Vallicella on "the Question of Tone in Philosophy"
My cyber-friend Bill Vallicella has a post on "the Question of Tone in Philosophy" in which he offers the following advice on how to react to individuals who post insults:
I view it all with Olympian detachment and refuse to have anything to do with such people. If they are foolish enough to show up here, I delete their comments and block them from the site. Nasty e-mail is deleted unread. Just as I am careful about what I allow into my stomach, I am careful about what I allow into my mind. Good rules are: never debate anyone, and never respond to attacks.I don't get many insults on this blog, but Bill offers generally good advice. I usually follow his two rules, which I've learned through experience and therefore independently of his formulation of them, so they must be right. I'd offer some additional advice. Maintain a sense of humor and a degree of humility.
I don't ignore all insults, of course, because they're often fun to play around with, as I did with a recently posted insult labeling me "an uncultured fop, a boob, an imbecile!!!"
Moreover, Bill is speaking specifically about "tone" in philosophy, not about discourse in general, and he notes an exception in his post "On Replying in Kind":
A prime exception, however, is the politician. Someone whose livelihood and efficacy depend on being favorably perceived must counter assaults and slanders. If he does not, they may stick to him.Another, related exception comes in the public sphere, where rude and insulting discourse is often encountered. Consider the insults routinely uttered by Islamists, as indicated by the insulting threats that Malcolm Pollack draws our attention to in his post "Endangered Species." Ignoring the rudeness of such Islamists and their crude insults simply invites more of the same, for their intention is intimidation, as shown by the poster demanding that "Freedom Go To Hell." One necessary response to this is ridicule, and the polemicist Pat Condell does it well.
Be forewarned, however, that Condell's defense of free speech can occasionally use strong, even somewhat 'offensive' language . . . but that's sort of the point, isn't it.