samr

Arguments

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It seems to me that thinking about the style in which one writes, is often even more important a task than evaluating the content, in order to evaluate the person.

Sometimes, the actual arguments the person makes are pretty good, but the context in which he makes them is totally unfitting. For example, the heroes of Rand's novels, are egoists, but the highest point of the plot is _not_ in the buildings they make, or in the the things they build, but in their opposition (reflected in speeches), to the altruistic society. A true egoist, I sense, wouldn't be that conscious about society in the first place.

And, writers related to objectivism (though, NOT in this forum), often make good arguments, but their arguments seem contrived. They always use the same words.

In the writings of Gandhi, what is striking, is the power with which he makes the statements. They aren't "academic arguments", but emanate from his being.

I guess that any normal person does not advocate regarding only the arguments of the person, not regarding the person, or his style. That would be disregarding the person himself, and disregarding communication.

Some people recommend adressing the arguments, and the person separately. But I don't think it can be done, since arguments are _a part_ of a person, they are the content of his thoughts, hence they are *him* in some sense.

Can you help me and tell me in what sense a person can treat the arguments of another, and that other person separately?

Sam

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Can you help me and tell me in what sense a person can treat the arguments of another, and that other person separately? Sam

Why attempt it? In the interest of reality, one should not invite any duality between style and substance, I think.

Of course, our main emphasis should be on what a person makes explicit, in word or deed - which is objective and just - but in our own self-interest (enjoyment, or warning) we should also take note of his implicit style; and pay attention to where the two deviate, or align.

Those contradictions speak a lot about a person.

Tony

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Sometimes, the actual arguments the person makes are pretty good, but the context in which he makes them is totally unfitting. For example, the heroes of Rand's novels, are egoists, but the highest point of the plot is _not_ in the buildings they make, or in the the things they build, but in their opposition (reflected in speeches), to the altruistic society. A true egoist, I sense, wouldn't be that conscious about society in the first place.

I noticed the same thing. For Francisco's Money Speech, I edited out the negatives and reduced it by half to two-thirds.

We tend to engage in dialectic, to argue, to contradict and to ignore or pass by our points of agreement. Thus, especially online, discussion is a battle of wits. I wonder what it would be like if we tended to overwhelmingly agree and ignore the points of dissonance. Those topics not addressed would die out, fall by the wayside for lack of attention.

We have debate teams in school - like football teams: one winner; one loser. Justice is supposedly discovered the same way: guilty or not guilty; no middle ground.

On the other hand, in commerce, the middle ground is where deals are made. Traders have a different ethic. I highly recommend the book, Getting to Yes.by Fisher and Ury. It was recommended to our Educational Forum at a numismatic convention by Coin World's Steve Roach when he was a lawyer for Heritage Auctions. When a dealer and customer disagree, it always seems to be about price and each pushes and shoves until meet somewhere between. Rather than that, Roach recommended finding something else to discuss. Price is really not the issue; it only appears to be. Quality, quantity, delivery, substitutes, packaging, there are many other facets and aspects that are bundled into "price." So, unbundle them. The book also recommends, for example, sitting on the same side of the table, rather than across from each other.

These kinds of considerations are perhaps the motive for discussing ideas apart from the person himself.

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In the writings of Gandhi, what is striking, is the power with which he makes the statements. They aren't "academic arguments", but emanate from his being.

Interesting that Gandhi called himself 'totally egoistic' because everything he did was to attain Moksha.

Moksha:

In Hindu religion, moksha (Sanskrit: मोक्ष mokṣa) or mukti (Sanskrit: मुक्ति), literally "release" (both from a root muc "to let loose, let go"), is the liberation from samsara and the concomitant suffering involved in being subject to the cycle of repeated death and reincarnation.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moksha

[in Objectivism, Gandhi's type of egoism would be called irrational though]

Sometimes, the actual arguments the person makes are pretty good, but the context in which he makes them is totally unfitting. For example, the heroes of Rand's novels, are egoists, but the highest point of the plot is _not_ in the buildings they make, or in the the things they build, but in their opposition (reflected in speeches), to the altruistic society. A true egoist, I sense, wouldn't be that conscious about society in the first place.

Rand's heroes are fictional characters whose role in the novel is to illustrate the philosophical and political position of the author, which explains their 'heightened awareness' (e. g. via various 'speeches' delivered by them) - regarding the issue.

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Hi Sam,

My thoughts:

Style usually convolutes things, in that it turns arguments away from meanings & definitions and points them towards superficial labels.

