Concern for effective rhetoric versus tone-policing

This notion will hopefully strike most of you as obvious, but how we express ourselves matters, at least if you care for being heard. The examples you choose to make a point, and the style in which you deliver that point, can mark you out as either interested in discussion/persuasion, or as simply wanting to show your interlocutor that she is wrong. Continue reading “Concern for effective rhetoric versus tone-policing”

The privilege of avoiding arguments?

Originally published in Daily Maverick

One of the chapters in Bertrand Russell’s “Unpopular Essays” (1950) is “The Superior Virtue of the Oppressed”. In the essay, Russell criticises the tendency of those who marched with him in support of various social justice issues to not simply stand against oppression, but also to insist that the oppressed are somehow epistemically privileged. They were wiser, more experienced, perhaps even more objective than those who were not oppressed. An uncharitable reading (Russell’s) would be that it’s actually good for you to be oppressed. Continue reading “The privilege of avoiding arguments?”

The limits of our language

As submitted to The Daily Maverick

Curricular revisions in the area of religious instruction in South African schools have been the subject of a previous column, in which I argued that political expediency could compromise Constitutional freedoms, as well as handicap the development of a citizenry which is capable of significant intellectual engagement with policy. A related trend, with the same negative consequences, can also be observed in our universities. More recently, the teaching of the most basic foundation of language – grammar – is being threatened. And so, another potential blow is landed against clarity of thought and expression. Continue reading “The limits of our language”