Polemics

I stayed up last night and watched the South Africa – New Zealand semi-final at the cricket world cup. I really shouldn’t have, as I really am now too old to do an all-nighter, and we lost. However, I also had a brief Twitter exchange with Mark Ryan (who has commented here before) who pointed me to an interesting interview with Michel Foucalt called Polemics, Politics, and Problemization; perfect reading for the early hours while watching cricket 🙂

There were really two reasons why I found the interview interesting; it certainly seems relevant to much of the online climate debate, but it also reminded me of what I was striving for, even if I don’t often manage to achieve it. I don’t want to write a long post (I’ve said that before) so thought I would highlight a couple of things that I found of interest. This seemed particularly relevant: when asked why he didn’t engage in polemics, Foucalt responded with

I like discussions, and when I am asked questions, I try to answer them. It’s true that I don’t like to get involved in polemics. If I open a book and see that the author is accusing an adversary of “infantile leftism” I shut it again right away.

This seems particularly prevalent in the online climate debate. There are many blogs that regularly have posts decrying “greenies” or “leftist” or some other similarly generic label. My current problem is that instead of doing as Foucalt suggests, I get annoyed, write some kind of comment, and then get dragged down the rabbit hole.

This also struck a cord

The polemicist , on the other hand, proceeds encased in privileges that he possesses in advance and will never agree to question. On principle, he possesses rights authorizing him to wage war and making that struggle a just undertaking; the person he confronts is not a partner in search for the truth but an adversary, an enemy who is wrong, who is armful, and whose very existence constitutes a threat

Certainly, I’ve been involved in far too many discussions where I seem to be essentially saying (naively) “why do you think that is an appropriate way to engage in such discussions?” There was a recent Bishop-Hill discussion on “the poors” that I got dragged into. Me suggesting that accusing others of arguing for the death of millions was sub-optimal, was typically followed by some claiming that that doesn’t happen, and others accusing me of arguing for the death of millions.

The final thing I thought I would highlight was

Perhaps, someday, a long history will have to be written of polemics, polemics as a parasitic figure on discussion and an obstacle to the search for the truth.

which is something I’ve pondered myself. Will we look back and wonder how we let ourselves and our societies be dominated by those whose goal is not to strive for truth, a better society, or a better understanding of the world around us, but simply a desire to drive forward an agenda at all costs (or almost all costs). To be clear, I’m not meaning the climate debate only here; I think this is prevalent throughout society at the moment.

Anyway, those are just some quick thoughts. Bear in mind that I read most of this at about 3am while trying to watch the cricket and not fall asleep (which I didn’t entirely manage). I’m sure there’s much more to it than I’ve described, and I may well have not properly captured all the subtleties. I’m sure some of my more philosophically minded commenters will have more insightful thoughts than I’ve managed. I thought I would end, though, with a link to a Slate article that explains cricket for Americans. It’s just a pity that they only explained one-day cricket, and didn’t go into the complexities of test-match cricket 🙂

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86 Responses to Polemics

  1. Steven Mosher says:

    “that I got dragged into.”

    what you mean to say is that you stepped into it.

    i’m not accusing because I feel there are times when I am dragged into things.

    1. to correct people
    2. to defend myself
    3. because I can educate.

    But In reality I choose. More and more I am choosing not to..

  2. Steven,
    Indeed, “dragged” wasn’t meant to imply forced. All of this is my own fault.

    More and more I am choosing not to..

    Likewise, although I choose badly more often than I would like.

  3. William,
    Yes, I remember that too. Hadn’t realised it was Rory Bremner, though.

  4. John Hartz says:

    Why didn’t all the chirping in the background keep you awake?

  5. BBD says:

    Polemic is where one is obliged to go when there is no scientific evidence. It’s the biggest tell of them all that one’s interlocutor has nothing else left.

    * * *

    John H

    Arf, arf.

  6. Willard says:

    > More and more I am choosing not to..

    It shows.

    ***

    Also:

    http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com/post/1572748314

    ***

    Foucault’s concept of problematization might deserve due diligence.

  7. Will we look back and wonder how we let ourselves and our societies be dominated by those whose goal is not to strive for truth, a better society, or a better understanding of the world around us, but simply a desire to drive forward an agenda at all costs (or almost all costs).

