On 6/5/03 at 6:06 AM Scott wrote:
Since you have invited feedback on your list of “Rights, Responsibilities, Rules, and Rewards,” I’d like to offer mine.
I think the Bill of Rights is very appropriate.
I don’t like some items in the Bill of Responsibilities, however. Since one has a right to remain silent (Right #3), it should follow that no active participation in any form is obligatory upon anyone. No one should be required to “encourage the participation of others” (Responsibility #2) or “help others live up to their responsibilities” (Responsibility #10). If these “responsibilities” were instead called “suggestions,” meaning that adherence to them is strictly voluntary, then there would be no conflict with the right to remain silent (which is, I think, an important right).
The Rules of Engagement are mostly reasonable, but Rule #10, as written, is not. It states, “Refrain from absolute statements and grand generalizations.” The rule itself seems to depend on a grand generalization -- namely, that ALL grand generalizations should be avoided! Therefore, the rule is self-contradictory. But more importantly, if ever enforced, the rule would stifle philosophical discussion and inquiry. Do claims such as “all knowledge is sensory-based,” “all religions are irrational,” and “all life is sacred” count as absolute, grand generalizations? I think they do. And I think they are all potentially worth discussing. “Anyone who disagrees with me is a Nazi” is also an absolute, grand generalization. I think this is the sort of thing you’re trying to caution against. Maybe the rule could be reformulated to state something like, “Refrain from making dogmatic or prejudicial statements.” But now that I see the text on my computer screen, I don’t think such a formulation would work. In my view, any claim based on “faith” (i.e., any claim that lacks supporting evidence in reality) is dogmatic and prejudicial, and I don’t think an open forum such as this one should proscribe against faith-based expressions; their irrationality can be dealt with in the open. Actually, I think Rule #8 (“Refrain from personal attack, criticism, and name-calling”) covers the Nazi example, so no new rule should be needed. Now if it were up to me, I’d delete “criticism” from Rule #8. Criticism can be a good thing and should, I believe, be tolerated provided that it doesn’t descend into “personal attack” and “name-calling.”
These are my thoughts. I hope you find some of them useful.