- Jul 15, 2012
- Reaction score
How to Disagree, by Paul GrahamI couldnt [sic] imagine going through life being such a pathetic hack. I feel sorry for you. You miss out on so much!
If we're all going to be disagreeing more, we should be careful to do it well. What does it mean to disagree well? Most readers can tell the difference between mere name-calling and a carefully reasoned refutation, but I think it would help to put names on the intermediate stages. So here's an attempt at a disagreement hierarchy:
This is the lowest form of disagreement, and probably also the most common. We've all seen comments like this:
But it's important to realize that more articulate name-calling has just as little weight. A comment likeu r a fag!!!!!!!!!!
is really nothing more than a pretentious version of "u r a fag."The author is a self-important dilettante.
DH1. Ad Hominem.
An ad hominem attack is not quite as weak as mere name-calling. It might actually carry some weight. For example, if a senator wrote an article saying senators' salaries should be increased, one could respond:
This wouldn't refute the author's argument, but it may at least be relevant to the case. It's still a very weak form of disagreement, though. If there's something wrong with the senator's argument, you should say what it is; and if there isn't, what difference does it make that he's a senator?Of course he would say that. He's a senator.
Saying that an author lacks the authority to write about a topic is a variant of ad hominem—and a particularly useless sort, because good ideas often come from outsiders. The question is whether the author is correct or not.
Your ad hominem attacks and name calling are at the bottom of the pyramid. Try to improve.