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My Policy

August 25, 2009

My policy when talking to others about matters where I have some expertise is to refuse to “pull rank,” so to speak, and to refuse to suggest that the other person can’t see the truth because of some personal fault. I never say, “well, I have a Ph.D. in that topic so I know more than you,” and I never say “you’re blind to the truth because of this bias you have.”

Both of these types of rhetorical devices direct attention away from strengths and weaknesses of the arguments at hand and turn attention instead to the persons arguing. I’d rather stay focused on the argument than make it personal.

Why, then, am I surrounded by people who have no difficulty in stooping to this level of argumentation? It’s tough to talk to people about the facts when they are dismissing everything you say as a result of your brainwashing.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 25, 2009 3:48 pm

    I can’t comment on your own experiences, but I am often tempted to ‘pull rank’ so to speak. I don’t, but I understand the temptation. People – especially people without an academic background – have the obtuse desire to simplify everything when in reality things are not simple at all. And in one blogpost, or one exchange of comments or one ten-minute stint at arguing you simply can’t assimilate nor explain a lifetime of learning. It’s tiresome – and therein lies the temptation to take the quick route out.

  2. missivesfrommarx permalink*
    August 27, 2009 3:58 pm

    Dave, I’ve been thinking about this for several days now, and your comment really stuck with me: these things aren’t simple. I can’t convince my family member over an email exchange because these matters are too complicated to be settled in a few missives. Maybe he should read 5 or 10 books on the matter (I’ve probably read 100), and then he can get back to me …

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