Credibility and Virginity

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.

About jacquesdelacroix

I am a sociologist, a short-story writer, and a blogger (Facts Matter and Notes On Liberty) in Santa Cruz, California.
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6 Responses to Credibility and Virginity

  1. Terry Amburgey says:

    My curiousity impels me to find out if you quit reading when you run across the statement When the sun rises in the West as it does every day when it is not at the beginning. Its possible that it has its effect regardless of position in a body of text or perhaps not. Inquiring minds want to know.

    • jacquesdelacroix says:

      I think such a statement has the same effect wherever I encounter it. Often, the reading bitch that reads over my shoulder with me is already scanning the text for an excuse to quit reading. The stupid statement then comes as a liberation.

      More on the reading bitch perched on my right shoulder: I am thinking of writing a non-political, reflexive essay on the issue of reading tolerance of absurd or stupid or underinformed statements. This issue comes up a lot in the context of my trash reading for pleasure.

      Do you think anyone is interested?

  2. Pingback: Iraq, War, and the Litmus Test of Rationality: Ron Paul Edition « Notes On Liberty

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