Monday, November 27, 2006

why can't we all just get along?

Firstly, I would like to coin the term "plogosphere". This term will refer to the subset of the blogsophere which discusses social, political or economic issues. The members of the plogosphere regularly read aggregators such as Intelligent Singaporean, Singapore Angle, and for some, Singabloodypore. To most of them, Yawning Bread, Mr Wang, Xenoboy, The Kway Teow Man, Gayle Goh and Dr Huang are household names. The plogosphere also includes satirical blogs such as Mollymeek and Lucky Tan (apologies if you think I left out some vital blogs). If you are reading this blog, chances are you have a rough intuitive idea of what the plogosphere consists of. I coin this term not to examine its characteristics, or to decide if specific blogs fit or not fit into this category, but just for the ease of further discussion, instead of having to use cumbersome phrases such as "social/political-commentary blogosphere"

Secondly, I want to talk briefly about this blog written by Thrasymachus. I was actually quite surprised I didn't find this blog sooner. As someone who is familiar with Plato, the moniker "Thrasymachus" is very interesting indeed. One can't help but wonder if it was with or without irony that he chose to name himself after someone who argued that pretty much "might is right". I personally find his blog very nice to read, especially his photo-filled "History of PAP" posts. With regards to his views, although he believes himself to be very much to be neutral, and to his credit he does seem to be critical of the incumbent government in certain issues, I personally would classify him more as leaning on pro-establishment. A rare find indeed, or am I just not looking hard enough? I also think this guy is a pretty nice chap, always insisting on a gentleman's ethic to respect and listen to all views, including detractors (of which he has many), and to give thoughtful and respectful responses. He is also (only?) 25-years old.

In my previous post about the KTM, I briefly mentioned about a "good blogger's ethic", and that it consists of thinking before you blog, and respecting all views. In this post, I am not going to blog about what is or is not a "good blogging ethic", but rather, explore why and how we disagree in the plogosphere. I must also add that I am not a student of media studies, unlike the author of this article, so all that I say right here is just my thinking aloud.

I have been thinking in recent days about the problems of a (necessarily) limited perspective, and how this translates into conflict and disagreement in the plogosphere. While I was formulating my thoughts on the issue, I stumbled unto the above mentioned blog, and read a rather lengthy conversation between Thrasymachus and Elfred in the comments of this particular post and I thought this very interesting as a sample of how people disagree in the plogosphere.

To me, one of the most interesting criticisms in the plogosphere is to accuse your detractor of being "polemic" (or "rhetorical" or "partisan"). Usually, your detractor would reply in a furious "I am NOT being polemic, this IS my argument as I would see it." and by this point, both parties would be talking past each other. Now, both parties may try to be gentlemanly and polite (as I believe Thrasymachus and Elfred have been), but no doubt frustrations arise when much effort is spent explaining and laying out your stand, yet the other side just does not seem to get it. However, most of the time, one or both parties will not try to be as polite or gentlemanly (or just run out patience), and very strong words are exchanged, usually resulting name calling, or labelling the other as "naive" or "self-centered" etc. I also believe even the very best of us have our moments of weakness, and say nasty stuff to our detractors, as shown here by both Thrasymachus (comments to Akikonomu) and the KTM (comments to Whispers of the Heart).

Why does this occur? [As for why we ended up with different perspectives, that will be the subject of another post]. Why is it so difficult to convince one side of another's point of view? Postmodern thinkers might suggest interesting worldviews where reality is subjective, as Mr Wang had suggested in a comment to my previous post. But such assumptions aside, we think, surely at most one person must be correct? And surely the correct person has the better argument, and surely the incorrect person will be able to identify that his argument is incorrect?

