Monday, November 17, 2014

Rational Dialogue and Ridicule

One rational dialogue begins, there are rules that have to be followed, like the principle of charity. You can do ridicule, or you can do rational dialogue. You just can't mix them, without breaking the rules.
Of course, our sense of what is ridiculous is largely determined by our views. Thus, what seems absurd to an atheist might seem perfectly sensible to a theist, and vice versa. 
Of course, one of the techniques of rational discourse is reductio ad absurdum. Unfortunately, other than the law of non-contradiction, there isn't any way to distinguish between the genuinely absurd and that which is merely counterintuitive. Many people consider it to be a reductio against utilitarianism that it results in the possible conclusion that we should under some circumstances, frame and execute an innocent person to prevent deaths as a result or rioting. J. J. C. Smart, however, simply accepted this implication of utilitarianism, hence the term "outsmart" in the Philosopher's Lexicon:
outsmart, v. To embrace the conclusion of one's opponent's reductio ad absurdum argument. "They thought they had me, but I outsmarted them. I agreed that it was sometimes just to hang an innocent man."

11 comments:

Crude said...

Interesting quip at the end.

I think one problem is that rational dialogue is considered one more front in the never-ending battle of the will. If you care less about being rational than winning at all costs, just make sure to rule out every conclusion you dislike as irrational.

Dave Duffy said...

Dr. Reppert,

My guess that JWL has adopted ridicule as the best technique to advance his ideas is because his ideas are written on the internet. Trying to persuade people in person is a whole other world of commerce.

Trying to persuade people knowing there is a judge: “But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken” is another matter entirely.

Saints and Sceptics said...

It's what I call "sneer pressure"...

http://www.saintsandsceptics.org/richard-dawkins-sneer-pressure/

Papalinton said...

Ridicule? One must ridicule the ridiculous. Indeed ridicule is a tour de force by which we can make fun and laugh at ourselves with some of the nonsense that trotted out as real. Who isn't able to see the humour in this lovely sketch?

Victor Reppert said...

I think ridicule can function differently depending on what its goal is. If it is to be funny, we can ridicule all sorts of things no problem, especially ourselves. Lawyers love lawyer jokes. I am a Christian who enjoys the Life of Brian, for example. Ridicule as a calculated attempt to get someone to believe something, without actually providing any real support for the belief, due to intellectual peer pressure, is not fine, it's reprehensible.

Crude said...

Behold, abuse of a very religious man.

LOL. ;)

Dave Duffy said...

Satire is different than ridicule. Sorry Crude, but unbelievers do satire so much better than Christians. I think it is because if you make an emotional investment in the faith and things don't work out like you thought they would, it invites a more agonizing satirical expression than making fun of someone you never took serious in the first place.

Similarly, satire about marriage is more interesting from divorced people than from guys like me who find marriage and my wife baffling at times, but also deeply satisfying.

Papalinton said...

"Sorry Crude, but unbelievers do satire so much better than Christians. I think it is because if you make an emotional investment in the faith and things don't work out like you thought they would, it invites a more agonizing satirical expression than making fun of someone you never took serious in the first place."

Perceptive comment. One can gauge the crassness of crude's 'Dawkins' example above when juxtaposed against a master of parody for contrasting effect HERE.

Sheesh!

Papalinton said...

Here is another superlative piece, on the question of eternal life/heaven no less.

Dave Duffy said...

Thanks for the videos Papalinton,

I found the first video interesting and the second video to be a bunch of people trying to say something amusing when they had the camera spotlight. Having the camera on for a moment reveals the great human weakness of playing for an audience.

Crude said...

Dave,

Satire is different than ridicule. Sorry Crude, but unbelievers do satire so much better than Christians.

The two intersect, often.

And that's far too broad of a statement for me to put much faith in - especially given what I've seen.

I think what you may mean is something closer to this: superficially, religious people have actual targets to satirize. That works if you regard atheism as lacking intellectual content (it's the lack of a position), but not so much if you deal with atheism as it actually exists.

It's easy to satirize Dawkins, Cultists of Gnu, leftists, and more, insofar as they are people with content. (Dawkins and the CoGs, indeed, are in many ways a self-parody.) It's not so easy to satirize the hypothetical atheist who lacks belief and all opinions on, or interest in, the topic - aside from, perhaps, how boring they are.

But that's not a very common atheist anyway.