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10 Signs of Intellectual Honesty

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posted on Oct, 26 2008 @ 05:05 PM

When it comes to just about any topic, it seems as if the public discourse on the internet is dominated by rhetoric and propaganda. People are either selling products or ideology. In fact, just because someone may come across as calm and knowledgeable does not mean you should let your guard down and trust what they say. What you need to look for is a track record of intellectual honesty. Let me therefore propose 10 signs of intellectual honesty.

1. Do not overstate the power of your argument. One’s sense of conviction should be in proportion to the level of clear evidence assessable by most. If someone portrays their opponents as being either stupid or dishonest for disagreeing, intellectual dishonesty is probably in play. Intellectual honesty is most often associated with humility, not arrogance.

2. Show a willingness to publicly acknowledge that reasonable alternative viewpoints exist. The alternative views do not have to be treated as equally valid or powerful, but rarely is it the case that one and only one viewpoint has a complete monopoly on reason and evidence.

3. Be willing to publicly acknowledge and question one’s own assumptions and biases. All of us rely on assumptions when applying our world view to make sense of the data about the world. And all of us bring various biases to the table.

4. Be willing to publicly acknowledge where your argument is weak. Almost all arguments have weak spots, but those who are trying to sell an ideology will have great difficulty with this point and would rather obscure or downplay any weak points.

5. Be willing to publicly acknowledge when you are wrong. Those selling an ideology likewise have great difficulty admitting to being wrong, as this undercuts the rhetoric and image that is being sold. You get small points for admitting to being wrong on trivial matters and big points for admitting to being wrong on substantive points. You lose big points for failing to admit being wrong on something trivial.

6. Demonstrate consistency. A clear sign of intellectual dishonesty is when someone extensively relies on double standards. Typically, an excessively high standard is applied to the perceived opponent(s), while a very low standard is applied to the ideologues’ allies.

7. Address the argument instead of attacking the person making the argument. Ad hominem arguments are a clear sign of intellectual dishonesty. However, often times, the dishonesty is more subtle. For example, someone might make a token effort at debunking an argument and then turn significant attention to the person making the argument, relying on stereotypes, guilt-by-association, and innocent-sounding gotcha questions.

8. When addressing an argument, do not misrepresent it. A common tactic of the intellectually dishonest is to portray their opponent’s argument in straw man terms. In politics, this is called spin. Typically, such tactics eschew quoting the person in context, but instead rely heavily on out-of-context quotes, paraphrasing and impression. When addressing an argument, one should shows signs of having made a serious effort to first understand the argument and then accurately represent it in its strongest form.

9. Show a commitment to critical thinking. 'Nuff said.

10. Be willing to publicly acknowledge when a point or criticism is good. If someone is unable or unwilling to admit when their opponent raises a good point or makes a good criticism, it demonstrates an unwillingness to participate in the give-and-take that characterizes an honest exchange.

While no one is perfect, and even those who strive for intellectual honesty can have a bad day, simply be on the look out for how many and how often these criteria apply to someone. In the arena of public discourse, it is not intelligence or knowledge that matters most – it is whether you can trust the intelligence or knowledge of another. After all, intelligence and knowledge can sometimes be the best tools of an intellectually dishonest approach.

Left or right, up or down, in or out...
it's important to keep in mind these "10 Signs of Intellectual Honesty".

If we'd all make an asserted effort to fight/play fair and follow some simple rules of respect and common decency, many more of our discussions would deliver more understanding for all involved in the mix and bystanders alike.

[edit on 26-10-2008 by The All Seeing I]

posted on Oct, 26 2008 @ 05:10 PM
Excellent post....I hope people really take the time to read and digest this. I've often thought that we really need to learn and teach proper debating skills and etiquette here, just to make the arguements more productive and more manageable. Personally, I choose to stay out of dicussions because I feel that they all too often descend into mud slinging matches, which get far too personal. Guidelines like these really help us to sharpen our skills. Thank you!


posted on Oct, 26 2008 @ 05:16 PM
Very good thread.

I would add that sign number 11 is that although personal and group opinions are included as examples, they are not relied upon as evidence for or against a certain idea.