    It sounds as if on that day in the future polemics will be gone. That is very optimistic. I worry more that is will dominate.

    We will solve climate change, you cannot compete with free, we will do it too late, but we will do it.

    What worries me most about the climate “debate” is the polemics. Scientific thinking is a recent invention. Normally people negotiate reality with their peers and people above them. Scientific thinking gave civilization a lot, but this young flower can also go away again.

    For the elite it is inconvenient to have a second source providing narratives.

  8. climatehawk1 says:

    There is only so much time, so it’s a scarce and precious resource. Time spent arguing with deniers/trolls is time that could be better spent educating those who are new to the issue–by one scientist’s back-of-envelope estimate, about 10,000 people in the U.S. per day: http://initforthegold.blogspot.com/2015/02/the-d-word-and-s-word.html. For me, it is a direct tradeoff. It helps some to think of the educational effort as being my response to the trolls. It also helps to be aware that for some of them, it’s a victory to tie you up and waste your time.

  9. David Blake says:

    “Will we look back and wonder how we let ourselves and our societies be dominated by those whose goal is not to strive for truth, a better society, or a better understanding of the world around us, but simply a desire to drive forward an agenda at all costs (or almost all costs). ”

    😀

  10. TinyCO2 says:

    Do you think we view you any differently?

    “dominated by those whose goal is not to strive for truth, a better society, or a better understanding of the world around us, but simply a desire to drive forward an agenda at all costs (or almost all costs).” Your truth, or our truth? Your agenda our ours?

  11. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    ==> “Will we look back and wonder how we let ourselves and our societies be dominated by those whose goal is not to strive for truth, a better society, or a better understanding of the world around us, but simply a desire to drive forward an agenda at all costs (or almost all costs). ”

    Well – that seems pretty polemical to me.

    When I look at the most ardent “skeptics” I run across, although they certainly do seem to think that scorched earth, zero sum gain is the way to go (and indeed, often, they seem rather hate-filled), I believe that they are also striving for truth, a better society, and a better understanding of the world.

    Perhaps a bit of a paradox, I guess.

  12. Joshua says:

    Although, I must say….

    …and his final objective will be not to come as close as possible to a difficult truth but to bring about the triumph of the just cause he has been manifestly upholding from the beginning. The polemicist relies on a legitimacy that his adversary is by definition denied.

    Daaayyyuuummmnn. That does kind of nail it, doesn’t it?

  13. Joshua says:

    Speaking of cricket….ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

  14. Joshua says:

    ===> “But In reality I choose. More and more I am choosing not to.”

    Since I’ve been observing the “climate-o-sphere,” I’ve seen little change. Even less, I think, is the amount change I’ve seen individuals make. And that all fits pretty nicely with my assumptions about the “climate-o-sphere.”

    I have to say, though, you have changed.

    It’s kind of freakin’ me out. Keep it up, and I may have to change some of my assumptions about the “climate-o-sphere.”

  15. T-rev says:

    I don’t watch cricket anymore, I realised what they were doing, emitting vast quantities of CO2e, (flying all over the world) was directly at odds with lowering world emissions, so stopped my “enabling”. Similarly the TdF and the Paris Dakar.

  16. ATTP, you picked up on the sections that caught my eye as well.

    Later in the interview, Foucault asks “Has anyone ever seen a new idea come out of a polemic?… it is really dangerous to make anyone believe that he can gain access to the truth by such paths and thus to validate, even if in a merely symbolic form, the real political practices that could be warranted by it.”

    I think Foucault’s comments apply best to a situation in which researchers with a shared purpose must discipline themselves to be less defensive, and more open to criticism and engagement -this is after all, what most scientists would consider the right way to go about their work within a research community. I think there is a unique ‘ethic of communication’ in scientific research communities, although expressed as an ideal of professional conduct, and therefore in real life it manifests as a tendency, rather than a rule.

    One of the many paradoxes about the climate change debate is that the actual scientific work takes place in an environment with a culture and norms that are downright alien from the one in which that science has to be defended by people like yourself, and the so-called ‘warmist’ community.

