Disinfect Instruments

Charles Wagner, “The Struggle,” Courage, (New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1903), pp.201-202:

When one fights for the truth, one owes it to himself and his cause to be very scrupulous in all his proceedings. And the greater the energy of the attack, the greater the need of conscientiousness. The surgeon disinfects his instruments before using them.

I look upon any one as a malefactor who defends his political faith, or his moral and religious belief, without respecting his adversaries. The ruses, the calumnies, the pitfalls, the betrayals, by means of which one seeks to advance a cause, always compromise it. Therein lies the secret of the impotence of so many causes that are genuinely worthy.

We Assign Meanings to Messages

William Lutz (Editor), “What Do We Know,“ Beyond Nineteen Eighty-Four: Doublespeak in a Post-Orwellian Age, (Illinois: National Council of Teachers of English, 1989), p.30:

As research in perception (i.e., the process of information getting from outside of us through senses to inside of us) unequivocally demonstrates, however, messages do not move like letters through a postal system. They do not “contain” meaning. Messages consists of “cues”; i.e., words or numbers or other signals or symbols that suggest to us which meaning we might assign to them out of the corpus of meanings that our experience has enabled us to accumulate and that our consciousness permits us to recall. This a very different kind of process from the one represented by the transport theory of communication. What it means is that we do not “get” meanings from messages, we assign meanings to messages, and can do so only as our experiences and purposes in a given context permits.

The Wants of the People by Charles Mackay

What do we want? Our daily bread;
  Leave to earn it by our skill:
Leave to labour freely for it,
  Leave to buy it where we will;
For ‘tis hard upon the many,
  Hard—unpitied by the few,
To starve and die for want of work,
  Or live, half-starved, with work to do.

What do we want? Our daily bread;
  Fair reward for labour done;
Daily bread for wives and children;
  All our wants are merged in one.
When the fierce fiend Hunger grips us,
  Evil fancies clog our brains,
Vengeance settles on our hearts,
  And Frenzy gallops through our veins.

What do we want? Our daily bread—
  Sole release from thoughts so dire:
To rise at morn with cheerful faces,
  And sit at evening round the fire;
To teach our babes the words of blessing,
  Instead of curses, deep though mute;
And tell them England is a land
  Where man is happier than a brute.

What do we wants? Our daily bread:
  Give us that; all else will come;
Self-respect and self-denial,
  And the happiness of home;
Kindly feelings, Education,
  Liberty of act and thought;
And surety that, whate’er befall,
  Our children shall be fed and taught.

What do we want? Our daily bread;
  Give us that for willing toil:
Make us sharers in the plenty
  God has shower’d upon the soil;
And we’ll nurse our better nature
  With bold hearts, and judgment strong,
To do as much as men can do,
  To keep the world from going wrong.

What do we want? Our daily bread,
  And trade untramell’d as the wind;
And from our ranks shall spirits start,
  To aid the progress of mankind.
Sages, poets, mechanicians;
  Mighty thinkers shall arise,
To take their share of loftier work,
  And teach, exalt, and civilise.

What do we want? Our daily bread:—
  Grant it:— make our efforts free;
Let us work and let us prosper;
  You shall prosper more than we;
And the humblest homes of England
  Shall, in proper time, give birth
To better men than we have been,
  To live upon a better earth.

Playlist of the Week

Bongos Ikwue   —   People Gonna Talk
The Darkness   —   Why Don’t the Beautiful Cry
Dave Matthews Band   —   Samurai Cop (Oh Joy Begin)
Judas Priest   —   Sea of Red
Europe   —   Praise You
Greta Van Fleet   —   Meet on the Ledge
Dream Theater   —   Scene Two: I. Overture 1928
Joe Satriani   —   Thunder High on the Mountain
Guns N’ Roses   —   Welcome to the Jungle
Ace Frehley   —   Pursuit of Rock and Roll

Anatol Rapoport on Common Experience

The following ancient anecdote is probably of Indian origin:

A blind man asked someone to explain the meaning of “white.”
“White is a color,“ he was told, ”as, for example, white snow.“
“I understand,” said the blind man. “It is a cold and damp color.”
“No, it doesn’t have to be cold and damp. Forget about snow. Paper, for instance, is white.”
“So it rustles?” asked the blind man.
“No, indeed, it need not rustle. It is like the fur of an albino rabbit.”
“A soft, fluffy color?” the blind man wanted to know.
“It need not be soft either. Porcelain is white, too.”
“Perhaps it is a brittle color, then,” said the blind man.

