Don’t mistake losing *an argument* with losing your *right to argue*

Last October Patrick Stokes wrote a great post for The Conversation, which some of you may remember me linking to back then: No, you’re not entitled to your opinion. For some reason it’s being linked around FB right now, so I thought I’d revisit it here today, given that this fallacy is being seen rather a lot in discussions of our current Federal election campaigns.

We see it too often online, and more than we’d like to offline too: this idea that “I’m entitled to my opinion” means something more than merely being entitled to express an opinion one holds without being physically prevented from doing so – that somehow all opinions are equally entitled to respect from other people, or that all opinions are equally entitled to be treated seriously as if they are all equally informed or relevant.

Patrick’s post lays out why this frequently whimpered whine is nonsense.

Categories: ethics & philosophy, media, Meta, parties and factions

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20 replies

  1. Wow you could cross post this on LP *runs, hides*

  2. Not so much respect as consideration. We’re supposed to be able to sort through bullshit through our evolution-created brains that makes us human, but it’s right to examine an opinion that seems bullshit, if it is found to be bullshit after consideration, then one avoids contempt prior to investigation and walks away with a good conscience and some extra knowledge gained through a contrasting outlook suggests.
    I suppose better ideas come from the hard work that can go with thinking and its right to remove stuff that is more likely bunkum in order to have time and space clear for real things that turn up.
    Am not sure what sense tigtog uses the word “respect”. Does she mean respect for the right to develop, hold, express a view or the formed view itself, depending on effort and accuracy, being deserving of respect, or not.
    But I think it is counterproductive to just lever another person off because you don’t like their face or consider yourself to be beyond reproach intellectually, or because an opposing viewpoint may be uncomfortable in some or other way.

    • Am not sure what sense tigtog uses the word “respect”. Does she mean respect for the right to develop, hold, express a view or the formed view itself, depending on effort and accuracy, being deserving of respect, or not.

      For clarity, my meaning (formulated as a paraphrase of points made in the linked post) is that the formed view is not necessarily deserving of respect (a fact which would have been abundantly clear, paulwalter, if you’d clicked through and read the linked post in full).

      • e.g. I have no respect for certain views that posit anysome groups of humans as fundamentally less worthy than others. It doesn’t matter if one’s argument for such a view is that a deity ordained it or that evolutionary pyschology explains it, such views are dehumanising bullshit and I will not respect them.

      • Coming back to this again: another point is that many of us see the same old crap views/opinions supported by the same old nonsense arguments presented over and over again. If someone presents me with a view/argument I’ve seen, evaluated and dismissed before, then I’m not going to waste my time evaluating it again (skimming it to see if there’s anything new (and there very rarely is) is the best it deserves). Particularly if the view/opinion is odious, I’m going to have nothing but contempt for it, and there’s really no way to convey any pretence of respect in that situation.

  3. Now I am wounded.
    Of course I read the article, bloody good too, neat and well and ordered. I was going to cite the problem of ecological demialism also, but the anti vaccination lobbyist is sufficient.
    May well be an intelligent person also that, but to me her thinking is skewed and out of context and proportion..
    Oht, how many people got burnt at stakes in the Middle Ages for wondering if the Earth was round rather than flat, as intelligent people back then understood.
    Copernicus and Galileo ended up in deep trouble with cleverer people and their cases make an interesting contrast to that unfortunate vaccination person, who was probably working off some anxieties derived of too much US pop culture.
    Sophism, like denseness, is not a new phenomena either btw, Plato and Socrates were deeply critical of the cold-blooded use of spin in law and politics and Machiavelli updated on that two thousand years later.
    And you mention metaphysics. Well, that’s the problem isn’t it? So many known unknowns and unknown knowns and stuff we lack the wit or experience to know anyway, even if we could see and know and understand it all.
    So whilst I agree with and understand you, especially as to hate speech, false advertising and lies, I still think it is ok to hear someone out rather than just dismiss them curtly. If they bs, then the evidence is available and you walk away.
    For instance, I would be disregarding everything that Abbott and Morrison say on asylum seekers as largely bigotry through to malicious lies, but that they are as crass as they are makes my voting choices that much easier to decide on, so am glad I heard them out, if only for the laugh.

  4. @paul walter – patiently hearing out someone’s ‘hate speech, false advertising and lies’ is a lot easier if said hate speech, false advertising and lies is not about you or people like you…

  5. Angharad, I think there are various groups of people of whom individuals represented will share a media shackles as exhibits on a sort of carousel employed by msm for public diversionary purposes, like people put in the stocks in the village square circa 1650.
    They are diversions from the “ewige poor”; the people who we sometimes see living on rubbish tips on tv, in other countries and even pockets here. Africa.
    The people who are regularly demonised include the unemployed, asylum seekers and other racial, class, gender and or ethnic others.
    Who can not follow the news closely and not sense a creeping feeling of despair?

    • Paul, I’m really not following where you’ve shifted your argument. I think we’re all in agreement so far that any opinion founded on a viewpoint that demonises others is fundamentally contemptible, but you seem to be making an argument against Angharad’s previous post. Is that your intent, and if so, exactly what is your argument?

  6. No, Angharad’s post was making the point that an individual has to be fair and consistent in making a claim about something regardless of what side you are on.
    I was thanking her for citing my example.

