Thursday, December 16, 2010

Delusional Liars

Conservatives are delusional liars.

No, I'm not saying that just to be inflammatory. As you will soon see, I can back it up.

Delusion: definition - a persistent false psychotic belief regarding the self or persons or objects outside the self that is maintained despite indisputable evidence to the contrary (Merriam-Webster's Dictionary)

Good Example: an ideology which holds that it is (a) moral to have contempt for and/or (b) just to oppose policies which will help: the working poor, the unemployed, homosexuals, transsexuals, intellectuals, labor unions, schoolteachers, and members of persecuted groups who do not insist on denying that they are still oppressed, viz., blacks, Latinos, women.

Lie: definition - to make an untrue statement with intent to deceive (Merriam-Webster's Dictionary)

Good Example: the argument that rich people, white people, men and/or Christians are victims in America today.

Rebut: definition - to contradict or oppose by formal argument, plea, or countervailing proof (Merriam-Webster's Dictionary)

Good Example: saying that I'm wrong for referring to conservatives as "delusional liars" by demonstrating:

(a) that it is indeed moral to oppose the poor, the unemployed, homosexuals, transsexuals, intellectuals, labor unions, schoolteachers, and members of persecuted groups who do not insist on denying that they are still oppressed, viz., blacks, Latinos, women;

(b) that people who are rich, white, male, and/or Christian actually are victims in modern America.

Bad Example: responding to this post by lobbing insults at the (admittedly smug) author and/or at liberals in general, both of which would (a) constitute a logical fallacy known as an "ad hominem attack" and (b) would fail to meet the criteria of contradicting or opposing by formal argument, plea, or countervailing proof.

I rest my case.

38 comments:

William said...

Disingenuous: lacking in candor, also: giving a false appearance of simple frankness.

I'll rebut your assertion as soon as you explain how being politically conservative is the same as having a diagnosable psychotic condition.

Psychotic: of, relating to, marked by, or affected with psychosis

Psychosis: fundamental derangement of the mind (as in schizophrenia) characterized by defective or lost contact with reality especially as evidenced by delusions, hallucinations, and disorganized speech and behavior.

Without the presence of a 'psychotic belief', you lack the ability to define a conservative as delusional.

I'm not even conservative, this just seems like a silly stance to take.

Matthew Laszlo said...

1) Apparently the concept of using hyperbole for satirical purposes is lost on you (satire - a way of using humor to show that someone or something is foolish, weak, bad, etc. : humor that shows the weaknesses or bad qualities of a person, government, society, etc.) That said...

2) The term "psychotic", though etymologically derived from the specific medical condition known as "psychosis", does not solely refer to individuals who have been diagnosed with that ailment; it can also be used to refer to people who simply display some or all of the traits associated with that condition. This is similar to how people can be called "splenetic" even if their bad temper is not literally caused by a malady of the spleen or "neurotic" even if a psychologist has not officially affixed the designation "neurosis" to their behavior. In short, your point focuses so intently on semantic hyperliteralism that it ignores certain common sense facts about how the English language is used.

3) As my subsequent argument makes clear, I claim that conservatives hold certain beliefs that do not correspond with the real world, either morally or factually, despite what I believe are the obvious fallacies of their positions (I even challenge those who feel their positions aren't flawed, or that these aren't in fact their positions in the first place, to prove me wrong). This is how the term "delusional" applies to them and, incidentally, how certain traits indicated in psychosis can also be said to apply to them (i.e., "characterized by defective or lost contact with reality" as made manifest in their "behavior", in this case, the ideology to which they subscribe).

4) Since I assume that you opened this with the definition of "disingenous" so as to assert that that term characterized my behavior in this article (feel free to correct me if I'm wrong), I'm curious as to how you can argue it accurately applies to me. After all, even if the criticisms you made of my argument had all been true, this would have only proved that I was (a) wrong and (b) prone to making silly statements with misused terminology. Nothing in your critique would open itself to suggestions that I was "lacking in candor, also: giving a false appearance of simple frankness." Why did you use it?

5) You used it as a form of an ad hominem attack (i.e., one in which you attempted to win by attacking me personally rather than addressing the substance of my arguments). Since people who resort to such measures usually do so because they feel personally insulted (not always, of course, but in my experience that is more often the case than not), I find it curious that you felt the need to stoop to that level if, as you claim, you are "not even conservative."

I look forward to your rebuttal.

Matthew Laszlo said...

PS: After posting my reply, I decided to quickly check the dictionary again just to make sure that the definitions I had used were correct. When I did so, I found that I had made one minor mistake; the definition of "rebut" is actually "to contradict or oppose by formal LEGAL argument, plea, or countervailing proof."

There are two reasons that I mention this:

1) When I commit an oversight, I believe the smart thing to do is acknowledge the flub rather than hope no one else picks up on it.

2) Like me, you used the term "rebut" to refer simply to "contradicting or opposing with an argument, plea, or countervailing proof"; you did not use it in a legal context (at least, I hope not, since to the best of my knowledge we aren't in a courtroom). This means that we are either (a) guilty of using that term incorrectly or (b) using that term accurately because the most salient aspects of its definition applied to how we were using it. If we want to live in a reasonable world, I recommend that we go with (b).

William said...

Just wondering, did my response post go through? I got a notification that it did, but I'm not super familiar with this site. If it didn't, I'll just forward it to you directly.

Matthew Laszlo said...

I only received the one response from you. Sometimes this website has difficulty digesting lengthier comments, so if your reply was especially long, maybe you could try dividing it into smaller installments and posting it that way.

Matthew Laszlo said...

PS: Do NOT send your response to me directly. I do not check the e-mail account to which this website is attached, so I guarantee you I won't receive it.

