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Jamie Whyte on discussing sensitive topics January 23, 2010

Posted by shaunphilly in religion, atheism, polyamory, culture.
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From a book I just finished reading called Crimes Against Logic by Jamie Whyte:

Those who take religion, politics, and sex seriously do not adhere to the general prohibition on discussing these topics. And they don’t take offense when they are shown to be wrong.

If you start to feel during a discussion that you are not so much incorrect as insensitive, then you are probably dealing with a respectable bigot.

Only a thug would expose them.

And then he ends the book with the following:

Perhaps it is better to get on with your family and friends, to avoid embarrassment, or to comfort yourself with fantasies than to believe the truth. But those who approach matters in this way should give up any prentensions to intellectual seriousness. They are not genuinely interested in reality.

Separating intellectual from moral seriousness is harder than those who are intellectually frivolous may care to admit.

Interesting thoughts. No need to comment further, I think.

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Comments»

1. Jack Christopher - January 24, 2010

Interesting issues Shaun. I like Paul Graham’s [1] view on discussing sensitive topics: http://paulgraham.com/identity.html To sum he says discussions devolve because they turn into arguments about identities.

But I disagree with the conclusion. I don’t think you should “keep your identity small”, you should keep it implicit. In other words, you don’t have to identify with *anything*. Specifically you don’t have to label yourself anything. You can define yourself by what you do instead of what you “are”; doingness instead of beingness.

For instance, there’s a difference in saying “I’m poly” (an identity) versus, “I have multiple open and intimate relationships.”

In my experience this works. I can be cool headed about talking about controversial things. My thinking doesn’t auto-devolve into tribalism.

Notes 😉 [1] Has a Harvard Phd in CompSci/does web startup seed funding; Ycombinator)

2. Ginny - January 26, 2010

Good quotes, both.

Between two thinkers who disagree, engaging in discussion is an act of respect; refusing to engage signals disrespect, insincerity, or cowardice. (Unless, of course, it’s a temporary refusal for circumstantial reasons.)

Of course there are people who aren’t thinkers, the “intellectually frivolous.” Trying to engage them is a little more dicey. Usually I feel people out when I don’t know them very well, try to find out how seriously they take their ideas, how well-considered they are. If the person makes no claims to be a thinker, I let them alone. I wonder about this sometimes… it is unquestionably an indication that I don’t respect them intellectually, and sometimes I think I should challenge them more, give them more of a chance. People can grow, after all. But I don’t know. Still working on that.


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