    • Really? That’s not how I read her point at all, but I’ll leave it to Angharad to clarify further. Also, there was no thanks expressed anywhere in your comment – if that’s what it was about, then why didn’t you say thanks?

    • To be more specific – the linked post was all about how we react to the arguments made by others, in terms of treating them as serious contenders for our consideration.
      (eta) Many arguments simply don’t deserve to be taken seriously, and it’s not only OK to point this out, but refusing to be sidetracked by unworthy arguments is crucial to substantive debate about what actually matters. (/eta)
      I don’t understand why you’re talking about how we make our own arguments. It’s not the topic of the post.

  7. I don’t know if there’s a Hoyden policy and how it would be implemented, but I would like to publicly observe that I find Paul Walter disruptive to my experience of Hoyden, injecting a significant amount of noise and no interesting content into what is usually a very high-signal comment section. And a lot of other commenters are spending time trying to understand and address his points, again with little added value.
    If it’s only me who is bothered, I’m happy to let it go, but I would not be surprised if this is an issue for other regulars.
    (This seems like a particularly appropriate thread to mention it in, not just because the comments contain excellent examples.)

  8. I’ve always thought that Paul Walter is parodying Hoyden. He seems to be running a kind of interference, elusive in his point of view, sufficiently agreeable so as not to be excluded from the forum but with a lot of Tim and Debbie speak which strikes me as mocking you all. Just a thought.

    • It’s a good thought, colette. Several of us have a history with Paul Walter over on LP as well, where he also seems to engage in opaque utterances that mostly serve to stir the pot. I think I’ve had enough of his noise drowning out other people’s signal.
      Bye Paul.

  9. I don’t know about parodying but it often takes me three readings to work out what he is talking about.
    I read his response to my comment as suggesting that bigotry in the MSM is an attempt to distract the subjects of that bigotry from the real problem in world – people living on rubbish dumps. A slightly more charitable reading might be that it is MSM fuss about bigotry that is said attempt to distract, but neither are particularly endearing sentiments.
    My comment was trying to point out that if you’ve never been on the receiving end of bigotry it’s pretty easy to dismiss the unpleasant effects of it. Having someone express bigotry towards people whose cause you support or even care about more directly, does not quite come close to standing there thinking ‘wow, this person doesn’t quite think I’m a real person’.

  10. I’ve noticed that most of the time when people talk about being “entitled” to their opinion, it’s not just about their right to be a crank.
    If someone wants to prove that special relativity isn’t true, or that 1 = 0, there’s not much they can do with it besides write tedious letters to professors who throw them away unread. We call them cranks, and IMHO the correct thing to do with them is to ignore them. The only harm they do is to waste somebody’s time.
    But a lot of these “opinions” are actually what I’d call “social devices” used to support oppressive or evil social structures. E.g., if someone is ranting about how African-Americans are inherently less intelligent than white USA-ans, or insisting that “black-on-black crime” is something (USA-an) black people need to address, it’s not just being a crank. Those “opinions” and their ilk are among the props used to support institutionalized racism in the USA, as much as the “Jim Crow” laws were, except more insidious, and they are almost always brought up in bad faith. They are not simply stupid, they are actively malicious.
    Given that background, if you trot out an “opinion” that sounds at all like that, I will feel fully justified in not only dismissing your “opinion,” but in dismissing you as someone who is trying to make the world a worse place than it already is. I’m not going to waste my time examining or disputing your opinion, since I’ve made a (IMHO reasonable) snap judgement that your opinion is a rationalization for evil and your intent is to waste my time and energy. (And I’m not going to invite you to any of my parties. So there!)
    If you hold such an “opinion,” and don’t like me condemning you as a racist or you believe I’m being unfair, the burden of proof is on you to examine your “opinion,” figure out how it does (or does not) support racist social structures, and present it to me — on my terms — in a way that I would agree distinguishes it from support for racism.
    In plain English: if you don’t like me dismissing you and your opinions as racist “with prejudice” and not bothering to engage with them, don’t do racist things and don’t espouse racist (or even racist-sounding) opinions.
    The same goes for sexist, homophobic, etc., “opinions.”

  11. But if you do that AMM you are ‘attacking’ them and their feelings get hurt and if you are a woman you are not sticking to the script where if you hurt a dudebros feelings you are meant to apologise so that they never have to look at their own opinions. If you don’t then they harrass you because you haven’t stuck to the script that dudebros wrote and actively enforce.

  12. Mindy @18

    But if you do that AMM you are ‘attacking’ them and their feelings get hurt and if you are a woman you are not sticking to the script where if you hurt a dudebros feelings you are meant to apologise so that they never have to look at their own opinions….

    Yeah, part of my male privilege is that I don’t catch the kind of hell that women do if they dare to contradict a dudebro.
    But I watched how the whole “Guys, don’t do that” thing went down, so I think I have some idea what you mean. And a guess as to why women are so often so ridiculously considerate of men’s feelings even when those men are being obvious jack-asses.

  13. Oht, how many people got burnt at stakes in the Middle Ages for wondering if the Earth was round rather than flat, as intelligent people back then

    Off topic I know, but I hate it when people claim people in the Middle Ages thought the earth was flat. They didn’t. They also weren’t that short, (mostly) didn’t die at the age of 30, washed relatively regularly, and weren’t all starving all the time.
    On topic, great article and well worth revisiting.

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