William said...

I must apologize. I thought that you were trying to make a serious point, so I took your attempt to define the term and apply it literally. (I mean serious as opposed to satirical, not as an attempt to insult your post)

"No, I'm not saying that just to be inflammatory. As you will soon see, I can back it up."

I thought you meant that to imply a serious assertion of fact, so my apologies.

In regards to my hyperliteralism, your fundamental argument about conservatives being delusional liars seemed to rest on the idea of applying words along their strict definition. Again, my apologies.

I stated the definition of disingenuous because I believe you are currently exhibiting both aspects of the definition.

You are lacking in 'candor', which is freedom from prejudice or malice. I assumed that you were using delusional in good faith, with a full understanding of its meaning and implications, so I questioned whether you are free of prejudice or malice in this case.

You are also giving a false appearance of simple 'frankness', which is marked by free, forthright, and sincere expression, and also unmistakably evident; clinically evident and unmistakable.

William said...

This was based on my assumption that you meant to use delusional literally. Since you are not, this would seem to support my use of the term. You were not using sincere expression, and delusional would not be used in a clinically evident and unmistakable way.

I did not intend for disingenuous to be an ad hominem attack, because I was not intending for it to be applied to your arguments about conservatives. I meant for it to describe your opening comment of
"Conservatives are delusional liars".

Either you were being honest with your usage of delusional, which is what I had originally assumed you were trying to do, or you were being at least slightly hypocritical by opening your post with an ad hominem attack.

If it was the latter, than I intended for it to be taken as a slight rebuke for your style of communicating. If it was the former, than it was a preemptive move on my part to argue against your usage of delusional because the term was not being used in an 'unmistakably evident' manner.

In regards to my usage of rebut, I was actually looking at the second definition, which is 'to expose the falsity of'.


In closing, I seem to have misinterpreted your goal, your methodology, and your invitation to rebut your claims. Would you like to transition the discussion into who flubbed harder?

Matthew Laszlo said...

1) Again, satire is defined as "a way of using humor to show that someone or something is foolish, weak, bad, etc. : humor that shows the weaknesses or bad qualities of a person, government, society, etc." Note that it doesn't say anything about the use of satire precluding the possibility of making a serious point; it simply involved that humor is being used rather than a straightforward approach. If your assumption was taken to its logical conclusion, then political and social commentators far better than me, from Jonathan Swift to Mark Twain, would suddenly lose all validity because their satirical work wasn't intended to make "serious points."

2) Since there isn't any reason to assume that satire can't be used to make serious points, naturally your claim that I wasn't making "a serious assertion of fact" also doesn't hold up.

3) Your response to my observation that you're being hyperliteral isn't even a rebuttal; it's a blatant dodge of my point using fancy rhetorical footwork. It was very clear that I wasn't saying that I intended for the definitions of those words to be applied strictly when I used them against conservatives; what I was saying is that you were insisting on only recognizing the validity of very literal definitions when, in fact, less literal ones could also be applied which were just as valid.

4) The definition of candor that you selected is, very conveniently, one that does not apply to the context in which you used it. After all, you used candor when applied to the word "disingenuous", one that's synonymous with "dishonest"; as such, the Merriam-Webster definition that fits, given that context, is "unreserved, honest, or sincere expression : forthrightness." I find it curious that you made this mistake.

5) That said, even if I was to assume that you were in fact using candor in the other way (which, regardless of what you decide to argue after I post this, you clearly were not), how exactly is attacking me as being "malicious" and "prejudiced" NOT an ad hominem fallacy? Your objective there isn't to prove me wrong based on the content of what I argued, but rather based on a personal blast against me as an individual.

Matthew Laszlo said...

6) By the definition of "frankness" which you provided, you have no case for claiming that I was lacking it, since even my most right-wing friends would never deny that I am being forthright and sincere in what I say. Once again, you can disagree with me as much as you want, and even feel that I used "delusional" incorrectly, but even if you were right about all of that, it doesn't automatically mean that I was being insincere. You have not made any intelligent connection between Point A and Point B.

7) "I did not intend for disingenuous to be an ad hominem attack, because I was not intending for it to be applied to your arguments about conservatives. I meant for it to describe your opening comment of
'Conservatives are delusional liars'."
Okay, I know what I'm about to say is mean, but I literally laughed out loud when I read that. For you to claim that you were calling my argument disingenuous but not calling me disingenuous is, well, disingenuous.

8) You seem to misunderstand what an 'ad hominem attack' actually is. By definition, "ad hominem" means:
1: appealing to feelings or prejudices rather than intellect
2: marked by or being an attack on an opponent's character rather than by an answer to the contentions made
Since I was backing up my claims about conservatives being delusional liars with facts (i.e., the contents of what they believe) rather than with feelings or prejudices (e.g., ranting about how angry I am at them or resorting to prejudice by saying, "I don't need to explain their ideology because we all know that what I'm saying about them is true"), the first definition doesn't apply. What's more, since I was establishing new contentions rather than responding to old ones (in logical jargon, I was laying out new premises on which a debate could take place rather than attempting to address old ones), then by default it's impossible for me to have been committing the second definition.

9) With all due respect, your entire response to my post was an extraordinary exhibition in what one of my friends likes to call "bullet dodging" - i.e., when you have been proven wrong, you try to find ways to spin the argument so that attention can be shifted away from the errors which have been identified. Since you opened this with an attack on how I used the terms "delusional" and "liar", I responded by pointing out the reason why my usage of them was correct. Instead of directly addressing any of the points that I made, you instead deliberately distorted their contents so you could (a) continue acting as if your just-discredited assertion still had merit and (b) continue avoiding to explain how exactly conservatives aren't "delusional liars" based on the definition that I provided.

