Reminder to self: Using Dennet's principles

These last couple of weeks have been a complete emotional and intellectual mess for me. People are arguing to the right of me, to the left of me and everyone seems to have pulled out their favorite purity test to try and prove if someone is good enough to be in their camp.

In trying to come up with clearer axioms to gauge all the various poop-storms without getting into emotives or purity tests, I ran into this article about Daniel Dennet's tools for trying to be a critical thinker. I will report the paraphrase below:

  1. Accept you make mistakes, and then use them to be a better person.
  2. Respect your opponent. 
  3. Beware of "surely" as it is overused as a rhetorical device to avoid critical thinking by assuming something is sure.
  4. Answer rhetorical questions. As with 'surely', using a rhetorical question is a way to avoid thinking about something by being facetious.
  5. Employ Occam's Razor
  6. Employ Sturgeon's Law. 90% of everything is rubbish... [which cuts both ways.] Don't waste your time defending rubbish and don't waste your time attacking it. Work on the 10-20% which isn't.
  7. Avoid deepities... things which are deep and profound but not well defined. [Another way of looking at it is "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is".] 
Anyway thanks to Jonathan Corbet of lwn.net for reminding me of the Sturgeon's law wikipedia article which lead me to that piece.

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