If you haven't read this before, take the time to read this introduction to singapore angle. I think Huichieh explains it much better than I can. Through the process of rational discourse, we are bound to have disagreements. Deeply seated disagreements about issues we feel strong about even. Precisely because they are deeply seated issues which you feel strongly about, that is why you are not likely to change your view. It appears to me that humans, by and large, when they decided their opinions about something, they are quite stubborn about it. I believe this to be true even outside of the blogosphere, and even outside of "rational discourse on substantial issues". The way we consider our views is almost always that "I am correct". I believe very few people go around with the mentality "I may be wrong", and even less go around thinking "I AM wrong". We all believe we have good reason to think that we are correct. After all, we thought about it, and fully convinced ourselves of our own point of view.

But reaching your own opinion is not really a matter of pure rational deliberation, so I believe. Professional philosophers, who earn their living by pure rational deliberation day in and day out, disagree about everything all the time. My guess is, if you learn anything from being a philosopher, you learn that pure rational deliberation is usually not enough for you to reach conclusions on most substantial matters. Usually there is something else, be it "intuitions", influences from other people, or just deeply rooted values and beliefs. And these things vary greatly from person to person.

Okay, so people disagree. And convincing each other is something not very likely (although possible) to happen in the plogosphere. So what now? I suggest we adopt the attitude of trying how to disagree gracefully. Now, this is just a suggestion. I am not trying to propose some kind of plogosphere decorum to be upheld. I am sure there are people who will disagree (hee =P) with my proposition for graceful disagreement on the basis of "what's wrong in being confident of my views?" or "why can't I just say what I want to say?".

By "graceful" I do not mean elegant or beautiful, like in "a graceful ballet dancer", but in manifesting goodwill, favor, kindness and forgiveness, such as "an act of grace" of "in good grace". How do you disagree gracefully? I do not have a template, nor do I think a template is a good idea. I believe it is possible to disagree gracefully yet sincerely. These are just a few suggestions I want to throw up:

1) Ask yourself, are you angry? If you are angry, it may be a good idea to not reply immediately out of your righteous indignation. That will likely result in further misrepresentation of your own beliefs. Instead, try to calm down, perhaps reply only several hours, or a day later.

2) Ask yourself, have you tried to understand what the other side is saying, or are you merely trying to find the weak spots where you can attack? Remember that to understand what the other side is saying goes beyond reading the words, try to identity his/her mentality, his/her approach, and his/her argument, whether or not you think it correct.

3) After you have written your reply, read it again before posting. Check if you are really answering his criticisms, or if you are just reiterating your previous points. If you find yourself reiterating, perhaps you are not truly understanding the criticism? If so, reply that you do not understand.

4) Upon re-reading your reply, ask yourself if you have replied in a way which is an accurate representation of your own views, yet is phrased in a non-offensive and respectful manner? If you suspect that you are not a good judge of whether or not it is non-offensive enough, you may want to ask a friend to judge for you.

5) Most importantly, tell yourself that it is okay to disagree. It is not necessary (and indeed it may be impossible) to convince your detractors. That is not due to a lack of reasoning on the other side , or lack of conviction on yours, but such is just the nature of rational discourse. People just do not agree.

But disagreement is not a good reason why we can't all get along.

22 comments:

kwayteowman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kwayteowman said...

Interesting post. :-) The KTM also once thought about this question and would like to share his thoughts with you.

First, why do political bloggers disagree? Because politics and governance boils down to values. Because different people have different values, they will naturally disagree.

Unfortunately, not many people understand this and strangely believe that there is black and there is white and one can either be right or wrong. :-) Maybe it's because this is what is taught in schools? Every question has only one right answer what....

Then there is the question of why people cannot seem to disagree graciously, which is a completely orthogonal question actually. That boils down to the persona of the bloggers.

It is clear that you have figured out by now that to write a blog well, you have to use your inner voice. If it is not clear what I'm talking about, the best counter-examples would be the blogs written by the Singapore politicians. They are unusually carefully crafted and are more like press releases than a voice.

It is quite amazing how much we can learn about the person who is writing a blog just by reading it. In essense, the use of the inner voice reveals to a certain extent the psyche of the blogger.

