Re: [asa] Intellectual Honesty

From: John Burgeson (ASA member) <>
Date: Wed Oct 22 2008 - 09:32:27 EDT

Excellent! A keeper!

Perhaps it can be summarized as follows in Polonius' advice to Laertes:

"This above all: the thine ownself be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man."

-- Shakespeare (from Hamlet)

Also -- my mom's key advice to me!


On 10/21/08, Nucacids <> wrote:
> When it comes to just about any topic, it seems as if the public discourse
> on the internet is dominated by rhetoric and propaganda. People are either
> selling products or ideology. In fact, just because someone may come across
> as calm and knowledgeable does not mean you should let your guard down and
> trust what they say. What you need to look for is a track record of
> intellectual honesty. Let me therefore propose 10 signs of intellectual
> honesty.
> 1. Do not overstate the power of your argument. One's sense of conviction
> should be in proportion to the level of clear evidence assessable by most.
> If someone portrays their opponents as being either stupid or dishonest for
> disagreeing, intellectual dishonesty is probably in play. Intellectual
> honesty is most often associated with humility, not arrogance.
> 2. Show a willingness to publicly acknowledge that reasonable alternative
> viewpoints exist. The alternative views do not have to be treated as equally
> valid or powerful, but rarely is it the case that one and only one viewpoint
> has a complete monopoly on reason and evidence.
> 3. Be willing to publicly acknowledge and question one's own assumptions and
> biases. All of us rely on assumptions when applying our world view to make
> sense of the data about the world. And all of us bring various biases to the
> table.
> 4. Be willing to publicly acknowledge where your argument is weak. Almost
> all arguments have weak spots, but those who are trying to sell an ideology
> will have great difficulty with this point and would rather obscure or
> downplay any weak points.
> 5. Be willing to publicly acknowledge when you are wrong. Those selling an
> ideology likewise have great difficulty admitting to being wrong, as this
> undercuts the rhetoric and image that is being sold. You get small points
> for admitting to being wrong on trivial matters and big points for admitting
> to being wrong on substantive points. You lose big points for failing to
> admit being wrong on something trivial.
> 6. Demonstrate consistency. A clear sign of intellectual dishonesty is when
> someone extensively relies on double standards. Typically, an excessively
> high standard is applied to the perceived opponent(s), while a very low
> standard is applied to the ideologues' allies.
> 7. Address the argument instead of attacking the person making the argument.
> Ad hominem arguments are a clear sign of intellectual dishonesty. However,
> often times, the dishonesty is more subtle. For example, someone might make
> a token effort at debunking an argument and then turn significant attention
> to the person making the argument, relying on stereotypes,
> guilt-by-association, and innocent-sounding gotcha questions.
> 8. When addressing an argument, do not misrepresent it. A common tactic of
> the intellectually dishonest is to portray their opponent's argument in
> straw man terms. In politics, this is called spin. Typically, such tactics
> eschew quoting the person in context, but instead rely heavily on
> out-of-context quotes, paraphrasing and impression. When addressing an
> argument, one should shows signs of having made a serious effort to first
> understand the argument and then accurately represent it in its strongest
> form.
> 9. Show a commitment to critical thinking.
> 10. Be willing to publicly acknowledge when a point or criticism is good. If
> someone is unable or unwilling to admit when their opponent raises a good
> point or makes a good criticism, it demonstrates an unwillingness to
> participate in the give-and-take that characterizes an honest exchange.
> While no one is perfect, and even those who strive for intellectual honesty
> can have a bad day, simply be on the look out for how many and how often
> these criteria apply to someone. In the arena of public discourse, it is not
> intelligence or knowledge that matters most - it is whether you can trust
> the intelligence or knowledge of another. After all, intelligence and
> knowledge can sometimes be the best tools of an intellectually dishonest
> approach.
> - Mike Gene

To unsubscribe, send a message to with
"unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
Received on Wed Oct 22 09:32:47 2008

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Wed Oct 22 2008 - 09:32:47 EDT