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:
- 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.”
- You should list any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).
- You should mention anything you have learned from your target.
- 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.