The KTM's thesis: there are in general three classes of bloggers:

(a) Fellas who have a chip on the shoulder. These fellas have some kind of angst against the system. Perhaps they didn't do quite as well in school or didn't get as far in their careers as they had hoped -- but they can write blogs. So they write blogs in order to get some sort of fame and affirmation that they lack in real life.

(b) Anti-PAP fellas who are disgruntled with the system. These guys are somewhat like (a), but they can't even blog. All they do is go around leaving annoying remarks that make no sense whatsoever or very little sense. They are just out to attack anyone who says anything that is vaguely pro-establishment.

(c) Fellas who are bored and who got too much time on their hands and dunno what to do with their lives. Basically, these fellas need a life. :-)

Bloggers of class (a) and (b) will almost certainly get into online arguments and since ego is involved, it of course turns ugly. Really cannot be helped in my opinion. That's just the way it is. This is not to take any credit away from your 5 steps to Anger Management listed above. :-)

A related question: why do nations go to war?

Fearfully Opinionated said...

KTM,

I have read your other comment as well. Thanks for spending the time to read, comment and advise. I will probably blog one or two whole posts in response to some of the things you said. (I need to spend more time thinking about them mah).

But just a quick initial reply, I actually hold a kind of view that there is indeed black and white (for most cases, there is usually a right and wrong answer), just that due to the limited nature of our reasoning faculties, we do not have direct access to these black and white answers.

My hope is that if I can convince people that such is true (i.e. I can convince people that no matter how intelligent you are and how hard you think, you are necessarily biased in some way) then people would perhaps would be more inclined to be nicer when arguing with each other. So in a sense, I don't think its entirely orthogonal, although I agree with your point that the personality (humility?) of the individual blogger is the primary determining factor.

I've not been around in the blogosphere very long, so I can't make a good judgement of whether or not it "can be helped" that people will continue to have ugly arguments. What I'm trying to do is to appeal to the blogger who believes that he/she is thinking, and not just merely ranting. And to appeal to the intuition that "it is good to get along with each other". No doubt, if there are bloggers who could not care less about getting along with others, or are not interested in thinking, only venting, then I'm quite sure there is pretty much nothing we can do about it.

kwayteowman said...

I actually hold a kind of view that there is indeed black and white (for most cases, there is usually a right and wrong answer)

Clarification: there are black and white answers in some situations. For example, 1+1=2. If you say that 1+1=6, you would be wrong.

The deal with governance and public policy however is that it's all about trade-offs. To put in crudely, with each policy, the Garmen gets to choose who to screw over.

Example 1: To fund new low-income assistance package, the Garmen decides to increase GST. This is an equal misery policy -- middle class + rich both pay. In fact, rich pays more, but middle class not happy 'cos they dun want to pay. Alternative would be to increase income taxes and tax the rich more loh. What's the right solution here?

Example 2: Introduce ERP and increase COE quota, on the premise that people should be able to buy a car and keep at home and pay-per-use is a fairer system. As a result, car prices fall, but now we have so many cars on the roads that the CTE is completely unusable in the evenings.

Who should we satisfy? The fellas who want to own cars or the fellas who already own cars and would rather have fewer cars on the roads? Or the fellas who would never be able to afford to own cars and thus rather have fewer cars on the roads so that buses dun get choked as well?

Why don't you try to come up with an example of a policy that doesn't involve some sort of trade-offs? :-)

Life's full of tough choices. Few people realize that there are choices 'cos they are self-centred and think of everything from their own personal perspective. Under such circumstances, there's of course one "right" answer since the optimization is uniquely defined. :-)

This is also somewhat related to the biases that you seem to be alluding to. They are built into our personal values.

So the KTM has been around for a while and from his observations, there are some who are not thinking or trying the least to think. They have an agenda and they want to prove themselves right or to be proven right. Unlike you, they are not trying to learn or understand.