I always go after clarity in discussions. I restate what the person is saying in simpler terms, and ask them immediately if I'm bothered by their choice of words. Also, in a lot of cases a person who just copies arguments (in other words, a hack) from other people can't rephrase or clarify their statements. Thus asking for clarification in arguments has two helpful effects:

(1) Allows for better discussion with people who are trying to find truth.

(2) Lets you avoid meaningless conversations and wasted time with people who aren't trying to find truth.

Mike

P.S. Do you have any experience with formal mathematical writing?

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Hi Sam,

My thoughts:

Style usually convolutes things, in that it turns arguments away from meanings & definitions and points them towards superficial labels.

I always go after clarity in discussions. I restate what the person is saying in simpler terms, and ask them immediately if I'm bothered by their choice of words. Also, in a lot of cases a person who just copies arguments (in other words, a hack) from other people can't rephrase or clarify their statements. Thus asking for clarification in arguments has two helpful effects:

(1) Allows for better discussion with people who are trying to find truth.

(2) Lets you avoid meaningless conversations and wasted time with people who aren't trying to find truth.

Mike

P.S. Do you have any experience with formal mathematical writing?

No, zero experience.

I will try your advice; I was trying to pay attention to style and not to content, failing to distinguish by content between the sincerely motivated and the hypocritical. Perhaps your suggestion will work.

But I also think there is a deeper reason to pay attention to style - style, not content usually reflects the 'soul' of the person.

Nietzche's style reflects his depth of thinking, more than his arguments.

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No, zero experience. I will try your advice; I was trying to pay attention to style and not to content, failing to distinguish by content between the sincerely motivated and the hypocritical. Perhaps your suggestion will work. But I also think there is a deeper reason to pay attention to style - style, not content usually reflects the 'soul' of the person. Nietzche's style reflects his depth of thinking, more than his arguments.

Just wondering. Formal mathematical writing is pure content. Style only exists in the side-notes. It really puts things in perspective.

You are correct, style definitely yields information about a person & his/her relationship to the ideas being discussed. If that's what you're after, then attention must be paid to style. If you're after a person's arguments & ideas, then simplification/clarification must be done as I've suggested above. It all depends on your goal. I just remember discussions before I figured out that I need to understand exactly what a person (myself included) is talking about before I can deal with it. So much time/effort wasted on political discussions where neither I nor my opponent knew what we were talking about. But we knew plenty of statements from pundits/politicians and had definite 'styles'...

I guess a good rule of thumb would be to figure out if the person knows what they're talking about, and then pay significant attention to style. What do you think?

Mike

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But I also think there is a deeper reason to pay attention to style - style, not content usually reflects the 'soul' of the person.

Nietzche's style reflects his depth of thinking, more than his arguments.

My approach, especially in epistemology, is to first focus on what is being said. Style takes a back seat.

You will find wide gamut of writing styles in philosophy; some philosophers come across as stylistically quite dry, difficult to read (like Kant), whereas others write with a style that is downright poetic (as is the case with the Nietzsche).

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In the writings of Gandhi, what is striking, is the power with which he makes the statements. They aren't "academic arguments", but emanate from his being.

Interesting that Gandhi called himself 'totally egoistic' because everything he did was to attain Moksha.

Fascinating, I didn't know that.

[in Objectivism, Gandhi's type of egoism would be called irrational though]

Strictly speaking not the egoism itself, only the believe in this Moksha thing.

Most irrational egoists are irrational on the question of egoism/altruism, a person who is an altruist for consciously selfish reasons out of a flaw in other parts of his knowledge is probably not nearly as common. Or maybe it is, who knows what most people think...

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Or maybe it is, who knows what most people think...

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?

shadowban5.jpg

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No, zero experience. I will try your advice; I was trying to pay attention to style and not to content, failing to distinguish by content between the sincerely motivated and the hypocritical. Perhaps your suggestion will work. But I also think there is a deeper reason to pay attention to style - style, not content usually reflects the 'soul' of the person. Nietzche's style reflects his depth of thinking, more than his arguments.

Just wondering. Formal mathematical writing is pure content. Style only exists in the side-notes. It really puts things in perspective.

You are correct, style definitely yields information about a person & his/her relationship to the ideas being discussed. If that's what you're after, then attention must be paid to style. If you're after a person's arguments & ideas, then simplification/clarification must be done as I've suggested above. It all depends on your goal. I just remember discussions before I figured out that I need to understand exactly what a person (myself included) is talking about before I can deal with it. So much time/effort wasted on political discussions where neither I nor my opponent knew what we were talking about. But we knew plenty of statements from pundits/politicians and had definite 'styles'...