In short, I still await the moment when you will actually make an honest, intelligent effort to rebut either the contents of my article or the substance of my initial response to your post. Up to now you have refused to directly do either of these things.

Matthew Laszlo said...

PS: It occurs to me that your strategy for trying to "win" this debate is (1) avoiding rebutting what I actually said and (2) distorting what I said until it appears to be something weaker and then taking down that position.

You should know that you are not nearly as clever or inventive as you seem to think. This is a well-worn tactic employed by bad debaters known as "the straw man fallacy" and is defined by The Nizkor Project (which, as an organization that has to constantly fight Holocaust denial, is pretty expert at dealing with this approach) as:

"... when a person simply ignores a person's actual position and substitutes a distorted, exaggerated or misrepresented version of that position. This sort of "reasoning" has the following pattern:

1. Person A has position X.
2. Person B presents position Y (which is a distorted version of X).
3. Person B attacks position Y.
4. Therefore X is false/incorrect/flawed.

This sort of "reasoning" is fallacious because attacking a distorted version of a position simply does not constitute an attack on the position itself. One might as well expect an attack on a poor drawing of a person to hurt the person."

I would like to politely request that, if you choose to continue this conversation, you do so by actually engaging in a debate. So far all you have done is pantomime intelligent and logical argument while running away from actually providing the real thing.

William said...
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William said...

Maybe my arguments will stay in order this time.

I'll start with point 9. I'm not spinning my argument. I was explaining why I said what I said, and I apologized because it was based upon a false understanding of your point. I don't think that constitutes you proving me wrong, but good for you. +1 internets

I never implied that you were not trying to make a serious point. I included the "(I mean serious as opposed to satirical, not as an attempt to insult your post)" bit because I was taking your post at face value.

I took your intent seriously, but I missed your focus.

I feel that I need to explain my fundamental argument in a different way. I did not, and will not, discuss your examples of conservativism or conservative ideology, because I thought you were using them to support your assertion that conservatives are delusional liars. If they are not delusional, then it seems silly to discuss your examples further.

William said...

My usage of hyperliteral analysis does not need to be defended. I used this approach based upon an erroneous interpretation of your original argument. The interpretation was a mistake, and I thought my apology indicated that.

I think that my interpretation of the candor definition does apply, because a synonym for it is fairness. You are being disingenuous, or lacking in fairness, by insinuating that conservatives are inherently psychologically disturbed. This was based upon my initial interpretation of your wording. See above.

I don't see that calling you disingenuous is an unacceptable method of discourse. Is it because it has a negative connotation? Would that make your definition of conservatives as delusional liars an ad hominem attack because it is also negative in tone? I assume this isn't what you meant.

Or do you feel that it is an ad hominem attack because it isn't supported by facts? I was aiming to indicate that I did use it in an acceptable way. I feel it contributes to the discussion, because your prejudiced interpretation (which is what I was asserting) of arguments would make an open discussion more difficult.

William said...

Regardless, you opened with a description of a group of individuals in a way that "appeals to feelings or prejudices rather than intellect" and is also "an attack on an opponent's character rather than by an answer". You supported it with 'facts', but that does not change your original intent to appeal to an emotional reaction. Granted, you started this particular discussion, but I still don't see how your approach is not an ad hominem attack.

If they are by definition delusional, then is it no longer an ad hominem attack? Is your defense that it is acceptable to use the term because it is demonstrably true? I didn't use disingenuous to describe your supporting arguments, but your initial premise. The only defense you have put forward thus far is that you started the debate, so you can open it with an ad hominem attack. I think most debaters would disagree.

I'm not saying tit for tat, but my usage of disingenuous was to discredit your reliability as an unbiased participant. There is no requirement for unbiased participation in any political discussion, but I just wanted to establish for myself if you were trying to be fair in the discussion or not.

You say that your definition of conservatives is based on fact, and not appealing to feelings. Granted, I don't know the title of the conservative manifesto, and as such have not read it, but I don't believe many conservative would agree that they believe it is "moral to have contempt... or just to oppose policies" based on someone's character or identity. If you could source that out for me, I might change my mind about this being an unjustified attack on their character.

I'm not trying to 'win' a debate. I'm saying that you are attempting to base a discussion on an incorrect premise. As such, having that debate would be a waste of time, because a victory on either side would not indicate anything. If you change your requirement of conservatives being delusional, that would be an entirely different discussion.

I'm glad you think I'm making a straw man out of your argument. I hope I have made it clear that we are talking about two different arguments. You want to discuss the conservative side of the issue, while I see it as a waste of time based upon your initial incorrect premise.

I'm sorry you think I lack intelligence and that I'm running away. We are arguing past each other, not with each other. Feel free to insult me some more though. (saying that I have not provided an intelligent argument is an insult)

Matthew Laszlo said...

Okay, I just spent an hour composing a reply to everything you wrote, only to have my blog delete all of it as soon as I clicked "Submit." Because I have a paper due by Monday, I really can't afford to spend another hour rewriting everything, so you'll need to wait until Monday. Sorry.

Matthew Laszlo said...

I have a little bit of time now to write my reply, so here it goes. My response will be structured in accordance with what I perceive to be your salient points:

1) Ad Hominem Attacks

You seem to have trouble understanding why my article isn't an ad hominem attack but your response to it was one (specifically the part where you referred to me as "disingenous"). Perhaps this can be best explained through illustrative examples:

Pretend that a right-wing pundit writes an editorial arguing, through the use of examples, that those who subscribe to a liberal ideology are "knee-jerk socialists." A few days later, while in the midst of a debate with a Democrat on a separate subject, he listens to what the left-winger has to say and then, before responding, prefaces his remarks by saying, "You are just being a knee-jerk socialist."

