07 February 2015

A series of things that are pissing me off

Or at least mildly annoying.

1) Bad metaphors. I have decided that someone should step forward and police the use of terms that have nothing to do with the metaphorical analogies being made. "Double-edged sword" is a term deployed for something that has two dangerous sides to it in its origins. For reasons unknown to me, someone decided it should refer to something that has one good side and one dangerous side, as if it were a sword that cut someone on one side and healed them on the other. This is idiotic. It must stop.

2) Misuse of philosophical terms. "Slippery slope" tends to refer to a set of arguments that are related to one another in some clear but abstract way, and which are clearly a progression of worsening objects. In most cases, this is not however much of a slope that it is being used to describe. Rather, it tends to describe circumstances that aren't clearly related logically (one thing may be worse, but has nothing to do with the other objects), or aren't related in a "sloped" fashion, where one thing isn't clearly worse, but is related. This argument is deployed to say something different; that the person involved thinks or believes that a path is being opened and set upon by the society or group that ultimately leads to something they don't like, but more commonly because the first object on that set is already objectionable to the person involved (eg, gay marriage leading to polygamy if one is a social conservative or various forms of surveillance leading to tyrannical dictatorships if one is a civil libertarian). But. If the first object is objectionable on its own merits, it shouldn't need additional help in dissuading doing it, and if those other things are more objectionable the argument becomes that they are things we should avoid instead, which may be easier and has the effect of doing nothing about the thing one is possibly objecting to.

3) Poorly defined and broadly used terms put forward as talismans in discussions as a statement of one's position rather than a statement of one's position. "Conservative/liberal/socialist/capitalist" "Free speech" "God" "Spirituality" and so on. These are effectively meaningless statements of one's position that one can infer very little. "Free speech" has been taken to mean things other than the political philosophical term of "government does not police speech, until or unless it incites immediate action" in the manner of "I am for free speech but..." with anything from hate speech, blasphemy, micro-aggressions, "swear words", or just plain old "things I don't like to hear" thrown in there as things that should be policed and prevented by the state and its agencies. Rather than things that are maybe annoying particular people and should be responded to with speech (or ignored). It's also been taken to mean not just things that aren't policed by government but also things that other people said about what I said I did not like and said as much in some fashion ("they called me a racist/bigot/homophobe"). If people go through the exercise of defining what they mean by a term, they should gain a better understanding of what that term means to them, and that it doesn't mean that to other people.
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