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I Finally Pulled Rank

October 6, 2009

As I’ve posted about before, I avoid “pulling rank” in debates. The best argument should win, not the debater with the most degrees.

However, yesterday in an argument on Facebook (which seems to be my chief battleground these days) someone suggested that I didn’t know what I was talking about and that I go back and learn my history.

So I told her that I spent my entire summer reading up on the history of this matter, and listed 6 books on the topic. I said that she should read those introductory tomes and then get back to me—implying that she wasn’t worth debating with until she had some basic background knowledge of the subject matter.

I haven’t heard back yet.

In my defense, she opened the door for this kind of response when she suggested that I hadn’t studied my history.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. October 6, 2009 11:16 am

    I don’t know if I’d even call that “pulling rank”. Pulling rank would be, “I’m a professor, dammit. Come back to me when you’ve got similar credentials.”

    What you’re saying (and backing up with a list of books) is simply that you’ve done your homework, which I think is an entirely legitimate counter to someone’s claim that you are unfamiliar with the literature. Presumably you’re also backing up a reference to summer reading with substantial arguments based on that reading. That’s a different thing entirely than pulling rank.

  2. October 6, 2009 4:17 pm

    Yes, when I hear “pulling rank,” I think of an appeal to authority. As in, “I am an authority on this because I have a Ph.D. in whatever.” Or, “I am an authority because I’m a professor of whatever.”

    Saying that you’ve read extensively on a subject (then using knowledge gained through that reading in your arguments) is something different entirely.

  3. October 6, 2009 6:12 pm

    I agree with AL and Evan. (Not to mention I would absolutely love to overhear one of these arguments you’re always talking about).

    I’ve been reading your blog for a few months and I felt like I should comment at some point even though I don’t have much to add other than to say that your blog is one of my favorites and that I’m jealous of your students.

  4. missivesfrommarx permalink*
    October 7, 2009 1:32 pm

    Okay, I guess I’m not technically pulling rank. But I am sort of saying: “I’ve read more than you so you should trust my judgment,” although that’s not quite right either.

  5. missivesfrommarx permalink*
    October 7, 2009 1:34 pm

    Thanks for the comment wrabbit! I’m glad you’re enjoying my blog!

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