File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_1999/bhaskar.9904, message 51

Date: Thu, 22 Apr 1999 09:34:31 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: BHA: Criticism versus attack


I am going to do all that I can to not fall into attack mode myself.  And
yet I am going to voice strong disagreement with your post.

I believe very strongly that there are important, QUALITATIVE differences in
the ways that one can voice a principled disagreement.  In my view, strong
disagreement with a position does not *automatically* liscence one to say
anything at all that one wants, in any way at all that one wants, in the
name of advancing one's own ideas.  This is not to say that attack is never
warranted; sometimes it is even required.  

For me, appreciation of the distinction between attack and criticism goes to
the heart of the meaning of intellectual virtue.  True, intellectual virtue
as I understand it is not particularly encouraged, or rewarded for that
matter, in academic circles.  I believe that intellectual virtue also goes
against the grain of intellectual styles modelled on debate.  Nonetheless,
in my view it has a serious philosophical pedigree.  His treatment of the
distinction between winning a debate and pursuing the truth is one of the
reasons that I have always loved Plato.  

When I have raised concerns about this issue in the past, your response has
consistently been "But I (or someone else) was just trying to express my
disagreement," combined with the repeated suggestion that I (or someone
else) somehow can't "take the heat" of rigorous intellectual exchange.  

Howard E. did a good job some time back of trying to clarify the issue -- in
part by trying to give some examples of different models of interlocutionary
conduct.  I am at a loss to improve upon what he wrote.  Perhaps you
yourself are at an eqaul loss to figure out what it is that we are on about.
At a minimum, however, I insist that you acknowledge that my position is
*not* and *never has been* that there should be no disagreement on this list.  


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