Even though you may think that both of those events constitute situations in which the right-winger used an ad hominem attacks, the designation can only be accurately applied to the latter one.

Obviously I'm not saying that due to any personal bias, since I clearly would disagree with the right-winger on both occasions. So why is it still true that only the latter situation can be correctly classified as an ad hominem attack?

Let's return to the definition:
"1: appealing to feelings or prejudices rather than intellect
2: marked by or being an attack on an opponent's character rather than by an answer to the contentions made"

In the case of the editorial, the right-winger was using examples to back up his assertions as to why liberals were "knee-jerk socialists." He wasn't appealing to feelings (this would have involved citing not examples of why liberalism was the same as "knee-jerk socialism" but simply making people as angry at liberals as possible) or to prejudice (this would have involved some variation of saying, "I don't need to provide examples as to why I'm right, since we all know it's true."), but instead trying to illustrate - through the use of examples - that his position was correct. As such, even though you or I might disagree either with his logic or with his conclusion, we can't argue that he wasn't making an ad hominem attack on that basis.

Similarly, we can't say that he was making an ad hominem attack based on the second definition because his editorial wasn't a response or answer to an assertion made by someone else in a debate; it was intending to present a brand new argument of its own. It's impossible for someone to be guilty of trying to discredit an opponent through a response if they aren't actually responding to anyone, but rather simply establishing the premise on which a new discussion can take place.

These distinctions may seem subtle to you, but if you study debate, they are critical. What's more, what I am stating here are not my personal opinions; they are objective facts regarding the use of terminology in logical discourse, as I learned in college courses and have read about in countless books. Saying that you "disagree" with them would be like me saying I "disagree" with the idea that the term "wet" can be used to apply to water. Whether you like it or not, these are what those words mean.

Matthew Laszlo said...

2) Straw Man Attacks:

While I can accept the possibility that you genuinely misunderstood the definition of "ad hominem attack," I find it very difficult to believe that the same is true of why I'm referring to your argument as "straw man attacks." There are two reasons for this:

- You keep trying to inoculate yourself to criticism by couching your straw man attacks as "apologies" - i.e., you'll say you're sorry for misunderstanding my position before recasting it in a way that blatantly distorts what I said.

- I have made it clear to you on several occasions what my position is and why your characterization of it is in error. Although I have said that your arguments are unintelligent, I do not think that you personally are unintelligent; as such, the only conclusion that I can draw is that you are behaving that way deliberately.

Anyway, allow me to explain again why what you are using straw man arguments:

In your initial posts, you challenged my use of the term "delusional" in reference to conservatives by arguing that, because that word includes the term "psychosis" and I had not written anything to prove that conservatives literally had that specific mental illness, that my stance was "silly." My response was to point out how the hyperliteral interpretation you were using of the term "psychosis" was not the only valid one, and went on to explain at considerable length why the one I was using was equally valid, thus justifying my application of the term "delusional" to conservatives.

Not one of your responses has actually addressed the substance of what I wrote. Instead you went on to claim that I had somehow conceded that I wasn't trying to "imply a serious assertion of facts" (an argument which could not have been rationally gleaned from what I wrote) and then furthered that by saying that I had helped demonstrate your position because I had not intended to use the "strict definition" of delusional, even though I had clearly stated not that I wasn't using the strict definition, but merely that your own interpretation of that definition was not the sole valid one.

Incidentally, if any further proof is needed that your use of straw men here is deliberate, I could cite the recent comment in which you tip your hand too far and reveal your motives for all of this by saying that "my usage of hyperliteral analysis does not need to be defended."

Yes it does need to be defended, especially since the entire basis of your initial post - the one that started this whole debate - hinges on whether hyperliteralism is the only valid way of defining words or not. So far you have refused to engage with that point.

Matthew Laszlo said...

3) Additional Thoughts:

- I find your efforts to make yourself out to be a victim, and me by implication some sort of mean-spirited bully, to be highly offensive. This includes:
"I don't think that constitutes you proving me wrong, but good for you. +1 internets"
"Saying that I have not provided an intelligent argument is an insult."
No offense, but you were the one who (a) started this debate, (b) did so using an ad hominem attack, and (c) responded to my initial reply with straw man arguments. The petulant tone is not only inappropriate but, in light of how this conversation began, pretty lacking in perspective.

- At one point you try to argue that you hadn't been saying that my arguments weren't to be taken seriously, but rather that they weren't to be taken "at face value." In a weird way, this betrays a philosophy similar to the one that caused you to use straw man arguments against me - i.e., if confronted with something written that you can't rebut, replace it with something else that you can. The only difference here is that, instead of replacing something I initially said, you are replacing something that you initially said.

Either way, you said it, so either stand by it or admit you were wrong.

- "I mean serious as opposed to satirical, not as an attempt to insult your post"
When you say "serious as opposed to satirical," you imply that the two are mutually exclusive, even though both the definition of that word and my use of the satirical style in this article clearly indicate that that is not the case.

- "I did not, and will not, discuss your examples of conservativism or conservative ideology, because I thought you were using them to support your assertion that conservatives are delusional liars. If they are not delusional, then it seems silly to discuss your examples further."
As has now been made clear again, I am accusing them of being delusional (only by using a definition of the term different from the one you prefer) and I did use the examples in my article as a way of supporting that conclusion. You can think that I am wrong for making this argument - heck, you can think that I'm a partisan douche for making them - but to argue that I'm not making them at all is to use the straw man fallacy. Incidentally, I think you once again tip your hand by declaring that you refuse to directly address what I said (and what, after all, THE ENTIRE POINT OF MY ARTICLE); it reveals that your motive for erecting straw men is so that you can avoid responding to what I wrote.