    As a scientist, you move between both worlds -and it makes perfect sense that you feel the constant stress to behave in the way you find most ethical. This must feel especially odd when you are engaging with fellow scientists who seem to flip from scientific to political narratives all the time. Every field of research has people with minority views, convinced their peers unfairly overlook their brilliance, but only in climatology will such a scientist be able to hide their work behind a flag of ‘groupthink’ or ‘political persecution’, and attract an instant fan club.

    Foucault talks about how polemics railed against us force us into a polemical response. I assume this is your concern, -that you have been drawn into a cycle of polemic and counter-polemic. I’ve noticed this as a recurrent theme on your blog for a while now. Sure as the sun rises, there will never be a shortage of people willing to make polemics, and there will never be enough people willing to control their polemical impulses (and be troubled when they occasionally falter).

  17. Sorry South Africa lost, by the way. They were disadvantaged by the rain…but I thought de Villiers’ speech was great.

  18. anoilman says:

    Mark Ryan: What you said was totally bogus. Clearly you don’t understand what a polemicist is, or what they are trying to achieve. I think you need a new line of work. 🙂

    “Has anyone ever seen a new idea come out of a polemic?”

    Yes. All the time. They never check them for validity though. Their ideas are like concentrated brain farts which persist even after someone says, “Did you check all the maths?” and they say, “No, but…”

  19. harrytwinotter says:

    Polemics just seems a lazy way to debate someone, engaging at the level of emotions instead of reason. Potholer54 posted a good video on youtube several months ago “How To Argue With ********” He main point was to do it successfully the first thing is don’t treat them like a *******. I apply the same reasoning to Polemicists.

    Speaking of polemics, Richard Tol has written an “interesting” piece for The Australian. He owes me a cup of coffee, half of which came out my nose 🙂

  20. The TdF is intriguing as an experiment in better living through chemistry. http://www.outsideonline.com/fitness/Drug-Test.html

  21. Joshua,

    Well – that seems pretty polemical to me.

    Yes, possibly. I did say it’s what I strive for, but don’t necessarily achievce :-0

    Mark Ryan,
    Thanks for the comment. I actually didn’t see de Villier’s speech as I saw the final result and then straight to bed.

  22. Tiny,
    Well, yes, I did write that section aware that your view would be as it is. In fact, when I wrote that I was thinking more of our politicians today, than I was of the climate debate specifically. It does seem as though it is the norm these days (may always have been the case). Find a way to label and deligitimise those with whom you disagree.

  23. Rachel M says:

    Oh dear. You stayed up all night only to be thrashed by the New Zealand cricket team. That is not good. Not good at all 🙂

  24. Rachel,
    Maybe I’m just misreading your comment, but you don’t sound sincere 🙂

  25. Andrew Dodds says:

    Do not talk about the Cricket. There could be English people reading.

  26. Rachel M says:

    Was I that transparent?

  27. Andrew,
    Blast, you’ve reminded me that I missed an opportunity in this post!

    Rachel,
    😀

  28. izen says:

    A bit of polemic…
    Foucault tries to have his cake and eat it.
    First he tries to de-legitimise polemic as an integral part of the ways in which human societies sift and refine knowledge and meaning.
    Second he tries to consign all knowledge and meaning that human societies do attain as mere epiphenomena of the societal processes that produce it, including the polemic that is part of that process.

    I must admit to a strong dislike of his work, not least because it is the conceptual stance that engendered the post-modernist nonsense of Hulme, Ravetz et al.
    I cannot improve on the polemical, but I regard as accurate and useful, assessment of Foucault by Wheler;
    “because of the endless series of flaws in his so-called empirical studies … an intellectually dishonest, empirically absolutely unreliable, crypto-normativist seducer of Postmodernism”.

  29. Richard says:

    Foucault describes 3 kinds of polemic model: religious, judiciary and political. Maybe it is a sub-class of political or something else, but I think there is a kind of faux iconoclastic polemicists – the Melanie Philips and the rest – who almost delight is picking an argument with what they regard as the status quo. Ant position will do as long as it is opposed. So on MMR, Darwinism, AGW, … You name it, dear Melanie claims there is an establishment conspiracy to not listen to valid heroic new ideas or findings (which are of course cranks that are sought out as protagonists in this theatre). Of course those like her are not true iconoclasts, but attention seeking polemicists.

