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Old 03-11-2009, 12:26 AM
atropos atropos is offline
Join Date: Mar 2009
Posts: 14
Default Re: The Curious Case of Chas Freeman

Originally Posted by pampl View Post
No, that's not how arguments work. First: all arguments are endless, bad faith changes nothing. Second: the motivations are irrelevant to the strength of an argument. Mother Theresa had great motivations for arguing against birth control but she was still wrong on the merits. If the Freeman criticisms have merit than they have merit, it doesn't matter if they're being made by the second coming of Jesus or a serial child molester.
It is precisely how arguments work in the real world. Let me be more clear so that my position isn't as easily caricatured.

There is, in my view, one major valid reason to argue: to attempt to change minds - the mind of the person on the other side of the argument, and the minds of anyone witnessing the argument (there are some less important but still valid reasons to argue - to test the strength of your own case, etc - mostly these are derivatives).

"Second: the motivations are irrelevant to the strength of an argument."
That is certainly true. However I do not claim that motive affects the strength of an argument. What I do claim is that if the purpose of argument is to change minds or in some way to affect the minds of others - then it is important to understand the motivations of the people on the other side of the argument *and* the motivations of anyone witnessing the argument.

In an ideal world with infinite time and resources (economic and intellectual) I suppose I could spend the rest of my life defending one position or another in the Freeman situation - but in terms of changing minds and having effective pragmatic outcomes - I needn't go any further than satisfying the good faith objections of everyone involved. Anything else is a complete waste of time.

Now, as I said originally - it is impossible to know the motivations of everyone involved. Is there probably an important block of people watching this unfold who truly *do* care about human rights in China? Probably yes - so I would probably respond to that criticism on the merits. Do I think that some of the people arguing against Freeman are operating in bad faith? Probably yes, I would probably not respond to every single criticism they offered no matter how minute unless I was concerned that some other person's state of mind on the issue might be changed.

It seems everyone wants to operate in an ideal world - Connor wants the ideal world of pure reason and Brian wants the ideal world of perfect knowledge.

I operate in the *real* world - where knowledge of motivations is imperfect and where I do not have the time nor the inclination to address every conceivable argument on the merits. The more convinced I become that someone is arguing in bad faith the less willing I will be to spend my *finite* resources dealing with him on the merits.

Last edited by atropos; 03-11-2009 at 12:43 AM..
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