Matthew Laszlo said...

- "I think that my interpretation of the candor definition does apply, because a synonym for it is fairness. You are being disingenuous, or lacking in fairness, by insinuating that conservatives are inherently psychologically disturbed."
While there are multiple definitions of the word "candor," the only one that could make it synonymous with "disingenuous" ("i.e., giving a false appearance of simple frankness") is the one that means "unreserved, honest, or sincere expression." To claim that you were using the other definition is silly, since it clearly doesn't fit with that term.

- "I feel it (i.e., calling me "disingenuous") contributes to the discussion, because your prejudiced interpretation (which is what I was asserting) of arguments would make an open discussion more difficult."
"My usage of disingenuous was to discredit your reliability as an unbiased participant."
You do realize that you just admitted that you were using it as an ad hominem attack, right?

- "You supported it with 'facts', but that does not change your original intent to appeal to an emotional reaction. Granted, you started this particular discussion, but I still don't see how your approach is not an ad hominem attack."
As I explained earlier, if I wasn't responding to someone else, then by default it couldn't be an ad hominem attack according to that definition. As for the first charge, the simple fact that my argument could trigger an emotional response does not make it ad hominem; after all, Martin Luther King's "Letter from the Birmingham Jail" (which, by the way, is much better than anything I've ever written) is clearly meant to be an emotional and moving piece, but that doesn't mean it was ad hominem. All of the criticisms he levied against the racist establishment in the South, however powerful, were based on allegations that he claimed were factual; he wasn't basing his argument on how angry he was or how upset he wanted everyone to be, but rather on what he felt were real, solid points that could back up his argument. Similarly, you can disagree with the facts presented in my article - heck, you can think I'm outright lying about them (although I'm not) - but you can't argue that it's an ad hominem attack because I'm not saying "I'm right for emotional reasons", I'm saying "I'm right because I am arguing that these things are true."

- "If you change your requirement of conservatives being delusional, that would be an entirely different discussion."
In short, you're only willing to debate me if I stop using the argument upon which this entire discussion is predicated on the first place?

- "We are arguing past each other, not with each other."
No, I am trying to have you directly engage with what I wrote and you're trying to misrepresent what I wrote, attack me personally, and change the subject. Saying we're talking past each other is the wrong analogy; the better way of saying it is that you criticized what I wrote, I responded to your criticism, and you have since then been trying to avoid accountability for what you said while I've been trying to force you to stick to it.

I have just one more post.

Matthew Laszlo said...

- "Granted, I don't know the title of the conservative manifesto, and as such have not read it, but I don't believe many conservative would agree that they believe it is "moral to have contempt... or just to oppose policies" based on someone's character or identity."
This, RIGHT HERE, is the first and so far only time that you have directly addressed the arguments that I made in my editorial. If you want to continue explaining why you feel that way - which is to say, if you want to actually have a debate on the substance of what I wrote in my article, rather than bogging me down in semantics and batting away straw men, I will be more than happy to do so.

That said, there is one problem...

"If you could source that out for me, I might change my mind about this being an unjustified attack on their character."

Sorry, but that isn't how it works. If you want to write a rebuttal attacks my argument, then great; I'd be delighted to have that discussion with you, since that's the whole point of my original editorial in the first place. However, it's ridiculous to believe that I'm somehow supported to do your legwork for you. Make whatever argument you want and, when I rebut it, I will cite whatever sources I feel are necessary in order to do so.

This brings me to my overarching comment about how you've conducted yourself here:

Let me make it clear that I do not have ANY ethical objections to what you wrote in your first post (save for the ad hominem attack in which you called me "disingenuous"). Even though I think what you said there was wrong, and as such made an effort to prove that, what you actually said there was an attempt to directly engage with my material. Your claim was that I had no right to call conservatives "delusional" since I was misusing the term, and even though I felt I wasn't misusing the term, that obviously was a valid point to raise, since it directly pertained to the substance of my argument.

Since then, however, every post you have written has been an attempt to avoid having to discuss the only issue that really matters here (and I'm capitalizing this for emphasis, not to yell at you):

WHY YOU THINK MY ARTICLE WAS WRONG

Like I said before, questioning whether I used the word "delusional" correctly does address why you think my article was wrong. That said, you have since then (a) mischaracterized what I wrote, which quite obviously is an attempt to dodge addressing why you thought my article was wrong, (b) openly refused to respond to my criticisms of your claim that only a hyperliteral definition is valid, and (c) openly refused to explain why you feel the facts I cite in order to support my claims about conservatives are in error.

In short, although you have raised a lot of points here - and obviously I have gone out of my way to respond to everyone of them, so that you couldn't accuse me of being unable or unwilling to address what you said - not one of them has actually addressed the substance of what I wrote.

This is why I accused you of running away. You said my article was wrong; that is the only reason why we're here. Now prove it.

William said...

1) I'm not trying to imply that your article is an ad hominem attack. I was saying that your statement that conservatives are delusional liars was an ad hominem attack.

I disagree with your interpretation that 'establishing the premise on which a new discussion can take place' disqualifies a statement from being ad hominem, because no political discussion takes place in a vacuum. However, I would have to discuss this with an actual logician, since this specific example never came up in my college courses.

I'm glad we agree that 'Whether you like it or not, these are what those words mean'. Unfortunately, you were claiming earlier that a common sense interpretation of a word is acceptable. Should I go with a strict definition, or with the 'common usage'?

I never made this explicit point, but now seems like a good opportunity. Just because lots of people have used a word improperly, does not mean that the definition has changed. Yes, many people have misused psychotic or delusional to describe people that were not actually psychotic or delusional. Many people have also used words like liberal and conservative as insults to degrade opponents.