  30. izen says:

    One-day, limited overs cricket is a commercial invention.
    A pallid imitation of the real thing designed to feed, but not satiate the appetite of the cricket fan.

    Any match lasting less than three days is just not cricket….grin

    (damm but the England team is bad though…)

  31. izen,
    I did wonder if I would discover the Foucault wasn’t popular with some. Other than knowing the name, I wasn’t familiar with his work. I guess there are scenarios where being polemical could be valid. As Mark Ryan was suggesting, my confusion is partly that some of the style that I’ve encountered in the climate debate (for example) is very different to what I’m used to and what I would prefer. That doesn’t mean, however, that being polemical is never justified.

    I agree about cricket. There’s nothing better than a five-day match where the result still isn’t clear on the last day.

  32. Richard,
    Yes, I think you make a good point. Some seem to aim to be polemical for effect and to gain attention, rather than because they believe something so strongly and have decided on some kind of strategy that they believe to be optimal.

  33. dikranmarsupial says:

    “Will we look back and wonder how we let ourselves and our societies be dominated by those whose goal is not to strive for truth, a better society, or a better understanding of the world around us, but simply a desire to drive forward an agenda at all costs (or almost all costs).”

    Sadly, this is nothing really new, c.f. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bread_and_circuses . Truth tends to be less entertaining than polemic and rhetoric, especially when it is an inconvenient truth.

  34. dikran,
    Yes, I doubt it is something new. As Victor says, we will probably get through this whole saga, but it might not be pretty. I also think Victor makes an interesting point: scientific thinking is relatively modern, so you might have thought that we would have changed our style compared to ancient Rome. It seems not, though.

  35. Richard says:

    The difference is surely the disproportionate attention no given to some people or shall we call them sects. In the past, there was no shortage of cranks, and Nostradamus has never been out of print. But somehow now there is a stickiness to some of these on the web and the more you try to refute them, the stickier they get. It is almost the worst thing that can happen to them to ignore them. But then, there is the fear they will simply control the agenda. It is a conundrum for sure. The best strategy surely is to ensure there are well argued, well sourced and accessible place for information and discussion. They exist, and they need to be the trusted sources that crowd out the cranks and attention seekers. They need to be compelling and engaging, I am not sure they need to be polemical to attract people.

  36. On the whole, I think the legacy of Foucault has been to cast more doubt than light. I find myself often cautious, if not suspicious, of ‘Foucauldians’, and their tendency to treat knowledge as a set of arbitrary statements people make to shore up power. In fact, I think the political right of today are the main users of ‘skeptical’ rhetoric that the academic ‘left’ developed in the 80s and 90s -and Foucault contributed in no small part.

    That being said, I sometimes return to his original writings -which I find inconsistent, but with some real gems. My greatest interest in the piece quoted here, is the contrast between an open, exploratory ethic of communication, and one that uses individual accomplishments from the history of knowledge as weapons. In this case at least, Foucault’s point is eloquently made, and it immediately reminded me of a tension that ATTP has expressed in recent months.

    There is no getting around the importance of polemic in our political world. But it is not how professional research communities conduct their work, even though at the moment it is the primary way in which the public learns about science. The people who attack climate science communities want to make out that it they work just like political communities do, but scientific training includes its own set of values, its own ethical code.

    I really think that code is pretty close to what Foucault was trying to formulate in this interview -irrespective of whatever other criticisms one might make of his work and his legacy.

  37. Richard, following your last comment:

    more and more I wonder if the main argument is between two immovable -even ineducable- poles, with a kind of reasonable center who look in from a distance, but can’t tell the difference -like two states launching missiles right across a neutral state in between them.

    If a person lacks the specific education to discern science from counter-science, they may respond more to the tone. That may be the value in a non-polemical ‘third way’

  38. billzog says:

    Next time anyone has some time to kill in a pleasantly cerebral sort of way, try Chomsky vs. Foucault – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3wfNl2L0Gf8 – even if you only listen to the last 10 minutes, you’ll get the idea. Which one of these people is behaving as a polemicist, would you say?

  39. billzog,
    The subtitles don’t seem to work and my French is non-existent (I understood some of the Dutch at the beginning though). Are you suggesting that this may be an even better illustration of the online climate debate? Anyone who says “I’m not a ….” typically is?