There is a small number of fellas (like yourself) who are actually using their heads -- but these fellas will eventually figure out for themselves what's going on, so you need not worry for them. :-)

The KTM looks forward to hearing about what you think about this matter, but no hurry hor, so please take your time. You don't have to apologize for taking time off to think before you speak. This is a virtue that many have to learn from you. If the KTM forgets to check back on your blog, perhaps you can drop him a note at kwayteowman@gmail.com. :-P

The KTM is no smarter than you. He's just been around longer and thinking about these issues longer and so he knows his stand. Like you, he also took a couple of weeks (months?) to figure out what he thinks about this matter. :-)

One of the reasons why the KTM blogs is that it's a process of clarifying for himself what his position is on various issues.

Blogs also provide an avenue for peer review, i.e. some fella might just come along to offer some alternative views.... maybe you can teach the KTM a thing or two? :-)

Cheers.

kwayteowman said...

Further to my earlier note, just came to me that there is actually another common phenomenon that causes tempers to flare.

While ego is a major problem, another obstacle to civil debate is articulation (or rather lack thereof). Many Singaporeans just don't know how to articulate themselves and argue for their points of view.

They have may some valid point to make, but they get demolished because they don't know how to say it right -- and they get all upset loh. :-P

When they get upset, it impedes their thinking and they become even more incoherent, and they take more beating and get even more upset. Then, as you can imagine, it's downhill all the way.

Fearfully Opinionated said...

KTM,

I suspect we carry the same beliefs, just a misunderstanding due to semantics. I quite agree with you over governance and public policy, in fact I have a post in formulation about governance. What I meant by "black and white" is something like: one way of trading off may be more "correct" than another way of trading off. What defines "correct", and whether or not we are able to find out what is indeed "correct", is another matter altogether.

If indeed the state of the blogosphere is as gloomy as you painted it, I can't help but wonder why does someone like you (or the Singapore Angle contributors) bother to blog yourself? We all know that it takes up alot of time, and I know that you read blogs and leave comments extensively. For what purpose do you spend so much time on this endeavour? [note: this is an honest question, not an accusation. I would really want to know why you blog]

Lack of articulation? That is an interesting point to think about, and I may need to go reread some blogs to see if you are right. But if indeed so, then our English and GP teachers ought to feel very sad.

Jolly Jester said...

"But disagreement is not a good reason why we can't all get along."

Well said. Hehe, and this post reminded me of my few debates with the KTM (hi KTM!).

I do agree with the KTM's point of view that very often the standard of articulating one's thoughts and points of views clearly is perhaps one important factor that results in flame wars and people resorting to personal attacks/accusations (sometimes unconsciously).

I suspect it might have something to do with our education system's over emphasis on the hard sciences... (hehe and I am an arts student, so the bias)

As for KTM's 'thesis' of 3 classes of bloggers, if these are the only 3 classes of bloggers, then I see no point in the blogosphere anymore. If his thesis is true, then bloggers are either fame and affirmation hungry, grunts and grouch that will troll and flame any pro govt position w/o thinking, or just bo liao people with nothing to do. Hehe... I hope none of the commentors here fall into these categories.

kwayteowman said...

If indeed the state of the blogosphere is as gloomy as you painted it, I can't help but wonder why does someone like you (or the Singapore Angle contributors) bother to blog yourself?

Hehe. You are indeed very sharp. If you are not already a lawyer, you should consider law as a career. :-P

Why does the KTM blog? That's actually a very good question.

Perhaps the KTM is a class (a) blogger, i.e. he got some chip on his shoulder and he needs some ego stroking? :-) Perhaps the KTM is a class (c) blogger and needs a life?

Or perhaps the KTM lying through his teeth earlier and there's actually a class (d) that he neglected to mention? :-)

Instead of giving you the answer, the KTM will give you homework: how about you try to figure out for yourself why the fellas at Singapore Angle blog?

The blogosphere is really quite interesting. While it is true that the blogosphere isn't exactly a microcosm of the Singapore society at large, it is really quite an interesting animal.

Hang around and check it out. Even after being around for a while, the KTM is learning some new things every day. :-) It should be able to sustain your interest for another six months, at least. :-P

With regards to your question of articulation, you go look around and count for yourself how many fellas out there can present cogent arguments.

