Why We Seldom Convince Anybody of Anything on the Internet

Some of the reasons (which are often inter-related)…

A. Difficulties specific the Church are discussed here.

B. General problems:

  1. You can’t convince somebody of that which they refuse to believe, and self-deception is the true pandemic of our age.
  2. Although we can easily see the faults of others–both real and imagined–our own faults are much more difficult to see.
  3. The issue (under discussion) are often not the real issue: there are more fundamental issues which are difficult to address, or even to identify, which blocks agreement.
  4. We can’t write dissertations, and if we did nobody would read them. Dissertations are meant to be defended, and defensive writing is tedious. And so, yes, there really are holes in the logic of most any writing, and if the goal not understanding–but tearing the writing of an “opponent” apart–there really will be grounds for doing so. We must over-simplify or remain silent: when talking about complex situations, generalization is necessary.
  5. We have access to oceans of words–with more being written each day. We can’t read them all–or even all the ones that could benefit us. (This is a particular problem in the modern Church, with constant speeches, press conferences, lengthy documents, and controversies.) So, it is understandable that we use tactics to limit our reading: such as refusing to “waste” time on sources that we have come to view as unreliable or unwise–even though the article in question may be utterly accurate…or we may be mistaken about the value of the source.
  6. There is a constant temptation to be reactionary. A simple example: if we see that many who talk about “social justice” seem to be heterodox, it does not follow from that that we should be in favor of social injustice. 😂
  7. The law of gradualness: often we cannot understand “Z” until we first understand “A”, “B”, “C”, and so on… Additionally, if you already understand all the way through “X”, then starting at “A” again is too boring. That makes it impossible to address the needs of everybody in public writing.
  8. Often people do not say what they really mean. Even more often, they do not realize the necessary implications of their claim…what must logically follow–without regard to their intentions. Ideas have consequences.
  9. There are many invalid arguments commonly made: these are often called informal fallacies. Perhaps the most common is the ad hominem attack, but there are many others such as false choices, straw man, and the Motte and the Bailey (explanations are here and here). And the fallacy of equal knowledge which denies that there can be honest differences of options: that everybody would agree with me on this point if they had the knowledge that I have…they are just ignorant! (Of course, that may sometimes be the case, but mere disagreement does not prove ignorance–nor does knowledge always prove wisdom.)
  10. At the same time, stating the name of an informal fallacy of argument, standing alone, does not refute another’s argument: they are not magic incantations. Arguments are not won through labeling–although you may successfully shut somebody up. For example, some slopes really are slippery–in fact many are.

(This is under construction, and there will be links provided for additional explanations.)

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