How to compose a successful critical commentary

by Limbic on December 25, 2015

“In disputes upon moral or scientific points, let your aim be to come at truth, not to conquer your opponent. So you never shall be at a loss in losing the argument, and gaining a new discovery.” –  Arthur Martine,  1866 guide to the art of conversation

In this everyone-is-a-critic culture, Daniel Dennet asks, “Just how charitable are you supposed to be when criticizing the views of an opponent?”

He offers what he calls “the best antidote [for the] tendency to caricature one’s opponent”: a list of rules formulated decades ago by the legendary social psychologist and game theorist Anatol Rapoport, best-known for originating the famous tit-for-tat strategy of game theory. Dennett synthesizes the steps:

  1. You should attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.

  2. You should list any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).

  3. You should mention anything you have learned from your target.

  4. Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.

From the incomparable Brain Pickings

See also the superb:  A Code of Conduct for Effective Rational Discussion

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