In this regard, the blogosphere actually serves as a good training ground for our young, probably better than GP. :-) If people spout nonsense, they will get attacked and will have to learn to defend themselves. Also have to learn to be somewhat thickskin and to take some flak lah, but nevermind lah, what doesn't kill them makes them strong. :-)

From the way you talk, you must come from one of those uppity uppity elite schools where everyone spouts Queen's English. That's not how it is in the REAL world -- and there's a reason why the Garmen needs the dunno what Speak Good English campaign. :-) We cannot be too hard on the teachers lah.

It's really not easy to master a language, not to mention TWO at the same time and possibly throw in another dialect or two.

kwayteowman said...

Sorry that the KTM is cheong hei hor, but on the issue of articulation, one of the clearest sign or evidence is the popularity of the anti-Garmen blogs.

There is obviously a segment of the population (the 33%) who is unhappy with the Garmen. My thesis is that these fellas have some sort of angst and frustration which they cannot express, which is why they will latch on the anti-Garmen types like Mr Wang or Lucky Tan, who help them express/articulate their unhappiness with the Garmen.

So, actually hor, if you want to get popular in double quick time, the most expedient way is to walk the anti-Garmen path.

Of course, it will also help if you are a good looking chick (and you post your picture on the blog), which you are probably not. :-)

Anonymous said...

What I meant by "black and white" is something like: one way of trading off may be more "correct" than another way of trading off. What defines "correct", and whether or not we are able to find out what is indeed "correct", is another matter altogether.

Hi xiao di,

One thing I learnt from my many years of education, is that human beings will never agree. I am of the belief that there is no right or wrong on a lot of issues. Maybe there is a better opinion at one point in time on a certain issue, but things can change too. I agree with KTM on this issue of right and wrong. What I have realised too, from my many debates with people, is that it is okay to disagree, but the way for things not to get out of hand, is for people to realise that while they may have deep-seated views, theirs may not be right or better than other views. I think Singaporeans seem to have an issue with that. They insist that there has to be one correct view, and everyone should subscribe to that view. I attribute this to brain-washing by the 146th and the paternalistic approach of the government.

Your definition of 'right' or 'wrong' is unproveable in a way, isn't it? If you're not ever able to define what is right, or show that something is right, then how can there ever be a distinction between right and wrong?

I'm okay with not agreeing.=) I think I am not 'more correct' or 'more wrong' than others, and my views are a result of my values. That is why a democracy exists... so that the majority voice can be represented.

Sorry for rambling. I went to a talk yesterday by Peres, and that really got me to think about whether there are ever 'right' decisions.

Da jie

Jolly Jester said...

KTM,

A few counter perspectives that you might want to consider here.

You mentioned that the 33% that did not vote for the government are likely the ones that are latching on onto those anti govt views, resulting in the popularity of anti govt views.

But yet this 33% is the minority. Common sense would tell you that the 66% should by default over run the blogosphere with pro govt views. Is it because the 66% are not active in web forums and blogs? Is it an age/education thing? (ie the web savvy youngsters tend to be more outspoken and express themselves on the net, unlike the older generation?) Or is it that part of the 66% are also joining in the anti govt voices? (you can still vote for the pap even though you don't like it because the opposition is a worse alternative)

And given that the younger age group (21-40) is going to constitute a very important bulk of the electorate, the views of this group is going to be crucial in terms of elections.

I see the Singapore blogsphere as a possible alternative space to discussion and debate that was very much stifled by the government in the more traditional spaces (eg mass media, political associations, even unions). In a sense it is also an attempt by singaporeans to connect to other singaporeans on a more abstract level to discuss about ideas, thoughts, and possibly values, which we don't as often get to do in our normal societial settings.


Da jie,

Agreed the markers for most issues of right and wrong is actually shifting most of the time depending on the circumstances and prevalent opinion. Many of us are guilty of taking prevalent opinion as 'right' without thinking through them... which i don't think is a good basis for belief.

