• S
    10.2k
    Or, The Problem of Talking Past Each Other in Philosophical Discussion.

    Here's how the problem looks:

    Horses are fun to ride!

    No, horses are too small to be ridden.

    What? They're bigger than us! Horse riding is a well known sport!

    No, there's no such sport. Horses are little fluffy creatures we keep as pets.

    Wait... fluffy? Horses aren't fluffy.

    Yes they are.

    Hold up. What sound do you think horses make?

    They go "Meow!".

    What?! What do you think horses are?

    Horses are cats.

    Facepalm!

    Now, how many times do you think that this same problem has occurred on this very forum, and what can you do to reduce its occurrence?
  • Baden
    7.8k


    No, rocks are not always just rocks. And I'll thank you not to try that one on again.
  • S
    10.2k
    No, rocks are not always just rocks. And I'll thank you not to try that one on again.Baden

    Right. Sometimes they're cats.
  • Terrapin Station
    9.2k
    There's a good reason why a lot of philosophy papers, at least in analytic philosophy, make explicit how the author is defining terms that are important for the paper. That's especially important if there are a number of common senses of the term in the field, or if the author is using a definition that's at all novel or controversial.
  • ArguingWAristotleTiff
    3.5k
    :brow: Come on out to AZ and I will let you find out the difference between a cat and a horse for yourself. One day of feeding, caring and cleaning up after the two will show you the differences that words cannot.
  • Baden
    7.8k
    ...and what can you do to reduce its occurrence?S

    Delete the posts in question. It's inevitable you'll get posters talking past each other especially as a lot of posts here are likely written while multi-tasking or in haste. Ideally, we should just all slow down. But, realistically, that's not going to happen.
  • S
    10.2k
    Delete the posts in question. It's inevitable you'll get posters talking past each other especially as a lot of posts here are likely written while multi-tasking or in haste. Ideally, we should just all slow down. But, realistically, that's not going to happen.Baden

    But it can be way more subtle than the example I gave in my opening post. It can, in some cases, look a lot like an intelligent and meaningful philosophical discussion, when in reality it could be a pointless dead end. If we're using the same terminology, then initially it might go on undetected. I might not realise that the other person is actually talking about cats, not horses. But of course, they could simply insist that they are talking about horses - horses are those fluffy things that sit on your lap, and I'm an idiot for not realising this, and I need it repeated to me ad nauseam, or I need you to point out to me the logical consequences of what I'm saying if misinterpreted in accordance with your own meaning: horses can't be ridden, stupid! They're too small!

    A real example would be that an hour is a measurement, and a measurement is a human activity, or that meaning is a mental activity. That wasn't what I was saying at all, and bringing these interpretations into the discussion without proper justification caused big problems.
  • ssu
    1.2k
    Now, how many times do you think that this same problem has occurred on this very forum, and what can you do to reduce its occurrence?S
    Look for definitions of the words before you answer?

    Of course it can be sometimes really ignorance, but unfortunately a lot of words mean different things to different people. The worst thing is that many words that you thought had exact definitions are used as adjectives not in their original definition. Just think about 'fascist', 'capitalist', 'maoist', 'racist', 'liberal',,,

    There's a good reason why a lot of philosophy papers, at least in analytic philosophy, make explicit how the author is defining terms that are important for the paper.Terrapin Station
    And sometimes this is circumvented, especially those lecturing on German philosophy, with not daring to translate the words to the language they are using, but use only the German word (like with dasein). I guess with French philosophers they use it too. Plus it's a great way to exclude others from the debate!
  • S
    10.2k
    Look for definitions of the words before you answer?ssu

    No, no, no. I shouldn't really have to provide a definition for the word "horse". Assume that words are being used in the ordinary way, or examine and consider the context or usage, or, if you're still not sure, then ask for clarification. Assume that I'm talking about horses, as in actual horses. We all know what they are! Don't bring your horses as cats nonsense into the discussion without being very explicit about it, and without it being accompanied by a very good explanation.
  • Waya
    994
    Don't talk anymore. :razz:
  • S
    10.2k
    :zip:
  • Marchesk
    2.5k
    Ideally, we should just all slow down. But, realistically, that's not going to happen.Baden

    So in reality we live ideal lives? Way to settle that long standing debate.
  • tim wood
    2.4k
    Delete the posts in question. Ideally, we should just all slow down. But, realistically, that's not going to happen.Baden

    Ideally, every OP should have a definitions section, or at least those OPs that need one - another thing that isn't going to happen.
  • Terrapin Station
    9.2k
    A real example would be that an hour is a measurement, and a measurement is a human activity, or that meaning is a mental activity. That wasn't what I was saying at all, and bringing these interpretations into the discussion without proper justification caused big problems.S

