Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The E-mail Peace Pipe

"We, the cyberassembled people of this correspondence, gathered by the Internet for the purpose of improving the terms of intercommunication, and sustaining a long and viable friendship, do hereby establish the following Treaty ..." Thus, with a bow to the Constitution, begins my peace pact in a quarrelsome exchange of mails. Is it a model?

Let's see. I'll translate the pseudo-legalese into a few rules of the road for e-mail peace.

To communicate we must first assume that everyone is, in principle, equally deserving of being heard. Just because some have areas of expertise by way of schooling, work, location and so forth, it doesn't mean that others lack standing to raise factual and logical challenges.

Truth or validity should rest on verifiable, sourced evidence or sound reasoning, rather than biases, feelings or opinions.

No one should appeal to
  • force, sentimentality, pity, inexpert third parties not in the discussion, vanity or snobbery;
  • arguments against the other person, abuse, circumstantial incrimination or dismissal;
  • claims that two wrongs make a right; 
  • picking apart and/or attacking a "straw" argument that has not been made;
  • raising red herrings or baiting; 
  • weak induction, including appeal to unqualified authority, ignorance or lack of evidence;
  • overgeneralization, false cause, compounded exaggeration; 
  • weak analogy, presumption, ambiguity, grammatical analogy;
  • questions with built-in assumptions, false dichotomies, suppressed evidence.
No one has to assent to a statement merely on someone's say-so, but you are always free to take someone else's word. If you assert something, you bear the burden of proof; without it, what you say is just an opinion.

Whenever someone takes offense, the matter should be dropped without further question, regardless of whether the reaction seem reasonable. Conversely, however, just because someone takes offense it doesn't mean that offense was intended or warranted.

Take what is said at face value unless humor, irony, sarcasm or figurative meanings are expressly communicated. This is especially necessary in international communication.

2 comments:

Genevieve said...

"As to truth, is it so if it is merely what we can best see? Might it be something well beyond the horizon, which we cannot see?"

"Truth or validity should rest on verifiable, sourced evidence or sound reasoning, rather than biases, feelings or opinions"

Those two sentences (from your actual and previous posts) sound incompatible.

Is there an absolute truth? Is it objective? Is it verifiable? Each one owns one's truth that can be called "opinion".

george465 said...

What?? You have specified only nine commandments? Even Moses came up with ten!