[ExI] Aristotle on trolling

Anders Sandberg anders at aleph.se
Sun May 8 19:00:18 UTC 2016

A recent translation of Aristotle's classic "On trolling" (it is CC, so 
you can read the whole thing):
Many good points, and just two pages.

An excerpt:
> One might wonder whether there is an art of trolling and an 
> excellence; and indeed some say that Socrates was a troll, and so that 
> the good man also trolls. And this is in fact what the troll claims: 
> that he is a gadfly and beneficial, and without him to ‘stir up’ the 
> thread it would become dull and unintelligent. But this is incorrect. 
> For Socrates was speaking frankly when he told the Athenians to care 
> for their souls, rather than money and honors, and showed that they 
> lacked knowledge. And this is not trolling but the contrary, 
> exhortation and truth-telling—even if the citizens get very annoyed. 
> For annoyance results from many kinds of speech; and the peculiarity 
> [/idion/] of the troll is not annoyance or controversy in general, but 
> confusion and strife among a community who really agree. And since the 
> one who does this on every occasion must act with knowledge, and on 
> the basis of practice and care, he has a kind of art—just as one might 
> speak of the art of the hack or of the grifter. But it is not really 
> an art, being without any function; and it belongs not to the serious 
> person to be a troll but to the one who lacks education.

I am reminded of Frankfurt's classic "On bullshit":

Which is doubly relevant today given Trump's candidacy and the epistemic 
approach of Putin's Russia. Know your epistemic defenses and virtues.

Anders Sandberg
Future of Humanity Institute
Oxford Martin School
Oxford University

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