Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Bad Responses

Here is one category of things that I see a lot in papers (or even in print) that annoys me. I also often here people say these things as well. Usually, people use these sayings as an excuse or escape hatch to avoid having to actually think about or critically evaluate the issues at hand or as a rationalization for avoiding having one's beliefs challenged. In these sorts of cases, it's really a kind of intellectual laziness that gives rise to these. Now, don't get me wrong - I'm not saying that these are never the right things to say. There may very well be times where one of these actually is the appropriate response. But it takes a discerning, critical mind to tell when it is appropriate and it more often than not actually isn't. Indeed, to come to one of these as a conclusion about some matter ought in most cases to be a hard-fought, carefully won conclusion - not something that one should simply assume at the outset or use as an escape hatch from the conversation. I've written these up for my students in hopes that some of it will sink in and grouped them according to a few different types.

Lazy objections or responses to get out of having to actually think about the subject:

Gotta have faith - 'You just have to have faith', 'Everything they say is just based on faith', etc.

Who knows? - 'There's no way to prove either side', 'We'll never be able to figure this out', 'No one can understand this issue', 'No one has any evidence/proof either way', 'Not everyone agrees with this', etc.

Just obey - 'Don't question God', 'Who can understand why God does things?', etc.

I'm confused - 'What they say confuses me', 'What they say is vague/ambiguous/unclear', 'The other person's argument is easier to understand', etc.

Who died and made you king? - 'Who's to say/judge that p is the case?', 'What right have we to say that p?', etc.

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