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August 27, 2012


Tom Addison

"Not only do I not give a damn about your opinion, dear reader, I don't give a damn about my own."

I try to adopt this attitude, but I often find people try to use it against me. Their train of thought seems to be, "You don't have an opinion on x and I do, therefore it's more likely that I know more about x and am correct."



Yes, Tom. People mistake overconfidence for ability, not just in themselves (which true by definition) but in others. Here's one I prepared earlier:

David Blake

On point 2 you are right. Bertrand Russell recognised this problem. He said that we should always make judgements based on the strength of the argument not the fame of the person making it. And if Bertrand Russell said that it must be true.


Just pouncing here: "It also gives us the sort of silly tribalism that leads people to defend Julian Assange - they cannot distinguish between the merit of his ideas and the content of his character."

Conversely, it leads people not to distinguish between the content of his character and the merit of his ideas ... which sadly is also happening (in other cases too, I'm sure). The latter may deserve our respect even as the alleged nature of the former does not. Great ideas may come from the least savoury of people, after all. Doesn't mean we shouldn't examine them (the ideas I mean) on *their* merits.

Love the idea that bad faith has a place, though.

Chris Purnell

Perhaps this piece is better entitled 'In Praise Of Intellectual Posturing' or, 'If It Sounds Good Let's Go For It'? Sixth Formers love this sort of thing. A missed your vocation?

Churm Rincewind

So let me get this straight. When you express an opinion, you reserve the right to disclaim it. But when politicians and other public figures express an opinion, you do not afford them the same luxury.

For, of course, they may claim the same defence. Pehaps George Galloway often seeks only to provoke debate (and this would seem to fit with his apparent interest in public attention). Heaven forfend that we should simply dismiss him as a twat.


@ Churm - I don't deny politicians the right to change their mind. Quite the opposite; I wish they'd do so more often:
If I thought Galloway were insincere, my respect for him would soar.

Churm Rincewind

Thanks for your reply. But I'm not convinced. The late Nicholas Fairbairn MP used to excuse the misogynism, homophobia, and racism of his public statements by saying that he was only seeking to make politics interesting. Bad faith, as you define it, excuses everything and is therefore no excuse.

As for George Galloway, it seems to me that his desire for attention often overrides his judgement. In short, he strives always to be "interesting", which you say is also your sole aim.

Wth respect, I don't believe you. You're better than that.


Fascinating. I too make a conscious decision to be "interesting", both in my daily real-life interactions and in my blogging, but I guess you need to keep a delicate balance between being "interesting" and being "true to yourself", or being credible. More than once I have found myself crying out that such-and-such a blog post must be read "ironically", not as a statement of fact.
It is not just Julian Assange- pick up any tabloid- we all suffer from the malaise of wishing to see our adored celebrities morally pure and imperfect- see the outrage ensuing from any misstep.
I don't know about Richard Rorty- I thought the practice of making provocative statements in order to stimulate thought and good conversation went back to Socrates?

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