Sunday, March 01, 2009

Vallicella on "the Question of Tone in Philosophy"

William F. Vallicella
'Maverick Philosopher'

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.

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At 9:53 AM, Blogger writtenwyrdd said...

This is interesting coming on the heels of the recent discourse about talking about race.

Insults of religious, racial or very personal level may require some response just for the sake of social responsibility, don't you think? As a Rosa Parks sort of response but not on such a drastic playing field?

One must pick one's responses to fit the grime (that's been slung), I suppose.

At 3:34 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Yes, some insults need a response, unlike those in philosophy.

Silence can give the impression of timidity, but one shouldn't be intimidated . . . or even allow that impression.

A response, however, must be intelligent, and more appropriate than the tone of the one who insulted.

Pat Condell usually does a really fine job of responding to insults.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 11:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Once again, I respond to your thoughts on responses to insults that have been directed to you, sometimes favorite nephew:

In regards to the charge of you being "An uncultured fop, a boob, an imbecele!!!

Dear Jeffery:

As previously stated by me:
At no time since your youth have I ever considered you as "uncultured."
Being raised in the hills of Arkansas, you, as I, started life as uncultured, but after years of education, world travel, and contacts with folks of culture, a thin veneer of "culture" managed to attach to our hillbilly selves.

So, to that charge, I say that let it never again be hurled at you and me.

Let your readers take note!


At 4:25 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Well, Uncle Cran, perhaps that anonymous person who called me those names managed to see through my thin veneer of culture.

I take it that you, however, consider me a cultured fop, boob, and imbecile.

I appreciate your courteous compliment.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 6:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Far be it from me to intentionally leave such an impression. I totally dismissed the other unwarranted accusations by the unknown author, as being not worthy of mention.
The only description that could possibly be applied, I dismissed quite thoroughly, to my thinking.
We, being raised in an uncultured society, warranted a defense.
I sincerely apologize to you and your blog-mates for this misconception.
On the other hand, I distinctly remember your comments on my "Uncle Cran's Famous (yes, the corrrect description is "Famous," not "Fatuous"), Tales of Yesteryear."
For instance the photo of the ice storm, labeled, "The morning after the night before," which was dealt with with sly innuendos. Others could be mentioned, but will be ommitted.
I leave it to your readers to judge betwixt me and thee.


At 7:32 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Uncle Cran, you're getting as obscure and recondite as JK! Well, I'll just take everything that you say as a compliment. It's easier that way...

Jeffery Hodges

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At 11:15 AM, Blogger jeanie oliver said...

Dear Jeff-er-y,
a "fop"! weren't most fops primarily concerned with their clothing and fashions? Maybe you need to post more pics of yourself so I can make a judgment in this area of your cultural development. Maybe they were refering to a fop as on who puts on "airs". As insults go, at least it makes me smile!

At 11:28 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I wish that I could put on more 'airs! I've lost a great many of them already and therefore wear that foppish cap. That must have been the meaning of my anonymous critic because otherwise, I'm forever in blue jeans.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now that you take everything I say as a compliment, I will do the same for you.
So I say, "Thank You" for the many compliments you have given, and also for the future ones, as well.
It will make it easier for both of us.

At 10:05 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Easier, Uncle Cran? Yes, I fully agree. It is much easier. Now, we can say whatever we want.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 9:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Congratulations, my friend!
Not only are fellow sailors, fellow Arkansansans, and blog associates, but now we are fellow obscurantists and recondites.
I thought it would take a great deal of expertise in linguistics to obfuscate your friend and my nephew Jeffery.
Seemingly, you and I are the two who have that capability.
But, be humble, as I am, and let us determine not to permit this shared gift to lift us up with pride.
Jeffery & I have decided that anything we say to each other will be considered a compliment.
Feel free to join us is this mutual admiration society.

At 10:07 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Think of it as the Untrammeled Speech Society.

Jeffery Hodges

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