Re: [asa] Intellectual Honesty

From: D. F. Siemens, Jr. <>
Date: Wed Oct 22 2008 - 13:59:34 EDT

I agree with what you say, but there is a problem. It was well stated by
C. S. Peirce when he noted that everyone will agree with being fallible,
always making exceptions for themselves in this instance. Some recent
studies report that one's political views produce marked differences in
the evaluation of arguments.

I have repeatedly noted that the most difficult task for a philosopher is
to become aware of their fundamental assumptions. It surely applies to
Dave (ASA)

On Tue, 21 Oct 2008 23:58:12 -0400 "Nucacids" <>
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
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
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
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Received on Wed Oct 22 14:05:24 2008

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