This story goes to the core of the matter. It illustrates the impossibility of communication between two people who have not shared a common experience.

That’s It!

Elia Kazan, “The Forties: Broadway, Actors, and the Studio,” Kazan on Kazan, (New York: Viking Press, 1974), pp.37-38:

There’s a fundamental difference: I think there should be collaboration, but under my thumb! I think people should collaborate with me. I think any art is, finally, the expression of one maniac. That’s me. I get people who help me, but I’m the centre of it. The whole damn thing in the Actors’ Studio, by the time I left it, was that everybody had a voice, and everybody was an equal, and everybody knew how they should do things. That’s fine for a school, but it has nothing to do with art. Art is the overwhelmingly strong impression that one obsessed visionary puts on his work. It’s important that the people who collaborate with you are able to see things as you do, but also that they’re wiling to ask you what you want and try to give it to you. When I have people I like, it’s enormously pleasurable. And I like being contradicted because it helps the work, so long as I can, at a point, say; ‘That’s it.’ But I think a lot of other directors don’t allow contradiction because they’re afraid. They’re not certain enough of themselves. If you’re certain of yourself, you can hear all the other voices; if you are not certain of yourself, you’re anxious, and you don’t want everybody to talk. If you don’t let anybody express himself, that’s bad too. With actors, I allow a tremendous amount of initiative. I always set the goal of each day first; I tell them what I want that day. The good actors have often surprised me by giving me my goal, my result, through means I didn’t anticipate. That’s the best way.

Principle of Charity

The principle of charity is a philosophical principle which denotes that, when interpreting someone’s statement, you should assume that the best possible interpretation of that statement is the one that the speaker meant to convey. Accordingly, when implementing the principle of charity, you should not attribute falsehoods, logical fallacies, or irrationality to people’s argument, when there is a plausible, rational alternative available.

For example, based on the principle of charity, if someone presents you with an argument that can be interpreted in two possible ways, one of which is logically sound and the other of which is fallacious, you should assume that the logically sound interpretation is the one that they meant to convey, as long as it’s reasonable to do so.

Implementing the principle of charity can be beneficial in a wide range of scenarios, since it can help encourage proper dialogue and productive discussions, while also improving your ability to form strong arguments. As such, in the following article you will learn more about the principle of charity, and see how you can implement it in practice, as effectively as possible.

“I have butterflies in my stomach.”

Because the literal interpretation of this statement is highly implausible, this statement is clearly supposed to be interpreted figuratively, as a metaphor which is meant to convey that the speaker feels excited. In this case, because the uncharitable interpretation is so unlikely, it’s relatively intuitive to implement the principle of charity and pick the charitable interpretation, and we usually do this repeatedly throughout our day when we need to interpret similar statements.

Finally, when it comes to how the principle of charity can be applied when it comes to general argumentation and rhetoric, consider the following example:

“If we managed to get people to fly all across the world, then we should easily be able to find a solution to this problem.”

An uncharitable interpretation of this statement might revolve around the fact that we technically didn’t get people to fly across the world; rather, we built flying machines such as airplanes, which people use in order to travel.

Conversely, the charitable interpretation in this case would acknowledge the fact that this statement likely refers to the fact that we, as a society, managed to find ways for people to fly across the world, using tools that we built. Furthermore, such a charitable interpretation might go even further, and focus on the underlying meaning behind this statement, by acknowledging that it’s simply meant to exemplify how much progress we’ve managed to make when it comes to solving complex technical problems.

Note that even if the original statement is fallacious or problematic overall, it can still be more productive to implement the principle of charity. For example, consider the following version of the earlier statement:

“If we managed to get people to fly all across the world, then we should easily be able to find a cure for cancer.”

Despite the fact that there are many issues involved with this statement, there is still a notable difference between its uncharitable interpretation, which nit-picks on a minor issue with what is meant by “managed to get people to fly all across the world”, and its charitable interpretation, which focuses on the main point that this argument is trying to make (i.e. that we’ve solved complex technical problems in the past, so we should be able to solve this complex technical problem in the present).

Note: an argument that is formed after taking the principle of charity into account is sometimes referred to as an argument from charitable interpretation or an argument from interpretive charity.

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