Friday, February 22, 2013

But Where Do We Draw The Line?

Linguist John McWhorter, who was the lecturer for one of the college-course-on-disk programs I listened to almost a decade ago, made the shrewd observation that one can enter a discussion on almost any topic, knowledgeable or not, by listening a few minutes and then inserting “But where do you draw the line?”

Humorous, but true.  That usually is what real discussions should be about.  In debates, by contrast, people posture and jockey for position by trying to paint the other side as absolutists.  They don’t wish to arrive at truth, they want to win. Better still, they hope to vanquish and banish.  Tribalism rears its head, almost reflexively.

So who did you think I was talking about just there?  The vicious anthropological clans I mentioned a few posts ago?  (I mistakenly left out the Napoleon Chagnon controversy, BTW,)  The abortion debates?  Whether Obama will negotiate with other elected officials?  Worship music?  AGW? Whether heredity or culture drive behavior? Whether chemically-enhanced athletes should be elected to a Hall of Fame? Affirmative action?  Core curricula?

Ooh, I have to write about that last one.  I am less absolutist than I was. 

1 comment:

Sam L. said...

"So who did you think I was talking about just there?"

Damn near everybody.

I remember a discussion from 40 years ago which had heated up to near argument when I suddenly heard him saying what I was saying. Sometimes we stop listening to each other.