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Old 05-22-2007, 10:32 AM   #1 (permalink)
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discussion, argumentation, and debate

Posts and responses to several threads here address the issue of whether one considers the world as composed of facts, experience, points of view, and so on - or some combination of these entities or conditions.

The epistemological issues underlying a discussion of this sort become evident after a few post/response iterations.

I tend to see so called "facts" as measurements and calculations taken from particular points of view within certain sets of parameters.

These so called "facts" ultimately are based on belief systems - belief systems based solely on assumptions.

It has always been simpler for me to view events, observations, statements, and facts, as relative and substantial only in terms of how they inform particular views.

I see a process of discussion as statements of opinion, observation, and so on, followed by relevant responses. I find it educational and illuminative to consider other points of view while stating my own.

As for the notion that argumentation, debate, or some dialectical pursuit of theses, antitheses, and syntheses are methods of arriving at "truth," those sorts of procedures strike me as useless, emotional, merely contentious, and ego-driven.

I prefer discussion over debate. It's that simple.

Your thoughts?
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Old 05-22-2007, 10:41 AM   #2 (permalink)
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I think we're drowning in facts - there are far more of them than any of us could reasonably hope to survey and construct a balanced point of view. In particular, the internet has brought so much information to our fingertips that you can find facts or other documentation to support nearly any contention.

Because of this, any particular presentation of facts must be an expression of a point of view. This presentation is constructed by the places the author looks for their facts, by which facts are included and which aren't and by the relative emphasis placed on them.

Interestingly, this was the basis for the argument John Roberts used against international law as precedent in the U.S. He pointed out that if you assemble a large enough group of people, it becomes easy to pick your friends out. Similarly, a judge with the whole of international law to survey can easily find cases to support any ruling.

I'm not saying that I discount facts entirely, but that I recognize how plentiful they are. Consequently, I'm more interested in the way a person strings them together - which could alternately be called analysis or perspective.

I also prefer discussion over debate, the difference in my mind being whether one seeks to propagate their own views, or learn from those of others.
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Old 05-22-2007, 10:58 AM   #3 (permalink)
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I have difficulty "discussing" things with those of you who believe in relativistic morals and beliefs, the nonexistence of facts and that things are only relevant to the frame of reference they're observed or disclosed in.

Why? Because its the same hoitey-toitey intellectual "artsy" garbage speak that people with Communication or Art History majors like to spew. Communication classes, sociology classes, english classes, and the people spewed from such classes raise my ire very quickly when it comes to talking about substantive topics.

You see, you can't discuss the "perspective" when defining paradigms of computer science and how best to optimize a binary search tree. You can't talk about how the engineering formulas necessary to construct a bridge safe from wind, stress, age and weight are "substantial only in terms of how they inform particular views." Why? Becuase those discussions would bear absolutely no weight in the overall determination of correctness, and they'd be a pedantic waste of time, spent on intellectual postulating and "mind mapping."

There are a great many concrete things in this world, and they are very often focused in those things which in Engineering, in applied sciences, in mathematics. It's only when we want to sit back and smoke our "thinking pipe" and talk about intellectual curiousities that these things about "belief systems" and "relative only in terms how how they inform particular views" can actually have meaning.

There are likely very perfect solutions for common problems that could be idealistically solved if only theories of communication like this held up in reality. Sure, racism exists and sexism exists, but we can't just say in a utopian matter that it can all be fixed. Or that my failure to accept that it can be solved is due to my "perspective". It's that real life continues to go on, no matter how much we discuss the vagaries of perspective.

I find mindless postulating and philosophizing of this sort to be most ego-dependent pissfest an individual can participate in, and I prefer discussing the concrete, the real, the applied, and the substantive. Most importantly, the realistic. Things based in LIFE AS IT OCCURS, day to day.. not in utopian and idealistic theories so removed from reality.

