David Sirota on the Clinton Campaign
Jim Crow: Anti-Vagrancy and Anti-Enticement

I Find Myself Unable to Disagree...

How could anyone possibly disagree with this, from Paul Graham?

How to Disagree: The web is turning writing into a conversation.... Many who respond to something disagree with it.... Agreeing tends to motivate people less than disagreeing. And when you agree there's less to say.... The result is there's a lot more disagreeing going on, especially measured by the word....

If we're all going to be disagreeing more, we should be careful to do it well... here's an attempt at a disagreement hierarchy:

DH0. Name-calling.... DH1. Ad Hominem.... DH2. Responding to Tone.... DH3. Contradiction.... DH4. Counterargument.... DH5. Refutation.... DH6. Refuting the Central Point....

Truly refuting something requires one to refute its central point, or at least one of them. And that means one has to commit explicitly to what the central point is. So a truly effective refutation would look like:

The author's main point seems to be x. As he says:


But this is wrong for the following reasons...

The quotation you point out as mistaken need not be the actual statement of the author's main point. It's enough to refute something it depends upon.

What It Means

Now we have a way of classifying forms of disagreement... while DH levels don't set a lower bound on the convincingness of a reply, they do set an upper bound. A DH6 response might be unconvincing, but a DH2 or lower response is always unconvincing.

The most obvious advantage of classifying the forms of disagreement is that it will help people to evaluate what they read. In particular, it will help them to see through intellectually dishonest arguments.... By giving names to the different forms of disagreement, we give critical readers a pin for popping such balloons.

Such labels may help writers too. Most intellectual dishonesty is unintentional....

But the greatest benefit of disagreeing well is not just that it will make conversations better, but that it will make the people who have them happier. If you study conversations, you find there is a lot more meanness down in DH1 than up in DH6. You don't have to be mean when you have a real point to make. In fact, you don't want to. If you have something real to say, being mean just gets in the way.

If moving up the disagreement hierarchy makes people less mean, that will make most of them happier. Most people don't really enjoy being mean; they do it because they can't help it.