As for democracy as a decision making/power representation system, if you strip it down to its bare minimum, it is simply a tyranny of the majority over the minority. And if we take into account how no one, not even the majority (or even a minority elite) can get the right answers all the time(with disastrous effects), then maybe we can see the value of debate, discussion, sharing and respect for diverse views on decision making for society.

In my opinion, this aspect is quite absent in our society due to(a large exent) the govt's monopoly on the political discourse. If the nanny/parent makes all the decisions for you, doesn't allow you to have much real power and participation in the decision making process, shoots down/dismisses various concerns (with just the usual PR letter or, in the case of political issues, state the OB markers or Bhavani reply), implements 'feedback' systems that just suck in your feedback like a black hole(with no visible acknowledgement of your ideas on policies, nor can you see any visible impact on it).
Then it is no wonder that most Singaporeans never bother to think through these issues. I mean, what for???

Jolly Jester said...

Perhaps Loy, in his introduction to the new singapore angle, does put it down quite aptly on reasons why we blog (hehe i don't blog though).

"The possibility of reasonable disagreement, discussion and debate within the context of a democratic society divided upon various weighty issues--and beyond that, the possibility of peaceful coexistence, mutual advantage and the pursuit of a common good. These are themes to which I will return. The above can only be said to be a statement of intention rather than an argument."

Hehe, its couched in somewhat thick philosophical style (haha i should have known, he is an aspiring philo prof after all), but still, a good summary.

BL said...

KTM,

To me, there is the fourth group: People who have certain specialization or in certain interest groups who blog to promote their niche areas, for example, Rambling Librarian.

BL said...

Fearfully Opinionated,

Interest piece. I also often wonder why people can't get along in the blogosphere.

It reminds me of an incident recently about an article I wrote. Someone (who I know) disagreed with me on my arguments and ended up squabbling with the other participants and throwing ad-hominems. Somehow, perhaps, being used to the flame wars in forums, I just decide not to respond to provocation and the best part is that I know the person.

In the end, the person spoke to me over phone and wanted to apologize in the blog article. I just told him to forget about doing that and move on, given the nature that sometimes, intent and views can be misunderstood and misinterpreted. I also accept that I cannot be right all the time.

Oftentimes, we disagree with others on different things, but it is always important to distinguish the people from the issue. It's very easy to say and hard to implement in reality. Sometimes, I acknowledged that I don't do it that well either.

That's what come to my mind when I was writing a reply to you here.

kwayteowman said...

Jolly Jester,

Hello!! Sorry the KTM actually missed your earlier post which is why he didn't say hi. You posted your comment while he was busy typing out his. :-)

In any case hor, the KTM isn't making any statements about the online dissenters. The election results actually tell us very little about what the population at large thinks. Remember that only about half the population went to the polls.

It is possible that more than 66% of the people support the PAP (or less). We don't know and we're not likely to know even in 2011. :-)

What is clear however is that the majority of those who are making the most noise are coming from the better educated segment of society (probably the top 30% or so in terms of educational qualification).

What's also clear is that the pro-Garmen fellas (who obviously exist since 66% actually did vote for the PAP) are conspicuously absent. Why so? Dunno. Anyone has any idea? Perhaps people who get their way dun complain?

Perhaps you have fellas who voted for the PAP speak up against the PAP? Does it matter though? :-) What's important is to keep in mind that the blogosphere doesn't speak for the general population. One of the issues that the KTM has with the blogosphere is that some fellas muddle issues with their rhetoric. :-P

BL,

Aiyah, the KTM wasn't completely serious when he said that there are three classes of bloggers. :-) He actually anyhow humtum one. ;-P

People must learn not to take the KTM too seriously and figure out what they think for themselves. :-)

The KTM agrees with you that there are some bloggers with specialized knowledge to share or who blog to promote their agenda. YB for instance is a champion of gay right, and the KTM respects him for that. :-)

nofearSingapore said...

