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There are three ways of saying something:

a) "X is true."
b) "I've found that X is true."
c) "You'll find that X is true."

(a) presents X as the absolute, empirical truth, proven to be fact, allowing no variation for viewpoint or circumstance.

(b) presents X as subjective experience, taking responsibility only for the speaker's own viewpoint and leaving the listener to form their own opinions. It is perhaps the most ethical and honest way of saying something, but at the risk of having nobody listen because most people are used to more, ahem, strident presentations.

(c) places the speaker in a position of informed authority over the listener's learning process; it presumes to know not only that X is true, but that the listener does not currently believe X is true, and worst of all that the listener will eventually, inevitably, come to share the speaker's viewpoint. It is, unfortunately, the most persuasive voice to someone who has not fully made up their mind. It is also the most &!%&*^# annoying to someone who does have their own informed opinion, because it disregards that opinion as one stemming from ignorance or irrationality.

This problem crops up particularly in the Thelemic community, with its emphasis on individual sovereignty and interpretation. But even Thelemites are human, with the human bias that will be more likely to believe something if it is presented as fact, from a position of authority, or both. The result tends to be communities that are hyper-reactive to (a) or (c) when it differs from the community's general experience, but very prone to (a) or (c) themselves.

As time goes on, the more obvious it becomes to me that nobody has any idea what they're talking about. The only advantage I may have is that I *know* I have no idea what I'm talking about. Due to that knowledge, though, I have been unfortunately prone to trusting others' absolutist statements of "the way things are" (framed in (a) or (c) voices, usually), when really, I suppose, it should be the other way round.

The freely given advice is probably worth the least, because it's generally offered by people who believe they have all the answers.

Any meta-commentary on the voice(s) used in this post versus its content will be left as an exercise to the reader.

He who knoweth little, thinketh he knoweth much; but he who knoweth much has learned his own ignorance. Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? There is more hope of a fool, than of him.
-Liber Librae


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 13th, 2007 11:35 pm (UTC)
One thing I observe about #3 is that it doesn't just suggest that the listener investigate for themselves, it takes for granted that they will. I consider that a compliment. I agree that it's also arrogant and intrusive, and should probably be saved for situations where that might be useful (for example, if you really do think they should give something a try, and they're not responsive to altruistic advice, they might be willing to try it for the pleasure of taking you down a peg).

These cautions apply much more weakly when you can be assumed to know the entire process they will use (e.g., "if you run through the calculations yourself, you'll see that our totals really are higher than your projections").
Dec. 13th, 2007 11:38 pm (UTC)
What do you think of a fourth kind of assertion, where you just say x? Logically it's identical to saying "x is true," since it still presents x without any qualifications or acknowledgment of potential difference. But "true" is such a strong word that I feel like it indicates an attempt to add a lot of extra weight to your claim, while x by itself tacitly acknowledges room for human fallibility.
Dec. 14th, 2007 12:10 am (UTC)
I tend to think of C as only being appropriate in parent-child communication (and even then it can back fire.)

Edited at 2007-12-14 12:10 am (UTC)
Dec. 14th, 2007 12:26 am (UTC)
Another way
"You've seen evidence X, Y, and Z. Now given this, what do you think about the veracity of Q?"
Dec. 14th, 2007 02:00 am (UTC)
Re: Another way
This assumes that the listener/reader has seen the same evidence you have. Also, unless done very carefully, it can easily be seen as a leading question, and therefore not much less condescending than (c).
Dec. 14th, 2007 02:30 am (UTC)
Re: Another way
This assumes that the listener/reader has seen the same evidence you have.

Right, and if they haven't, one should show them it.

Also, unless done very carefully, it can easily be seen as a leading question, and therefore not much less condescending than (c).

Well I think that is more a matter of tone than content, and I think that if the actual attitude is one of earnest inquiry, it's not too likely to be condescending.

Anyway the main point I was trying to make is that letting people come to their own conclusions while showing them the things that you looked at in coming to your own is another way of approaching these issues.
Dec. 14th, 2007 01:22 am (UTC)
you are one of the most grounded thelemited I know, in a commuity that really cracks my shit up.

oh wait

i have found in my experience that the thelemite commuity is hilarious, thank you for being refreshing.
Dec. 14th, 2007 01:57 am (UTC)
grounded? hahahahaha
I mean, thank you

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )


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