Re: MD Rhetoric

From: Matt Kundert (
Date: Sat Oct 22 2005 - 21:29:57 BST

  • Next message: Rebecca Temmer: "Re: MD bullshit"


    You get more and more bizarre as time goes by on the MD, David.

    DM commented:
    Funny thing is that you would say it is interpretation all the way down but
    then also claim to be a physicalist, i.e claiming that there is one form of
    description that can encompass all other description.

    You're still missing the point of what "non-reductive" means. When a
    philosopher eschews reductionism, it means they are saying that a person
    could describe anything in terms of whatever they want. The terms that end
    up usually being used in descriptions are based on utility, value. So I can
    describe everything in terms of bouncing corpuscules in one breath and then
    in the next breath describe everything in terms of value. The difference
    between the two breaths is that my _purpose_ for breathing is different. In
    the first I'm trying to predict and control a rock and in the second I'm
    trying to dissolve some metaphysical problems.

    All I take physicalism to mean (since by itself it is neither reductive nor
    non-) is the common sense attitude taken from science. The only people who
    are not physicalists in this sense are people who think science is
    completely worthless. Nobody thinks science is completely worthless.

    Matt said:
    I'm not objecting to telling cosmic stories. The question is, why do we
    have to? Or, more appropriately, why do _I_ have to?

    DM commented:
    I just said that's why I prefer Pirsig to the self-restrained Rorty.

    You kind of said that. When you said, "Pirsig is willing to seek a cosmic
    narrative, and Rorty is not," and followed that with, "I know of no good
    reason why we cannot tell cosmic stories," it kinda' implied that Rorty
    _can't_ offer a good reason so he _should_ be willing to tell a cosmic
    story--as if Rorty's barring cosmic stories. But Rorty knows that, in this
    context, there's no good reason to bar the telling of cosmic stories. He's
    not barring cosmic stories, he just chooses not to tell one. The words you
    wrote, devoid of a clearer indication of your intention, implied that Rorty
    was barring them, so I replied to that. If all you meant was that you
    prefer Pirsig because he does tell a good cosmic tale, well, okay then.
    That's cool.

    Matt said:
    Doesn't really help the process or add any content to the recommendation [to
    tell a person to "wake up"]. Actually, it pretty much assures the person
    will ignore you, given the note of superiority and condescension it almost
    inevitably sends (at least in contexts like this).

    DM commented:
    do you get these feelings a lot? Maybe you can't see my British tongue in my
    Britsh cheek.

    I've learned a lot in my time at the MD about writing in general. Sometimes
    I'm surprised when other people who've been here a long time haven't learned
    the same lessons. One of the things I've learned is that neither irony nor
    dry senses of humor transfer very well over e-mail, at least not in a
    quasi-combative discussion environment. They are very dangerous to try and
    use if you're intention is to not ruffle any feathers. Most people don't
    care if they ruffle any feathers, so they go ahead and do it.

    But some of the time (maybe even most of the time at the MD), if anybody's
    feathers do get ruffled, and they react, the person using a dry wit
    responds, "Duuuuude, chill out. I was just joking around. [Man, isn't this
    guy always overreacting? Isn't he kooky?]" I've seen this over and over
    and over again. In fact, I almost guarantee its occuring right now (except
    thinly veiled, instead of heavily veiled as good irony should be). Its a
    rhetorical ploy. We're all just supposed to be talkin' and joshin' each
    other, and if anybody overreacts, well, that's just it---they're
    _over_reacting, actin' all irrational. Just calm down and use the cool
    light of reason to guide you, dude. (This ploy is actually heavily gendered
    still to this day.)

    If the dry wit _were_ just joshin', and not trying to draw blood, he would
    have apologized and said (and sincerely, I might add, which is sometimes
    difficult to convey), "Dude, sorry, I was just jokin' around. We tend to
    take it easy around here." (Which is a lie when that "here" is the MD
    because rarely have I seen the real weapons put away to use the practice,
    padded ones.) Over time, if this dry wit really were just joking around all
    the time, trying to keep the mood light, and he had to keep apologizing
    (because the mood in the MD generally _isn't_ light), he would eventually
    stop using that technique, seeing as it continually failed (or learn who
    _does_ respond well to it and only use it with them). And most of the time,
    if this dry wit were a stand-up, nice chap, he wouldn't get mad at anybody
    for failing to see his humour, he'd just kinda' shrug his shoulders and say,
    "Oh, well. Tough crowd."

    But I have one suggestion for helping people to see your Brit tongue in your
    Brit cheek. Use scare quotes around the part your trying to inflect irony
    on, or tag one of those stupid semicolon smiley faces at the end of it. If
    you had said "'wake up'" as opposed to "wake up," I would've got your joke
    and chuckled. As it is, you just looked like the long line of surperior,
    passive-aggressive evangelical types who don't "want" to act condescending,
    but somehow manage it anyways (considering they hold the Holy
    Grail)---usually by treating the other person as a child who has to grow up
    like he has.

    Matt said:
    What "evil non-free time" am I implying? Where do you see that implied? It
    seems a very strange thing to say.

    DM commented:
    Now you are humiliating yourself. You say 'free time', well if some time is
    free what is the other kind?

    Oh, I see. Again, context is everything. I thought by encapsulating "evil
    non-free time" I might convey the fact that I don't know what "_evil_
    non-free time" you were talking about. But you want to know what kind of
    time there is other than free time. That's still a strange thing to say,
    but, alright. Free time is time away from work. Generally when I start
    talking about Mill and democracy, I start talking about what we do at work
    and the courthouse as opposed to what we do at home on the weekends.

    I'm still not sure where "evil" came from, and I'm certainly not sure why
    I'm humiliating myself. How can one feel humiliated when they have to take
    flying stabs in the dark to ascertain the meaning of short, shotgun bursts
    of contextless, non sequitorish prose? I'm just trying my best to figure
    out what you mean. If I really am humiliating myself, well I'll just have
    to stop trying at all and wait for you to say something understandable
    (which is what I've learned to do with several contributors, like Bo).

    (Oh, and by the way, you can never humiliate yourself with a sincere,
    light-hearted dry wit because they're all just jokin' around, usin' padded
    sticks as weapons. But if humiliation is possible, then irony, dry humour,
    and light-heartedness are just ploys, tricks, and masks to cover the
    underlying seriousness (and mean-spiritedness), the edged weapons being
    wielded underneath the padding.)

    DM commented:
    It's been fun messing about with you, play is fun, as long as you are not a
    control freak. Are you?

    Only to dry Brit wits.


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