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Re: Summary of the debian-devel BoF at Debconf9

MJ Ray <mjr@phonecoop.coop> writes:

> "Bernhard R. Link" <brlink@debian.org>
> > * Ben Finney <ben+debian@benfinney.id.au> [090819 00:42]:
> > > Your distinction is lost on me; pointing out that someone has
> > > presented a logical fallacy *is* saying what is wrong. That we
> > > have succinct labels with well-established meanings serves to more
> > > quickly communicate what is wrong, which I would think is pleasing
> > > to you.
> > 
> > I fail to see what differentiates usage of well-established,
> > succinct terms as you imagine from a "He is an asshole, ignore him."

It's the difference between (in your example) dismissing a person as bad
and (in my description) dismissing an argument as bad.

Dismissing a person as bad must be done with great care and the margin
for error is high. Dismissing an argument as bad is, by comparison, much
simpler and can be done dispassionately and mercilessly.

> I see pointing out a personal attack as more like someone posting "he
> is primarily personally attacking the previous poster - ignore him".

Or, better: “That statement is a personal attack on the poster, and is
irrelevant to the argument”.

The implication being, of course, that it's the bad argument that is
irrelevant, and making no judgement about the person who made it. Just
because a person makes an ad hominem fallacy doesn't mean they can't
subsequently introduce a sound fact-based point.

Of course we *also* need to use our social record-keeping brains to
judge a person's likelihood of future poor argument based on their
demonstrated history, and hence decide what our threshold for dealing
with that person is; but that's a subjective judgement for each of us
and is far less amenable to consensus.

> > > As Manoj has pointed out (better than I did earlier), to *name* a
> > > fallacious argument is merely to point out clearly that the
> > > discussion has *already* gone off-topic, and is best interpreted
> > > as a request that the off-topic digression be terminated quickly.
> > 
> > And it is you deciding that the other side has gone too far or
> > off-topic and it is you deciding the discussion no longer has any
> > chance to lead anywhere.

Yes, of course. Others can come to different conclusions and act
accordingly; which is why it's incumbent on the person pointing out a
fallacious argument to make it clear *why* that particular argument
meets that fallacy, so others can judge accordingly.

> As I've written before, I think that some of the bigger debian lists
> would be better if *someone* decided when the discussion has gone too
> far or off-topic and acted on it (putting a thread on mod-hold and
> just slowing the discussion, for example).
> Any such decision mechanism should be open, transparent and
> accountable to DDs.

Sounds good to me.

 \             “I have never imputed to Nature a purpose or a goal, or |
  `\    anything that could be understood as anthropomorphic.” —Albert |
_o__)                                    Einstein, unsent letter, 1955 |
Ben Finney

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