I guess a good rule of thumb would be to figure out if the person knows what they're talking about, and then pay significant attention to style. What do you think?

Mike

I am toying with the idea that you need to pay attention only to style, or mainly to style. (Maybe because just I am really bad in figuring out content).

The argument for this is that one can speak of a "philosophy" of a human being, in a wider sense than the meaning of the statements he has said. The "philosophy" of a human being is his outlook on life. And __this__ is what you should read when you read a philosophy.

You can tell the values of a person, and thus his "real" philosophy from his behaviour much more than from his content. For example, I think that Rand had the soul of a political activist, not a soul of an individualist. She is a person that dedicated her life to the cause of individualism, not to just living as one. And it is very apparent in her writings, when you think of "**Why** does she write that?" It is not merely in order to express herself, or to build something beautiful. It is to change "the culture". And, for me, noting this is the *only* way I personally have not to fall into Randoidism. I read her texts, and I want to believe her, then I stop myself - hey, that is not what she _really_ meant. Really she wanted you to be a better person for her own sake, not for the sake of being an individual.

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Just wondering. Formal mathematical writing is pure content. Style only exists in the side-notes. It really puts things in perspective.

Donald Knuth would hate you.

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Just wondering. Formal mathematical writing is pure content. Style only exists in the side-notes. It really puts things in perspective.

Donald Knuth would hate you.

Always learning here on OL...

Donald Ervin Knuth (11px-Loudspeaker.svg.png/kəˈnθ/[1] kə-nooth; born January 10, 1938) is a computer scientist and Professor Emeritus at Stanford University.[2]

He is the author of the seminal multi-volume work The Art of Computer Programming.[3] Knuth has been called the "father" of the analysis of algorithms. He contributed to the development of the rigorous analysis of the computational complexity of algorithms and systematized formal mathematical techniques for it. In the process he also popularized the asymptotic notation.

In addition to fundamental contributions in several branches of theoretical computer science, Knuth is the creator of the TeX computer typesetting system, the related METAFONT font definition language and rendering system, and the Computer Modern family of typefaces.

As a writer and scholar,[4] Knuth created the WEB/CWEB computer programming systems designed to encourage and facilitate literate programming, and designed the MIX/MMIX instruction set architectures.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donald_Knuth

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Always learning here on OL...

The interesting thing is that he interrupted his work on "The Art of Computer Programming" because he couldn't type set it to his esthetic standards, especially the mathematical formulas. So he developed TeX over many years, then completed the work on computer programming with TeX.

TeX is now the de-facto standard word processor in the mathematical and many natural and engineering science faculties.

From my experience at university, it's the mathematicians who are most picky about the beauty of their type setting.

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No, zero experience. I will try your advice; I was trying to pay attention to style and not to content, failing to distinguish by content between the sincerely motivated and the hypocritical. Perhaps your suggestion will work. But I also think there is a deeper reason to pay attention to style - style, not content usually reflects the 'soul' of the person. Nietzche's style reflects his depth of thinking, more than his arguments.

Just wondering. Formal mathematical writing is pure content. Style only exists in the side-notes. It really puts things in perspective.

You are correct, style definitely yields information about a person & his/her relationship to the ideas being discussed. If that's what you're after, then attention must be paid to style. If you're after a person's arguments & ideas, then simplification/clarification must be done as I've suggested above. It all depends on your goal. I just remember discussions before I figured out that I need to understand exactly what a person (myself included) is talking about before I can deal with it. So much time/effort wasted on political discussions where neither I nor my opponent knew what we were talking about. But we knew plenty of statements from pundits/politicians and had definite 'styles'...

I guess a good rule of thumb would be to figure out if the person knows what they're talking about, and then pay significant attention to style. What do you think?

Mike

I am toying with the idea that you need to pay attention only to style, or mainly to style. (Maybe because just I am really bad in figuring out content).

The argument for this is that one can speak of a "philosophy" of a human being, in a wider sense than the meaning of the statements he has said. The "philosophy" of a human being is his outlook on life. And __this__ is what you should read when you read a philosophy.

You can tell the values of a person, and thus his "real" philosophy from his behaviour much more than from his content. For example, I think that Rand had the soul of a political activist, not a soul of an individualist. She is a person that dedicated her life to the cause of individualism, not to just living as one. And it is very apparent in her writings, when you think of "**Why** does she write that?" It is not merely in order to express herself, or to build something beautiful. It is to change "the culture". And, for me, noting this is the *only* way I personally have not to fall into Randoidism. I read her texts, and I want to believe her, then I stop myself - hey, that is not what she _really_ meant. Really she wanted you to be a better person for her own sake, not for the sake of being an individual.

