Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach
Over at “Digging in the Clay” Verity Jones has an excellent graphic summarizing the different levels of disagreement. The graphic deserves wider circulation. The types of disagreement range in a spectrum from the strongest, refuting the author’s central point, all the way down to the weakest, name-calling. Here’s the graphic:
The graphic is based on How to Disagree by Paul Graham, which is well worth reading.
One thing I’d like to highlight is that in the linked article the author says (emphasis mine):
The most convincing form of disagreement is refutation. It’s also the rarest, because it’s the most work. Indeed, the disagreement hierarchy forms a kind of pyramid, in the sense that the higher you go the fewer instances you find.
To refute someone you probably have to quote them. You have to find a “smoking gun,” a passage in whatever you disagree with that you feel is mistaken, and then explain why it’s mistaken. If you can’t find an actual quote to disagree with, you may be arguing with a straw man.
I bring all of this forward to encourage both myself and others to up our game, to aspire in our comments to the higher levels of the pyramid shown above, and to eschew the lower levels. Oh, and also to encourage people regarding my usual postscript.
Regards to everyone,
My Usual Postscript: If you disagree with someone, please quote their exact words so we can all understand just what you are disagreeing with.
Further Reading: Verity Jones’s article is here.