When it comes down to it, there are things which I view as independent of their viewpoint, and considering their "frame of mind" means absolutely nothing. There's reality, where things have to be done and decided, and there's "thought land" where we can all postulate and pontificate all day. Guess which one I prefer?
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Old 05-22-2007, 11:05 AM   #4 (permalink)
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I find Fact to be a relative observation in most cases, though there are some observations which become irrefutable through consensus. The very act of discussion, or debate if you will creates the consensus within society/populations. Certain pieces of reality become devisive within this process of collaberative elimination of imagined truth, as in: the earth is spherical, not flat.

Issues arise when a member of this discussion fails to accept what seems obvious to the majority....even though this might be reality to the individual in question. Thus the dissenter is viewed as an imbecile, and ridiculed for percieved ignorance. The right and wrong of this is actually irrellevant, and Arts argument for Ego comes into play, if only because human nature will always jump on the chance to seem superior.

Debate and discussion are siblings...sometimes identical twins, and the line we artificially draw between them is more a measure of our own ego, than the discussion itself. All discussion can be debate, and debate discussion....it is entirely dependant on how we all Feel...about who we are talking too.
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Old 05-22-2007, 11:06 AM   #5 (permalink)
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I don't see a need to get emotional about this topic.
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Old 05-22-2007, 11:14 AM   #6 (permalink)
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I find I just like to say what I think about how I understand the topic of discussion. I am well aware my opinion isnt going to sway most people at all, but stating what you think in a group among others gives you a good way to find like minded people
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Old 05-22-2007, 11:56 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ARTelevision
I don't see a need to get emotional about this topic.
The vast majority of human interaction is based, at least partially on emotion. To expect unemotional response from my fellow human creatures is to set myself up for dissappointment, and frustration....neither of which I am fond of. though we may not see the need for emotion, that does not make it go away.
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Old 05-22-2007, 01:06 PM   #8 (permalink)
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art et al,

this seems to have a few different parts to it:

1. i think we may be brushing up against that subjective/objective junk again. i mean, some things are pretty much the way they are, for all intents and purposes, and i consider them close enough to facts to use. i'm an engineer, you know? thus i agree with jinn's basic point; when you design a bridge, all you care about is if it stands up, and that's not perspective. that's some calculus and some empirical laws. as i stated in my post in the other thread on the reverend falwell, we can debate whether they are 'true' or not to some extent, but at the end of the day their status of 'facts' is useful and necessary so that i can build things. i mean, gravity isn't a point of view from our time and length scales...my ass wants to be in a chair, not up on the ceiling, you know?

2. from more subjective discussions, i think point of view is inherent outside a question of logic. we can build logical trains of thought and check them internally for consistency, and i think within that framework we can say certain facts of logical follow. of course, then we have to backtrack assumptions and so forth, so i think i'd probably tend to agree with your position on these things. is a high heel fetish good or bad? all relative, etc. however, i think in many questions of morality / ethics, if we agree that we are all starting from the same basic assumptions (let's say maximize social stability and individual liberty, for instance) then by following logical lines of thought, we should be able to carve out procedures that might accomplish these assumptions / aims, procedures that will not be stable, and procedures that are irrelevant. so, for instance, something like the ten commandments might fall out of a discussion in many cultures across the boards, and i don't think that's coincidence or purely relative moral thought. it happens because it works when it's followed...if it ever has been. possibly another thread again, but as an example perhaps its useful to illustrate what i'm trying to talk about.

3. on debate/discussion: seems to me to be a semantic choice, as i alluded to elsewhere. perhaps the semantic distinction is akin to what uber alluded to above; motivation for the interaction. if i'm trying to convince you that 'facts' exist and attempt to explicitly invalidate your position, i suppose that would be a debate? however, if i produce a counter point of view and offer it up, that's a discussion? well, i'd say that regardless of our choice of interaction, the same basic conflict presents itself. and by follow up with subsequent sharing of points of view, you could say that we are trying to persuade each other a la debate, or that we are simply deepening our commentary a la discussion. i guess i don't see a huge distinction between the two modes at present. in the end, perhaps we walk away with mutual respect or disrespect, perhaps we begin to see another point of view (and would tend to think slowly consciously or subconsciously adsorb it into our own), or we reject that point of view out of hand. whether its framed as a 'debate' or a 'discussion' doesn't seem awfully germane to me.
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Old 05-22-2007, 02:05 PM   #9 (permalink)
 
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interesting.

this could get complicated--which would be good. but for the moment:


i agree with art up to a point. that point is here:

Quote:
These so called "facts" ultimately are based on belief systems - belief systems based solely on assumptions.
and that because the formulation is, to my mind anyway, too simple--in other words, i could not build to my positions (or meta-positions) from it because it skips or compresses steps. but it follows from art's conclusion that relativism is an adequate position from which to operate. it leads to it, or presupposes it as a conclusion, depending on your viewpoint.

