This (slightly edited) overview by Alastair Roberts (via Steve Sailer) of contrasting modes of discourse gets at some of the problems we have seen at EphBlog over the last 16 years.

In observing the interaction between David Dudley Field ’24 and his critics in the recent debate, I believe that we were witnessing a collision of two radically contrasting modes of discourse. The first mode of discourse, represented by DDF’s critics, is one in which sensitivity, inclusivity, and inoffensiveness are key values, and in which persons and positions are ordinarily closely related. The second mode of discourse, displayed by DDF, is one characterized and enabled by personal detachment from the issues under discussion, involving highly disputational and oppositional forms of rhetoric, scathing satire, and ideological combativeness.

When these two forms of discourse collide they are frequently unable to understand each other and tend to bring out the worst in each other. The first form of discourse seems lacking in rationality and ideological challenge to the second; the second can appear cruel and devoid of sensitivity to the first. To those accustomed to the second mode of discourse, the cries of protest at supposedly offensive statements may appear to be little more than a dirty and underhand ploy intentionally adopted to derail the discussion by those whose ideological position can’t sustain critical challenge. However, these protests are probably less a ploy than the normal functioning of the particular mode of discourse characteristic of that community, often the only mode of discourse that those involved are proficient in.

To those accustomed to the first mode of discourse, the scathing satire and sharp criticism of the second appears to be a vicious and personal attack, driven by a hateful animus, when those who adopt such modes of discourse are typically neither personally hurt nor aiming to cause such hurt. Rather, as this second form of discourse demands personal detachment from issues under discussion, ridicule does not aim to cause hurt, but to up the ante of the debate, exposing the weakness of the response to challenge, pushing opponents to come back with more substantial arguments or betray their lack of convincing support for their position. Within the first form of discourse, if you take offense, you can close down the discourse in your favor; in the second form of discourse, if all you can do is to take offense, you have conceded the argument to your opponent, as offense is not meaningful currency within such discourse.

Read the whole thing. I, obviously, am a second mode Eph.

All Ephs are welcome here, but my basic mode won’t be changing any time soon . . .

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