137: Girdle

In debate (and in reasoned discussion, too!) we often observe the following:

  1. A advances proposition X.
  2. B points out that proposition Y is also true.
  3. A says that A never contradicted proposition Y, now noting that proposition Y is also true.

Frequently, A’s second line (line no. 3) is snarky and self-righteous, usually worded something like “I never said otherwise [about proposition Y].” From the pattern of upvotes on reddit, this same line usually gets upvoted quite a lot. I find myself puzzled by this, because the line isn’t just vacuous; it’s positively destructive to good discussion. If you don’t explicitly take a stance, you can’t reasonably expect someone to infer your position on a disparate proposition.

The worst part is that proposition X often is worded to sound like it precludes proposition Y; therefore, line no. 3 could be construed as unexpected (and therefore unfairly advantageous for A to snatch for himself). You get no points for an argument never made, and I (would personally) award negative points for appropriating somebody else’s good-faith point for yourself.

Perhaps some real-world examples will make things clear:

  1. A says “farmed salmon are frequently poisonous.”
  2. B says “but wild salmon often have harms of their own.”
  3. A says “I never said otherwise. Of course wild salmon may also be harmful.”

or:

  1. A says “any closed-source software may be backdoored.”
  2. B says “but open-source software could also be backdoored.”
  3. A says “I never said otherwise. Of course open-source software could also be backdoored.”

So, a hearty middle finger for A, you self-congratulatory sod, you squishy-brained clod.

J39M

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