Assertions, challenges, and polite discourse

Ben Finney ben+python at
Thu Jan 7 01:53:24 CET 2010

r0g < at> writes:

> Ben Finney wrote:
> > People sometimes get upset — on an immediate, irrational level —
> > when their assertions are challenged. There's no denying that
> > emotions entangle our discourse, and our interpretation of the
> > discourse of others.
> That's truer than most people appreciate, to the extent that it's a
> good idea to tread very lightly when correcting strangers if you want
> rational discourse to continue. Even small amounts of negativity
> commonly provoke large threat responses in people which in turn
> inhibit rational thinking...

I prefer the strategy of acknowledging and desensitising this irrational
response, by making it obvious that every assertion expressed is
inevitably an exposure of that assertion to challenge and criticism.

Challenging assertions and criticising reasoning are both healthy and in
insufficient supply, and I want them to be normal and routine. I try to
act accordingly.

 \      “Nothing is more sacred than the facts.” —Sam Harris, _The End |
  `\                                                   of Faith_, 2004 |
_o__)                                                                  |
Ben Finney

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