For example, I could never get an idea of what objectivism is like (as a living philosophy) from ARI. Their version of objectivism is : Read Ayn Rand. Then capitalize on her ideas, and make money from them. Also, spread their ideas.

And even not from Rand herself. I get a sense of what objectivism is much better from Atlas Society than from her.

But maybe it is just because I am copying people.

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But maybe it is just because I am copying people.

Copying people is dangerous, as you have a unique set of talents and perspective.

Copying people who call themselves Objectivists is outright suicidal. :-)

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Just wondering. Formal mathematical writing is pure content. Style only exists in the side-notes. It really puts things in perspective.

Donald Knuth would hate you.

Always learning here on OL...

The interesting thing is that he interrupted his work on "The Art of Computer Programming" because he couldn't type set it to his esthetic standards, especially the mathematical formulas. So he developed TeX over many years, then completed the work on computer programming with TeX.

TeX is now the de-facto standard word processor in the mathematical and many natural and engineering science faculties.

From my experience at university, it's the mathematicians who are most picky about the beauty of their type setting.

There's a difference between style (at least as I was using the term) and typesetting. I wasn't referring to style as the graphical look of the words, but rather the choice of words when options are available. My statement that formal mathematical writing is "pure content" was made because superfluous wording (the style which often just gets in the way) is often inappropriate for such writing.

On a side-note, I'm the only ChemE student here at the U that uses LaTeX and LyX - Microsoft Word & Mathtype just don't do it anymore - so I am fairly familiar with Dr. Knuth and his terrific work with typesetting.

Mike

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How do you do this "objective thinking" thing? "Critical thinking". I just don't understand how it is done.

Sam:

Let's assume that you have decided to climb a small cliff so that you could dive into a beautiful pond to cool off on a hot day...

How would you critically evalute the risks and potential pleasures of the action?

Adam

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How do you do this "objective thinking" thing? "Critical thinking". I just don't understand how it is done.
Sam: Let's assume that you have decided to climb a small cliff so that you could dive into a beautiful pond to cool off on a hot day... How would you critically evalute the risks and potential pleasures of the action? Adam

Hmm.

Adam at his 'lateral' peak.

Deep, dude!

:cool:

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How do you do this "objective thinking" thing? "Critical thinking". I just don't understand how it is done.

Sam:

Let's assume that you have decided to climb a small cliff so that you could dive into a beautiful pond to cool off on a hot day...

How would you critically evalute the risks and potential pleasures of the action?

Adam

If you are asking me _personally_, being the person I am right now, I would probably look at the cliff, think "what is the rational way to decide", then think "what is rational", then think "how to decide what is rational", and think ad infinitum without moving.

I guess that what you mean is a way of assessing risks versus pleasures. Having a primitive math-model. I want to go to the lake 10, the risk is 5, my fitness is 0.9 - let's do it.

Am I right?

(I think it is very non-objectivist. Howard Roark doesn't "assess" risks of being an unpopular architector, otherwise he would never do it. He has some principles into which he fits reality. )

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He has some principles into which he fits reality. )

No, that's back to front. Principles are derived from reality, then applied back to the facts of reality.

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I, personally, do not understand how his principles can be deduced from reality.

They negate all the scientific method of observation and hypothesis.

Probably there is a problem with the scientific method.

(The scientific method of observing the relative success of PeterKeatings versus HowardRoarks would never lift of the ground. Empirically, you wouldn't even be able to define a "HowardRoark" versus a "PeterKeating". I think that the empirical method (implicitly) treats the human being as a black box. All the variables in a scientific test have to be "objectively" measured. Ands objectively means "able to be measured by instruments". While I consider the following assessment as real, it is not what science calls "objective"

I often think that he's the only one of us who's achieved immortality. I don't mean in the sense of fame and I don't mean that he won't die some day. But he's living it. I think he is what the conception really means. You know how people long to be eternal. But they die with every day that passes. When you meet them, they're not what you met last. In any given hour, they kill some part of themselves. They change, they deny, they contradict--and they call it growth. At the end there's nothing left, nothing unreversed or unbetrayed; as if there had never been an entity, only a succession of adjectives fading in and out on an unformed mass. How do they expect a permanence which they have never held for a single moment? But Howard--one can imagine him lasting forever."

Also, all empirical methods could do is generate a certainity. HowardRoarks succeed in a certain environment more than PterKeatings with a probability of 95.67% ....

NONE of that could generate a saying like "Never compromise".

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