Wise words from economist George Selgin.

Attack ideas not the character of people.

7 thoughts on “A Lesson From Twitter Concerning The Etiquette of Debate

  1. But what if Keynes were an absolute and condescending asshole!? For persons working in virtue ethics or Aristotilean tradition of morals, a man’s virtue and character are the key to living a good life. On this “virtue ethics” view, isn’t a man’s character fair game?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That maybe true for an Aristotelian or one who studies virtue ethics. However, in the present climate of hyper-tribalism many are substituting real arguments for quick qualitative judgments of their opponent.

      Most who are guilty of this fallacy are far from Aristotelians. At least an argument based upon this philosophical paradigm in most cases will be precise and tactful. Like most things in this world there exceptions. Most of the conflicts spurred Twitter are petty. Unfortunately, lack the moral depth and forethought to come close to a genuine moral analysis. Rather weaponizing heuristics and using sophistry to win debates.

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      1. Great point! But what if there is a little bit of Aristotle in all of us? Think of the prevalence of gossip in all groups … Yes, in an ideal world gossip should not be politcized, but if we are all political animals (to borrow fromAristotle again!), how can we not?!

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        1. Excellent points. I suppose that we often calculate character judgements in our appraisal of ideas without even realizing it.

          For example, most critiques imply ignorance or dishonesty on the part of the individual who is being assessed. It appears as if leaning on the “stupid” or “evil” explanation for those who assume incorrect beliefs is the default rationale. Operates a form of personal value judgment. The more I thinking about it untangling personal judgment to produce value-free evaluations of ideas may be nearly impossible.

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