Thursday, June 30, 2005

Civility and the Leiter Reports

Eugene Volokh at cites this post: Leiter Reports: On Rhetoric, "Persuasion," and Tone...or Knowing the Difference Between Hard and Easy Questions for an interesting discussion of the pros and cons of civility in blogging. To boil down the argument, Leiter says on serious questions civil argument is appropriate, but not in the blogosphere, which he believes is not a realm for persuasion.
"What always strikes me in debates about 'tone' and 'civility' is that the critics, without fail, will abandon civility and adopt a harsh tone in the presence of the views that they deem 'beyond the pale.' Invariably, it turns out that they simply draw the line somewhere else (a good example is here--see the last paragraph, and the second comment), and that what really galls them is not the fact of my harshness and dismissiveness--they are equally capable of that when it comes to, e.g., Noam Chomsky or Ralph Nader or me--but rather that it is directed at the views they've been taught to take seriously, to think are serious, the views they've been led to believe are entitled to respect, even if one disagrees."
He has a point--certainly most of the popular blogs I've seen have a lot of heat, whether from the posts or the comments. But I'd draw the line differently, at least for myself. On the one hand you have the gibes and snarky remarks; on the other you have posts that try for reason. The former are just spray off the water; the later should aim for persuasion. We may not achieve what we aim for, but as someone said somewhere if we don't aim for it we're unlikely to achieve it.


Anonymous said...

Although my arguments tend not to be as logical and coherent as I desire, I try to post responses on blogs that are both--and reasonably respectful. I can be drawn into a cat fight at times, however. Usually, I regret doing so afterwards, but most often it's too late and unfeasable to make amends.

InvestiGator said...

Heck, Bill...I did it again.

Bill Harshaw said...

Thought of another point, going the other direction. If we try to persuade, we're showing we are persuadable in turn. So being reasonable encourages more feedback and more polite feedback--which opens the possibility of learning something.