Wednesday 25 February 2009

Some thoughts and a riposte to Brent Peters latest post

I was directed to Mr Peters' post by it's arrival on PlanetLotus and feeling the need to not let his post pass without comment but not wanting to have one of my rambling responses clogging up his comment section I am going to reply here.

Blog Terrorism - I find i have to disagree with Mr Peter's concept that terrorism has at it's core a need to "..cause an establishment to overreact". As most of my teenage years and a large proportion of my adult life have been on the receiving end of terrorism and the effects of terrorism this idea is entirely alien. The fundamental aim of "the terror" was to instil a fear so great in the population that it would force a change (or maintain) the status quo. (I would point my readers at UN resolution 1566 which basically says the same thing) When Mr Peters uses the word it comes replete with an arsenal of politically and emotionally charged emotions. It would appear that in his use of "terrorism" this is an argument from pure Pathos

[Some of you may not be familiar with the term and assume that I mean it is in some way pathetic. This is not my aim for Pathos is a rhetorical mode of persuasion that appeals to emotions rather than logic or ethics]

I also disagree with the statement that "...Step 2 in logic would say, what is this persons fundamental purpose in using this method?.. " Logic has nothing to say about fundamental purpose, Ethics does.... Logic would only ask is the premise on which the purpose is built follow logically from premise to conclusion?

I feel that that Mr Peters' post is falling (hopefully accidentally) into the trap of "Affirming the Consequent-" or the "Fallacy of False Dichotomy", for example the statement "If a person runs barefoot, then his feet hurt. Socrates' feet hurt. Therefore, Socrates ran barefoot." ... Other things can cause sore feet. In the same way, Terrorism (i would prefer to use the word "dissent") can be and is used for other reasons other than the need to provoke overreaction or for that matter to direct kudos to the Terrorist to satisfy their need for attention.

Mr Peters asks the reader to accept that ".. Now what I love even more is when people believe data from Ethos/Pathos, and toss out Logos" when previously he has used something very similar not a paragraph or so above when he uses a argument from emotion (pathos) that ascribes an ethical value (Terrorism is bad) without recognising that there may be other potentially ethically good or ethically neutral reasons for the terrorism .. (I really do prefer the word dissent).

I would posit this in response. We are in uncertain times and uncertain times have a habit of amplifying the fear of the unknown. Since the future is un-knowable there can be no logic, no reason applied to it. When things happen that appear to rock the boat, unreasoned and uninformed questions will be asked. It is the nature of the beast. In a way these questions have to be asked for how else can answers be given and unanimity reached? I accept the fact that on occasions there will be an element of self aggrandisement in the motives of the questioner, but this does not invalidate the need for the question, the question itself or for that matter the necessity for an answer. Demonising the questioner as a Terrorist or dismissing the question as uninformed or illadvised does not answer the question they asked and will as a direct consequence increase the level of unease.

Dissent can be very creative, I would put forward that the dissent for authority that characterised the Renaissance in the 14th century, the departure from "the accepted wisdom" that was prevalent in "the age of enlightenment" and even the ideas and principals of the American founding fathers as examples of dissent being beneficial. Whilst I would not argue all dissent is useful, I would strongly argue that dissent, even misplaced dissent, if stifled or dismissed can be very counter-productive.

I agree wholeheartedly with the last couple of paragraphs and had Mr Peters started with these I would not have felt the need to respond. I am reassured in these paragraphs that he IS the man for the job in these worrying times and is doing his damnedest to make things work. His sentiments that IBM managers are making the decisions they have to make to ensure they continue doing what they do are just what I needed to hear and whilst not overjoyed I am more upbeat about the future.

To echo Ben Poole's post .. to all the YellowBubbleNauts currently "resting" I wish you all the best and if we can be of help, just ask.

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