You gave the dictionary definition of a term, so I took that as a signal that discussing the term from that perspective (the dictionary's definition) would be acceptable. Apparently I was wrong.

I called you disingenuous. It was not directed at your arguments. I believe that I have shown that the definition of the word applies to you, you disagree. However, I have explained why the term applies to you, and only with intellectual reasons. If I had said 'You are disingenuous', without any explanation why, it would be a different situation.

We both seemed to have missed the nuances of internet communication. I misunderstood your initial post, and you misunderstood my response.

William said...
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William said...

2) When I said 'My usage of hyperliteral analysis does not need to be defended' I was saying that because my apology was my attempt to concede that my interpretation was wrong. I admitted that the hyperliteral analysis was based upon a mistaken interpretation of your article. Thus, it does not need to be defended because it was wrong.

There was also the sentence at the end of that paragraph that said 'The interpretation was a mistake, and I thought my apology indicated that' Maybe that is why I don't need to defend the analysis, because it was wrong.

Everything else was my attempt to explain to you why I had originally assumed that position. This was for two reasons: to help me develop my explanatory skills for future discussions, and to help you understand what actions of yours led to the misunderstanding.

You may have missed this part: 'In closing, I seem to have misinterpreted your goal, your methodology, and your invitation to rebut your claims. Would you like to transition the discussion into who flubbed harder? ' I was admitting that my analysis was built upon a mistaken interpretation.

William said...

Are you done building straw men out of my apologies? I'm not inoculating my arguments. I made one, and then I explained why I made it. Your quotations of my text are removing the context. I said 'I mean serious as opposed to satirical, not as an attempt to insult your post'.

This does not indicate that satirical comments are invalid or worthless. This means that I was addressing what you said. With a satirical comment, the focus would be on discussing what you meant. I missed the satire font. I addressed what you said. You wanted the discussion to be about what you meant.

3) My interpretation of your original post was that you had a fundamental argument, 'Conservatives are delusional liars'. Everything else was used to support this base assertion. If I can systematically eliminate any chance of that statement being true, by proving that conservatives are not delusional, than the rest of your evidence does not need to be addressed.

An example. All debaters with the first name Will are delusional liars. Regardless of how many true examples you have of me being a liar, if you can prove that those debaters are not delusional, then my argument fails. You don't need to address my examples, or address their validity.

Regardless of their veracity, the fundamental argument has been shown to be unacceptable. That was my intent. I used the 'hyperliteral analysis' to do so. I didn't that 'argue that [you were] not making [the arguments] at all'. I argued that they were irrelevant to my argument.

William said...

Again, I have said that my argument was based upon a misunderstanding of your post. That does not change that my approach is logically sound and acceptable.

You have said that all conservatives are X, Y, and Z. You supported Y and Z. I argued that they are not X. This is not an unacceptable method of discourse. I believe it is referred to as a 'reductio ad absurdum'. I indicated that the inevitable consequence of your assertion (conservatives are delusional liars) was absurd. It is absurd because it is demonstrably false. They are not delusional. Or at least, they are not according to the dictionary that originally supported your fundamental claims.

Does this qualify as accepting my accountability, since my earlier apologies and explanations were insufficient to indicate that I had admitted I was wrong? (I really hope I don't have to reorganize these posts again, apologies if they are disjointed)

Matthew Laszlo said...

William,

For the most part, your posts have not added anything new to the conversation; you are simply repeating old arguments using new language, with the occasional somewhat different point tossed in just to keep up the appearance of freshness. This was initially a debate over the substance of my article; then it became a back-and-forth on semantics; and now it has become a lame game in which you try to see how many ways you can repackage the same arguments in different language.

This is exasperating me beyond belief. I will accommodate you ONE more time, but if you do not post something that is (a) new and (b) directly addresses the substance of my article rather than erecting straw man arguments, I’m just going to delete your posts. Your behavior is patently ridiculous and, frankly, you should be ashamed of yourself.

“I'm not trying to imply that your article is an ad hominem attack. I was saying that your statement that conservatives are delusional liars was an ad hominem attack.”

The entire purpose of my article was to argue that conservatives are delusional liars. This defense doesn’t make any sense.

“I disagree with your interpretation that 'establishing the premise on which a new discussion can take place' disqualifies a statement from being ad hominem, because no political discussion takes place in a vacuum. However, I would have to discuss this with an actual logician, since this specific example never came up in my college courses.”

While it is true that no political discussion takes place in a vacuum, an ad hominem attack specifically refers to a response to some other argument; it cannot refer to a position that establishes new premise. You keep acting like this is “my interpretation” and one with which you disagree, but that’s like saying belief in evolution is “my science” and one with which you disagree.

“I'm glad we agree that 'Whether you like it or not, these are what those words mean'. Unfortunately, you were claiming earlier that a common sense interpretation of a word is acceptable. Should I go with a strict definition, or with the 'common usage'?”

We do not agree on that, and frankly I’m tired of you saying “We agree on X” as a way of putting concessions in my mouth. My definition of “delusional” was just as valid as yours, whereas your definition of “ad hominem” is not as valid as mine. To try to establish an equivalence behind how we are defining words here is clever but dishonest.

Matthew Laszlo said...

“I never made this explicit point, but now seems like a good opportunity. Just because lots of people have used a word improperly, does not mean that the definition has changed. Yes, many people have misused psychotic or delusional to describe people that were not actually psychotic or delusional. Many people have also used words like liberal and conservative as insults to degrade opponents.
You gave the dictionary definition of a term, so I took that as a signal that discussing the term from that perspective (the dictionary's definition) would be acceptable. Apparently I was wrong.”