Hi F.O. ( not that F.O.),
Since when have i become a household name? Thanks for the flattery anyway- and no you won't get a discount when you next consult.
There are bloggers and there are bloggers.
To disagree and have differences is human. In S'pore, all of us have been straight-jacketed to think that there is only ONE WAY! The PAP way. That is obviously not true.
I enjoy blogging and esply interacting with fellow humans when we share our opinions in the comments section.
I don't agree ( there we go again) that there are only 3 or 4 categories of bloggers. Does it give KTM so much security to pigeon-hole all of us into convenient groups?
Either anti-PAP, time-wasters etc etc. Let's just hear each one out before having preconceived ideas about anyone of us.
Dr.Huang

Fearfully Opinionated said...

To everybody,

Thanks for dropping by and leaving your comments. It is very encouraging and insightful for a new blogger such as I.

Jolly Jester,

I do think emphasis on the hard sciences might have something to do with it. I'm just not so sure if it is a Singaporean phenomenon or a global one.

I have also read your other comment. I have more to say about logic and faith, hopefully I can get those posts up sometime soon.

KTM,

I have also realized the blogosphere is a very interesting animal. Perhaps I will stay around 6 months and see what I can learn, as you suggested.

I actually think that the PRESENTATION of a cogent argument may have some subjectivity to it. Some prefer certain styles of presentation, for example (And critics of the "other style" might call it "not cogent"). The key question is, are bloggers THINKING cogently? I believe you say nay. I'll stick to "I'm not sure" for now.

About my point regarding English and GP teachers. It was bad phrasing on my part. I didn't mean to say I hold teachers morally responsible for the lack of standards in argumentation on the blogsophere. Instead, what I meant was something like, if I were a teacher and I know that all the young children are flaming each other BECAUSE OF poor language skills, then I would feel very sad (about the state of the language skills among young Singaporeans).

Now the point I just made is an interesting example, because KTM misunderstood me due to 1)not good enough phrasing on my part, and 2) the nature of the blogosphere medium, which, unlike speaking face to face, one does not have vocal and facial expressions to aid in the interpretation of one's words. Hence, all the more important it is to write and phrase carefully. Another reason why I think misunderstandings occur.

Most unfortunately, I am no good looking chick. =(

Da Jie,

You raised some points I think alot of people are thinking (but perhaps have difficulty articulating =P). Is there such as think are a "fixed" right or wrong? What do we mean by "fixed"? What do we mean by "right or wrong"? This is a very philosophilcally deep question actually, and I have talked a little about it on my "moral realism" post. I will probably blog another full post to delve further into meta-ethical questions.

Happy belated birthday, btw. =)

BL,

I'm still thinking about some of the stuff you said. I'm thinking, since our views are a very essential part of our selves, does this not mean, we cannot totally separate the person from the issue? Which is why, perhaps, ad-hominems are such powerful "arguments"?

Dr Huang,

I am new to the blogosphere. If you are indeed not as "household" as I originally thought you were, my apologizes for misrepresenting you. I had no intension of flattering you for the sake of discounts.

Although I agree with your sentiments that we must refrain from "pigeon-holeing" other bloggers, I'm not so sure about your point on "preconceived ideas". I actually think its quite hard NOT to have preconceived ideas about anything, really. This is related to something regarding perspective and objectivity which I'm been hoping to blog about, but have yet to find the time.

Cheers to all,

Anonymous said...

Lil bro,

Thanks for your wishes. I'm one year older now.=( Anyway, in response to your question, Peres = Shimon Peres.

During his talk, he mentioned that he believes there are right and wrong changes. Something that is right during a certain time (Jewish settlements in the past) can become wrong over time. I guess you could argue that maybe it wasn't right in the first place.

Anyway, good job. You know why I like to talk to you about philosophical stuff.

JollyJester

As for democracy as a decision making/power representation system, if you strip it down to its bare minimum, it is simply a tyranny of the majority over the minority.