====

it also opens directly onto the kind of objections from kinnkai and the newly christened mister pig, which oppose mathematics/formal systems predicated on mathematics as a model to relativism. but here too, things are not so simple. you have all kinds of problems of system grounding/self-enclosure/self-referentiality in mathematics---such that despite its efficicacy in manipulating *aspects* of the world, it is not a total system: it cannot account for itself (philosophy of mathematics, which folk who prefer seeing the world through mathematics and its derivates not doubt avoid or hate if they dont).....

but it does enable certain aspects of the object world to be accounted for, measured, manipulated, etc. and so does constitute an area of knowledge that runs against the direction that art outlines in the op.

and again, it seems to me that the problem is that the op is too simple..and that because the positions that can be opposed to it are too obvious, and the discussion/debate/whatever this is can be stalled with this, if folk who play are so inclined to do that.

but the world is not made up entirely of objects, and when you shift from inanimate to animate objects/beings (for example--though we could play a game concerning the status of objects themselves, if you want) and try to apply a logic rooted in mathematics, in mechanics, in the conceptions of causation particular to mechanics as a way to understand how they operate even (not to mention what they are, which is an ontological matter), you end up inhabiting a really diminished world, and a really diminished view of the world.

there is alot that could be said here, but for the moment, i'll leave this.
dont wanna kill yet another thread.

=====

where i really diverge from art is on the question of the role of argument.
i dont think that simply because it is demonstrably the case that assembling information is a matter of projection (routed through constraints) that it follows that all assemblages are therefore equivalent.
and it is clear from your posts that you dont either, art.

but it is also obviously the case that a messageboard is a very limited and limiting mode of communication, so maybe at the tactical level (as it pertains to how to interact in a space like this) you're right. but if this is the case, then what we are really talking about is a matter of style.

either way, art, it's nice to see a thread from you.
you make this a better place, and i've missed seeing your sentences.
hope that all goes well with you.
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Last edited by roachboy; 05-22-2007 at 02:08 PM..
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Old 05-22-2007, 02:07 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Most people who espouse such relativistic beliefs fail to realize -or refuse to acknowledge - that as fun as they may find being relativistic, they cannot function in their daily lives without adhering to the same mundane rules, facts, and/or laws they claim to be above in their intellect.


As pig stated, it doesn't matter what I say about gravity or how much of a fool I think pig is for sitting down when he should be floating, the reality is that gravity exists and there's nothing I can do to deny it without sounding a bit foolish.

And if I want to argue with the definition of gravity or up or down or whatnot, then I am certainly foolish.
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Old 05-22-2007, 03:09 PM   #11 (permalink)
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"The great irony and the great failure of relativism is that almost no relativist is completely or even predominantly consistent in his worldview. Need proof? Break into his house and steal his television. When you do that he will be more than willing to call the police and inform them that you have committed an action which is intolerable. You may plead that in your view of morality theft is not wrong, but he will still demand that you are arrested and that his television is returned. The justice system will agree with him."
- http://www.challies.com/archives/001240.php
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Old 05-22-2007, 03:48 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Old 05-22-2007, 03:52 PM   #13 (permalink)
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I have no problem working through life using provisional hypotheses rather than "facts." They work the same and yet they are not nearly so rigid or polarizing as "facts."
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Old 05-22-2007, 03:54 PM   #14 (permalink)
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If two people stand on opposite walls of the same room, their view of said room is different. It's the same with 'facts'. What I see may not be what another sees when reading the same words. Hence, I agree with Art's statement:
Quote:
I tend to see so called "facts" as measurements and calculations taken from particular points of view within certain sets of parameters.

