Monday, March 26, 2012

Ad hominem

One of the most common argumentative fallacies is called ad hominem, where you attack the speaker instead of his ideas. Being subjected to that format countless times, Jack Donovan speaks clearly in his new book's preface, that this is a set of ideas, not a description of himself.

One of the typical flaws of the young is to identify themselves with their ideals. For example, if they value honesty, they imagine that they are honest. Any honest older person can tell you that having a value and living it are two different things. Youngsters are typically sensitive to hypocrisy, so that if you hold a value and do not live it to their expectation, you, your value or both might find themselves in the ashcan.

But few priests are saints, few therapists paragons of mental health, etc. If we were bound to speak only of what we had mastered, there'd be a lot less talking and writing. Some say that might be a good thing. But I recall attending an idiosyncratic Episcopal church in SF for a couple of years. The policy there for preachers (and for the laypeople who always joined in for followup comments) was to stick to your experience, to make your voice authentic. After several months, you begin to realize that the message was being limited by the speaker's life history and attitudes. It always is, of course, but the worshipping of experience brought about a shrunken worldview. Way too much of what was preached there had its roots in hearing yet again about the pastor's divorce.

My interest in male identity, manhood, etc. is not a declaration that I am a paragon or even a good example. This is not false humility. This is reality. Some parts of the masculine I am pretty good at, others not so much, or worse. Naming failure to measure up for what it is, that's part of being a man, I think. The anti-masculine fog in which we live wants to believe that everyone is a winner and a superstar. Which is patent BS. Like therapy, curiosity should aim at as much of the truth as you can stand.

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