  40. Joshua: “I believe that they are also striving for truth, a better society, and a better understanding of the world.”

    It is a good to act like you believe this in a discussion that claims to be about understanding, but I think that that quote is projection and if you would like to better understand the world, it may be a better assumption that not everyone shares identical values.

  41. Marco says:

    ATTP, the subtitles work for me!

  42. Willard says:

    Here is a transcript:

    http://www.chomsky.info/debates/1971xxxx.htm

    The same guy runs foucault.info I believe.

  43. Joshua says:

    Victor –

    I look at the frequency with which others wrongly interpret my goals, and those of others I know who agree with me broadly on a variety of polarized issues. And there, I see a basic human tendency.

    I look at the generalized patterns in how people approach differences in opinions on these kinds of issues, where people lock into identity-aggressive and identity-defensive exchanges, and in so doing, employ reasoning that is fundamentally flawed. And there, I see what I think is a basic human tendency.

    I look at how people approach these issues by holding onto patterns rather the exploring shared interests, synergistically. And there, I see what I think is a basic human tendency.

    And I think of my own experiences with people that I’ve met, who disagree with me on political issues: Most of them, in my experience, are interested in truth, a better society, and a better world. And there, I see what think is a basic human tendency.

    Of course, it’s always important to remember that people who inhabit the blogosphere are a self-selecting lot, and they’re outliers in many ways, and indeed my fellow blogospheric inhabitants may be a different sort of species than your average Jill and Joe public. But I tend to think that those differences are more surface rather than substantive in the sense of being differences in basic drives such as the drive for a better society.

  44. Steven Mosher says:

    Willard
    It’s an interesting experiment. I won’t recommend it to others. I suppose in the end I could calculate a feedback parameter for moshpit comments. Joshua would have a high value. Jim d would also.

    Cleaning pools is honest work

  45. Great topic. Thanks to Ryan for this: “the contrast between an open, exploratory ethic of communication, and one that uses individual accomplishments from the history of knowledge as weapons.”

    In an earlier OT exchange I was reminded of one of my deep pleasures and beliefs: the joy and difficulty of learning. The level of openness required to approach a fundamental challenge to preconception is large, and inaccessible to those who only seek to “win”. Right after that one of the many people I regard as a colleague in the effort to get the truth out in the face of considerable opposition, largely mindless and prejudiced, complained that there’s no point in assuming what we regard as false arguments are being advanced in “good faith” because the arguers believe they are standing up for what is right and moral. I don’t disagree about the difficulties of overcoming prejudice and the large ingredients of manipulation apparent to anyone who actually sources the material. But …

    It kind of shut down my delight in remembering the powerful moments when others have forced me to grow almost in spite of myself, whilst it was impossible to deny a valid complaint. The result was I left the thought hanging, and here we are.

    I have made of myself a hissing and a booing (likely a waste of time) for years, being subjected to regular bullying and all the varieties of changing the subject and misquoting and on and on. My reasoning, leaving out other complexities for the time being, was that it continues to be important to forget the cacophony of directed complaint that did its best to make it about me, and speak to unnamed parties (lurkers) who might be impressed with the plausible disinformation.

    Speaking past the false information, and doing one’s best not to label or make assumptions about (flat earther, paid, evolution denier) the misguided individual presenting it, are worth the effort not only for third parties but for oneself. Finding ways to say the thing without attacking character or making assumptions is a useful exercise. The pleasure of verbal thrust and parry amongst clever educated sorts makes one a member of the club, but lends itself to misunderstanding in the public sphere.

    Well I’ve wandered and lowered my tone, so time for a break …

  46. anoilman says:

    Mark Ryan: I’m not sure how much value there is in polemics. It is inherently an intellectually dishonest approach. (Occasionally it makes me feel better, but I’ve noticed that it doesn’t help.)

    I would like to point out that people who don’t deal with facts (as in science) for a living, that it is impossible to distinguish between a political or religious attack, or a scientific fact. To them, Global Warming must either be a religion or a political movement. Reasonably determining facts can’t enter their minds, as facts are chosen to suit their needs.

