I swear, this is the last of the throat-clearing introductory posts.
There is a great line in Doctor Who S32 E7, A Good Man Goes to War, delivered by The Doctor himself: “Good men don’t need rules. Today is not the day to find out why I have so many.” In context, the implication is that he is sorely tempted towards acts of retribution, which explains why he has so many self-imposed limitations, such as his personal rule against firearms.
Bearing that in mind, I also have a number of self-imposed rules for blogging and tweeting and generally interacting online. I do not have these rules because I find it terribly easy to be a kindly and compassionate person, but rather because I sometimes find it hard to do so. I need these rules because without them, I can easily go full-on fuckwad.
- Attack ideas, not people. This goes double for those who may well read what you are writing.
- Judge ideas and people on their own merits, rather than prejudging them on account of origin.
- Let go of grudges, they will only weigh you down. Treat each new thread as a chance to engage with people as if for the first time.
- Avoid taking sides without first investigating them all. Even then, don’t rush to abandon the middle ground. This isn’t trench warfare, it is an exchange of ideas. Sometimes, the middle ground is the only place from which all sides can be clearly heard.
- Apply the philosophical principle of charity whenever possible. Do not assume malice, foolishness, or incoherence when an alternative construal is within the bounds of reason.
- Practice fallibilism. Always try to bear in mind the possibility that the evidence being presented should change your mind.
These rules go a bit beyond those put forth in the admirable Skeptic Ink Discussion Policy, which is an exemplary model. I expect that my commenters will hold me accountable when I break these rules, as I intend to do the same for them.