Saturday, October 18, 2008

Why we don't discuss politics and religion at the dinner table

I think if everyone successfully avoided the ad hominem fallacy, then we could truly learn something when Uncle Joe, the born-again Christian, and Uncle Charlie, the village atheist, got together around Thanksgiving dinner. Or when Uncle Bill, the Rush Limbaugh admirer, and Uncle Bob, the who has seen every Michael Moore movie 10 times, get together.

Ad hominem is the shift of attention from issues to people. It is difficult to assess the merits of Clinton's economic policies, it is far easier to talk about cigars, interns, and finger-wagging. It's also easy to portray Bush as stupid and Clinton as slick, than it is to actually address the issues involved in their administrations.

There is a necessary aspect of political discouse that does involve evaluating not merely the positions of the candidates but their fitness to serve. I have problems with the Palin selection from that standpoint, but I don't think that's a subject that can be fruitfully pursed at this point. We can talk about Obama's association with Ayers and Wright, McCain's association with Keating, and Palin's association with the Alaskan Independence Party unit we are blue in the face. Nothing will be achieved.

I try to keep everything personal off this blog. I made an exception mentioning my aging and now deceased parents in the context of a discussion of Social Security and Medicare, and regret it now, for obvious reasons. By the same token, I really don't care how old Steve Hays is, or who he lives with, or whatever else. The debate should be about issues not people. As for diagnosing intellectual dishonesty, as Obama said in another context, that's above my pay grade. It's enough to show someone is mistaken, if you can. Showing that they are somehow dishonest requires abilities beyond the capacities of mere mortals. At least that's how I see it.

How do we improve the tone? We avoid ad hominem arguments. I have linked to a Wikipedia treatment of the ad hominem fallacy.


Ilíon said...

Mr Reppert,
You're a hypocrite. On many levels. And it all traces back to your need to protect from criticism that foolish "liberalism" which you conflate for the Gospel.

For months now, you've been misrepresenting the Republicans, both their policies and their persons (and misrepresenting conservatives and conservativism in general), and even slandering them.

For many weeks, I've trying to no avail to get you to pull in your horns.

And now you want to piss and moan because your behavior is being bluntly discussed and examined.

And yes, I am certain in what I say ... what would be the point otherwise? ... and therefore, by the twisted "liberal" logic you employ when it suits you, that certitude is proof that what I say is wrong.

Instead of whining about "personal attacks" upon yourself -- that is, instead of misrepresenting what is going on -- why don't you start working on the errors in your behavior and assertions?

Ilíon said...

V.Reppert: "When I talked about improving the tone of the discussion, it is important to realize that I mean for it to begin with me. I can't control Steve Hays or Ilion or anyone like him. I don't know what to say to people who think that anyone to the left of John McCain is an intellectually dishonest evildoer. I also don't know how to respond to people who think all Christians (or atheists, for that matter) are stupid, ignorant, insane, or wicked. That kind of certitude has always escaped me."

And on a slighty more personal level, you mispreresent me and the arguments I have presented and the conclusions I drawn from those arguments.

Victor Reppert said...

I corrected that statement, Ilion. You weren't paying attention.

Second, I am indicating that attacks on liberals or conservatives as persons is an irrelevancy, unless it is relevant to the fitness to serve of some candidate for public office. And even there, this sort of discussion is of limited value. So, for example, as much as Palin annoys me, I'm not going to be posting anymore about her except where her statements are concerned.

All of us have a tendency to go easy on people when we are agreeing with the and get tougher on people across the aisle. It's natural.

Third, I don't conflate liberalism of conservatism with the Gospel. There are in my estimation three types of claims which are considered "conservative," and these have to be considered separately. Second, while Christianity gives some ideas of what our goals should be, conservatives and liberals, for the most part, differ about how you go about achieving those goals.
So, for example, I can't see how a Christian can approve of the existence of people who work full-time and have no homes. But should be put confidence in government agency or private agency to overcome this problem? The disagreement between liberals and conservatives comes here.

normajean said...

And by the way, Illion! Don’t you think it’s a little refreshing that an evangelical here isn’t more republican than he is Christian? It’s about time an evangelical is willing to play “devil’s advocate.” I love what Vic is doing. AND I'm a Pat Buchananite!!! Grrr

normajean said...

repost for laughs!!!

Ilíon said...

V.Reppert: "I corrected that statement, Ilion. You weren't paying attention."

What strange, non-complementary realities we two seem to inhabit!

V.Reppert: "I did overstate the claim that these people believe that everyone to the left of McCain is evil. Not a lie, however. Support for the Obama campaign is the support of evil, at least in the eyes of some. "

Charlie said...

^Received a zero in Reading Comprehension 101 for refusal to stay awake during class

legodesi said...

every blog is talking about politics. now it's hard for me to get my dose of philosophy.

Ilíon said...

Indeed, Legodesi.

Ilíon said...

But, at the same time, I've just about decided that there is nothing I can learn from this philosopher. And he, quite apparently, is disinclined to learn anything. As for certain of his fanboys!!