This page is a sort of catchall. It includes:

  • tools for thinking
  • primitives (things I can't see as being examples or instances or types or subsets of other things)
  • tropes
  • stuff that I'm interested in that doesn't fit anywhere else (for now, at least)

Considerations in debate / discussion / argumentation

For every assertion, we can ask a number of things

  • is it true?
  • is it relevant? (always relative….relevant to what?)
  • why do people believe it? (motivated reason, character)
    • when is it appropriate to move from trying to find truth, to speculating on why someone would hold a particular belief?
    • like analogies, character-explanations might say why something is true, but they can't do the heavy lifting of truth-finding, and shouldn't be a substitute for it.
    • the only time we need to look at the motives for someone's belief is if it's false. all too often, people on both sides try to explain the beliefs of those on the other side by looking for psychological explanations. but that's only useful once you've shown that the belief is false. a plausible psychological explanation for a belief is not really an argument against that belief. facts first, interpretation after.
    • the king of this is Rush Limbaugh. his whole world view is about how liberal ideas are a consequence of liberal character flaws.
    • the flip side is, once we've established a belief is false, it's interesting and worthwhile to investigate why people believe it.

It seems that many many philosophical issues are too polarized between two ideas…

  • each of which seems to have some merit on its own, but which are mutually incompatible. our task, it seems to me, is not to reject one or the the other, but to find a way for them to coexist, it could be a synthesis, but more likely something not quite as neat. a good example I heard a while back concerns presentism vs. being moralistic about behavior in the historical past that seems wrong by present standards (keywords: history, presentism):
  • Blame and historic injustice - OpenLearn - Open University -
  • be sure to click on the Transcript tab
  • the libertarian style of thinking too often focuses on the merits of one "pole", with predictably bad results

Determining the causes(s) of a complex situation

  • Given a complicated situation, which is a product of implementing multiple ideologies/policies, and which is acknowledged by all to need improvement, how do we know which policy is praiseworthy for the good parts of the current situation, and which are blameworthy for the bad?
  • example: we live in a mixed economy, and we'd like things to be better. capitalists think we've done as well as we have despite socialistic policies, socialists because of them.
  • there appears to be no algorithmic solution, or even rule of thumb, to address this sort of thing.
  • but we can certainly recognize that there are times when it's stupid to continue doing something that's harmful, in the mistaken view that it's helpful: "the beatings will continue until morale improves"



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