Re: [asa] Intellectual Honesty

From: Lynn Walker <>
Date: Wed Oct 22 2008 - 14:15:49 EDT

On Wed, Oct 22, 2008 at 1:59 PM, D. F. Siemens, Jr. <>wrote:

> 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
> others.
> Dave (ASA)

I agree. Orson Scott Card makes that point very well, here:


> On Tue, 21 Oct 2008 23:58:12 -0400 "Nucacids" <>
> writes:
> 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
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Received on Wed Oct 22 14:16:24 2008

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