Saturday, September 6, 2008


I indicated that I was interested in Scholastic-type argumentation. I should probably clarify that a bit. First of all argumentation is not throwing insults back and forth. People do that and call it arguing, but a more accurate term for that would be “quarreling.” I’m not interested in that.

And the insults in internet discussion often take the form of “one-liners.” . . . the “zap” that the insulter thinks the “zapped” will never recover from, but he always does, resulting in a quarrel.

For example, suppose I have written a mini-essay discussing whether or not we should engage in a raid to knock out Iran’s nuclear installations and someone responds as they have with something like, “tell me Lawrence. Why do you like killing so much?” That is not an argument. That is a one-liner intended as an insult.

My mind goes “tilt.” I formulate what the insulter has said into an argument if it can be made into one. I may attempt to get him to enter into formal argumentation, but he rarely does. He isn’t interested in that. He is interested in insulting me. But if such a person were interested, a legitimate argument could be produced.

Consider the question, would more people be killed if we engaged in a surgical strike to take out Iran’s nuclear capability or if we refrained from doing so?

Such a question has to do with the future, but we can bring ideas and evidence to bear and produce arguments both pro and con.

I might argue, If Iran develops nuclear weapons, given Ahmadinejad’s announced intention of bombing Israel and Britain, and given the fact that we couldn’t trust him not to give weapons to paramilitary Islamist organizations, especially Hezbollah, more people will (probably) be killed if we allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons than if we stop him.

If we engaged in a surgical strike to take out Iran’s nuclear weapons, we would keep the number of casualties at a minimum. Those most likely to be killed would be the ones most closely involved in developing the nuclear weapons. Their numbers would be lower than if Iran bombed Tel Aviv or London.

We can’t speak with certainty about the future, but such an argument would be reasonable and debatable. We could debate the elements of the argument I presented. And if someone countered it by arguing that Iran could be contained in a certain way (something I suggested myself in one of my notes) I would consider that as a plausible alternative.

So you can see that there is a way to deal with these issues that is reasonable and consistent with something closer to scholastic argumentation. If you insult me and I respond to your insult with insults of my own, then I am violating my own intention in this blog.

I am inclined to believe that the loss of temper will be kept at a minimum if I preemptively delete an insulting comment as soon as it appears.

Lawrence Helm

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