Less Wrong is a community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality. Please visit our About page for more information.

Politics Filtering and Higher Standard Discussions

-1 Post author: ikrase 19 February 2013 08:35PM

Does anybody have suggestions of a method to hold a risky political discussion while  excluding mindkilled dialogue and naively cynical accusations? I know that Moldbug uses a deliberately obscure writing style as a kind of barrier to entry, but that only works for things like his blog, not a conversational dialogue, and I would prefer to avoid obscurity. I'm mostly interested in avoiding people pattern-matching to the monster of the week, but I am concerned with attracting the merely regressive. 

 

Edit: If you think you have guessed what specific subject I am talking about, keep it to yourself or use private messaging

Comments (14)

Comment author: [deleted] 19 February 2013 09:10:07PM 3 points [-]

Can you give more examples of the kind(s) of political discussion you want to do better in?

I mean, I understand what you want to avoid, because you list many examples of that, but I'm not sure what you want to have, other than a political discussion, with some group of people of some size in some circumstance.

For instance, the kinds of advice I might consider suggesting for internet discussions on your site, internet discussions on other sites, town meetings, door to door canvassing, discussions with friends and family, and discussions with political opponents when you are running for office are somewhat different, and they also involve different amounts of risk.

Comment author: ikrase 20 February 2013 04:33:51PM 1 point [-]

-Am thinking of the following: -Discussion with friends online, in semiprivate systems. -Discussion on forums -Discussion on my own site.

But in those discussions, I would be interested in talking about avoiding mindkilling if it goes beyond discussion.

Comment author: shminux 19 February 2013 08:58:06PM *  5 points [-]

a method to hold a risky political discussion while excluding mindkilled dialogue and naively cynical accusations

I'm wondering why you would want to. Any contentious political issue can usually be disassembled into non-political ones, usually some combination of economics, history, physics, logic and cognitive science. Start with something like "Is Obama a Muslim?", "Is smaller government better?", "Is global warming real?", "Is assisted suicide murder?" and break it down into non-political or less obviously political components, like the measurable effects of faith on job performance, a comparative discussion of the role of various levels of governments, from family council to condo owners association and up, in various countries and cultures, and so on. There is no point in explicitly discussing an issue which triggers affiliation- and identity-based biases.

Comment author: Antisuji 19 February 2013 09:56:55PM 5 points [-]

I largely agree. But I strongly suspect that it's possible for some groups of people to have meaningful, productive discussions of political issues, even if they don't all agree. The difficulty is that this scenario is unstable: once any member of the discussion takes offense, uses their arguments as soldiers, or otherwise misuses words, it becomes next to impossible to back out and return to the previous level of discourse.

There are probably ways of making such discussions more stable, if not perfectly so. I for one would be curious to know what these are.

Comment author: shminux 19 February 2013 10:46:28PM *  6 points [-]

Even extremely reasonable people tend to use arguments as soldiers. Here a disability rights advocate Harriet McBryde Johnson recounts her discussions with the philosopher Peter Singer (I stumbled across it on Eliezer's facebook page). Both very intelligent and reasonable people, they were unable to come to any common ground to speak of, due to what seems like their inability to look for simple common issues they can agree on without triggering identity-based emotions and then build on them. I found it a really sad story.

Comment author: ikrase 20 February 2013 04:16:42PM 0 points [-]

That's unlikely to be very helpful. What I am looking at is in the middle of a huge ugh field and people have gotten very good at putting together the pieces. I can take break the core into subcritical pieces, but I can't deal with the decay radiation.

Comment author: drethelin 19 February 2013 09:13:09PM 4 points [-]

Talk to people you've already filtered for open-mindedness and intelligence

Comment author: buybuydandavis 20 February 2013 04:41:56AM 2 points [-]

Trust and good will would help too.

Comment author: ikrase 20 February 2013 04:25:15PM 1 point [-]

I agree, but that's a bit of a problem and I've kind of been hoping for something more generalizable. It also might be tricky to introduce the matter in a way that doesn[t pattern-match to something beyond the pale. The biggest issue is that if one wants to have a conversation in public, you really cannot filter people who might see it.