The way the authors of that dictionary used “psychotic” was not improper; they were simply utilizing that term informally instead of clinically. To repeat the question I posed earlier to illustrate this point: is it inaccurate to call someone “splenetic” if their ill temper isn’t literally caused by an ailment of the spleen or “neurotic” if they aren’t actually exhibiting clinical neuroses?

Of course not. You keep resorting to the fallback of “If you aren’t using these words in a literal clinical sense, then you must not be using them with strict accuracy,” thus ignoring that it is strictly accurate to use them in a casual context as well as in a medical one. While I could respect your position if you tried to back it up or justify it with an argument, all you have done so far is misrepresent my position REPEATEDLY so you won’t have to bother validating yours. That is a straw man argument.

Incidentally, I have no idea how bringing up people using liberal and conservative as insults to degrade opponents has any relevance to this discussion.

Matthew Laszlo said...

“I called you disingenuous. It was not directed at your arguments. I believe that I have shown that the definition of the word applies to you, you disagree. However, I have explained why the term applies to you, and only with intellectual reasons. If I had said 'You are disingenuous', without any explanation why, it would be a different situation.”

This is why I have called your arguments unintelligent. In my post I explained, in very detailed and methodical language, why the term “disingenuous” could not have applied to me in the way that you used it. You like to present yourself as an independent-minded, thoughtful man, but if that was truly the case, then you would either (a) dissect my explanation and thus show how it was in error (and thus how I do deserve the term “disingenuous”) or (b) if you found yourself incapable of doing that, admit that you were wrong.
Instead, although you keep claiming that you have “shown how the definition of the word applies to you,” you have not addressed any of the points I made as it how it does not, or for that matter about how your claim that it could is extremely flawed. You just keep repeating your old claim as if that somehow gives it merit, but you neither justify it with facts nor acknowledge (much less rebut) the various arguments I have made to contradict it. This is a blatant dodge.

“We both seemed to have missed the nuances of internet communication. I misunderstood your initial post, and you misunderstood my response.”

You keep repeating this, but you have yet to (a) prove that I have misinterpreted anything you wrote or (b) acknowledge any place where you misinterpreted what I wrote, save only when you do that for the sole purpose of trying to put words in my mouth (such as when you “apologized” for “thinking I was trying to make serious points” when in fact you knew I had never said that). In short, this is just an attempt to make yourself seem like you’re being “civil” when in fact you’re doing no such thing.

Matthew Laszlo said...

"When I said 'My usage of hyperliteral analysis does not need to be defended' I was saying that because my apology was my attempt to concede that my interpretation was wrong. I admitted that the hyperliteral analysis was based upon a mistaken interpretation of your article. Thus, it does not need to be defended because it was wrong.

There was also the sentence at the end of that paragraph that said 'The interpretation was a mistake, and I thought my apology indicated that' Maybe that is why I don't need to defend the analysis, because it was wrong.

Everything else was my attempt to explain to you why I had originally assumed that position. This was for two reasons: to help me develop my explanatory skills for future discussions, and to help you understand what actions of yours led to the misunderstanding.

You may have missed this part: 'In closing, I seem to have misinterpreted your goal, your methodology, and your invitation to rebut your claims. Would you like to transition the discussion into who flubbed harder? ' I was admitting that my analysis was built upon a mistaken interpretation."

Once again, you are trying to put words in my mouth. You keep saying that you “mistakenly interpreted” my article because you thought I was trying to make serious points and prove that conservatives were delusional liars when in fact I was doing no such thing. As I have pointed out repeatedly now, I am accusing them of being delusional liars, and am using the facts in the sections below that definition to support argument. You keep trying to “apologize” in order to put words in my mouth and thus avoid having to actually explain why you feel the content of my article is wrong.

Since my article IS in fact trying to argue that conservatives are delusional liars, and DOES in fact intend to use its examples to support that assertion, you are left with two AND ONLY TWO choices:

1) You can explain why you think I’m wrong about conservatives being delusional liars, based either on the facts provided in the article or on relevant material you feel I excluded.

2) You can concede you were wrong.

I'd actually prefer it if you chose Option 1, since I would very much like to have an opportunity to prove my point about conservatism. If you choose Option 2, I'll accept that, but I will NOT accept you trying to foist some imaginary Option 3 into this conversation, one in which you claim that my article wasn’t seriously arguing that conservatives are delusional liars and therefore you are under no obligation to agree or disagree with that statement. This is a straw man fallacy, and if you want to depict yourself as an intelligent and logical debater, it isn’t one of your argumentative options.

Matthew Laszlo said...

“Are you done building straw men out of my apologies? I'm not inoculating my arguments. I made one, and then I explained why I made it. Your quotations of my text are removing the context. I said 'I mean serious as opposed to satirical, not as an attempt to insult your post'.

This does not indicate that satirical comments are invalid or worthless. This means that I was addressing what you said. With a satirical comment, the focus would be on discussing what you meant. I missed the satire font. I addressed what you said. You wanted the discussion to be about what you meant.”

First…

“Are you done building straw men out of my apologies?”

I take it that you thought of this rebuttal after consulting your “I'm rubber and he's glue" manual.

“…I was addressing what you said. With a satirical comment, the focus would be on discussing what you meant. I missed the satire font.”

Once again, you are trying to redefine terms in order to suit your interests. That is not the definition of satire. For proof, see the definition I provided earlier.

“My interpretation of your original post was that you had a fundamental argument, 'Conservatives are delusional liars'. Everything else was used to support this base assertion. If I can systematically eliminate any chance of that statement being true, by proving that conservatives are not delusional, than the rest of your evidence does not need to be addressed.

An example. All debaters with the first name Will are delusional liars. Regardless of how many true examples you have of me being a liar, if you can prove that those debaters are not delusional, then my argument fails. You don't need to address my examples, or address their validity.”

