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Friday, May 23, 2008

If You Say So....

I won't weigh in on the continuing debate in the comments to another post here on whether it is possible to be blunt and unyielding in defense of what one considers the truth, or at least sound argument, and against falsity and unsound argument, without being uncivil, and on where the line between civil and uncivil discourse lies in academic debate.  I just want to concede, albeit reluctantly and modestly, a point that Dan Markel makes in a comment.  It is true: I am "courageous, pointed and yet overwhelmingly polite."  (He also says the same thing about Rick Garnett, but whatever.  Enough about him.) 

In fact, I like the observation so much that I would have it tattooed across my chest, if Jewish law did not forbid it.  It certainly has immediately entered my continually updated short-list of potential epitaphs for my tombstone, where it is now #3 with a bullet.  I will also pass the news along to my wife, who will be surprised and gratified to hear it.

Incidentally, if you replace the phrase "overwhelmingly polite" with "Canadian," it still works.     

Posted by Paul Horwitz on May 23, 2008 at 05:17 PM in Paul Horwitz | Permalink

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Comments

Let me preface this by saying, Paul, that I've enjoyed a number of your posts that I've read, and I appreciate the help you gave me some time ago on the religious toleration paper. On the other hand, the mutual congratulation here by folks blogging together strikes me as pretty silly. Your postings that I've read are neither courageous nor pointed, which takes nothing away from them, except your co-blogger's hyperbole about them.

There is nothing courageous nor pointed about treating idiotic positions as something other than idiotic; there is nothing courageous nor pointed about treating disingenous arguments as "interesting" and "thoughtful"; there is nothing courageous nor pointed about treating morally abhorrent positions as something other than abhorrent. That being said, I can appreciate the reasons for not being courageous and pointed: e.g., friendship, collegial obligation, pedagogical obligation, professional self-interest, and so on. I do sometimes think the standard of "civility" of folks adopting high-minded poses on blogs is that of Mister Rogers (not you, but some of the others on the earlier thread). But I really thought we had outgrown that some time ago. There should be less anxiety about civility, and more anxiety about truth, sensible argument, and intellectual integrity. The shift to talk about civility and tone is usually co-extensive with the failure to discuss the merits.

Posted by: Brian | May 25, 2008 10:35:39 PM

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