One essay in Stephen Jay Gould’s books made a deep impression on me, it was a rant about the dangers of a dialectic argument. Individuals of this species, dialectic arguments, like to join together into herds. The moment one enters the room you can expect a stampede of analogous arguments to show up soon. They also have a clear pecking order that gives lazy groups a well worn path they let the conversation take.
For example. Start to discuss the trade off of speed v.s. quality. Map speed to man, and quality to women. Map man to rude, and women to polite. Map rude to bad and polite to good. Map bad to evil, and polite to noble. If you do this really fast it’s amusing; but built up slowly it leads to nothing but trouble. The escalation is one obvious problem. Another less obvious problem is the forcing of unlikely bed fellows. For example slavery for/against used to be aligned with democrat/republican but then labor/capital is aligned democrat/republican; that wasn’t stable. Or to take another example: secular/religious doesn’t mix well with labor/capital unless you force secular/religious to align with independence/hierarchy – not a very natural mapping either. Strange bed fellows. The strangeness gets magnified as the polarization increases.
The wealth of well worn dialectics tends to make it easy to fall into these trap. To help counter that in my own thinking I’ve been seeking a a catalog to three sided things. For example geographic/political ones – New York, New Jersey, Connecticut; or England, Scotland, and Wales. Sooner or later I’ll get around to pulling together my current collection and posting it.
Moving the discussion from two to three has, of course a more general form. For example now when ever I see a list, like hardware, software, services, I ask “Can I have another?” Solutions?
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