This is correct. If you can prove that conservatives are not delusional, then you have indeed debunked my entire arguments, and as such your task is done. As such, your first post was entirely appropriate in its intended purpose – you tried to argue how I was wrong about conservatives being delusional.

That said, your behavior AFTER that first post has been heinous. I’m not sure what you anticipated I was going to do after reading your claim that I was wrong because the term “delusional” wasn’t being correctly applied, but clearly you were not expecting me to argue that both of the definitions we were using were equally accurate, because you have spent days upon days since avoiding addressing whether my argument is valid or not, and instead have proceeded to vigorously and deliberately misrepresent it.

“Regardless of their veracity, the fundamental argument has been shown to be unacceptable. That was my intent. I used the 'hyperliteral analysis' to do so. I didn't that 'argue that [you were] not making [the arguments] at all'. I argued that they were irrelevant to my argument.”

That isn't what you've been arguing, because you keep saying that you don't need to address the substance of my claims since, in your mind, their satirical nature no longer makes them meant to be taken at "face value." This is despite the repeated fact that I've argued that they are meant to be taken at face value.

Matthew Laszlo said...

“Again, I have said that my argument was based upon a misunderstanding of your post. That does not change that my approach is logically sound and acceptable.”

Your approach is not logically sound or acceptable, a fact that I will demonstrate by dissecting our argument starting at its very origins:

1. I argued that conservatives are delusional liars.

2. You responded that I was wrong because the definition of the term “delusional” could not apply to conservatives.

2b. You also made an ad hominem attack against me by calling me “disingenuous”, which as I’ve explained is ad hominem because you were using it to rebut a proposition not by addressing the contentions that I’d made, but rather by casting aspersions against my character. Incidentally, my calling conservatives delusional liars was based entirely on the contentions that, in my argument, have been repeatedly made by that ideological movement; I did not attack their personal characters except insofar as they are (in my argument) reflected upon by their ideology. That said, this issue of whether or not you were using an ad hominem attack against me wasn’t central to the argument I had provided in my article.

3. I replied to your post by arguing that your definition of delusional was not the only valid one.

4. Instead of responding to that assertion, you instead seized upon my casual comment that my article was satirical in order to misrepresent my piece as not being intended to be taken seriously. You have insisted on embracing that argument ever since, no matter how many ways I have pointed out that it’s in error and no matter how often I have urged you to stick to discussing the substance of my claim. This is a straw man argument, and it is both illogical and unethical.

“You have said that all conservatives are X, Y, and Z. You supported Y and Z. I argued that they are not X. This is not an unacceptable method of discourse.”

No, it is not, but that isn’t what you’ve been doing (save in your very first post). See my previous comment for more.

Matthew Laszlo said...

“I believe it is referred to as a 'reductio ad absurdum'. I indicated that the inevitable consequence of your assertion (conservatives are delusional liars) was absurd. It is absurd because it is demonstrably false. They are not delusional. Or at least, they are not according to the dictionary that originally supported your fundamental claims.”

Actually, my use of the term delusional is consistent with the dictionary definition I cited in my article – or at least, that’s what I argue by pointing out that my interpretation is just as valid as yours. Your only job has been to prove that I’m in error when making that argument, and that is something that you have spent a very long time now refusing to do.

“Does this qualify as accepting my accountability, since my earlier apologies and explanations were insufficient to indicate that I had admitted I was wrong? (I really hope I don't have to reorganize these posts again, apologies if they are disjointed)”

You see, William, I believe that there is apologizing and “apologizing”; there is being civil and then there is “being civil”; there is being respectful and then there is “being respectful”…

The quotation marks, in case you couldn’t glean this on your own, are meant to distinguish between people who behave in a certain way because it is a genuine reflection of their intentions and those who behave that way because they want to make it difficult for others to criticize their actual motives.
For example, if a manipulative parent is unduly harsh in imposing rules on their child, they might apologize by saying, “What I did was unfair and I was wrong” or they might “apologize” by saying, “I’m sorry that I loved you too much.”

See the difference?

The reason I don’t accept your apology is that it’s not a real apology but rather an “apology.” You don’t say you’re sorry because you think you were proven wrong; instead you say you’re sorry as a way of making it seem like your attempt to misrepresent my argument is somehow valid. This, ironically, actually IS an example of disingenuousness.

Matthew Laszlo said...

* - In my first post, I meant to write this sentence:

My definition of “delusional” was just as valid as yours, and it was a strictly used definition as well as just a "common sense one."

I had initially written my replies to you on a word document and then copied-and-pasted them line-by-line here, and that fragment of the sentence (a rather important one) must have been lost.

William said...

Alright, I seem to have established my inability to infer your intentions over the internet. When you say "Conservatives are delusional liars", how strongly do you want me to infer? I ask because I see this quickly devolving into a 'no true Scotsman' argument.

Are you saying some conservatives, all conservatives, most conservatives? They are always delusional liars, often are, or at least have been once? Something else?

Your response to this would obviously impact the proper way to respond to your argument.

I have to say, I think your argument that "the authors of that dictionary used... that term informally" is ridiculous.

The one place that demands formal explanation of a term is the dictionary. If you had used "something that is falsely or delusively believed or propagated", I would accept the argument that it could be applied in this case. You claimed that a specific definition applied to your argument. It doesn't.

You can make a statement that the authors meant to use a word informally. However, there is no evidence that supports that idea.

A dictionary's meaning and definition of terms is deliberate and intentional. Otherwise, the entire venture of creating a dictionary is a waste of time. You used the dictionary's definition. I didn't force it on you. The English language =/ dictionary, but I never claimed that it did.