These so called "facts" ultimately are based on belief systems - belief systems based solely on assumptions.
Debate is the give and take of those views within that room, trying to make the other see what you see; successful debate is the crossing over of those views.
Discussion is describing what the one sees so that the other can understand and relate to that view.
Emotions are difficult to eradicate from any of these tradings of views since we all know what we see is right-to us. If I say "this is how I see it", of course someone else might tell me I'm seeing it wrong. But, they're not standing where I am, nor am I standing where they are. To me, any conflict can be very easily done away with simply by exchanging standings and seeing the different POV. It is an unfortunate 'fact' of life that some people are cemented down and inmovable.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jinnkai
I prefer discussing the concrete, the real, the applied, and the substantive. Most importantly, the realistic. Things based in LIFE AS IT OCCURS, day to day.. not in utopian and idealistic theories so removed from reality.
While that is preferrable, your reality is not mine and vice versa. Example: A religious devotee might read the story of Noah and proclaim it a 'miracle of God'-a fact. I read it and see a moral-based fairytale. We might each try to debate and change the other's way of thinking, but that doesn't make it any less a fact to either one in the meantime.
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Old 05-22-2007, 04:16 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ARTelevision
I have no problem working through life using provisional hypotheses rather than "facts." They work the same and yet they are not nearly so rigid or polarizing as "facts."
art, we need to get together again...(i wish peetster was still around...)
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Old 05-22-2007, 04:41 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Art, i agree with you on provisional hypotheses, but i don't understand how you can draw the distinction between provisional hypotheses and facts. Certainly everything is subject to certain limits of verifiability, but this alone doesn't mean that all observations or conjectures or opinions are of equal merit. I also think that it rigidity and polarity don't exist solely in the domain of "facts", in fact i'm pretty certain that polarization is a function of people and not "facts".

Yes, two people can stand on opposite sides of a room and see two different, equally valid things, but if the same two people were to observe the behavior of an object falling off of a shelf they would observe the same phenomena and that phenomena could be reliably and factually described as gravity.
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Old 05-22-2007, 05:09 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by filtherton
Art, i agree with you on provisional hypotheses, but i don't understand how you can draw the distinction between provisional hypotheses and facts. Certainly everything is subject to certain limits of verifiability, but this alone doesn't mean that all observations or conjectures or opinions are of equal merit. I also think that it rigidity and polarity don't exist solely in the domain of "facts", in fact i'm pretty certain that polarization is a function of people and not "facts".

Yes, two people can stand on opposite sides of a room and see two different, equally valid things, but if the same two people were to observe the behavior of an object falling off of a shelf they would observe the same phenomena and that phenomena could be reliably and factually described as gravity.
Actually, gravity is a theory based on the evidence presented. Granted, there is no evidence thus far that a huge Electrolux sits at the center of the earth with its power perpetually in the 'on' position....
Scientific theories, no matter how compelling the evidence toward them is, must remain 'theories' based on the continuing nature of discovery and the conclusions based on said discovery.
All those two people could conclude factually is that the object did, indeed fall down. Thus is the basis of debate and discussion.
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Old 05-22-2007, 05:28 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ngdawg
Actually, gravity is a theory based on the evidence presented. Granted, there is no evidence thus far that a huge Electrolux sits at the center of the earth with its power perpetually in the 'on' position....
Scientific theories, no matter how compelling the evidence toward them is, must remain 'theories' based on the continuing nature of discovery and the conclusions based on said discovery.
All those two people could conclude factually is that the object did, indeed fall down. Thus is the basis of debate and discussion.
You're right, an explanation as to the causes and ultimate character of gravity cannot be proven in a mathematical sense. That doesn't make the existence of gravity not a fact and it also doesn't counter anything i said in your quote. Gravity is a fact, whether the explanations for it can be proven or not is immaterial to it's status as a fact.

No one ultimately knows why anything happens when you get right down to it, but that does not imply that it is not a fact that things happen.