  47. Willard says:

    > To them, Global Warming must either be a religion or a political movement. Reasonably determining facts can’t enter their minds, as facts are chosen to suit their needs.

    Sounds polemical to me, Oily.

  48. Steven Mosher says:

    ” Finding ways to say the thing without attacking character or making assumptions is a useful exercise. ”

    agreed.

  49. ” Finding ways to say the thing without attacking character or making assumptions is a useful exercise. ”

    Very useful, but a good deal easier said than done.

  50. I find this a mite annoying. What I said in full was:

    Speaking past the false information, and doing one’s best not to label or make assumptions about (flat earther, paid, evolution denier) the misguided individual presenting it, are worth the effort not only for third parties but for oneself. Finding ways to say the thing without attacking character or making assumptions is a useful exercise.

    I went to a lot of trouble to make it clear that I deplore the fact that these falsehoods are so prevalent, and think they need knocking down. As a victim of climate bullying from “deniers” aka phony/fake skeptics aka unskeptical “skeptics” I haven’t been naive to take any of their assertions at face value for some years. But I am steeped in scientific acquaintance, and have a very high opinion of scientific integrity. Others are easily deceived by appearances, which is why the lies must be outed on a regular basis, no matter how many times they are repeated.

  51. anoilman says:

    Willard: Agreed… but not really where I was going with that. Seriously, we can all find something that states something we want to say. You should look at that first sentence in that paragraph;
    “I would like to point out that people who don’t deal with facts (as in science) for a living, that it is impossible to distinguish between a political or religious attack, or a scientific fact.”

    Ergo, facts become attacks.

  52. Steven Mosher says:

    “Very useful, but a good deal easier said than done.”

  53. Joshua: “Of course, it’s always important to remember that people who inhabit the blogosphere are a self-selecting lot, and they’re outliers in many ways,”

    That is a super-important point to keep in mind.

    The tricky bit is that, on the one hand, the people with the greatest motivation are the most likely to have already formed their opinions. They do use facts and theories to build things, but it is barricades they are building, not towers.

    On the other hand, the people who are least set in their ways are also less likely to participate in discussions that require energy and commitment; from a distance, they are more influenced by impressions.

    But these are also Susan’s “unnamed parties (lurkers) who might be impressed with the plausible disinformation.” Although they might not be the visible denizens of the public arena, and may even be a minority, they are surely the audience we all want to reach.

  54. Joshua says:

    ==> “They do use facts and theories to build things, but it is barricades they are building, not towers.”

    A very clear and useful description.

  55. Michael 2 says:

    “we let ourselves and our societies be dominated by those whose goal is not to strive for truth, a better society, or a better understanding of the world around us”

    Pick one, maybe two, but not all three. To achieve that better society truth is sometimes sacrificed, and perhaps must be. To always seek and speak truth is to not have many friends, hence, also not have a society. That better understanding of the world is also a fine thing, but has been filtered by your gatekeepers, the old word being “rose colored glasses” and the new word somebody’s demon.

  56. Susan,
    I thought Steven was agreeing with your general point, although I guess your point was bigger than just finding ways to not attack someone’s character.

  57. Michael 2 says:

    Victor says “Scientific thinking is a recent invention.”

    Defined by its inventor. Perhaps it is a willingness to let the evidence reveal truth, as so many here say; but truth is “now”. Predicting the future is not truth. The purpose of science is, in part, pragmatic — to predict the future, weather in particular, but it isn’t truth until the future is “now”.

  58. Michael 2 says:

    Brilliant.

    http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com/post/1572748314

    The polemicist, on the other hand, proceeds encased in privileges that he possesses in advance and will never agree to question.

    Privileges: All owner/creator of blogs. Those with PhD’s.

    On principle, he possesses rights authorizing him to wage war and making that struggle a just undertaking; the person he confronts is not a partner in search for the truth but an adversary, an enemy who is wrong, who is armful, and whose very existence constitutes a threat.

    Skeptics, in other words.

    For him, then the game consists not of recognizing this person as a subject having the right to speak but of abolishing him as interlocutor, from any possible dialogue

    Banning, in other words. My experience at Scientific American. They wish not to be questioned, not even a hint of a question.

    and his final objective will be not to come as close as possible to a difficult truth but to bring about the triumph of the just cause he has been manifestly upholding from the beginning.

