Monday, August 20, 2007

Deleted Comment

Peter at On Philosophy wrote:
Accepting that philosophy is about the world also eliminates the idea that philosophy is to uncover the correct definitions for words like “justice”. The question “what is justice?” has no right answer outside of the context of a philosophical theory... Justice can be defined however we wish in the context of a philosophical theory; the theory is not judged by how well it defines justice by how well it describes the world. Of course it is preferable to define justice in a way that fits with our intuitive usage for the sake of clarity, but it isn’t necessary. And this saves us from the impossible task of trying to find the “right” definitions.

I commented:
Well, certainly the question what is 'justice'? is uninteresting. 'Justice' is a word. There, that was easy. But the question what is justice? remains of interest. (Sure, you could stipulate that 'justice' is henceforth to mean zebra. But that wouldn't make the ethical question any more black and white.)

See Is Normativity Just Semantics? (The short answer is: no.)

His response? Deletion.

I guess I won't be commenting there again any time soon.


  1. If you would just read the commenting guidlines you would see that I have no desire to enter irresolvable arguments. You have your premises and I have mine, and we aren't going to get anywhere by debating them, just as we didn't get anywhere arguing about coherentism (neither was convinced that the other was right), although in that case I learned something interesting about your views. I'm sorry that offends you, but it is my blog.

  2. Sure, you can do what you like on your blog. Just don't expect people to stick around when you start deleting their comments.

  3. Well Richard if you read the about section you will see that my blog is not aimed at other people, it is primarily a vehicle where I practice philosophy in order to become a better philosopher. So I would be just fine if no one visited it. From that perspective comments which express simple disagreement are unhelpful; I have no desire to argue with someone until we get to premises which we are both unable to change, unless I'm learning something in the process. When you begin to focus more on developing your own unique take on things and less on interpreting and commenting on the work of others I think you will understand this better. When you are working to create something new it is constructive criticism that is helpful, not disagreement (not even disagreement backed with a laundry list of reasons).

  4. Whoops, that should read *unwilling to change.

  5. "... my blog is not aimed at other people, it is primarily a vehicle where I practice philosophy in order to become a better philosopher. So I would be just fine if no one visited it."

    Doesn't this make your deletion of Richard's post that much more peculiar? If you don't care whether anyone even reads your blog, why should it matter if someone posts a comment in disagreement? What do you have to gain by censorship?

  6. I'm pretty sure Richard spends a lot of time developing his own unique take on things, and I suspect he understand the value of constructive criticism. I'm also pretty sure, having read him for about 3 years now, that if he left a comment on your blog, he meant it as a constructive one.

  7. Blake- that's a good question. The answer is mostly psychological on my part. If someone disagrees and I say nothing then I tend to feel like I am endorsing that disagreement, esepcially when in my head I am thinking "no because ...", and then I can't resist getting into an argumetn which turns into a big waste of time. Basically a psychological hang-up.

    Chris- I'm not trying to put down Richard, we are both grad students, and so I assume he knows his way arround philosophy about as well as I do, dispite the fact that we disagree. But just from reading what Richard does, this blog and parts of his thesis, he seems to focus on picking up other people's ideas and running with them or responding to them. There's nothing wrong with that (I do it quite often myself, it's a valuable skill), but it is a very different kind of beast when you are working on a project of your own, a difference that is hard to put into words. As for whether his comment was constructive criticism, I guess that is somewhat subjective, but simply stating that no, I disgaree and think that X is still important, doesn't seem terribly contructive to me.

  8. Richard - 'being a comment whore' (as you can see from his usage of links) does care so there is yet another area on which you two dont share a common foundation!

    However I think people put a little time into making a comment and I guess one needs to be ok with insulting people (which potentially says somthing less than plesant about that person if it is done with a lot of consideration) if one wants to just delete comments without explination as oppsoed to a breif response.

  9. I didn't just say "no, I disagree." I was quickly pointing out that the mere fact that words "can be defined however we wish" doesn't necessarily mean that questions like "what is justice" are empty. I then provided a link which discusses the issue at greater length. It was intended to be helpful, but if you did not find it so... well, that happens.

    If you neither agree nor wish to reply substantively, an alternative to deletion would be a stock response: "I disagree but don't wish to pursue that argument further here." That would be fine, and far less rude than outright deletion.

    Anyway, like I said before, your blog is yours to do with what you will. But I, for one, am not going to waste my time and effort writing responses only to have them deleted at another's whim. Since that doesn't bother you anyway, I'm not sure why you're still here arguing about it -- especially when you start adding further remarks that could very easily be construed as insults.

  10. I don't delete comments, I read them, but simply don't allow them to appear. I have trouble seeing why this offends anyone. Isn't your comment meant for the author? Then the fact that I have read it should be sufficient. But since many people share your opinion I'll simply turn off comments on future posts. This will make everyone happy I assume?

    The reason I'm here writing about it is because I'm not a monster. I do care about your feelings, they just aren't the only thing I take into considration. Since your post indicated that you were somewhat bent out of shape (enough to express your personal affront to the world) then I felt that it was only appropriate of me to try to appease you to some extent by explaining why, so hopefully you wouldn't take it as a personal insult. Take it as you will.

    And I don't think Richard is a "comment whore", who wants to repeat themselves when a link does just dandily?

  11. Ha, okay. I've gotta say, "You would understand if only you were as original a thinker as I am" is not the most well-considered attempt at reconciliation I've ever heard. But I'll take your word for it that you didn't mean to be affronting.

    And, to explain in turn:
    "I have trouble seeing why this offends anyone. Isn't your comment meant for the author?"

    Not solely. If it were, one might just as well email. I think of blogs as more like an open seminar or common room: it's a broader conversation, where anyone can chip in and share their ideas. In this respect, I suppose Genius is not too far wrong in calling me a 'comment whore': I like it when other people engage with my ideas (constructively, of course). It's gratifying, and often intellectually stimulating. So, this social aspect is one of the things I especially like about blogging as a medium, and that end is obviously thwarted if comments are barred from seeing the light of day.

    There's also the reason people have 'blogrolls', and 'tag' each other in silly memes: it's a community-building exercise. Closing comments sends the message that you don't value others' input, and deletion is usually reserved for spam (or the very worst of the unwelcome). So there's all this contingent cultural significance to the action which makes it more offensive than a Disembodied Cartesian Mind might expect. Annoying, I know. But that's human society for you.

  12. I'm sorry if it seemed that way, I wasn't trying to imply that I was a more oringinal thinker, just that we have different ways of doing philosophy, and thus, I suppose, different things we want to get out of our blogs. I don't see my blog as serving as a social medium, I see my blog as a place where I can put my stuff online so that I can get at it from more than one place, as a way of making sure that I actually do more than just read philosophy each day, and as an aid to face to face interactionss. Given that I see closing comments as the best solution, if not publishing them offends; people can always give me input through the about section.

  13. BTW peter,
    I generally agree with your general approach. eg that of your last few posts on thought experiments etc - still I thing you got caught on the other side of the debate in "more people are not always better" and surely things like "reasons for being ethical"

    It seems your later posts might have an issue with you taking the positions you took in those posts.

    a comunity minded person might suggest that allowing comments and considering them might provide an opportunity to uncover inconsistancies if they exist.

    Having said that I view my blog a bit like you - it is mostly an archive of my, admittedly brillient and often groundbreaking, thoughts.


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