[extropy-chat] Insults in Posts (was Putting God to Rest)

Lee Corbin lcorbin at rawbw.com
Thu Apr 26 08:45:35 UTC 2007

John Clark writes

>>> You say you wouldn't describe it as stupid, but I assume you'd still
>>> think  it's stupid (if not then there is something seriously wrong with
>>> you).
> "Lee Corbin" <lcorbin at rawbw.com>
>> Sorry to disappoint.  I'd merely think their statement wrong.
> Ok, now we know, you think the idea of NASA faking the moon landing is not
> stupid, so could you please give us an example of something you think IS
> stupid.

Nothing I know of is *objectively* stupid. Even a dog tied to a stake whose
long leash goes around a tree and permits him to come within just a few feet
of a treat, and who cannot fathom that he ought to retrace the length of the
leash in order to get back around the tree to seize the treat probably should
not be called stupid.  Neither should people who score below 75 on IQ tests.
The reason?  In principled discussions like ours, where we are much more
interested in expressing what is true than how we feel about something,
emotionally charged terms should be avoided.  People whose IQ is less
than 75 are mentally challenged  :-)

The great exceptions, as I said, arise either in cases of humor or attempted
humor. Also in abbreviation; if Damien or Keith is discoursing upon beliefs
of the Ghost Dancers (or other kinds of suicide cults, say in Africa), then
we *know* what is trying to be communicated.  No harm whatsoever is
done.  Harm arises when insult is attained.

Even insult itself, however, does have a place:

    The polite thing to do has always been to address people as they wish
    to be addressed, to treat them in a way they think dignified.  But it
    is equally important to accept and tolerate different standards of
    courtesy, not expecting everyone else to adapt to one's own preferences.
    Only then can we hope to restore the insult to its proper social function
    of expressing true distaste.
                -- Judith Martin, "Miss Manners' Guide to
                   Excruciatingly Correct Behavior"

But see?  Correct behavior of this kind, according unimpeachable authority,
serves a *social* function.  It's inappropriate in a forum like this where---joking
and satire and abbreviations for the initiated aside---we are interested in a
search for truth.

I assume that you are more interested in stating and knowing the truth than
you are merely spouting off.  (Humor, satire, in-jokes, etc., aside.)
My own behavior changes noticeably when the assumption that I've been
addressing a homogeneous element is violated---at that point, I wish to 
cease saying anything personally offensive.


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