It needs an addenum, I think, to give criteria between what is actually intelle ctual--i.e., history, science, mathematic principals, and what is opinion--i.e., religion, political ideologies, social relations.

[edit on 26-10-2008 by asmeone2]

posted on Oct, 26 2008 @ 05:27 PM
Good point, asmeone, and definitely worth including. I think maybe it's worth talking about what is really intellectual, and what can be considered poersonal, if you like. so many spiritual discussions for instance, get stuck in the "lack of logic" argument. And critical thinking...what does that really mean? I have my own ideas, but it would probably do us all good to hear it from someone who understands it properly. Any volunteers?


posted on Oct, 26 2008 @ 05:34 PM
The thing here is, that those guidelines should be the mantra of everyday human to human interaction.

In todays media all we are fed are shows about some wise ass people getting things done by the force of , money, muscles, firepower or sex.

How are we being programmed by language and the way we teach our written languages?
How is the media manipulating our fundamental particle of sense, the meme.

We communicate as we are capable of, we write as we talk.
We show who we are and why we act the way we do.

Its not the writing as much as it is the sensing of the meaning and the emotions conveyed within.
We live in a state of onthological immaturity, thus we sometimes communicate like children.
Simple considerations in the way we behave and interact have a profound effect in our own sanity!

Thanks for sharing the link!

posted on Oct, 26 2008 @ 05:37 PM
Wow, I possess ALL of those (minus # 5, but only because I am not wrong)!! I'm an intellectual rockstar!

Now what are the 10 signs of a humble disposition?


Great post
I gave it a star

[edit on 26-10-2008 by Lucid Lunacy]

posted on Oct, 26 2008 @ 05:52 PM
reply to post by The All Seeing I

Stars and flag! For this post, great thread, we all can learn something here.

posted on Oct, 26 2008 @ 06:10 PM
Well, then why is the exact opposite of many of these point practiced, and practiced effectively, by politicians and the mass media?

There's a divide being established: a decreasing middle ground between rational debate, and 'slammin down' your opponent.

And guess what? The easy route of 'gestalt dominance' via rhetorical sound-bite is winning the day, with the public at large.

You can't compete by despising and discarding these tactics. The way to bring reason to the table is to apply reason, logically and from result of 'contrived' rhetoric. Bridge the gap.

Emotional appeal and glazed superficial argument is most often used to conceal a lack of reasonable substance. But, there's nothing that say it can't be used, honestly, to enhance and lead to a genuine, logical argument and point-of-view.

Face it, in many ways, the public is hypnotized. Don't discard the type of rhetoric that actually reaches them, use it for good, to reach, learn, teach, and communicate.

posted on Oct, 27 2008 @ 02:15 PM
This is a great post. I do wish we could all be civil...first, rather than the "shoot from the hip" over emotional response that seems to become pretty regular. Passion is thick around here and it should be.

Great follow-up posts/ideas/comments as well.

But how to get everyone to "play nice?"

Ian is correct in pointing out the effectiveness of such tactics. They work and work well. We need to tweak and apply such a method. But how?

The key word is in the OP and it is "If."

posted on Oct, 27 2008 @ 02:25 PM
Great post! (star&flag)

Some should let the original author about this thread. We're all giving thumbs up to the great writing, but he might not even know about it.

Edit: Tried commenting on his blog to no avail. (not logged in

[edit on 27/10/08 by ConspiracyNut23]

posted on Oct, 27 2008 @ 02:25 PM
This stuff is all common sense and no one over the age of 5 should really need this.

But the truth of the matter is that it's boring.

More people would rather watch Jerry Springer than Charlie Rose.

That's just how our culture is wired, and that's how things roll.

If people are so intellectual and have such a brilliant mind then they should be able to roll out their ideas and opinions or research and stand behind it.

Too often this sort of stuff is rolled out by people who pull stuff out of thin air and then cannot defend simple questioning. Then they play the 'oh people are so mean card'

In an ideal world everyone would be nice to each other and hold hands and sing Kumbaya but the reality of this world is that it's tough and you have to be tough to survive in it.

