How to Criticize

Many of my blog posts criticize the arguments of others.

In writing critical posts, I take some effort to write in a non-combative manner, as well as highlight areas of agreement.

How do others approach the task of criticizing? 

Here’s Daniel Dennet’s suggestion:

  1. You should attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.”
  2. You should list any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).
  3. You should mention anything you have learned from your target.
  4. Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.

Arnold Kling writes that the first step is really the only important step.

I agree that this step is very important and, on this blog, will try to do a better job on this step. 

One other thought: whenever possible, I think it’s important to try and put forth a positive vision about how you would solve the problem that is being addressed. 

Or, at the very least, admit that you don’t have a solution. 


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