Spirited Debate on LO LO6670

Sun, 14 Apr 1996 00:36:34 -0400

Replying to LO6653 --


You wrote: "Margaret, I'm truly not attempting to present gymnastics
here. I am asking that if a statement IS (factually) arrogant (not by some
opinion or assessment but IS arrogant) what are the problems with pointing
this FACT out and what are the balancing problems of NOT pointing it out?"
End of quote.

You missed my point. Indulge me as I elaborate. There has been some
powerful work done in the philosophy of language that addresses this

John Searle, from Berkeley, leveraged the work of J. Austin and came up
with the idea of "speech acts." The point being when we speak we are
taking action. Examples of speech acts include: assertions
(witnessable/observable facts that are either true or false, such as it
rained in Atlanta today), assessments (our opinions about what we observe,
such as it was an ugly day with the rain), requests (such as will you
please write more on the kind of spirited debate you would like to see on
the learning-org list?), offers (such as I would be happy to give you more
references on speech acts), declarations (such as a judge declaring a
couple married by the power vested in her/him by the community) and
promises (I will finish my taxes by April 15!)

The funny thing about the English language particularly is that the
sentence structure of assertions (observable facts) and assessments
(opinions) are the same. Assertion: Rick founded the learning-org list.
Assessment: Rick is generous for moderating the learning-org list. So we
confuse assessments with facts all the time. Yet, it can never be
*proven* that Rick is generous as a fact. It is ALWAYS an opinion of the
speaker....and many of us on the list! -grin-

So if you look closely, you will see that a comment made on this list can
never be arrogant as a FACT. It is ALWAYS the speaker's opinion that an
arrogant comment was made. You can't prove arrogance. You can only point
to the statements made and reveal your standard for what arrogance is to
YOU! Japanese might have very different standards of arrogance and than
British or Americans.

The other important point is that assessments are made out of some
concern, otherwise there is no point in making them. We humans are
automatic assessment machines, however, and we confuse our point of view
as truth. Learning how to distinguish facts from opinions, owning that
opinions are only opinions and revealing the underlying concerns one has
when speaking assessments increases one's power to coordinate with others
in the world.

Usually, what we humans do is try to enslave others to agree with our
opinions. This creates the conflict you spoke of in debate. (Debate is
meant to prove the other person wrong, but wrong is an assessment made by
someone.) The ladder of inference is meant to deal with this when there is
a conflict, by encouraging the two parties to walk down the ladder and
reveal the data chosen for the assessment, the standards used in making
it, the assumptions, etc. Spirited debate can indeed be powerful, but
only if we come from the point of view that it is ONLY our point of view
and be open to others' views and learn from them.

I hope you can follow what I'm saying here.

You commented the following to your last message to me:

"Please let me quote myself with emphasis added:

'If a statement made by a person posting here is, in FACT, arrogant -
HYPOTHETICALLY - how is it incorrect to tell them? '"

Even with the emphasis, your comment makes no sense to me, I'm sorry to
say. What does make sense is if you tell someone on the list that you are
ASSESSING them as arrogant and why you say that (reveal your standards and
support with assertions) and then point to the future you want to build
with that person or others on the list.

Hal, don't get me wrong, I appreciate you sparking the dialogue about
spirited debate. I think healthy debate is fun and as I said, I too tend
to challenge a lot (because I'm still trying to learn that my opinion is
ONLY my opinion!), but please go back and reread your last post and tell
us what concern you are trying address when you passionately speak about
the importance of telling someone they are arrogant - HYPOTHETICALLY!


Margaret McIntyre

P.S. I was born in Atlanta too, but moved at ten days old and was raised
in the north for the first 30 years. I've been back almost 13 years.
Thanks for the gratuitous geographical comment.



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