Even intellectually.

posted on Oct, 27 2008 @ 02:28 PM

i had to give a star for the op. great job in pointing those things out. these really sound like some "golden rules" of conversations. but people tend to be shaded when they think that they are correct and the rest of the world is wrong. and i think if we are all honest with ourselves, we will find that from time to time, we all have broke "the rules".
i have tried to live by most of these "golden rules". with one simple belief:
opinions are like a*^holes. everyone has one and they all stink.
and that goes for mine as well.
i really enjoyed the post from this op. again, great job.

posted on Oct, 27 2008 @ 02:39 PM
I still disagree with anyone who says there's no suitable place for what have become known as "ad hominem" arguments. A man is judged largely by their character and, as a part of that character, by the company they keep. Let's look logically at it using "The Boy Who Cried 'Wolf'" as an example. If the boy had already set the precident that he was a known liar, then isn't it reasonable and fair to place the onus of proving anything he claims in the future as being true before we can expect anyone to not initially discredit his opinions, saying "The boy is a proven habitual liar." Technically speaking that is an ad hominem attack, but it could also be called a prudent intellectual strategy. It is also one of the philosophies behind a site like ATS banning a user proven of committing a hoax.

posted on Oct, 27 2008 @ 02:48 PM
A highly-poignant post reminding us of a standard that seems to be all-too-often overlooked by many net scribers.

We all enjoy a passion-filled discussion, but one tempered with critical thought, reasoning, and respect for alternate viewpoints.

Caustic commentary is best left to an outwitted antagonist.

posted on Oct, 27 2008 @ 02:52 PM
reply to post by The All Seeing I

Excellent post, should be reading material you have to read before posting here.

posted on Oct, 27 2008 @ 02:58 PM
reply to post by The All Seeing I

awesome post.
I am guilty of not following all of these "rules" all the time.
I slip .. occasionaly even though the intent is there.

I must make a new consious effort to do so 100%.
Hopefully others do as well.

[edit on 27-10-2008 by gormly]

posted on Oct, 27 2008 @ 03:03 PM
reply to post by The All Seeing I

Thanks for sharing this.

I think, however, the op misses one paradigm which is embedded within the notion of 'intellectual honesty'.

Namely: Objective (or motive)

Such behaviors as is espoused in the op are necessarily what we might call 'factors of honorable intent' in any exchange where the objective is a reasoned or reasonable outcome.

But as Ian pointed out, these precepts fall by the wayside when the objective has nothing to do with a reasonable outcome, but everything to do with misdirection and disinformation.

Needless to say, everyone is correct that we should always conduct ourselves as closely as possible to these guidelines of discourse. But somehow, I feel that the list falls short of 'completeness' by avoiding the possibility that discourse is not always intended by 'both' parties to reach a point of fact or truth.

Just sayin'.

Starred and Flagged.

[edit on 27-10-2008 by Maxmars]

posted on Oct, 27 2008 @ 03:35 PM
reply to post by The All Seeing I

Well said.

Your list reads like a recipe for SO's response to any criticism of the (overly-enthusiastic?) censorship that takes place on ATS.

posted on Oct, 27 2008 @ 03:41 PM
Great post.

To bad the current presidential candidates, government, media, TV, Radio are not following these signs.

posted on Oct, 27 2008 @ 03:42 PM
reply to post by Ian McLean

I once heard somebody quote "never argue with an idiot, people won't know the difference".... And, even though this statement sounds elitist, when you consider how mass media, news pundits and politics works, it relies on the principle that a substantial number of people "won't know the difference" and therefore those who are the center of mass attention knowingly argue like "idiots", which is to say, they will rely to all mens of intellectual dishonesty that can impress an uncritical audience.

In general, most people can be easily swayed by an argument that "rhymes", sounds catchy, or has popular approval. Short but "cool" usually trumps substantial and honest, yet complicated and hard to follow. If it takes mental energy to understand, it looses points.

The very hard challenge is to manage to sum up an honest, fact checked viewpoint in a short, catchy phrase so that it has the leverage of communicating to an audience that is less than critical, without compromising the substance of the argument.

Facts and numbers are boring to most, but soundbites are easily remembered. Sadly.


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