    Which in his mind the “just cause” and “the truth” are aligned.

    I can see where it would be difficult to distinguish, in case any need exists to do such a thing, between an advocate and a polemicist.

  59. Ray says:

    Not getting oneself dragged down into some sort of polemical debate, and I really should put debate in quotes there, as one can’t really call trying to engage someone who adamantly sticks to a fundamentally non-factual position when confronted with facts to the contrary a debate, can be tough, and I have far too often found myself in such circumstances, sometimes despite my best intentions. I think that I used to be better about not doing that, as I once believed that constructive debate was possible. However, as my faith in reason prevailing has waned, I’m a bit sad to say that my behavior has at times not been stellar.

  60. Eli Rabett says:

    The bunnies need to read “The Rhetoric of Reaction” by Albert Hirschman published in 1991. Short take at the hutch

    Perversity is claiming that any purposive action to improve something only exacerbates the condition one wishes to remedy

    Futility is holding that attempts at transformation will be unavailing and will simply fail to make a dent

    Jeopardy argues that the cost of the proposed change is too high and endangers some previous valued accomplishment.

  61. Michael 2 says:

    Ray says “as I once believed that constructive debate was possible.”

    I consider myself “constructed” or improved pretty much every time I debate. Your mileage may vary especially if you are trying to change someone else.

  62. BBD says:

    M2

    Go and watch the football. You will enjoy it more and others here will be happy for you.

  63. However, as my faith in reason prevailing has waned, I’m a bit sad to say that my behavior has at times not been stellar.

    I’m glad I’m not alone 🙂

  64. russellseitz says:

    Let us hope that if the Climate Wars are to be decided by a cricket match, the side opposing Zak Goldsmith’s will accept the generous sponsorship of the Acme Weasel Bat division of BP.

  65. Steve McIntyre says:

    Judith Curry also did a post on this Foucault essay a few years ago – see http://judithcurry.com/2011/06/06/polemics-politics-and-problemizations/.

    Foucault was undoubtedly better known in the context of student radical politics of the late 1960s when i was at university. I read some of his work at the time.

    As a small world curiosity; a couple of years ago, I read a biography of Pol Pot, whose background had been more or less totally unknown during the period of the Killing Fields. Later, it was learned that he had been Saloth Sar, a teacher, who had been born in 1926 and educated in Paris from 1949 to 1953, joining the PCF (Parti communiste francais) in 1951. Foucault was an almost exact contemporary (born in 1928), who joined the PCF in Paris 1950.

    It seems quite possible to me that Foucault and Pol Pot may have been acquainted as young men and/or would have had a number of acquaintances and friends in common.

  66. Steven Mosher says:

    My sense is that Climate Etc is headed toward being a echo chamber. But short term its been interesting to watch various people show up to spend more time there than normal..

  67. Steven,
    I’ve actually found commenting there better than I was expecting. I don’t know if that’s because my initial impressions were wrong, Judith’s new moderation has helped, some combination of the two, or something else altogether.

    Steve M.,
    Maybe that’s an illustration of how we all probably think we aren’t engaging in polemics. I guess we can’t all be right?

  68. Joshua says:

    ==> “It seems quite possible to me that Foucault and Pol Pot may have been acquainted as young men and/or would have had a number of acquaintances and friends in common.”

    Lol!

    Indeed,and Mann works at a University where the coach was a pedophile.

    Just sayin’

  69. Joshua,
    I was intending to give Steve the benefit of the doubt and assume that that link was only mentioned as being interesting, rather than as implying something more sinister.

  70. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    Maybe, giving people the benefit of the doubt is always commendable. On the other hand, there’s also this:

  71. Joshua says:

    Right next to this:

  72. anoilman says:

    Anders…I think Steve McIntyre would rather we looked at implications rather than data, facts or figures. His efforts in double checking Mann’s work, and proving him completely right should not go unnoticed.

