Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A perfect example

Persistent annoyance Occasional commenterMajor Nav pretty much illustrates the irritations I complain about in my recent post, On method:
From Major Nav:
You are fooling yourself to believe communism is a good thing or an achievable end.
To support your argument, you "study capitalism" to seek out examples of where you "believe" it is harmful while ignoring the harmful results of all previous attempts at communism. If anyone calls you on it, you just say "That was the old communism, I'm talking about neocommunism."
And you seek out authors and pick through their writings to select out of the context, an idea that is close to your concept and sprinkle them through your writings. Usually as a reference to the obscure article vs a direct quote. As if anyone else has read the article.

If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Put down the hammer once in a while, take a step back and chose another viewpoint.

Let's break this down.

You are fooling yourself to believe communism is a good thing or an achievable end.

This is a "criticism" (actually just a complaint) about my conclusions, not my methodology.

To support your argument, you "study capitalism" . . .

This quotation is a blatant insult. I do not "study capitalism" with scare quotes; I actually do study capitalism, at an accredited university with a moderately prestigious economics department, I get excellent grades, and most every professor I have studied under or worked with — all committed capitalists — has offered to write me a letter of recommendation to any graduate school I wish to apply to. (And this ain't chopped liver: the reputation of an undergraduate program depends almost entirely on the performance of its students in graduate school; no professor will recommend a student he or she believes will fail.)

I'm not offended by the insult; the fact that ignorant tools like Major Nav have to depend on insult rather than reasoned argument shows the weakness, vacuity and dogmatism of their own position.

To support your argument, you "study capitalism" to seek out examples of where you "believe" it is harmful . . .

I have no idea why Major Nav puts "believe" in scare quotes; perhaps he is unfamiliar with the ordinary rules and meaning of English punctuation.

I don't need to study capitalism to discover examples of where it actually is harmful; I just need to read the newspaper. I study capitalism to discover why it is harmful, and where and why it is successful.

To support your argument, you "study capitalism" . . . while ignoring the harmful results of all previous attempts at communism. If anyone calls you on it, you just say "That was the old communism, I'm talking about neocommunism."

I understand that Major Nav is creating fictional dialog, but really: I have written (by a rough estimate) a half-million words on the blog, all searchable. Is it too much to ask that Major Nav actually quote me?

And I'm unsure of precisely what Major Nav is accusing me of here? Do I ignore the bad effects of communism, or do I recognize them, try to identify the causes, and change my ideology to account for that recognition? Is Major Nav trying to simultaneously accuse me of both dogmatism and rigidity on one hand and opportunism and excessive flexibility on the other?

And you seek out authors and pick through their writings to select out of the context, an idea that is close to your concept and sprinkle them through your writings. Usually as a reference to the obscure article vs a direct quote. As if anyone else has read the article.

What!? I engage with the scholarly literature, and cite and link to my sources? How rude! Can you get any more intellectually dishonest? I hang my head in shame.

If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Put down the hammer once in a while, take a step back and chose another viewpoint.

This metaphor makes no sense. What does the "hammer" represent? A hammer is a tool, not a conclusion, and certainly not a viewpoint.

Let me reiterate:

I write about controversial topics. I already know that people disagree with me. I am absolutely uninterested that you personally disagree with me. I'm not particularly interested that people I already know and respect disagree with me or that people with impressive credentials disagree with me; if you're an anonymous, uncredentialed commenter, I care even less.

On the other hand, I'm very interested in specifically where and how you think I'm fooling myself. But remember, fooling myself is a methodological criticism. It is not only useless but also the epitome of dogmatic obtusity to assert, as does Major Nav, that I must be fooling myself just because I have come to a conclusion you disagree with.

Like any social person, I get irritated when people insult me. But being insulted has absolutely no effect on what I believe or understand; I have never changed my mind because someone insulted me, no matter how well I know the person or how highly I value their good opinion. If your intention is to gratuitously irritate me, go ahead and insult me. You'll get one (maybe two) shots, and then I will, like any rational person, simply refuse to engage with you.

1 comment:

  1. MajorNav does not sound like a student of any really philosophy,but more like one of those hyper patriot 'mericans who thinks he knows what communism is. In fact I challenge him to point to a communistic state..& NO!!! USSR and China ARE NOT communism. They are dogmatic, dictatorships full of corruption that claim to be communists.
    The best statement on communism I've heard came from Robert Heinlein...don't know exact quote...It requires the same humanitarianism, intelligence, and attention to detail to make a true communism work a it would to make a true democracy work.

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