What i am understanding is that there are certain folks here who are proposing the idea that because nothing can ultimately be completely verified everything is subjective in a meaningful way. While this may be an interesting thing to think about, it doesn't really amount to anything more than a rigid(and necessarily selective) commitment to skepticism.
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Old 05-22-2007, 05:45 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by filtherton
*snip* whether the explanations for it can be proven or not is immaterial to it's status as a fact.
This....is an interesting comment....
How, if something cannot be proven, be stated as fact? That would make every improbable story in the OT(and the NT, actually) a fact, would it not? I'm not trying to be 'argumentative' toward the quoted piece, but I really would like to know what does make something a 'fact'...to me it is undeniable and completely accepted proof.
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Old 05-22-2007, 06:17 PM   #20 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ngdawg
This....is an interesting comment....
How, if something cannot be proven, be stated as fact? That would make every improbable story in the OT(and the NT, actually) a fact, would it not? I'm not trying to be 'argumentative' toward the quoted piece, but I really would like to know what does make something a 'fact'...to me it is undeniable and completely accepted proof.

I think where you're getting mixed up is in the distinction between the phenomena of gravity, and explanations for the phenomena of gravity. Gravity is a fact, it is completely verifiable that it exists. How gravity works and why it exists are fundamental pursuits in theoretical physics. I'm not a physicist, but i'm pretty sure the jury's still out on any sort of comprehensive explanation for gravity.
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Old 05-22-2007, 06:42 PM   #21 (permalink)
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Ah, ok...the resultant actions are fact, the why's are still out with the jury....got it
I think this kind of demonstrates how arguments can happen. When just one question is left unasked, an unfounded opinion sets in and the person who has it proclaims it as a fact, when indeed, it isn't, it's a belief...thus a foundation is laid for any future interaction. It comes back to what the OP had intimated-we draw hypotheses based on what we've had laid out before us without ever delving into anything further and that enhances a belief held. Discussion then becomes debate, debate becomes argument....argument forms opinions. Rather than just make assumptions that either gravity statement from the other is wrong, better to ask 'what do you mean?'
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Old 05-22-2007, 07:04 PM   #22 (permalink)
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I agree that the nature of a conversation can be rather fidgety. The utility of a conversation really depends on the intentions and actions of the people participating in it. I think the internet is a much more incendiary medium than face to face conversation when it comes to conflicting ideas. I'm much less prone to treat interactions as competitions when i'm talking to someone face to face.

I think the difference between arguments and discussion and debates are a matter of intent and desire. If the participants are looking to change someone else's mind it's a debate or an argument. If the participants are looking to reach some sort of common ground it's a discussion. Perhaps these definitions are lacking.

In any case, i think debates and discussions and arguments are all necessary and useful given the proper context.
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Old 05-23-2007, 06:06 AM   #23 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by filtherton
I agree that the nature of a conversation can be rather fidgety. The utility of a conversation really depends on the intentions and actions of the people participating in it. I think the internet is a much more incendiary medium than face to face conversation when it comes to conflicting ideas. I'm much less prone to treat interactions as competitions when i'm talking to someone face to face.

I think the difference between arguments and discussion and debates are a matter of intent and desire. If the participants are looking to change someone else's mind it's a debate or an argument. If the participants are looking to reach some sort of common ground it's a discussion. Perhaps these definitions are lacking.

In any case, i think debates and discussions and arguments are all necessary and useful given the proper context.
Oh, without a doubt...the measurement of how things progressed that I use is always "Have I learned anything?" Even in discourse, if something is gained in the way of new insight, it's not a bad thing. Interestingly, though, when visiting forums designed for debate, I've found that several participants only repeat a narrow-minded opinion, never once admitting to understanding a POV of an opposing debater. Those types aren't interested in gaining anything-only in beating others down and so only revealing themselves to be bullies with no intention of learning or even interacting. They use the word 'debate' but have no clue what it entails.
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Old 05-23-2007, 06:54 AM   #24 (permalink)
 
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a messageboard is a problematic space for debate.
because we work within little boxes, we are forced to be clipped.
arguments get compressed.
tone becomes a function of compression.
even if you present alot of data, your interpretations are still clipped.
whatever you write, then, appears closed off.
and maybe it is closed off, but i think the source of this is the impression generated by the parameters of this form of communication.