  73. Joshua says:

    And then there’s this:

    The Cleansing of Lennart Bengtsson
    Steve McIntyre
    May 14, 2014 at 7:33 AM

  74. Joshua,
    Okay, all fair points. I’ll stick with benefit of the doubt for the moment.

  75. Willard says:

    I was there first:

    http://shewonk.wordpress.com/2010/10/19/one-of-these-things-is-not-like-the-other/#comment-2970

    I’ll just post the definition of plagiarism here:

    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plagiarism

    ***

    Here’s a curious quote:

    I don’t object to the explicit and self-aware use of “socialism” in this extremely broad and basically vacuous sense. But when one says that since both Pol Pot and Antonio Negri called themselves
    “Communists,” therefore they must have had the same politics — that is clearly not a thesis that a sensible person could take seriously. And when one says anything about what “all socialists” or “all
    communists” or “all Marxists” say or do or desire, one had better be saying something vacuous, otherwise one is almost certainly saying something inaccurate.

    http://foucault.info/pst/az-cf-71211-874723417

    ***

    The relationship between the mining industry and dictatorships might deserve due diligence.

  76. Joshua says:

    Sorry, forgot to link Steve McIntyre’s “just sayin'” post where he put Mann’s picture right next to Zimmerman’s:

    http://climateaudit.org/2014/07/05/george-zimmermans-libel-lawsuit/

  77. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    ==> “Okay, all fair points. I’ll stick with benefit of the doubt for the moment.”

    A wise choice, I think – and one that I respect. That type of reactions on your part is one of the reasons why like this blog.

    McIntyre’s participation here would be a welcome development, IMO. And I think that you should maintain a welcoming orientation unless there’s unambiguous evidence that it is counterproductive.

    But I will also say that it is all information. One can certainly assume benefit of the doubt w/r/t motives or intent while still noting relevant behaviors.

  78. Steven Mosher says:

    “Steven,
    I’ve actually found commenting there better than I was expecting. I don’t know if that’s because my initial impressions were wrong, Judith’s new moderation has helped, some combination of the two, or something else altogether.”

    #####################################

    Partly it may have to do with the folks you are “squaring off” against. I’d have to look more closely.. But it was just interesting to note Chris Colose showing up and the good Rev.

    I have some theories..

    Most interesting also was seeing more and more WUWT crank types showing up to peddle their ideas..

    Willard could probably do a taxonomy. Hmm. What I’m thinking is that there is a certain biological diversity that is required to keep a blog commment area “healthly” or thriving or sustainable.. pick your concept. It’s interesting to watch migrations as well as how immigrants are treated.. and watch for in breeding and its effects.

    Or to consider what would happen if a Jim D type went extinct or if Joshua were to select a different mode of engagement.

    For now it’s interesting to lurk.. peaceful too.

  79. Willard says:

    Courtesy of TCO:

    http://www.flamewarriorsguide.com/

    We’re all in there.

  80. Willard says:

    Willard is a breed between Archivist and Big Cat. While he aspires to become Kung Fu Master like his idol Chuck Norris, some say he’s usually more like Philosopher. (Brandon seems to have filled up this gap recently.)

    Adapting to ClimateBall would be nice. Some archetypes are missing. I would definitely add Sea Lion and Shirt Ripper. A latest occurrence of the latter:

    Hey, willard–ever notice that nobody remembers what you’ve written?

    http://judithcurry.com/2015/03/26/christopher-essex-on-suppressing-scientific-inquiry/#comment-687723

  81. Joshua says:

    ==> “or if Joshua were to select a different mode of engagement.”

    Please excuse the questions…

    Any thoughts as to what might happen? More/less good faith exchange between people with conflicting views? More/Less politicization from “skeptics?”

    Something else?

    It is interesting to note the feedback parameter to my comments in their current mode – although I don’t know how it might be interpreted.


  82. The relationship between the mining industry and dictatorships might deserve due diligence.

    Actually, the similarity between the mining industry and the Canadian Tar Sands operations should not go unnoticed.

    “Tar sands are mined and processed to generate oil similar to oil pumped from conventional oil wells, “http://ostseis.anl.gov/guide/tarsands/

  83. Steven Mosher says:

    Thanks Willard I had lost that

    Joshua I don’t know what I’d change. I’m just interested in what happens when people adopt different styles.

  84. Steven Mosher says:

    Joshua.
    It’s been an interesting time watching the Essex thread.
    As far as sophistry goes I love the way he opens with an appeal to his own gwpf work as if it was an independent source of authority. Sock puppet like.

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