Comment author: buybuydandavis 21 February 2013 12:21:29AM 0 points [-]

That goes to my top level comment below. If you more clearly detail the problem you're trying to solve, the responses will be more likely to be on target.

Comment author: christina 23 February 2013 06:27:41AM *  1 point [-]

I think there isn't really a problem with people discussing 'political' subjects, because the problem isn't politics. Really, anything that involves 'philosophy' and the word 'should' can be a potential problem, even if this is only implicit in the conversation. If you don't want to feel angry or to have people angry at you, the solution is simple--only talk to people you already agree with.

In fact, people can happily discuss politics and philosophy all day long, and do so all the time--as long as both parties already agree with the other's conclusions.

Now, I am assuming what you actually wanted to know was how to discuss politics with someone you don't already agree with. In order to do that one has to be able to separate the argument the person is making from their emotional response to it. if you can't do that, then anything that is significantly meaningful to you will be something you cannot meaningfully discuss with anyone you disagree with.

The goal of such discussions shouldn't be to convince someone that you are right, but to find the root cause of the disagreement to begin with. It's very important to make logical arguments and not use fallacies as arguments. When you feel strongly about a subject, this may be difficult. Also, if the other person has already made an argument for their case, you need to respond to the points they made. Otherwise you're just talking past each other. I agree that you shouldn't be obscure--that is a way to create a monologue, or perhaps talk with people who know whatever linguistic password you've set up, which may mostly be people you already agree with. I guess that works in the sense that one avoids confronting people they don't agree with.

The truth of the matter is that if you want to discuss anything at all important with someone you disagree with, there's going to be strong feelings involved. If someone presents a logical argument, regardless of the emotions involved, your response needs to address their argument, and not their or your emotional response. If you can't do that, then you might try understanding your opponent's side by choosing to read work from the most intelligent people who hold the same opinion they do. If you think those people's arguments are worthless (not merely wrong, but unintelligent and without any logical scaffold) then you probably won't be able to have a logical discussion of the subject with people you disagree with. And that is because if you think that, you are probably having trouble putting aside your own emotions on the subject. There is no such thing as an argument that cannot be argued using logic, or that has never been argued using logic. The question merely becomes what that logical infrastructure has been built on. Somewhere in there is the basic component that you and your equally logical countepart (who nevertheless believes the opposing viewpoint) disagree on.

Comment author: ikrase 25 February 2013 10:07:25AM 0 points [-]

Yeah. The discussions I am talking about are exploratory, people would not be expected to have strong opinions if it weren't for pattern-matching. I'm not as much worried about fallacies all around. One problem I have is that I am more afraid of people who agree with me than people I don't. THank you.

Comment author: christina 02 March 2013 06:35:25AM *  0 points [-]

Are you afraid of people who agree with you because you worry some will chime in with badly supported arguments? I imagine there are few things people enjoy less than seeing someone making a bad argument with the same conclusion as theirs, regardless of the quality of their own argument. Of course, I could be misinterpreting your statement here. Obviously, you could point out that their argument is flawed.

If they are making the same argument as you, though, and the only difference is how they make it, then you cannot say their argument is flawed (since from your perspective it is not and their attitude is not relevant to the truth value of the argument). In that case you just have to accept that you won't necessarily like everyone who holds the same position as you.

Are you worried that people may not be willing to discuss the issue at all if they feel too strongly about it? That does happen, but I think it is to be expected. Everyone has strong emotions sometimes, and one way a person might choose to deal with that is not to engage someone. That doesn't mean that everyone will do that, and it doesn't mean that the information on opposing viewpoints you are looking for can't be obtained through other means. So I think it's best not to worry about that.

I guess I'm not entirely sure what it is about strong opinions that troubles you, regardless of whether people would be expected to have them about a particular argument or not. The amount of emotion felt or expressed in an argument is not indicative of its quality. Only the logic contained therein is, and that is the only part that needs to be addressed if trying to understand other people's points of view. Perhaps I have addressed your concern above? You can let me know if I haven't, though.

Comment author: buybuydandavis 20 February 2013 04:44:10AM 1 point [-]

I think you'd get better answers if you more fully specified the context.

Who? Where? How? How long? How often? What topic? What's the risk? Do you have a particular topic in mind? What are you hoping to accomplish?