    Those are ontological analyses of what the terms are conventionally referring to. People are naturally going to disagree on such things. There's no way to demand that others use the same ontological analysis that you believe is correct, or to demand that they just ignore ontological analyses altogether.
  • S
    10.2k
    Those are ontological analyses of what the terms are conventionally referring to. People are naturally going to disagree on such things. There's no way to demand that others use the same ontological analysis that you believe is correct, or to demand that they just ignore ontological analyses altogether.Terrapin Station

    Oh my goodness. I'm not suggesting that people aren't going to disagree, or that they shouldn't do so. I'm suggesting that they should do so in the right way. When a dead end is reached, then that should be the end of it. You have a responsibility to be as clear as possible about dead ends, and to deal with them appropriately. But instead, what I've seen happen is that some people will just keep pushing their own ideas and going around in circles, and then all I end up doing is identifying the reoccurring problem while the other person just keeps pushing on. If you're either unwilling or unable to engage in a more productive way with an idea, because it clashes with an idea of your own that you won't let go off, then you should just come out and say so, and let that be the end of it. Why have we been unduly dragging things out?

    I'm not demanding anything at all, let alone what you suggest above. I'm appealing to people to stop and think about these kind of problems, and think about what they themselves can do to reduce them from occurring in future.
  • Terrapin Station
    9.2k
    If you're either unwilling or unable to engage in a more productive way with an idea, because it clashes with an idea of your own that you won't let go off,S

    The point here would be that one thinks that the idea in question has things factually wrong, so "engaging in a productive way" with it would involve trying to correct the error.
  • S
    10.2k
    The point here would be that one thinks that the idea in question has things factually wrong, so "engaging in a productive way" with it would involve trying to correct the error.Terrapin Station

    It's fine to try correct what one believes to be an error; again, so long as one goes about it in the right way. The problem has been an apparent obliviousness of what going about it in the right way would look like. Don't just assert that a horse is a cat. Don't just assert that horses are fluffy. I get that you might well think that I'm the one making an error, but you're not helping. You're not doing anything productive by doing that.
  • Terrapin Station
    9.2k
    so long as one goes about it in the right way. The problem has been an apparent obliviousness of what going about it in the right way would look like.S

    Sure. So what would be "the right way"?
  • S
    10.2k
    Sure. So what would be "the right way"?Terrapin Station

    Either try to reasonably support the controversial assertion or be explicit about what it is and what you're doing.
  • emancipate
    108
    Get terms right in the first place and go from there.. Problem solved?
  • Terrapin Station
    9.2k
    Either try to reasonably support the controversial assertion or be explicit about what it is and what you're doing.S

    Who gets to decide what's a reasonable support, though?
  • Baden
    7.8k


    Depends on the OP, but certainly more effort in writing with clarity and precision there would help offset the issue. For example, a couple of lines anticipating misunderstandings, definition-based or not, could probably benefit most OPs.
  • ssu
    1.2k
    Assume that words are being used in the ordinary way, or examine and consider the context or usage, or, if you're still not sure, then ask for clarification. Assume that I'm talking about horses, as in actual horses.S
    If the issue is the problem of talking past each other in a philosophical discussion and the issue isn't a misunderstanding, then it's simply not a debate, but just people saying what they want to say and not caring what others are talking about, like:

    A) I want to talk here about horses.

    B) I love cats. I have a cat. Many people in the Forum have cats. Have you known that? It's interesting they don't have dogs. Why is it so?

    C) Dog owners are fascists.

    A) But the issue was horses. Horses are big.

    B) Oh I agree, C. They are fascists.
  • Banno
    5.1k
    Not to mention what happens in each case when they jump on your lap.
  • DingoJones
    777
    Who gets to decide what's a reasonable support, though?Terrapin Station

    Do you think reason is completely relative? That valid reasoning can be different for different people?
  • Terrapin Station
    9.2k
    Do you think reason is completely relative? That valid reasoning can be different for different people?DingoJones

    So do you go by consensus or something?
  • DingoJones
    777


    Lol, you crack me up. Just answer the question man, or have the decency to tell me to fuck off
    ;)
  • Terrapin Station
    9.2k


    You responded to my question with a question.
  • DingoJones
    777


    Ah, returning the favour are you? My fault, apologies. I didnt intend my question to be a (non) answer to your question as it wasnt directed at me, rather your question to the other dude prompted me to inquire as to your basis in asking the question. My question was sincere, not meant to be leading or anything other than an elaboration on your own views, which im interested in.
  • S
    10.2k
    Who gets to decide what's a reasonable support, though?Terrapin Station

    Reasonable people.
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