so it doesnt really matter what you are like as a person, how you think or operate: it all drops away behind the effects of compression.
so you cant tell what folk are like in a debate space.
you can pretend you know, but you dont.

there are other spaces available via this board (journals in particular) where you can get a better sense of folk simply because there's more room to move, to play around, to do stuff.
but they are also spaces of monologue.

anway, i understand to some extent why art would opt for the style that he now works with.
the thing with this koan approach is that you have to be really precise (in my view anyway).
the problem with that kind of precision is that there is no reason to expect that people are reading for it. so they dont see it.
experience has shown this.

i generally work a meta-game. try to talk about the framework within which an argument functions and in doing that turn it back on itself. or a variation of this, depending on the situation. in the end, there is little difference between this and the koan approach--compressed because of the little box effect, you are forced to be very precise.
precision + compression=> shorthand.
shorthand+compression=>obscurity.
obscurity+variable modes of reading/attention=> get ignored.

the problem with working a metagame is that there is little surprising in what people say. generally, it seems that folk work with strict procedures, whether they realize it or not. if you work out the procedures, what they will say follows almost inevitably. so your options: dont play the metagame. personally, i do it because it is at this point kinda automatic. the fact that it is automatic is not necessarily always pleasing. but i am a result of my background, and a significant part of my background condenses onto a particular way of reading and that way of reading is geared around isolating the meta-game. so it is neither better or worse than any other mode of reading: it is more efficient in some ways, and problematic in others. and it is how i think. so it's just like that. if i am going to interact with someone's writing, that's how it will go.

over time, this viewpoint is not alwasy a happy place because it opens onto repetition. much of what i see is repetition. and much of that repetition tends toward stasis.
and stasis is boring.
responses to stasis are themselves static.
and static is boring.

often is seems that nothing moves in a space of such compression because, well, it is the nature of the beast.

when do folk use this place? if they are wedging it in to their regular day gig, then it is a little oasis. you cut out of one routine and into another one. you say your bit and you leave. at another time, you do the same thing. this pattern is not about movement in the context of the oasis itself--it isnt geared that way--its about cutting out of the daygig space and allowing yourself to write in a way that is not about the constrictions of the daygig.

and there's nothing at all wrong with that: it's just the nature of the beast.

i expect that everyone who posts at all is curious about things at one level or another: curious about issues in the world, curious about what people make of them.
if they weren't, why would they bother with this kind of space?
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Old 05-23-2007, 07:28 AM   #25 (permalink)
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roachboy,

Sometimes, I think, because the stream is not the same, the same rock makes a different ripple. This would be my intent.
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Old 05-23-2007, 07:38 AM   #26 (permalink)
 
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qed, sir.

yes. i may join you soon as a mirror's inversion joins.
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Old 05-24-2007, 08:29 AM   #27 (permalink)
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I highly recommend reading this thread from the last post backwards.
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Old 05-24-2007, 08:33 AM   #28 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ubertuber
I think we're drowning in facts - there are far more of them than any of us could reasonably hope to survey and construct a balanced point of view. In particular, the internet has brought so much information to our fingertips that you can find facts or other documentation to support nearly any contention.

Because of this, any particular presentation of facts must be an expression of a point of view. This presentation is constructed by the places the author looks for their facts, by which facts are included and which aren't and by the relative emphasis placed on them.

Interestingly, this was the basis for the argument John Roberts used against international law as precedent in the U.S. He pointed out that if you assemble a large enough group of people, it becomes easy to pick your friends out. Similarly, a judge with the whole of international law to survey can easily find cases to support any ruling.

I'm not saying that I discount facts entirely, but that I recognize how plentiful they are. Consequently, I'm more interested in the way a person strings them together - which could alternately be called analysis or perspective.

I also prefer discussion over debate, the difference in my mind being whether one seeks to propagate their own views, or learn from those of others.
and this is why I find that sometimes the politics is too much information to refute, counter, understand biased authors, etc.

It is just too much. I'm with Shani. I understand my point of view enough to find something to support it, and that's about all I need to do at the furthest. For the simplest, just stating my opinion is enough.
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