Being Charitable to those who Disagree

Maria Popova quotes D.C. Dennett on how to argue:

1. You should attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.

2. You should list any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).

3. You should mention anything you have learned from your target.

4. Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.

Intellectually, I think only the first step is important. It is analogous to Bryan Caplan’s ideological Turing test.

New EconTalk Feature

I only recently noticed that an experimental Continuing Conversation feature on EconTalk. It is like a comments section, but with the comments guided by questions from Amy Willis.

My reading of the first two continuing conversations is that they went well. When I started my economics blog, it was called Great Questions of Economics, and I ended every post with a discussion question. I stopped doing that, more out of laziness than anything else.

It would be amusing/humbling to have Willis-style questions after I wrote a blog post. “What was Kling saying when he wrote ____?” It would be even more amusing/humbling to read the answers.

About This Blog

About two months ago, I quit blogging at EconLog. The main reason was that I was right in the middle of trying a start-up that combined two big trends/fads: online education and mobile computing.

The result, vhandouts.com, is something that I am using in teaching two high school courses, one on statistics and one on economics. My original vision was to build something that other teachers could use, also. I might very well have had a good idea. Just as computer programming these days relies a great deal today on shared code libraries, with “reinventing the wheel” an awful sin (and I have a hard time giving up sinning), what I was trying to do was create a platform for creating shared libraries for highly interactive simple quizzes. From the beginning, I had doubts about my ability to execute the full concept, and ultimately the doubts won out. I am glad I tried it, because (a) I can use it in my classes and (b) I learned about how computer programming has changed in the past dozen years.

I want to get back to blogging for two reasons. One is to record links and book reviews for my own benefit. A second is to rejoin the blog conversation–I found that I missed participating.

I decided to go with my own blog, rather than return to EconLog, because I want to have total control over the blog content. I want to model a very particular style of discourse, as indicated by the tag line “taking the most charitable view of those who disagree.” In June, I wrote

Suppose we look at writing on issues where people tend to hold strong opinions that fit with their ideology. Such writing can

(a) attempt to open the minds of people on the opposite side as the author
(b) attempt to open minds of people on the same side as the author
(c) attempt to close minds of people on the same side as the author

So, think about it. Wouldn’t you classify most op-eds and blog posts as (c)? Isn’t that sort of pathetic?

My goal is to avoid (c). I will try to keep the posts here free of put-downs, snark, cheap shots, straw-man arguments, and taking the least charitable interpretation of what others say. So, if what you most enjoyed about my past blogging efforts were the put-downs, be prepared for disappointment with this incarnation.