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Monday, May 09, 2016

Aristotle on Trolling

Lovers of virtue ethics, Internet norms, smart-assery, or all three will very much enjoy this piece in the Journal of the American Philosophical Association: Aristotle, On Trolling. Here is the opening: 


That trolling is a shameful thing, and that no one of sense would accept to be

called ‘troll’, all are agreed; but what trolling is, and how many its species are,

and whether there is an excellence of the troll, is unclear. And indeed trolling is

said in many ways; for some call ‘troll’ anyone who is abusive on the internet,

but this is only the disagreeable person, or in newspaper comments the angry old

man. And the one who disagrees loudly on the blog on each occasion is a lover of

controversy, or an attention-seeker. And none of these is the troll, or perhaps some

are of a mixed type; for there is no art in what they do. (Whether it is possible to

troll one’s own blog is unclear; for the one who poses divisive questions seems only

to seek controversy, and to do so openly; and this is not trolling but rather a kind

of clickbait.)


Well then, the troll in the proper sense is one who speaks to a community

and as being part of the community; only he is not part of it, but opposed. And

the community has some good in common, and this the troll must know, and

what things promote and destroy it: for he seeks to destroy. Hence no one would

troll the remotest Mysian, or even know how, but rather a Republican trolls a

Democratic blog and a Democrat Republicans. And he destroys the thread by

disputing what is known to be true, or abusing what is recognised as admirable;

or he creates fear about a small problem, as if it were large, or treats a necessary

matter as small; or he speaks abuse while claiming to be a friend. And in general

the troll says what is false but sounds like the truth—or rather he does not quite

say it, but rather something very close to it which is true, or partly true, or best

of all merely asks a simple question about the evidence for climate change. Hence

the modes of trolling are many: the concern-troll, the one who ‘sees the other

side’, the polite inquirer into the obvious. For the perfected troll has no need of

rudeness or abuse, or even of fallacy (this belongs rather to sophistic or eristic,

and requires making an argument): he only makes a suggestion or indication


Posted by Paul Horwitz on May 9, 2016 at 02:53 PM in Paul Horwitz | Permalink


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