an "in kind" response for those whose ideas were formed in and never left their lizard brains.

As far as the somewhat heralded "I think in pictures" comment, that's a true hoot. I imagine that anyone with an eidetic memory can, to varying degrees, perform 3D visualizations, run videos in their mind or even re-read some passage from a book. However, in the realm of ideas and argumentation, it doesn't matter how you retain facts or form a construction. Your pictures can be every bit as inadequate as any "conventional" way of arriving at a conclusion. You may be rolling around a 3D model of a abbreviated Rube Goldberg device that, in your dream-state mind, doesn't work at all. Saying you think in pictures adds nothing to the quality of ideas nor does it free you from having to apply logic in the whole...checksum? Eyeroll.
The cat and mouse example doesn't even have a remote connection to the distinction-sans-difference thinking in pictures canard.

Stay with what you know, hedge what you assume is true with the proper qualifying words, and rigorously stay on point. Once you get used to doing that...or have been trained to do that...you can add enjoyable embellishments and cruel knife-twists.
Paul,
I suppose I should start with my only clarification, the one about having an alternative in mind. That one got misunderstood a lot, leading me to believe I may not have expressed it quite as well as I should have, or at least put in the requisite qualifiers.

Some dissections don't need stated alternatives (not that I suggest stating alternatives, what I suggest is being prepared to offer and defend one if necessary), particularly the ones that respond to suggestions about doing something specific, because not doing that specific thing is intrinsically an alternative. My concern is with people who say things like: The current political/economic system we have in the United States doesn't work so let's destroy it. On one hand I agree - it's way off track, headed further off track and I don't see an obvious way of correcting course. (My issue, non-topical here, is that money and, as a direct result, influence are concentrating more and more.) However, I'm not enough of a blithering idiot to make the leap of faith and say "Sure!" without knowing where we're supposed to land. I've seen a lot of countries do that and the results have often not been pretty. In the Third World, the unfortunate choice is typically between the current Corrupt and the future Zealots, the thought being "What could be worse?" and the answer being "where we landed." So, in a case like that, knocking the current system is facile and incomplete. From a strictly argumentation standpoint, I object to people who only play offense because they don't have the guts or chops to play defense.

Past that, I'll mostly agree with you. I differ with you tempermentally in that I take very little joy in evisceration, firstly because I sometimes regard it as my own failure in teaching (assuming the person on the other end of the argument is attempting to argue ethically - mouthpieces who don't listen because they view it as their job to persuade at all costs do not fall into this category because not to be open to persuasion is intellectual cowardice, for which I have zero patience or respect), and secondly because I think cruelty to those who are incapable of knowing the difference is bullying. So, I take very little pleasure in knife-twisting.

If it's a borderline case, it can also result in a gratuitous tossing of a conversion opportunity because someone who is humiliated is way less likely to consider changing viewpoints because of the extra humiliation it entails. It depends if we're talking borderline enough to be feasible.

Watching you do it, however, is at times a guilty pleasure, kind of like laughing at the wrong kind of ethnic joke - I don't approve, but it's still funny. When the person on the receiving end has enough brains to know better, not so guilty.
Kosh,
I never gut an opponent that presents as much an honest argument as they have, if they present it honestly. It's always an "in kind" response. Uncle Chris and Johnny Fever are good examples. I have never seen either of them comment on something they disagree with by offering a simple alternative opinion. Each time they begin as if they're educating their target, so I get enough joy out of peeling them it's worth the minimal effort.

I might express some amusement when arguing a point with those who argue honestly, but that's just a way of illuminating a point and, if you are able...why not? I would never cruelly twist the knife on a true seeker of honest argument or discussion. That's the difference between breaking a Fever and having a argument/discussion where those involved present honestly derived opinions.
I recall you, I and mish had varying degrees of disagreement on what constitutes a teacher's free speech. I was somewhere between you and mish on that, but the discussion was uninterrupted by off-point attacks or ridicule. Actually, as much fun as ripping off some ideologue's head can be, I get far more enjoyment out of reasoned discussions or arguments. Having the chops to participate in more elevated discussions is more gratifying than chopping yet another Rwing hack (and sometimes Lwing) to bits. But damnit...I still like having the chops to chop when chopping is allowed...nay!..required!

The internet put us all closer together and has given voice to many who would be better off silent. Some arguments are worth it, some are wastes of time..which is fine if you have time to waste...and bloated-head and aggressive ideologues are fun to to ridicule. And ridicule is the only option when reason is useless.

I think the difference between me and some others is I've spent years...decades...arguing with ideologues..mostly Rwing...and others haven't seen these rote arguments many times, so make a futile attempt at reason and kumbyada-yada. While it's admirable to seek common ground, accommodation and understanding, that never works with ideologues. At best, you'll arrive at a trite damning of all and declare it a draw. If one argues long enough, this reality becomes evident.

If one knew me well, they'd realize that sometimes I can be defined by the arguments and/or issues I stay away from. However, that's something only I can know, so if you don't see me in the mix all you could do is speculate.
PS--If you want to see a good example of a reasoned argument between 2 people who appreciate the art and the prodding, humor and factual presentation that can involve, check out Rwoo's 2nd amendment post from a while back. The exchanges between me and woo are a great example of elevated-but-enjoyable.
Just saw your and Paul's comments. If I see a comment from certain writers in the feed I will click over to see what they contributed. You, Kosh, and Paul, are two of those writers. And while I agree with your list above, I have to admit that I highly enjoy it when Paul takes the likes of Johnny F. or Uncle Cris to the woodshed. He has a point. When someone is just agitating, and not looking for an exchange of ideas or opinions, it does make for a different playing field.
Paul and OIT,

I haven't spoken much to Johnny Fever or Uncle Chri. They don't comment on my blog and I have no interest in seeking out theirs. As you can imagine, I'm not a fan of ideologues.

That you, Paul, found a reasoned discussion on Rw's blog falls under the category of No Big Shock. (Assuming you mean Rw005g; there is another Rw on OS and they aren't alike.) Of the people I know here, his is probably the best mix of scholarship and clarity that I've seen. I can go back and check it but chances are nearly 100% that if it happened in the last year and a half or so I have a comment on that post. He's one of only three people on OS (aside from my niece who posts once in a while) whom I've ever actually spoken to on the phone. (Aside from my niece, I've met one - The Good Daughter.)

Mishima is no lightweight either, particularly for someone that far right.

I will confess to not remembering the details of our free press discussion. It sounds like something that would have taken place on Jonathan Wolfman's blog because he's pretty much an advocate of Free Speech No Matter What and that's where I'm likely to have gotten into one of those.
I'm curious: why is 12 the magic number? And who is this aimed at - the reader or the writer?
Twelve is the magic number because when I was fooling around with rules, I got over ten and twelve is where I landed. The title wasn't finalized until I figured out how many I had.

Reader or writer? Both. Writer in terms of what not to do (or sometimes in terms of what to do, like answer the question), reader in terms of figuring out exactly how someone is screwing with you.
Catching up on my reading. Rated.