Monday, November 27, 2006

secret debate

Phil and I have been secretly debating over the last month or so (very slowly, there's only a couple of comments each). I'm not sure if either of us know how much we disagree with each other, so maybe someone else can clarify (click the heading, or follow the link at the bottom).

As in the discussion on Borat, there is a tension between politeness and honesty. Different people can legitimately disagree over where to draw the line between the two.

I think is an interesting question in ethics. A rule utilitarian is concerned with the consequences of his actions and realises that he will seldom be able to predict consequences of his actions. We think that rules like, "don't tell lies' and "keep promises" on average have better consequences than the alternative and so become moral rules to follow unless we have excellent reason to believe that another action will be better.

I argued earlier that profit seeking in a free market is also a moral rule that should generally be followed. Another rule related to don't tell lies is (could be?) "truth seeking". If you are a journalist you can?t have much of an idea what consequences your articles will have. Trying to get at the truth will usually have the best consequences. Same thing goes for a debate or any occasion where differences of opinion are being expressed.

People love talking about the "truth" and the best way about finding the truth is to try and evaluate other arguments critically and honestly and to sincerely and honestly argue your own case, even if you know it might hurt somebody's feelings.

10 comments:

cristi said...

i think in the case of the veil, jack straw can be both honest and polite, why does there have to be a compromise? if he stated he doesn't like veils and explained why, there probably wouldn't be an outcry, unless the press conveniantly leave out the explaination (you know how i hate the media).

have you ever spoken to someone wearing a burka? u get over the lack of facial expression. infact, i found it helped me really focus in on what she is saying. I've also worn a veil before and it was liberating rather than restrictive. of course that would change if someone forced me to wear one.

you should swear less in your arguments, i tended to like phil's argument better cause he was more "polite" ;)

stuart said...

"if he stated he doesn't like veils and explained why, there probably wouldn't be an outcry"

This is question begging. Here's the first article I found on the issue.

I believe that in this case and the many other cases that have hit the news the outrage is completely crazy.

Are you in need of liberation? Why don't non-muslim women wear them? (that's a serious question)

I've heard people say that the veil helps to focus on what the person says, i actually think that is a major selling point of blogs, but i dont think that invalidates my point about evolution and facial expressions. dont you think it would be weird if men walked around in Balaclavas?

we each say shit once, but clearly I am far more confrontational.

cristi said...

balaclavas would be weird coz burgulars wear them. those ninja masks would rock tho. how interesting it would be if appearance didn't play a part of everyday life. i think we would let our guard down more and have more meaningful conversations with people (kinda like blogging i guess).

do i need liberation? probably, but i've been bombarded with western meems that tell me not to cover up. many non muslim women cover their hair, jewish women, the germanic christian sects (eg armish), nuns, some hindu divisions, and all of them do it for roughly the same reasons.

stuart said...

sounds tiring to me. Facial expressions convey a lot of information. Faces are very important in our history.

Would be better for some things though.

The motivation may be the same for hair covering but i think its a whole different ball game to face covering.

Tracy Leigh said...

In some ways I also like the idea of wearing masks (women AND men) because then it really becomes that utopia where we care about what a person says and does, and we "fall in love" with them because of who they are inside.

But I also think it's enrapturing to see an animated, kind or passionate person's face when speaking, no matter how imperfect it is. One reads so much through the face about who that person is. But perhaps it is misleading...

I think that generally a great personality shines through the face and the face becomes attractive even if they're not conventionally "handsome".

It seems sad to prevent half the population from expressing themselves through their facial expressions, and the other from enjoying that.

stuart said...

you people are so suspicious of faces! on average we are as good at detecting deceit as we at deceiving.

i read so many articles trying to pry humans away from animals so we can eat them. i think the way we use our faces to communicate is one area where we are really very different from animals and you want to prevent us from using this talent? (i know you don't)

i wonder if people pro veil are generaly very pro MSN and other internet communication, they should be.

cristi said...

what article did u read that suggests that our facial communication differs us from other animals? animals definitely use facial expression for communication, and they are alot more reliant on. the way we use our eyebrows is very similar to chimps. u should read the naked ape, it's a little fluffy round the edges, but otherwise a very interesting read.

stuart said...

i haven't read much about it so i really am no expert, but steven pinker discusses it in "how the mind works". He says that we got into an evolutionary arms race with ourselves. There is an incentive to deceive and incentive to detect deception. this is because humans are social and have made by far the best use of division of labour (i've read that this could have been crucial to us out competing Neanderthals. he argues that this led to the rapid development of our brains.

We also have a special bit of our brain which is just for facial recognition. when it malfunctions parents may not even recognize their children. this deficiency only impacts on human facial recognition, the rest of the visual cognition is usually completely normal.

i have no interest in exaggerating the difference between our facial expressions and other animals, i like animals.

cristi said...

wow, i have no idea how the points in paragraph one connect to one another, clearly i need to read pinker to make better sense of it. sounds fluffy tho.

poor neaderthals, i've always had a soft spot for them, ever since i read the whole "Clan of the cave bear" series in std 5. i'd love to reread those books to see if i'd still enjoy them (i highly doubt it). i think i only liked them when i was 13 because of all the sex. i learnt alot about the birds and the bees from those books.

btw, have u collected your natural science resource pack yet? i noticed almost everyone designed a lesson on reproduction, with some seriously graphic pictures. clearly natural science teachers have only one thing on their minds.

stuart said...

both paragraphs talk bout human faces. you should read pinker. i doubt that he would meet your exacting standards though.

i should get my pack, i forgot about it.