I guess the hope was that human beings are intelligent and the majority will make the so-called 'right' decision. Although with the results of elections in the US and Singapore, it is not evident that the majority is 'smart' enough.=)

kwayteowman said...

Fearfully Opinionated,

Yeah, good point. Sometimes sloppiness creates misunderstandings (not accusing you of being sloppy lah).

But sloppiness in itself doesn't necessarily cause people to get upset at one another. You got upset over my misinterpretation of your point about teachers meh? But sloppiness does exacerbate the problem with articulation. :-)

In any case, I hope that you realise that the KTM wasn't serious when he said that bloggers can be categorized into three groups. :-)

You not cute chick nevermind. Idea: if your da jie is a cute chick, you can put her pic on your blog instead. Works too. :-P

Anonymous said...

KTM asked: "why do nations go to war?"

I think the question is somewhat answered below:

http://www.tompaine.com/print/message_to_west_point.php

It is too true, however disgraceful it may be to human nature, that nations in general will make war whenever they have a prospect of getting anything by it; nay, absolute monarchs will often make war when their nations are to get nothing by it, but for the purposes and objects merely personal, such as thirst for military glory, revenge for personal affronts, ambition, or private compacts to aggrandize or support their particular families or partisans. These and a variety of other motives, which affect only the mind of the sovereign, often lead him to engage in wars not sanctified by justice or the voice and interests of his people.

BL said...

Fearfully Opinionated,

I'm still thinking about some of the stuff you said. I'm thinking, since our views are a very essential part of our selves, does this not mean, we cannot totally separate the person from the issue? Which is why, perhaps, ad-hominems are such powerful "arguments"?

An ad-homimem is a fallacy of an argument. It is abused by politicians to sidetrack the real issues, and to discredit their opponents 99.9% of the time. It's not a powerful argument.

Seperating the people from issues is something I learned when I studied in the UK, debating with my friends. I remembered that I used to do a "GP" way to cover all grounds, and face a problem of picking a position. In the end, I realized that it is better to take a position and argue. It may be end up the position is untenable, but you can acknowledge that and move on.

KTM,

Well, you don't worry that Mrs KTM make noise about you "buaya"ing here. :)

Fearfully Opinionated said...

KTM,

Actually, the thought did cross my mind. Unfortunately, I do not think my da jie's boyfriend would like that very much. Or my da jie, for that matter. =P

BL,

Thank you for your elaborations. Looks like I've been sloppy in my articulation again =/. I am actually quite aware that an argumentum ad-hominem is a logical fallacy. Yet, it proves to be extremely persuasive among the masses, or so it seems to me. This was what I meant by it being a "powerful argument".

Incidentally, (yet another) one of my posts still in formulation, is wondering why two well-known logical fallacies (ad-hominem, and appealing to authority) are so overly persuasive in our culture and society.

What your initial comment had got me wondering about, was how much our views (which are our beliefs) are linked to our idenity as individuals. And if really one's beliefs are really inextricably linked to one's identity, a value judgement made on one's VIEWS, would on some level, necessarily include a value judgement made on the INDIVIDUAL who carries such views.

Consider a more intuitive attempt to explain my above point: when we go around reading the blogosphere, we can't help but form views about the blogger behind the posts. "This person is a young kid", "This person has a chip on his shoulder". "This guys just wants to seek attention" etc etc. Perhaps, adopting such a perception towards the blogger NECESSARILY, on some level, forms a kind of internal ad-hominem argument tacitly, and we are predisposed to take the views of these bloggers less seriously. EVEN IF, they do manage to say something substantial. I'm not so sure about this, but its something you started me thinking about.

On your more basic point of separating people from issues (which I should have addressed in the first place), I agree. Take for example, my da jie and myself. We disagree on a whole lot of intellectual issues, but (as far as I know at least), we do not let our disagreements affect our personal relationship. Nevertheless, I absolutely agree with you also that it is "hard to implement" in reality.

Which is why I started wondering why it was so hard to implement, and which was why I replied with a rather inarticulate claim about not being able to separate the issue from self.

Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.