I have engaged in enough discussions, enough arguments on this blog that it’s time to clarify my standards, or to clarify them again.
Life is short, and getting shorter as one ages. I avoid wasting it arguing with people who lack credibility unless they give me an occasion to enlarge the sum total of what is credible in the world. Same statement: If I can augment truth by slaying an untruth, it’s often worth the time.
If someone begins a long argument designed to show how wrong I am on some opinion or on some fact I cited, if he begins with the statement: “ It’s Tuesday,” and it’s actually Wednesday, I go on reading after making a mental note that the writer is careless.
If someone begin the same long demonstration with the statement: “When the sun rises in the West as it does every day,” it’s unlikely that I will keep reading. If I do, I will be watching like a hawk for some other statement of nonsense, either factual nonsense or vices of reasoning. Of course, I never fail to find one such, or two, or twelve.
I believe that people who engage in public argument should prize their credibility like a nun her virginity. However if, like me, you have accumulated a large capital in credibility you may be allowed a small number of involuntary slip-ups.