Thursday 30 November 2023

Negative critique is worthless; unless it comes from a position of self-awareness concerning assumptions and motivations.

I think we are all prone to critique, ridicule and dismiss the ideas of others by arguing purely negatively and without being clear of the assumptions from-which we are arguing. 

I've often done this myself, and indeed tend to fall-into it as a kind of Journalistic" default - to the point that I try to catch and halt this tendency, before it gets too established. 

Of course; one cannot always (e.g. in every blog post!) be re-stating one's assumptions; on the other hand:

1. It is obvious that most people do not even know what are their own assumptions; and

2. Even fewer people have subjected their own assumptions to the kind of critique that they so lavishly bestow upon other people. And

3. Even fewer people - having become aware of their own assumptions, and examined them critically - have found these assumptions to be solid to their own honest satisfaction over a prolonged self-critique*...

This is exactly why there is so much attacking of other people and their views in the modern world (including on the internet); and so little clarification of where that attack is coming from.

 When one's own views are unknown, incoherent, or feeble; and also if one's own person is very obviously flawed - then it makes sense to do everything possible to keep negative attention on the other chap and what the other chap is saying.  

But this is dishonest and incoherent. Therefore, unworthy of respect. 

*(This is, indeed, the entirety of the philosophical defense of modern mainstream ideology - the ideology shared by all people and institutions of wealth and power, all major participants in public discourse to the point that it does not even have a name for itself! I call it variously atheism-materialism-leftism-totalitarianism... but it-itself does not acknowledge any of these names, nor any other term, for what is By Far the most pervasive and enforced ideology in human history.)


So, I regard negative critique as so much blah blah - unless it is rooted in some, more or less explicitly known and acknowledged assumptions and motivations; some kind of evident self-awareness

This applies to critique emanating from what might be termed a Traditionalist Christian perspective, which can be almost any denomination or church - and indeed, almost the same negative critique may emanate from people/ institutions with very different assumptions - But this is not a strength!

After all, we get essentially the same "progressive" negative-critique of Christianity; coming-in from multi-national organizations such as the UN; from all Western Nations, and all the multi-national corporations and social institutions and the mass media - The Establishment. 

Negative critique is, mostly, merely negatively-motivated and ignorant-of-self; and even when it comes from multiple directions, it remains worthless. 

To be worth considering; negative critique must be in self-awareness of a coherent alternative and positive understanding. 

(Recalling that a double-negative is not a positive.) 

In short: we ought to demand (of ourselves, as well as others) If Not, Then What? 


Joel said...

For someone like me, who is an unexpressive and a generally poor communicator in writing and even more in speech, and negative too, far too often, I think about this problem a fair amount. It has been getting harder and harder to communicate in a "litmus test" world, where I often feel surrounded by people trying to propagate their beliefs. Mere acquaintances around here, where I live, will say something like (close to a literal quote): "I read the New Eboracum Times every day, do you?". Or on a balmy summer day: "Worldwide calefaction is so terrible, how can people not see it?" And if you answer them, they will classify you into either "friend" or "enemy" and then never listen to another word that you say. It's not just people on one side of the litmus test issues that do this. People on every side of every issue seem to be addicted to pleasure of hearing their own opinions repeated back to them.

On negativity, I have to tell a story about my employers the other year, when this country was engulfed by riots after a well-known policing incident. My employers at that time let us know in no uncertain terms that our place of work was a "safe space" for discussing the terrible ethnicityism that we had all seen on television, and that they were allowing us all time off in which to join in on the riots, despite the terrible ongoing birdemic keeping us at home. They let us know that we should feel absolutely safe to express what we were feeling, and also that any negativity or critique of the Important Tint Existences movement would be an immediate firing offense.

At the blog level, just as a reader, I find it useful to read comment spaces with a lively well-moderated debate going on. It has been sad to see a lot of those places die over the last ten years or so, and become tightly moderated around one ideology or another. For me, it's just so extremely useful to see good arguments for multiple viewpoints. The perfectly moderated conversation, I think, is one where the merely negative self-defeating attacks have been removed, but also where real critique or disagreement has flourished.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Joel - I'm not sure whether you were suggesting that This blog had a lively and well-moderated debate going on! Because that is not really what I am aiming for here (as can be seen from the About me section of the sidebar) - and also I am not hard working or even-tempered enough to do it, if I tried. So, if you do get enough breadth of discussion to help with your explorations I am pleased, but I have to say it wasn't specifically intended!

From my POV, the comments are mostly for my selfish needs, as a stimulus; although I certainly do appreciate the people such as yourself who have stayed with this blog for what seem like quite long periods.

Just then I had a very quick look at a couple of commented posts from 2010, and of the commenters only dearieme still posts, although very rarely nowadays. I had forgotten that Mencius Moldbug (Curtis Yarvin) also used to comment here.

a_probst said...

I guess I'm a relative latecomer to your blog at nine years and counting. I discovered it in 2014 when search-engining C.S. Lewis' Screwtape phrase, "...a more or less contented sub-humanity forever." The results included your 18 June 2012 entry Modern Man in Search of Limbo.

Bruce Charlton said...

@ap - Nine years is a "good innings"! - I just looked back at the Limbo post you referenced. I had forgotten about that, too.

John Goes said...

Perhaps you have more readers from the early days than you realize. I have been reading your blog closely and nearly continuously since 2011 (commenting with signed, but anonymous posts until a few years ago).

With regard to your post, this is exactly right. Incidentally one of the reasons I’ve personally not commented as much in the last half year or so on blogs in general is that I’ve been craving action (the other reason is family and stressful work). Even writing about positive things, or reading them, can be a distraction, depending on motivation. I often have the sense that there is a quest awaiting, and that we contrive all these excuses to avoid taking the next step on it. Negativity is a particularly sinister one, for all the reasons you state; but all distractions are so tiresome. I have been tired lately of mere talking, negative or even otherwise. Time to think fully and work.

Epimetheus said...

I've taken to thinking about our time as being the "Age of Accusation," to reference Satan as being a constant, relentless accuser, someone who loves nothing more than to bury you under the shame and guilt of the sins that Jesus would forgive.

At this point, the main cultural product of the West is talking about other people's sins. There's almost nothing else being said - just infinite guilt-tripping and shaming and constant accusations. It's bizarre once you see it.

Bruce Charlton said...

@John G - "Time to think fully and work."

I must say that my, repeated, attempts over the years to *get on with* doing some-thing; have nearly always led to a later realization that I was doing the wrong thing!

Sometimes, however, trial and error is the only way to learn.

the outrigger said...

About time I wrote another thank you note. I started reading this blog in the wake of the ransacking of Medical Hypotheses... which was rare bird in that field. Slightly wilder fare here but a similar spirit keeps me coming back. Thank you.

Bruce Charlton said...

@t o - You must have been "stayed the course" since about middle 2010, when I started increasing the frequency of this blog - this would make you one of the oldest of old timers! Well done.