You know how by the time you think of what you should have said in that conversation, it’s too late? Well, I mean, why should that stop me? Here, with no context, are some things I ought to have said at the time. Most of these are at least 20 years old and I very much doubt anyone but me remembers any of them. So what. And none of them refer to anything on this blog.
Greg: I’d thought it was a pretty obvious rhetorical device, but I’ll explain the subtext if you’d like. When I observe that we disagree on nearly everything, and then say that I agree with that remark, it makes my agreement more emphatic. I am inviting the reader who is inclined to dismiss your position to take another look. If your question was in turn rhetorical, and intended as a criticism of my rhetorical device, then I’m sorry, but I missed it.
Pamela: Oh! I ought to have clarified. My use of “exploited” was in the extremely narrow, scientific sense. That is, a worker is exploited insofar as the wages he’s paid are less than the value he produces. I did not mean to imply unfairly exploited, or treated badly.
Greg (again): And where in Joyce is the snappy dialog during a sword fight? For that matter, where are the sword fights?
Pamela (again): I apologize. Your question deserved a more thoughtful answer. I do consider myself philosophically a child of the Enlightenment. And while I think “perfectibility” is nonsense, I do believe in the improve-ibility of Man, and believe rational thought an important tool in that regard.
Greg (yet again): Oh, for Heaven’s sake. Let me try to explain this using, if not short words, at least short sentences. Yes, I am in a critique group with that writer. However, I don’t know where you get the idea that this means, “Therefore the author is a friend whose work I will defend even if I agree with the criticism.” What it means is, we’re in the same critique group. That means (pay attention now) that I had the chance to critically read the work before publication. If I’d had a problem with that passage, I would have said so to the author. If the author then chose to ignore my suggestion, and you had brought up the criticism I had mentioned, I’d either maintain a discreet silence, or find a way to say to the author, “Neener neener neener.” If I did neither of those, it means I didn’t have a problem when I read the passage. Now, perhaps I am wrong, and the passage really does have the problem you suggest. But when you imply–uh, excuse me, when you state–that I’m only saying that because we’re in the same critique group you are being, at best, muddle-headed. Have you considered the possibility that I liked that passage for exactly the reason I gave?
Patrick: Of course, you’re right. Too often discussions–especially on that subject–come too close to saying, “Believing that makes you a bad person.” And the kindest thing one can say about that is that it isn’t useful. But it seems to me that every passionate disagreement, even the most esoteric disagreement about theoretical mathematics, has underneath it the suggestion that the world will be a little better if you see and/or do things this way instead of that way. If not, why the passion? And whether something makes the world better seems to me to be the very definition of a moral question. Again, this is not to disagree with the point you were making, I just want to point out that the opposite side can also be carried too far.
DDB: You were right about the tires and I should have said so then. But it is interesting to consider that that subject provides a lovely example of some of the accidental social mechanisms that make the rich richer and keep the poor poor. Also, sorry about the soup thing. I get that way sometimes.
There. That should do it. I feel worlds better. If any of you have any of those arguments lying around, please feel free to post them here (but nothing from this blog; that would be cheating).