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Discourse

This is an introduction to my commentary on this site. We have different philosophies and different experiences, and we are going to have different views on various issues. It's utopian to think that discussion will resolve all our cognitive differences. But discourse can help us to understand one another, and maybe even reduce some of the annoyance a little.

Some discourse amounts to little more than self-indulgence. That is what insult is likely to be. Insult can be descriptive. But often it merely says I'm better than you.

Here is a common kind of comment that insults and won't change anybody's mind about anything. It contains some description for the already convinced, but for me it's little more than self-indulgent noise:

The reason CNN, Krugman & the other Clinton shills are going nuts for the Ruskie story is they think it vindicates their smug cluelessness.

As many of us know, the best way to communicate is to work with what is already in someone's head. This means listening, or reading well the article we are commenting on. With this we can better put our own ideas into the thinking of those we are trying to convince. It's an attempt to build on points of agreement. If you have no points of agreement whatsoever you might as well not be talking.

If we are going to insult we might as well avoid confusion. If a woman tells me simply that I am annoying, I may think she means that I habitually annoy many people. I'd rather hear her say "that annoys me."

This reminds me that statements that are too wide, too big on generalization, too abstract, don't communicate as well as observations narrow in scope.

Recognizing connections that exist outside our heads can be a problem. Take for example the former prime minister of the UK, Margaret Thatcher, saying "There is no such thing as society" — a comment that might interest sociologists. There are connections between individuals, and to deny "such a thing as society" is to improperly deny these connections.

A more common problem is seeing oneself as perfectly reasonable and assuming one's own sources of information as perfectly reliable. Usually, people don't welcome these being questioned – although basically these are what creates much of the world's opposing opinions.


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